I wrote 6-7 hours a day for 8 1/2 years before my first fiction was under contract. I think of it as my graduate school days -- although I was "there" long enough to be a brain surgeon.
--> Have you ever thrown away a book that you just couldn't make work?
I have abandoned any number of outlines. The advantage of outlining or framing your story ahead of writing is that you don't get halfway in and realize you have a dud. A novel's storyline has to be something the writer can live with for 10-14 months. It's a relationship, not a one night stand.
--> Is it still exciting to publish a new book even after all this time?
It is the thrill of a lifetime. Each time I tear open the package with a new book in it I get gooseflesh. My name is on a book? Seriously?
--> Do you get ideas for new books all the time and you keep them written down, or does one come to mind just when you need one?
I keep a notebook sewed to my hip. My wife doesn't appreciate that.
--> Do you know how a book/series is going to end when you begin it?
I always have a beginning, middle and end in mind when starting a novel. Sometimes I have a 50 page outline. Sometimes only a collection of thoughts on character or plot. But the big mistake first time writers make is filling up the car, getting behind the wheel and starting off driving without knowing a destination. A quick formula for running out of gas.
--> Do you have to enter a different mind-set to write different stories or different characters?
Within every novel you enter so many mind-sets. You have to be the beautiful woman, the psycho criminal, the judge, the jury. That's the role of an author: to play everyone. If you don't play them convincingly, your characters are cardboard.
--> Is there any kind of book you would like to write but haven't?
This page isn't long enough to list them -- and it's an electronic page, so in theory it's endless.
- there's a family road trip in the 1960s I'd like to write
- a non-fiction collection of my students essays from China
You look back and think, if I hadn't made that choice then, where would I be? But that's life. You can't change it. So you hold on with both hands and kick the beast and ride it for all it's worth.
--> What’s the most interesting question you’ve ever been asked about your writings, and what was your answer?
see immediately above
--> If you could have written any single work – novel, screenplay, stage play, poem, history, biography – that you most admire and adore, what would it be?
To Kill A Mockingbird. Hand's down my favorite novel of all time. I reread it every year. A masterpiece.
--> Anything you’ve always wanted to be asked about your writing but no one ever has?
Over the course of forty-odd books and nearly thirty years, I've been thrown so many questions that nothing jumps out. But that one you asked about "change anything?" hit a chord in my gut. That's a tease of a question. Now I can't stop thinking about it.