Who is Grumpy Old Writer?

1960. Born. Number 5 of 6. Bellingham, Washington. Rainy, gray, cold.

1966. Hawaii. Best story about my Dad. He ran a business in Bellingham grinding lenses. When it failed, his partner made off with the money and his relatives, who had invested, changed the locks of the business so he wouldn’t get any big ideas about selling off the remaining equipment and leaving himself. I suppose that was the low point of his life.

So he said to himself, “I can be broke here in rainy, dark, cold Bellingham, or I can be broke someplace nice.” He sent the two big sisters off to find an apartment for the rest of us and one morning a week or so later in the dark, when I was 6, we all piled into Grandpa’s car and drove to the Seattle airport, got on a plane and stepped off on the sunny tarmac in Hawaii.

60’s & 70’s. Lanikai, Kailua, Mt. Olomana.

70’s. High school and university journalism.

At Kailua High School and Brigham Young University, Laie, I edited the school newspapers.

70’s. To be a writer. I dreamed of being a writer – specifically, being a writer in Europe – since I began to dream. In high school, I found a way to do it: I would go to Europe on a mission for the Mormon church (we were all Mormons). I learned a little German in High School and was sent to the Düsseldorf Mission, when I feel in love with this strange and difficult country.

80’s. Mission to Germany. The beginning of my loss of faith began on my mission, though I didn’t quit the church until I was 30 and living in Munich with my wife (whom I had also baptized). Losing my faith, that I loved so dearly, was one of the biggest tragedies of my life, and I don’t think I ever will recover from it. Later, I wrote the story of it in my book, “Losing My Religion: Why I Love and Lost My Mormon Faith.”

80’s. Munich and Berlin. While the other kids were on the beach surfing, I was at home in my dark room reading “The Lord of the Rings” and the tales of King Arthur and dreaming about one day going to Europe and seeing the Middle Ages. 

When I got here, I studied Mediävistik (Medieval German Literature) in Munich (Masters), but still I was not satisfied. So later, I went on a year-long trip in a VW van through Germany and Austria in search of the Middle Ages – to old castles, ruins, cloisters, battlefields, retracing the lives of 12 of my medieval heroes. The book I wrote about it – in German – was my first: Die Nibelungenreise (or, Driving the Dark Ages).

90’s. Berlin. There are only 2 things you can do if you study medieval literature: be professor or drive a taxi. I wasn’t much good at either so I went into journalism, pursuing a freelance career that took me from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter publications like The Washington Post and The Chicago Sun-Times to German papers like Süddeutsche Zeitung and Cicero to columns in German papers like Die Zeit Online.

After Die Nibelungenreise in 2004, I turned to writing books – in German – full-time and turned out a dozen successful non-fiction books including Planet Germany and Planet America, before turning to fiction.

Together with my co-writer Astrid Ule, and writing under the name Ule Hansen, we wrote the successful trilogy of thrillers Neuntöter, Blutbuche and Wassertöchter.

Berlin Marathon 2005. Can’t believe I did this.

2020. 60 years old. For the first time, I welcomed it. With it came the decision and the freedom to live one last life – the last 20 years – any way I please. Chronicling “My Very Last Life” in the podcast of the same name.

With 60 also came this decision: To write, before I die, those books I deem meaningful, regardless of financing, time, contract or publisher. I literally have a list.

Our little publishing company Hula Ink started out as a way to publish short stories and other projects that could not be sold to publishers – including the story of my faith, Losing My Religion.

In the meantime, a few friends have gotten involved – Astrid Ule, Matthias Rische and Lothar Rosengarten – and we are in the process of expanding, professionalizing and commercializing the project. Our next steps are three books designed for international markets, for which I stand as author, thought my friends worked me with me on it:

– Do Cats Have Souls?, 

– Gracian’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom and 

– The Wisdom of 101 Famous Poems.