I was born in Winston-Salem, NC in 1962 and grew up as the child of an English professor. We spent our summers in the rural North Carolina mountains, so I felt an early affinity for the countryside. I was educated at Summit School, Woodberry Forest School (Virginia), and Davidson College (NC) and in 1984 went into the antiquarian book business with my first wife, Stephanie. About the same time I began to seriously collect books and other materials relating to Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
When I left the book business in the early 1990s, I continued to be a book collector, and now have a large (and growing) collection of rare (and not so rare) books and artifacts connected to Lewis Carroll and his world (my most recent major acquisition is Lewis Carroll’s own 1888 typewriter). I have written five books about Lewis Carroll and countless articles. I have served as the president of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, and as editor of the London based Lewis Carroll Review. I have lectured on Lewis Carroll in the US and Europe at places such as the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard University, UCLA, and Oxford University.
In 1997 I received my MFA in Writing from Vermont College (now Vermont College of Fine Arts). During my work on this degree I researched and wrote Love, Ruth, a book about my mother, Ruth Candler Lovett, who died when I was two years old. Maya Angelou called the book “tender, sensitive, and true.”
After completing my MFA, I traveled with my wife, Janice and daughter, Jordan, to England where we lived for six months. We immersed ourselves in the culture, made lifelong friends, and become closely connected to the village of Kingham, Oxfordshire. Ten years later, we purchased the cottage we had rented in 1997 and renovated it. My wife and I now spend about 6–8 week a year in Kingham, and have traveled extensively throughout the UK.
In 2001, my wife was hired to oversee the third grade drama program at Summit School in Winston-Salem, NC. Bemoaning the dearth of good material for elementary school performance, she asked if I would write a play. Thus began my career as a children’s playwright. For eleven years, as Writer-in-Residence at Summit, I wrote plays for third graders and for eighth and ninth graders. Nineteen of my plays have been published, including my first, Twinderella, which won the Shubert Fendrich Playwriting Award, beating over 750 other entries. The plays have proved extremely popular and have been seen in over 3500 productions in all fifty states and more than 20 foreign countries. One of the great joys of being a playwright has been the chance to communicate with students who are performing in my shows, whether by e-mail or by visiting their schools. I have made many author visits to schools to see productions, talk with students, and hold master classes.
During all my years as a writer (including eleven books of non-fiction) I have worked on writing fiction. I wrote my first novel-length manuscript in the early 1990s and, with luck, it will never see the light of day, but it did prove to me that I could write a book-length work of fiction. In 2008, my novel The Program, about an evil weight loss clinic, was published by the micro-press Pearlsong Press. My YA novel The Fat Lady Sings was also published by Pearlsong.
But my big break-through as a writer came when I put together two of my passions—rare books and the English countryside—to write The Bookman’s Tale, the book that was ultimately accepted by Viking and by several other publishers worldwide. When I told her about the success of The Bookman’s Tale, a close friend in England said, “It’s the old case of the man who takes twenty years to become an overnight success.” The Bookman’s Tale was a New York Times bestseller, a Barnes and Noble Recommends selection, and has been translated into several foreign languages. Parade Magazine called the book “[A] delightful tale of love and bibliophilia.” The Bookman’s Tale was published in paperback by Penguin Books.
My next novel, First Impressions (Viking, 2014; Penguin, 2015) is another literary adventure, this one starring Jane Austen. People Magazine called it “a delightful novel that weaves together a modern love story and a literary mystery involving Jane Austen.”
2015 was a busy year for me, being the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I curated a major exhibition called Alice Live! at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. I spoke at the international gathering of Carroll enthusiasts in New York and wrote the introduction to the new Penguin Books edition of Alice. 2016 also saw the publication of my Christmas book, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, which USA Today called “[a] clever, merry, and, yes, convincingly Dickensian reimagining of this Victorian tale.”
My new novel, The Lost Book of the Grail, will be published on February 28, 2017. Set in an English cathedral library, and reaching through centuries of English history, it tells the story of bibliophile and Holy Grail enthusiast Arthur Prescott as he works to uncover a centuries-old secret about the cathedral’s history. While editing that book, I also wrote the first draft of a middle grades book, The Book of the Seven Spells.
None of this could have happened without the support and love of my wonderful wife, Janice, and my fabulous children, Jimmy and Jordan.