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Coffee Break with Stephen White

By Bill Husted
Rocky Mountain News, December 1994

Stephen White learned to fly before he learned to drive.  At 15, in California, he was barnstorming the countryside.

"I enjoyed the freedom it," he says.  "The independence.  It also became the world's best date.  Except you didn't want to run out of gas and you can't park."

White doesn't fly anymore—except on airlines.  He's just back from San Francisco as part of a national promotional tour for his latest book, "Higher Authority" (Viking, $22.95).  It's his third book, all of which star or include Dr. Alan Gregory, a soft-spoken yet curious Boulder shrink.

"Which is exactly what White was before becoming a writer.  He graduated from the University of California after switching majors seven times.  Then came six and a half years of study at the University of Colorado to earn masters and doctoral degrees in psychology—all while working as a bartender at the Red Lion.

After he became Dr. White, he developed a successful private practice in Boulder.  He also served on a psychologist's ethics committee—and it was this latter experience that became the heart of his first book, "Privileged Information".

"I just went to the basement one day and started writing," White says.  "I wasn't planning on writing a book.  I just wanted to write about this.  My wife knew but no one else.  When I finished, I gave it to some friends and people liked it.  My wife liked it, but I considered that her marital responsibility."

Getting "Privileged Information" published wasn't a snap.  Editors and agents turned it down for a year.  "It seemed like New York was a city of people who were dying to get my mail and send it back to me.  It looked like a closed shop."

Viking eventually bought the book.  It made money, so Viking published White's next one, "Private Practices" and now, "Higher Authority".  This latest effort is a tale of lesbian sexual harassment set against the backdrop of the Mormon Church.  It's been on local best-seller lists since publication. And it has the makings to become his breakout novel.

White, 43, closed his psychology practice in March.  "I am a writer," he says now, with a dollop of bashful pride and gratitude.

"If somebody told me six years ago that I would be a published novelist, I wouldn't have believed it.  It hadn't been something I envied or wondered if I could do.  I totally stumbled into this.  And it's a wonderful life.  For 15 years, I got up at 5:30 in the morning and drove to work and wore a beeper and fought with insurance companies.  Now I put on a pair of sweats ad walk down the hall and tell myself a story."

 

Line of Fire by Stephen White

Coming August 2012

The Last Lie (paperback) by Stephen White

In Stores Now