Please tell us a little about yourself and Today, Oh Boy.

I was writing and publishing fiction in the ’80s, but when my first son was born, I gave up professional writing to teach high school English. I hated high school, so having spent most of my life in school is pretty ironic.

As it turns out, though, I loved teaching. Deep diving into familiar classics and discovering fresh masterpieces with bright young minds for four decades provided me with an incredibly rich and colorful library of stories and characters.

Joyce’s Ulysses inspired the framework for Today, Oh Boy. I had a vision for a comic novel set in one community over the span of one day, featuring a host of divergent characters who embody the essence of that community. Today, Oh Boy takes place at my real-life alma mater, Summerville High in South Carolina, on October 12, 1970.

It’sabout high school—fitting in, getting in trouble, dealing with schoolwork and bullies—but the universal challenges of adolescence are compounded by the story’s backdrop of the South in 1970: political and social unrest, the emergence of a counterculture, and the influx of Northern transplants.

My wife describes Today, Oh Boy as Ulysses meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

How did you develop your characters?

My beta readers, all professional critics, consistently noted Today, Oh Boy’s rich characterization.

When I create important characters, I imagine them beyond the confines of the novel: as children, what their families were like. I pictured Mrs. Laban—biology teacher and rigid disciplinarian—as a little girl with bangs, wearing a calico dress, sitting in a Baptist church pew. Even ultraviolent Bobby Bosheen, the antagonist, becomes more sympathetic when he mentally flashes back to beatings he suffered at the hands of his abusive father.

How did you create/acquire the cover art?

I’m fortunate to have a friend in noted painter David Boatwright, who read the manuscript and created an original work featuring three of the main characters: Rusty Boykin, Sandy Welch, and Hambone, a runaway basset hound rescued from the side of the road. The cover captures the retro Hardy Boys-gone-hippie vibe that I wanted for a novel that is nostalgic, comic, action-packed, yet literary. The book is very cinematic,so great cover art was important to me.

How have you built your audience?

Wide blog readership, newspaper interviews, readings; a TV interview; Buxton Books’ continued publicity. However, I most enjoy spreading the news by word of mouth, handing out cards to visitors at my favorite hangouts.

What are you working on now?

I’m putting the finishing touches on Long Ago Last Summer, a Southern Gothic gumbo that is part Flannery O’Connor, part Tennessee Williams, with a sprinkling of John Kennedy Toole. After all, I’m old enough to have known my great grandfather, the son of a Confederate soldier, and I’m a native of a state “too small to be a country, but too big to be an insane asylum.”

Portions of this Q&A were edited for clarity.