If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
I’d serve broiled chicken to Leo Perutz. I say this because, when we were in Prague in the early 1990’s, I’d have killed for a chicken dinner.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
That I send out work only to discover it wasn’t ready. Remedy: Now, when I think it’s ready, I wait two or more drafts. A more serious problem is writing fiction and memoir based on life, where I often find myself tightroping between truth and tact.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
Two couples, Natasha and Pierre, and Huck and Jim.
What books are on your nightstand?
J.G., Farrell’s The Singapore Grip, a novel about WW2 in Indonesia, But it’s sagging badly in the middle, so I skimmed to the end. Next, I read some junk, and now I’m reading some lesser Trollope and a few other things, all okay.
Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
Everywhere, from books to details. e.g.#1: I recently re-read Perutz, then wrote a story, “The Printed Word,” about a scam involving a translation of a non-existent Russian biography of this author; e.g.#2: when a favorite jacket wore out, I wrote “A Nose for a Jacket,”a Gogol-esque story about someone who steals a replacement jacket. (That story is included in The Promised End.)
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
How about my least favorite, the unnecessary intensifier, the mark that underlines points that shouldn’t need underlining). I refer to the exclamation point!!!
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
I may not have read them well, but I read them all.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
The photo of my maternal grandparents, on my desk.
Why do you write? The first 5 words that come to mind. Go.
Because I love to.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
Imitate only the best, and that with passion and originality. (Is that pompous enough?)I would also pass on E. Dickinson’s cryptic dictum, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.”