Q: What is your work process?
I work every day. I try to write six original pages a day and review what I wrote the day before. I do not outline. I’ve tried it. I managed to produce a book that way, but it felt artificial. I am more productive in the morning, so that’s when I start work.
Q: Isn’t there a right way to write a book?
No. There is your way.
Q: What’s the best advice you can give a writer wannabe?
Finish. Over and over, I’ve talked to writers who began a book, bogged down, decided they’d thought of a better plot, started another book . . . repeat. You will not be a writer until you complete your book.
Q: How do I get my book published? Can I send it to you for your evaluation?
There is so much information on the web now for people who want to be published. You may have to sift through it for the best advice, but it’s out there. Don’t ask me. I have been published for a long time, and frankly I don’t know all the modern conventions about what you need when you’re breaking into the field.
With the best will in the world, I cannot read unpublished and unagented manuscripts. One, I work. Two, that exposes me to legal consequences down the road.
My agent is Joshua Bilmes, founder and president of JABberwocky Literary Agency. He has been my agent for my entire career.
Q: How can I get a sale to a movie studio or a TV producer? How can I get the cast I want?
Have book-to-film agents in Hollywood. (My agency there is APA.) It always helps if your book sold well, when agents are trying to attract attention, of course. You cannot get the cast you’ve mentally handpicked, which I why I never daydream about this. What you want is the best actor for the part, not the actor who most looks like the character you have in your head. A really good actor can make you believe nearly anything.
Q: Do you get angry when the scriptwriters change your books for the television adaptations?
No, to condense my many feelings. What makes a good book does not necessarily make for good television. Almost all my books are told from a first person point of view, and a successful hour of TV depends on many actors. The scriptwriters have things they want to say, too. When I sign the contract for an adaptation, my biggest hope is that what people see on the screen will lead them to buy my books. Those are creations I AM responsible for, so that’s my goal.
Q: Did you ever foresee your career?
Absolutely not. Who could have foreseen such an incredible forty years? I always hoped I could stay published; in fact, I counted on that happening, with a sort of blind faith in my own talent. But I didn’t even know it was possible to have had such a life!
Q: Why do you think you are so successful?
I usually say, “If I knew, I would have done it much sooner.” But that’s not exactly true. Since success came to me later in life, after I’d had all kinds of publishing experiences, I had learned a lot about myself and about the writing world.
I am fortunate enough to have a good agent. But I picked him initially and stuck with him through thick and thin, and he did the same for me.
I am fortunate enough to have had few gaps in my career as a published writer. But I did the work necessary to have books to publish.
It boils down to hard work, good luck, and some key good decisions.