What are you currently working on?
I am currently stuck trying to figure which of two projects to pursue. Both are middle grade novels in various stages of completion, but both have plot problems I cannot seem to figure out! One is about a kid who starts a gold rush in the Old West, the other about a kid who works a summer job at a theme park in Alaska. I take turns brainstorming both stories and will decide which to pursue as soon as I resolve the plot issues for one or the other.
Do you work on more than one project at a time?
Usually not, in the sense that I focus completely on whatever I am doing until a draft is finished. Then I will work on something else—usually shorter projects such as poems or a short story—for at least a few weeks before I return to the original project with a fresh perspective. Though I have yet to publish a novel, a couple of stories and one haiku written during this interim period have been published. Now that I think of it, maybe I should be working more on the stories and poems!
What are the main problems you face in finishing a manuscript?
First drafts tend to go relatively smoothly. It is during the revision phase that my inner critic can get the best of me, bogging me down with defeatist thoughts. I know intellectually that revising is an essential part of the process; regrettably, my emotional side does not always “remember” this.
Do you ever wish that you had an entirely uncreative job like data entry?
Only when my inner critic gets the upper hand during revisions! Otherwise, no. I get such a kick out of creating things that I cannot imagine it not being a significant part of my daily life.
What keeps you sane as a writer?
Knowing the bad days will pass if I keep plugging away.
Do you admire your own work?
Like many writers, I enjoy the rush that comes while writing a first draft, when everything is fresh and new. Of course, when viewing the same work later with a more critical eye, I will frequently swing to the other end of the emotional continuum. Once I have finished my revisions, though, I usually feel proud of what I have done. And whenever I see my work in print, I definitely admire it!
Who would play you in a film about your life?
Probably depends who does the casting. Personally, I can think of any number of A-list, leading-men types that would fit the bill. If you ask my friends, however, I believe they would suggest a John Malkovich type: tall, skinny (nowadays!), serious hair loss, soft-spoken but possessing the potential for volatility.
While writing, what do you eat or drink?
Ice water only, continually replenished. And lots of Nicorette.
Do you do anything special to stir your creative imagination?
Over many years of trying various creative “jump starts,” I have found two that consistently deliver. One is driving (as long as I am not stuck in traffic). The other is reading. Of the two, reading—even just a few pages, as long as it is something I admire—never fails to inspire me. These inspirational readings can be new books or old favorites or even books on technique, depending on my particular mood. Currently I’m reading Mr. Wilmer, a novel from the 1940’s by Robert Lawson, and also one of my son’s Horrible History books.
What is the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
My wife holding our newborn son.