Why did you become a writer?

You mean why would someone willingly lock himself in a room to bang on a laptop all day? Beyond any latent masochistic tendencies, let's just say it took me a while to arrive here.

Some credit goes to my mother, who banned television in our house. While this act of lunacy kick-started my passion for books, the irony of my later becoming a television writer is not lost on me.

As a kid in Aspen, I held a steady stream of odd jobs. And I mean odd. These included cleaning trails at a cross country skiing resort, crewing hot air balloons and guiding hapless tourists into the back country with lamas carrying their gear. Can't credit any of these endeavors for my later career.

Through high school and college I dabbled in creative writing. At Princeton, I was lucky enough to take a course from Joyce Carol Oates. I managed a single decent story over that semester — which I was quite proud of until I found out that she had written an entire book in that time.

After college, I backpacked around the world with my roommate. To fill the time, he and I wrote a screenplay. We wrote it longhand, in notebooks that we transcribed during a monsoon in Fiji. And while that marked the beginning of my professional writing career, my passion for the craft rose from another event that occurred on that trip.

Weeks before graduating, I had met the woman who would become my wife. Being apart and far from a phone or computer for a year, we fell in love through correspondence. More than any class, it was in those letters that I learned to write, and found a love for the craft.

How did you get to Hollywood?

Returning from Asia, my buddy and I tried to sell our script—and failed miserably. Unsure of what to do, I found a gig working production on a television show. It didn't take long to realize that I wanted to spend my energy getting my own projects to the screen—creating something that was mine. So, I entered the world of independent production. I became a producer to push my own writing.

During this time, I got involved with HBO's series, Rome. A dramatic series, set in ancient Rome, I did much of the initial research and then co-wrote the show's story bible -- the document outlining the series' characters, shape and plot line. I continue with Rome as the show's Executive Consultant.

Beyond that, I have a film in development at Fox. I also have new script that my screenwriting partner and I just finished. It's a modern-day adaptation of Dante's Inferno, set in Las Vegas—a dark thriller.

Why did you switch from screenwriting to writing books?

Simply put, the Hollywood blues set in. I'd been working in LA as a writer/producer for a few years and, in that time, got kicked around pretty good. It took me a while to see that the salacious stories about Hollywood that you think couldn't possibly be true are, in fact, just the tip of the iceberg. Even as my projects found success, I saw egos rise, got caught up in power struggles and generally grew sick of the experience.

I wanted something that was my own—a project that would live or die based on my creativity. So, I decided to try writing a novel. I left LA, moved up to Santa Barbara and locked myself in that room. Six months later, I had Echelon.

Did screenwriting help your novel writing?

Definitely. As a screenwriter, you learn how to frame a story. I also developed a spare writing style and a way of crafting dialog that differs from that of most novelists.

When do you write?

I write in the mornings. Caffeine takes the edge off any writer's block. My office space is just big enough for a desk, a shelf and a computer. I call it my fortress of solitude. I just get in there, throw on the headphones and bang away. Once I'm writing, everything else fades away. After about three hours, my brain goes to mush.