Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much of your work is autobiographical?
A: Virtually none, in terms of events, characters and most dialogue. Now and then I do steal a habit or an expression from myself or someone I know, but I never "use" people who exist in my world, or their lives.
For one thing, while lots of writers feel justifiably otherwise, I don't figure when friends and family entered my life and vice versa that they signed up to be material. For another, I already have my own life. One of the joys of writing is exploring other lives that aren't mine.
That said, the other answer to how much is autobiographical is, everything. This doesn't refer to surface events or actual people, but to everything so far that I've noticed and absorbed and thought about and felt, transformed and translated into some other person's life history.
When people point out that writing instructors tend to suggest, "Write what you know," I say, "But what you know isn't just what happens in your life. It's a multitude and a universe of knowledge and information and sensation. What you know is bound to be huge."
Q: Do you use a computer?
A: Yes. Some writers find this question annoying, but I don't. I think the tool used does affect content, and something handwritten with a pen may very well be shaped and toned differently than something typed.
I use a computer because, having been trained in journalism, it's the most comfortable tool for me. I think most easily at a keyboard, most painfully with a pen. I need to work at the rate at which I think, and unlike a pen, the keyboard will go as quickly - or as slowly - as my mind.
The trick with having the ease of a computer is paying close attention to the delete key. In revising and editing, it is absolutely the most useful one.
Q: Do you do much revising?
A: A lot. Often this has involved entire rewritings. And I do a great deal of editing, adding and subtracting. That delete key, so useful.
Q: Do you have a particular time of day you like to write?
A: I'm smartest in the morning, so I like to start work then. But often, especially now that I'm a full-time writer, I work in spates throughout the day, and sometimes late at night I run through the day's work to edit it.
Q: How do you know when a novel is done?
A: Sadly, a novel is never done. It just has to be let go of eventually - otherwise it would be quite possible to keep working on one book forever. Sometimes I know it's getting about time to let go when I start having vivid dreams about the characters.