Give Me An Ask - The Answers

Last week I invited you to ask me anything, in celebration of the eighth anniversary of Kelly's blog, Byzantium's Shores. Here are the questions I received, as well as my answers...

Where was that picture taken of you standing on a cliff with your arms out? It's a cool picture!

It was taken on a ledge on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains above Golden, Colorado, with Denver and the Great Plains in the background. The whitish structures on the left are the Coors brewery. Hey, take the tour, get two free beers fresh off the line, and you'd stand on that ledge too!

Are you ever afraid of people?
Hell, no. I've never been afraid of anyone, although when I was a child the bullies could intimidate me. But afraid of people in general? No way. I love people, and those who don't like me can bite me. I am afraid, however, of what some people could do to me, but I also believe that if I thought about it (or, as I say, give it the breath of life), I could attract it, so I just don't allow it into my life. Every morning of my life I ask myself, "What am I going to function from today, love or fear?" and the answer is always the same: Love. I refuse to be a victim. As Ruth Gordon said, "Don't be helpless. Think about it." I've repeated that simple quote countless times since I read her autobiography many years ago.

How are you related to Mark Twain? That's pretty cool.

Yeah, it's cool! My mom "made" me read Huckleberry Finn when I was eight, and I had to have one of his books going at all times after that. I thank her for my love of reading, and him for my love of telling a good story. He was my maternal great-grandmother's cousin, which makes him my first cousin thrice removed.

Do you create characters first, or situation?

It depends. The major characters in With A Bullet came first, and in Night Music, they certainly came first. But the secondary and lesser characters are nearly always created to fulfill a particular role in the story.

Do you primarily type or work longhand?
I never work longhand because it's too slow and I lose important ideas. I use my laptop, exclusively. I do keep a notepad handy, though, for little flashes of insight.

Do you outline your stories or just plunge on ahead?
I always start a book by plunging first, but then I'm forced to make an outline. It's always open to revision though.

How often do your characters surprise you by becoming something you didn't think they'd be?
Quite often, because they're constantly revealing themselves to me. The revelation that Jason's mother is Indian was a huge surprise! Also that Gordon loves children and enjoys scuba diving. Whoda thunk?

How do you avoid telling people who say they don't like Mozart that they're complete weirdos?
Fortunately, I've never run into this person. If I did, I'd just shrug and say something like, "What have you listened to?" If they've really listened, I'd let it go, but if they hadn't, I'd tell them to give a particular piece a try.