Well, since you asked… I was born in Beirut, and lived there until the civil war broke out when I was 14. My parents, in a noble effort to keep us alive into adulthood, wisely moved us to Rye, NY. I stayed there until I graduated from Rye Country Day School, then, intent on thwarting my parents’ nurturing instincts, I decided to go back to Lebanon to study architecture at the American University of Beirut. Which, in hindsight, wasn’t as nutty a decision as you might think. Those years, marred by repeated flare-ups of fighting and a couple of invasions, were emotionally taxing, harrowing, sometimes dangerous, often maddeningly frustrating, but always intense in the most visceral sense of the word and, weirdly enough, I wouldn’t have missed them for the world. Maybe that’s the Scorpio in me.
So there I was, gingerly studying architecture in the hopes of one day helping rebuild the city (rumours that a local cabal of intensely purist architects was having ugly buildings selectively blown up remain unproven). The civil war erupted again a few weeks after I graduated, and I was evacuated out from the beach down the road from our apartment on a sunny but sad day in February, 1984, hitching a ride on a Chinook with the Marine Corp’s 22nd Amphibious Unit.
I ended up in London, where I joined a small architecture practice. The architecture scene in Europe was pretty bleak at that time, so I decided to explore other career options. I moved to France and got an MBA at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, then joined a French investment bank, selling gold-linked convertibles and other far less exotic financial instruments, surrounded by Gekko wannabes and hating waking up every day. In fairness, I have to credit those ‘wilderness’ years with one wonderful thing: meeting my gorgeous wife, who tolerated my exhausting yearnings for something more fulfilling and eventually gave me two incredible daughters.
I left the glamorous (at the time, anyway) world of investment banking after three years to return to my creative roots. I bounced around different countries for a while, trying out different things, and during a stint in the Bahamas (don’t ask), I met a banker who dabbled in the film business. I’ve always been a film geek and harbored a burning desire to make movies, so at dinner one night, I bounced an idea off him, and the idea struck a chord. I had a new partner, and we agreed to develop my idea into a screenplay — by hiring a professional screenwriter he’d worked with.
Several conference calls later, the outlines coming from Los Angeles weren’t what I had in mind. I offered to write an outline myself. When I faxed my notes to my partner (yes, this was in the early 90s, long before email), he called me up and said, “Our guy in L.A. isn’t going to write this movie for us. You are. You’re a writer.”
So I did. And it got shortlisted for the Fulbright Fellowship in Screenwriting award. My next script, a semi-autobiographical screenplay about my college years during the war, was also nominated for the award a year later. Then in the mid-90s, I optioned the film rights to Melvyn Bragg’s novel, THE MAID OF BUTTERMERE and wrote the adaptation myself while completing an original screenplay called… THE LAST TEMPLAR. Buttermere found its way to Robert DeNiro, who announced in Variety that he would be producing it and playing the lead. The Last Templar… well, if you’re reading this, you know that after ten years or so, it managed the quantum leap off my laptop’s hard drive and into novel form, but that’s a longer story, one I’ll go through in a separate post.
Since then, I’ve been spending my time between London, Beirut, Dubai and Mykonos, working as a screenwriter and a producer on shows like the BBC series Spooks (aka MI-5 in the US) and Waking The Dead, developing new TV series which I hope you’ll see soon, and, of course, writing the occasional novel.
And that’s about it… Thanks for taking the time to explore my ramblings, and if you do pick up one of my books, I hope you have a blast reading it. And let me know–connect with me on facebook on my author page. Enjoy!