05/06/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT
FOR 12 YEARS HE LIVED QUIETLY IN A DILAPIDATED HOUSE IN THE WOODS ON Puget Sound's misty Bainbridge Island, typing away like the thinking man's Grizzly Adams. But when his first novel, Snow Falling on Cedars, won the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award and hit the bestseller list last fall, the world suddenly beat a path to David Guterson's door—and liked what it saw. "There is no connection between how a person looks and how a person writes," says his friend, author George Plimpton, "but I wish I looked—and wrote—^ as well as David does." The strong-shouldered, 40-year-old former high school English teacher wears layered flannels, not as grunge-chic but to ward off drafts. He pumps iron at a local gym as a way of spending quality time with son Taylor, 14. And in the morning, he says, "I get up, come into my office above the kitchen, and I don't even brush my teeth." Of course that schedule has changed now that Universal Pictures has optioneo" Cedars for a reported $1 million-plus and Guterson has been launched onto the book-tour circuit. "There is a lot about it that I don't like," he says wryly, "but I've learned to make myself presentable." As for anything else, "I'm a happily married solid citizen with four children," says Guterson, "which dispels the formation of groupies." So don't get any literary ambitions, girls.