I am proudly a product of Nebraska. As a child, I drew pictures. Mom — Kathleen Schaecher "K.S." Farris — was a very talented, regionally known painter. Dad got me into small wood projects at my his workbench. When I was in high school, Mom taught me to weld. (Not a sentence one reads every day.) She and a friend learned it in evening classes at the high school. They rented an old pig shed outside town and turned it into a sculpture studio. I made sculpture under her tutelage, including a life-sized Tin Man for our 'Wizard of Oz' Senior Prom. (Only today does one wonder about the wisdom of using an oxyacetylene torch in a bone-dry wooden building.)
At 20, I went West to college in the Bay Area. We frequented Sam Wo in Chinatown. Sam's had the best won ton soup and chow fun, and Edsel Ford Fong, the embodiment of the rude waiter as floor show.
Medical school was in San Diego. Four of us rented a house on the beach in Del Mar — tough gig. I’ve lived in California, Washington, Arizona and Oregon. I’ve worked as a construction schlep, a dishwasher, a maintenance worker in a power plant, a studio photographer, an obstetrician/gynecologist-in-training, a traveling ER doctor, an anesthesiologist, a pediatric intensivist, a group administrator, and as medical director of a program tending to the unique needs of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Through rare good timing, I landed in a special medical practice in Portland, Oregon. My work here is varied and gratifying. My anesthesia practice is primarily devoted to adult and children’s heart surgery. I also get to do my share of all the challenges we see at a Level One Trauma Center.
I couldn’t do any of this without the love and support of Kendra Farris MD, my wife of three-plus decades, and of my sons, Brian and Nick, and daughters-in-law, Alexis and Becky.
I like going home to Nebraska. At last look, that pig shed was still standing.
Dad — the late Roy D. C. Farris, Jr., a talented, dedicated amateur photographer — gave me a Bakelite Kodak Brownie camera when I was five. He told me to keep the sun at my back and shoot what I liked. I took pictures of Miss Purcell, my kindergarten teacher, and Lucy Madden, an awfully cute girl in my class.
I photographed everything I found fascinating. The guts of neighbors' houses being assembled piece by piece. Snow drifts after blizzards. The forts we built in them. Our collie. I tried to get the milkman's hand cart, but he moved it to his other leg, away from me, likely trying not to bonk me.
Dad had to rein me in: film and developing costs. But in eighth grade he turned me loose in his darkroom. Like every other hypo-stained wretch, the magic of the image coming to life under the dim red light did me in.
I still shoot what fascinates me.
Story telling I took up osmotically from my father and his brothers, Uncles Jack and Jim. They taught to know good stories from bad, mostly by example. I learned clarity and precision, as goals anyway, from hard-nosed teachers, especially Mr. Brandt — Analytical Composition — and Mrs. Kaiser — Journalism — in high school.
I labored over a short story for most of my intern year, typing and retyping. (Wite-Out is wonderful stuff, but by about the fifth application it's time to start afresh.) Then, in residency, I discovered the perfect murder weapon. I thought, 'I'll write a thriller.' Why not?
A dozen years later I had something readable. Three years after that, it was possibly publishable.
[For more on that, see the published interview about the making of LIE STILL. CLICK HERE.]