Fifteen-year-old Budda (Butter with a souther drawl) Jessico leads an unremarkable and anonymous life in suburban St. Louis. He’s not unpopular, because someone would first have to notice him. Except for the tormenting by his older brother, however, Budda is content. He follows his father’s rules and stays out of trouble. Then, at the urging of Blood Mama (his birth mother), a voice only Budda hears, he catches a bus to Kentucky to rescue his former foster sister, Addie. As soon as Budda reaches Louisville, he goes to a McDonald’s for the first time in his life where he meets the resolute Baresha, a fellow runaway on her own adventure. Then Budda’s mission to find his sister goes downhill. He hitches a ride to Valkyrie, Addie’s hometown, in hopes of saving her from some danger Blood Mama won’t reveal. Instead, Budda encounters her blood kin, led by the ominous Odyn Starkwether and his violent brother Dickie. A drug shipment controlled by the Starkwethers has disappeared and so has Addie. The brothers have a mess to clean up, and Budda is soon in the middle of it. At first, Budda goes along willingly, if it will help him find Addie. Before long, though, Budda realizes it’s sometimes better to stay put.
About this author
I started my adult life as a journalist, but gave it up when I realized I wasn’t going to become Walter Cronkite. I grew up in small towns in Missouri and Iowa, which make my adopted hometown of Louisville look like Manhattan. I envy the dialogue of Daniel Woodrell, the sense of place of Silas House, and how Wendell Berry makes writing seem deceptively easy. I appreciate Elmore Leonard for being Elmore Leonard. I don’t write like anyone but me.
What does your family think of your writing?
I’m afraid to ask. Actually, my wife is very supportive and
is always the first to read my work. My teenage daughters
are a bit more ambivalent. My older daughter read one
of my books. She didn’t throw it at me when she was
finished, so I’ll take that as a positive.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to eat. A lot. Other than that, I like to stay active
with various types of exercise, such as bike riding and
running. I also play guitar, though it often sounds like a
cat that’s gotten stuck in a dishwasher. Actually, that’s an
insult to cats. My apologies to the appliance industry, too.
How long does it take you to write a book?
The Night Budda Got Deep in It took about a year. But it took me
more than ten years to write a biography called The Storm
before the Calm: the Early Lives of Venus and Hiro. I had
trouble writing the first few paragraphs. The first twenty
attempts made me want to set my computer on fire. I
finally set it aside for several years.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I realized I was too slow to play for the St. Louis
When did you write your first book and how old were
I was in my early thirties, about twenty years ago. I
had a gotten a new Mac and wanted to prove to myself
that I could write a book. I never did anything with it
because that wasn’t my intention. I’m afraid to look at it
all these years later.
What was one of the most surprising things you
learned in creating your books?
That I could actually do it.
I think everyone is a little intimidated at first, no matter
how good they are. But I think anyone is capable of writing
a good story if they work hard and write what pleases
them, rather than what they think will please someone
Where do you get your information or ideas for your
They come from asking myself questions, such as I
wonder how that happened? What was that person feeling
in that situation? How did that get there? How would I
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of
things do they say?
In my experience, readers in general
are nice to writers. They don’t like to hurt our feelings.
Still, I’m sure there are some would like to recommend I
do something other than writing books with my time.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew
I was kidding about playing for the St. Louis Cardinals
baseball team. I really wanted to be a cornerback in the
NFL. Again, the whole slow-as-a-three-legged hippo issue
came into play.
What do you think makes a good story?
Great question with no easy answer. However, I like imperfect
characters put in difficult situations that force them to
make decisions as the story unfolds. If all else fails, sex and
violence work, too.