Most frequently asked frequently asked questions first.
Will you read my unpublished novel?
Maybe. I have been helped along the way by many people who have taken the time to read and critique my own work, and I enjoy helping other people, too. Unfortunately, because of the large amount of reading I do for work—and the large amount of time I need to write—my time for reading unpublished novels is very limited. So here's the deal: send me a short description of your novel and what you're hoping to accomplish with it. If I decide to give it a look, I'll let you know. Then I'll ask you to do something for me: buy or borrow one of my books, read it, and write a review of it somewhere (Amazon, LibraryThing, Goodreads, etc.). Be honest, because I'll be honest when I'm talking about your book. Once your review is posted, I'll read and critique your work. I hope this doesn't sound too mercenary, but I'm often asked for reads by people who have never read me—and that's not very fair, is it?
What kind of name is Keir?
Scots Gaelic. My parents, Tom and Nancy, were looking for a memorable name and were impressed by the performance of Keir Dullea in the film David and Lisa. Fortuitously, the name "Keir" also allowed my mother to honor her Scottish heritage. (The name "Graff" already honoring my father's German heritage.) Keir Dullea would later go on to star in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, while I would go on to star in Harry Gadbow's David and Lisa during my senior year at Hellgate High School.
Did you really attend a high school called "Hellgate"?
Yes. Our sister school was Sunnydale High School. However, unlike Sunnydale, Hellgate does not sit on top of a Hellmouth.
How about your elementary school? Did that have a cool name, too?
Why did you leave Montana?
You can't eat the scenery.
But aren't there a lot of good writers in Montana?
Montana has more good writers per capita than any other state. However, some of our best writers are house painters.
Where and when did you meet your wife, Marya?
The year was 1994. The place: Palace Billiards. Incidentally, that's where we went on our first date. The whole tale was documented by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Which football team do you support?
I support Aston Villa.
Never heard of them. Are they AFC or NFC?
Aston Villa plays in England's Premier League.
So it's a soccer team then. Isn't soccer boring?
Well, there's not a lot of scoring, but they play for 90 minutes without taking any timeouts. And they add on extra time to make up for any stoppages in play. On the other hand, in the NFL, during a 60-minute game, the ball is in play for about 12 minutes. And shouldn't they call it "throwball"?
Evaluate the performance of Martin O'Neill.
I have tremendous respect for Martin O'Neill's accomplishments as both a player and a manager. He's guided Villa to a sixth place finish in 2010 and another round of European play in the UEFA Cup. And while some fans have been unduly harsh on O'Neill—sixth place is very respectable for a club like Villa, and hey! we finshed ahead of Liverpool!—I agree that he needs to rotate the squad more often to help build the depth we need over the duration of a long season with a lot of cup play. Had a few poor results against mediocre teams gone differently (home draws against West Ham and Wolves, for example), it could easily have been a fifth-place finish. But O'Neill doesn't have the players he needs to seriously contend for a place in the top four. (A truly dangerous striker who can bring the ball up the middle would help.) And, in my opinion, we were never getting past Tottenham this year.
Can we talk about writing now?
It's your nickel.
How did you become a writer?
How does a plant, full of pluck and verve, turn into a bonsai tree? Heredity, environment, and pruning. Greenhouse metaphors aside, I've always been a writer. (More about this in my bio.) Although, for many years, I thought it would be easier to make a living as a musician. Then, finally, in my twenties, I realized that, if I were a writer and not a musician, if the bass player quit, I could still finish my novel.
What is your favorite point of view?
Limited first person. Although I have been known to flirt with unlimited first person.
Are your novels thrillers?
The word thriller will soon be as devalued as the phrase "the American people." But if your publisher puts it on the cover, what are you gonna do? Saying something is a "character-driven political novel of suspense" won't sell unless the buyer is me. All that said, my newest novel, The Price of Liberty, may actually be a thriller.
I've heard that you wrote a children's book.
Word travels fast on the internet! You must have been reading this website, me. Yes, through a wonderful, serendipitous chain of events, a book I wrote for my son Felix, "The Other Felix," will be published by Roaring Brook Press in fall 2011.
Aren't you worred that your other son will feel left out?
Yes. But the next book will be for Cosmo, even if his name isn't in the title.
Is it true that you juggle while you write?
That would be impossible. But, in cold weather, I do take juggling breaks. It keeps my fingers warm.
Are you a good juggler?
Good enough to impress five-year-olds, not good enough to join the Flying Karamazov Brothers.
Any other questions? Send me an e-mail.