I was a teenager during the 1960s after my privileged (not because we were rich--we weren't at all) Connecticut childhood. The stuff that was happening all around me--sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll-- was, thanks to my mother, not a very big deal. I mean, I loved it, but I think it meant more to people who came from normal repressed bourgeois suburban or provincial middle-class backgrounds. For them, it was major life upheaval, rebellion, liberation. I never really had to bust out the way so many of my contemporaries did, because my mother was such a cool person, certainly sexually liberated, very hip, and so were so many of her friends, people I knew when I was growing up. Because of her influence, I could spot fascinating people a mile away. I went to art school in Boston, but I was pretty immature and not ready to buckle down and work, so I didn't last long, and within a couple of years I migrated west, for reasons you'll find in my book. Had to get away from Connecticut, even though I loved it. It's complicated. I spent my 20s in Boulder, Colorado, leading a hand-to-mouth, cash 'n' carry hedonistic artist-type life, taking peyote in the mountains and running around irresponsibly. It was fun, though, let me tell you. I sold a little art and did a lot of housepainting for a living. By my late 20s the charm of slinging ladders and buckets was definitely wearing off. I was pushing 30 and felt a vague but persistent urge to get to work. I still thought of myself as a graphic artist, a painter, and part of this was because of Alexis' influence. He'd always told me that I had "it." I left Boulder in the late 70s and migrated further west, to northern California. That was where I made the switch: I'd always known I could write, but when I got a job with a local radio station writing up weekly "human interest" stories, I learned that I could write on command, meet deadlines, and get paid (scarcely lavish pay at that point, but actual spendable money). The guy who ran the show I wrote for sent me out to cover anything I wanted to--the odder, funnier or stranger the better. I covered a male strip show, I went and searched out inventors and eccentrics living deep in the woods and interviewed them, I did play and movie reviews. I was banging them out at the rate of one a week, and before long I actually had a tiny following in the local listening audience. My fans wanted more, more, more, and so I did this, happily, for a few years. I accumulated quite a pile of stories, and that was when it kind of dawned on me: "Hey! I'm a writer!" A couple of years after that a friend who was a scholar of Chinese language and history got in touch with me and said: "T'ang history is a goldmine of fantastic tales and characters. Let's pick one out and write a blockbuster historical novel." We did. My co-author was Daniel Altieri. We got an outline and sample chapters together for our first collaborative novel, COURT OF THE LION, got a major agent and sold the book to William Morrow. We were off and running. We did three more novels together ( DECEPTION, SHANGRI-LA, SHORE OF PEARLS) and I've scarcely picked up a brush since (too bad--I was a damned good artist). But now I know for a fact that whether it's on canvas or in words, it all comes from the same part of the brain: inspiration, the sense of composition and proportion, art. Alexis would be proud.