Where do you get story ideas?

From every-day life! My stories usually begin with a situation—something I have seen for myself, heard about, or read about. Eventually, a character turns up—almost like he or she is talking in my ear. I find out what that character cares about. Then the scenes of the story run like a little mental movie.

Are your characters based on family members or people you know?

No…or at least not exactly. All my characters are composites of people I know, or have heard about or read about, or can imagine. They are invented, but they become amazingly real to me.

How long does it take for you to write a novel?

The first draft usually takes me about a year. I spend a long, long time thinking about the story first. (I start an envelope for each idea, where I collect scribbled passages, snippets of dialog, research notes, museum brochures, maps, and photographs.) After a manuscript is accepted I work with my editor through several revisions. That can take six weeks for some projects, and as much as a year for others.

What’s your writing process like?

Messy! I tend to write out of order. (I don’t recommend this to others but I accept that this is the way I work best.) If I am not sure what comes next, I go ahead and write a scene I know will come later. It’s better for me to keep working; the more time I spend with the project, the more the answers come.

Do you have advice for young creative writers?

Yes! (This is for every writer!) Make time for daydreaming. The writer’s mind craves it! Let scenes run in your imagination. Watch your little mental movies. It’s much easier to write something that you have visualized.   

More questions and answers coming soon!