TELL US ABOUT THE BOOK
“Cornelius Sky” profiles a doorman in 1974 Manhattan.
Connie, as he’s known, is employed at a Fifth Avenue apartment house whose residents include a former First Lady and her two children. (The Kennedy name is not used, but the allusion is clear.) While his tenuous relationships to his wife and children are rendered, Connie’s connection to the former First Lady’s 13-year-old son, John, provides a plot-hinged conceit.
After John gets mugged in Central Park for his bicycle and tennis racket, Connie contacts a local television news broadcast, arranging an interview. Prepared to blow the whistle on what he deems an incompetent Secret Service, the event backfires, and marks unforeseen transformation in Connie's life.
Subject matter includes alcoholism, fatherlessness, suicide, sex, race, and class. The book’s trenchant comedy runs alongside age-old pathos.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE CONCEPT FOR THE BOOK?
Two short articles in the New York Times—one about my grandfather, the other about my uncle—served as points of departure for the novel.
BASED UPON PERSONAL EXPERIENCE?
The book is personal, and works to sidestep myopic pitfalls. I like to think I got lucky and landed on a sweet spot from which to write, allowing the story to become its own thing.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
I felt if I could capture the bleak humor and irony contained in the articles I might be on to something.
WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU ENCOUNTER?
It’s a first novel. Despite the book's relative brevity, it’s taken many years. Along the way you cut ten thousand words here, you add ten thousand words there. I often felt lost. Another ongoing challenge: how to write a decent sentence. As a writer of plays and screenplays, I was intimidated by the notion that prose was "real" writing. Writing that went all the way from the left margin of the page to the right margin. I held such writing in lofty regard, and thought it might be better left to those who can identify all the trees of the world by name.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I’ve benefited from daily quotas, postponing questions of quality. To throw some clay up on the table, to have a pile of words to cut and knock around, helps break the shackles of perfectionism.
WHAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT THIS BOOK?
Its climax. But every page has the capacity to surprise if I manage to stay out of the way. When it's going well, it can feel like you’re a stenographer.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED FOR READERS TO DISCOVER?
I guess it would be great if a reader caught sight of themself in the book. I had a teacher who said there’s only one theme—identity. And if it engages and compels the emotions, that would be all right, too.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
A novel set in Los Angeles during the 1990s that doesn't directly concern race riots, extended bank robbery shootouts, major earthquakes, or Hale-Bopp.