Where did you grow up? Do you have any siblings?
My childhood was spent in Cocoa Beach Florida. I have one older sister, who is two years older than me. We moved to Ohio just before Junior high. So i cried and said goodbye to the ocean. Oh sweet ocean I miss you.
We know you went through a tough time in your teens. What was the major factor in rescuing you from your hardships?
To be honest, Rehab. I got sent to juvenile detention and then a long term drug and alcohol rehab center. I spent over a year there. It was a major turning point because it made me confront the issues of my life.
More importantly, the people there told me I was valuable. They made me see my own value, and that was also a significant turning point, as it would be in anyone’s life. I also realized that I was not alone. Most people struggle and have hard times. I thought it was just me. Turns out it was just me and all other humans.
My new friends at my new high school were different. I experienced something I never really had before: Kindness. They were christians, but they didn’t really say it as much as they showed it. That was more significant than anything anyone could have “said” with words.
Did you always enjoy writing or did it come along with the rescue?
I did enjoy writing, I just wasn’t smart enough to realize it. When I look back to all of my high school papers, tests, and various writing assignments, I always did exceptionally well at them. I should have picked up that maybe it was an outlet for my brain, but it took a while. I’m a guy you know…
Honestly I see writing as talking on paper, that is all. I like it to be conversational, funny, and helpful. I hope that when I talk and when I write, it’s in the same voice and style. With writing, however, you have more time to formulate your thoughts and that is incredibly beneficial. Also I have spell check. I don’t always have that for my mouth.
Where did you learn about the way guys and girls think? From your family, the bible, or something else?
I think that classrooms were the most significant place I really started to learn more about the differences between guys and girls. When I was teaching health programs in public schools I realized that kids paid the most attention when we were talking about how guys and girls were different. And then I just noticed it more and more. When I would spend more time on the “gender approach” to the topics, I think it was helpful to the people listening. I think if you are 14 or 40, you enjoy seeing how you have things in common with guys and girls, and you really enjoy observing the ways that guys and girls are different.
Do you feel society is moving in the right direction as far as the way we interact and treat one another?
I think that things cycle. I don’t want to sound like anyone’s grandpa with some bad attitude about the way things are heading, but yes, I do have my concerns. Historically when societies place less social importance on communication, respect, and treating one another well, things really go downhill. I worry that unless we learn to treat one another well, then there will be more pain and confusion. It takes time and effort to learn to do these things right, and the Desire to want to do these things is something that I don’t see a lot of.
Do you have a lot of young people writing you to ask for advice with dealing with their peers? What seems to be the most popular question you receive? What is your answer?
I do. I collected all the emails and messages from this year and there were about 80 pages worth, about 1500 questions that kids had. I wish I had time to respond to all of them, but I try to categorize them and see some of the most common things on teens minds and respond that way. Probably the most common questions say “What do I do about…?” And most of them are about boys, go figure. Girls care more deeply about relationships at younger ages than guys do, and so I find that girls get easily confused about relationships and they want to know what to do, or how to make it better. And while those are really noble things to desire, it’s usually better that girls consume themselves less with guys in their lives, and try and find other things that mean a lot to them as teens. After all, less than 2-4% of high school relationships end up in marriage.
Were there any surprises for you when you first entered the book industry?
I was surprised to realize how much a writer can jump from subject to subject. I tend to want to say waaaay too much. The great writers are able to take one single thought and dissect it into an entire book. I take a whole book and put it in half a sentence. I had to learn to extrapolate more. I also was surprised at my editors ability to cut out about 60 percent of what I wrote. It was humbling. lol.
Is the internet very important in selling your books or is it not much of a factor?
To be honest I’m not really sure. I know that it definitely plays a big role in some ways. If I do something on television it has a big effect. I don’t like TV, but I know it is very important. I’m lucky enough to be able to talk at large events and I think that if people like what i have to say, then they buy what I wrote as well.
Do you feel the secular world is becoming more accepting of the Christian way of life? or do you feel we’re still quite separated?
I don’t see a secular world and a Christian one. I see a world. I think that people respond to love and kindness. I think they get frustrated when Christians form what they feel is an exclusive club with its own language and habits that they feel distant from. I think that if Christians are as excited about living out their faith as they are about talking about it, then we don’t have to worry about being separated. That will be inviting to anyone. After all, the Bible doesn’t say ‘hate the sin, love the sinner.’ If anything the Bible says ‘hate my own sin, love others.’ That seems to be more important.
You have a new book, Guys are Waffles, Girls are Spaghetti coming out soon. What is the story behind that title? Where can everyone buy it and when?
It is coming out soon, and I’m really excited about it. I wanted to find a fun and creative way to talk about how guys and girls are similar but different, and what in the world they are supposed to do with that information. I think very simply, the more that we know about one another then the better off we will be in virtually all of our relationships in life.
The basics of the book is that guys are spaghetti. They tend to be a linear and logical thinker throughout life. They put different aspects of life into neatly defined life boxes (girlfriend, friends, video games, nothing, homework, stuff they’re good at, stuff they’re bad at). They spend a lot of time in boxes they do well and try to avoid the ones that they don’t do well like the plague. For them life is a categorical thing and they process things best one at a time.
For girls its usually the exact opposite. All of life is connected and it cannot simply be contained in neat little boxes. If you follow a noodle around a plate of spaghetti you find it bumps into everything else. And so it does in life. For girls it is about connectedness and value. Life is more complicated, but is also more connected. Girls are great at doing several things at once. If you want to frustrate and overwhelm a guy, ask him to do a lot of things at the same time.
This is the jumping off point for the book. We really dive into the social aspect of waffles and spaghetti, conflict, dating, sex, school, self-image, and a bunch of other stuff. I had fun writing it, and I hope that teens like it a lot more than I do.
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