Fiction Reboot Author Interview: Robin Blake

Welcome to the Fiction Reboot’s Author Interview of the week! I am very pleased to host Robin Blake, author of A Dark Anatomy. This most recent work—the first book in a series—was released in 2011. Featuring a crime-solving duo (Cragg and Fidelis) takes place in 18th century Preston, England… and of course, as an 18th century scholar, this historical time period is dear to my heart. I present below a brief description of the novel, followed by Blake’s thoughts on the Writing life! (For more period mystery writers, see my pages on Tessa Harris and Alex Grecian.)

Stay tuned tomorrow for the Friday Feature! There is still time to send your favorites and recommendations!

AUTHOR BIO

Robin Blake is the author of several books—not all of them fiction. Antony Van Dyck: A Life is a historical biography, as is George Stubbs and the Wide Creation. Blake has also written other fiction—such as Fat Man’s Shadow.  He has taught literature, including poetry, and worked with Penguin’s mould-breaking Voices anthologies, a mixture of unexpected poems and evocative photography.

Blake did a postgraduate diploma in Social and Cultural Studies at Chelsea College, London University and later taught in Varna, Bulgaria and Istanbul, Turkey (the setting of Fat Man’s Shadow). Blake has written scripts for radio as well, and worked at Capital Radio until 1986. He has been a full-time writer ever since—though between 2008 and 2011, he was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Brunel University. His position, in his own words: “part-time consultant to students about essay writing, and had me dealing with many brow-furrowing problems from the structure of a complex argument to the extermination of aberrant apostrophes.”

You can read more about Robin Blake on his website!

Follow on Twitter: @RobinBlakeUK

A DARK ANATOMY

The first Cragg and Fidelis mystery begins with Coroner Titus Cragg being called to the corpse of a lady, the wife of the local squire, when it is found in woods near Preston. Her throat has been cut. It is his job to call an inquest that will reach a right verdict, and the investigation that follows has a number of twists and turns as Cragg tries to discover the evidence the jury will need to consider . His friend Dr Luke Fidelis provides medical and scientific knowledge and his wife Elizabeth gives him staunch moral support, in face of determined opposition to his methods from the town’s corporation.

Find Dark Anatomy on Amazon!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

1. I have always identified with the Asimov quote: “I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I’d die.” You became a full time writer in the mid-80s, but could you say a bit about your early experiences?

To go back to the extremest beginning, I have vivid memories of my first school class at the age of 4, and of how my hand was trained to form letters, and then words. I could already read at this stage but it is not learning to read that I remember, it’s that transformative process of learning how to make something that others can read. A little later in childhood I wanted not just to write, but increasingly to define myself as a writer, and that was because I was reading so much. I was a glutton for it, gulping down text as if I might die without it. I had two types of book. Reading for information was connected with being obsessive about facts, which children – especially boys – often are.  I found that if there was something that I enjoyed thinking about – breeds of dog, ships of the Royal Navy, concentric castles – I could prolong that pleasure through reading more and more (and MORE) about it. The second type of reading was, of course, stories. Stories were exercise-bicycles for my imagination. Reading them enabled me to travel, in time as well as space, without my leaving the broken-springed old sofa on which I lay, and to be anyone or anything the book wanted me to be. I think it is the most important discovery of my life. A lot of other factors were in play in making me a writer, I suppose, but that is the root of the matter.

2. Not unlike many an author, I come from an academic background where writing fiction is a somewhat closeted affair. Can you talk about when you decided to “write for real”—that decision to write for publication and give this work the time and energy it so deserves?

I had been working in radio, very happily making documentary programmes, which I found satisfying because you can do pretty good work virtually solo, with easy-to-learn technology, while being surrounded by agreeable, intelligent people. But this job looked like coming to an end and, as I had an idea for a book  (it was on psychosomatics and eventually came out under the title ‘Mind Over Medicine’), I jacked in the job, persuaded a literary agent, Gill Coleridge, to take me on, and got the book written inside a year. I was by now a father twice over and the risk was that I would fail and have to go back to my original job of teaching. This was mitigated by the fact that I was lucky enough to have a wife who worked in a great job, but nevertheless I was aware that by becoming a full-time writer I was plunging, gambling, with my own self-esteem at stake.

3. Could you perhaps also talk about your role at Brunel and intersections between academics, life and history? 

I finished my fellowship at Brunel University last summer, after three years. It’s a programme run by the Royal Literary Fund in which professional writers provide a consultancy for students on writing – not creative writing but the kind of thing they have to write for their degrees, such as essays and dissertations. The problem is that people do much less writing as children than they used to, and they think less hard about writing, possibly because they have so many technological ways of avoiding having to think, such as spell checks and grammar correctors on their laptops. They also do much less reading, by which I mean close and attentive reading of a kind they might learn from. So the job at Brunel was to try to help students think about writing as an activity in itself, and one that can be improved by care and thought and practice, in much the same way as you can learn to play better music or tennis.

4. As a medical humanist, I am of course deeply interested and inspired by the connections you have made between history, science, medicine and mystery. Can you speak to that intersection?

In the series of books I’m writing now, which are historical mystery stories set in, I hope, a believable version of 18th century provincial England, I have two main characters. One, Titus Cragg, is the town coroner, a great reader and a man driven by intellectual curiosity as much as by his inborn sense of justice. His friend is Luke Fidelis, a young doctor full of rationalist ideas, who thinks at the level of logic rather than imagination. Science is in its infancy, and forensic science was being made up as they went along. The connection with today, and with the kind of fiction in which forensic science as we know it plays an important part, is of course that the physical facts of a case can be identical over time, but the way in which Georgian people and modern people look at and deal with those facts are very different.

5. You have had a varied career–can you say something about the power of experience in writing?

Experience is the raw material, but it gets processed by memory before use. Experience is selected, compressed and worked over before being put into memory-storage – and then gets reworked whenever memory retrieves it from storage. I wrote on Twitter recently, in a thread dealing with memory and writing, that memory is at the heart of all writing.  Every word we write must first be drawn from the memory store. We write because we remember or in order to remember or because we hope to be remembered.

6. Every writer has a different writing strategy—or so I tell my novel-writing students. How do you approach the writing process? Revision? Writers’ block?

I write in bursts, in between which I love doing background reading, aka research, aka messing about in the library or on the internet. I am aware that this can easily become displacement activity, so I try from time to time to go into seclusion – somewhere that has no internet or distracting media or other people. Because it requires intense concentration over a long time, writing an entire book can be very difficult: Orwell called it like suffering a long bout of a very painful illness. There is only one strategy that works and it is, in Churchill’s immortal words, to “keep buggering on”.

7. As the mentor for a university writing club, I often preach to my students about the value of networking and workshopping. Could you say a bit about your own responsive readers and mentors? Your approach to criticism?

Criticism? Who likes it? Of course it would be foolish in a writer to pay no attention to the opinions of others, but I think it is far more important to listen to yourself, read yourself and harshly criticise yourself, and you should do this in the light not of the opinions of others but of the practice of others. A good mentor will tell you this: if you spend all your time seeking advice you will find much of it is contradictory, which gets you nowhere. Instead concentrate on thinking about and analysing your own writing, and reading other writers, if only to reject their way of going about it. Writing is not a group activity, but a lonely one. It draws its energy from within the writer.  That energy should be chiefly directed towards never being satisfied, but always being prepared to rewrite.

8. Do you have advice for new writers on “breaking in” to the publishing world? Or upon the need/value of agents?

The chief expertise of an agent is in getting you published – and paid! If writing is your job, as it is mine, you need this kind of help (for example with contracts) to avoid getting stitched up. Having said that, at the moment the publishing scene is changing in ways that it are hard to predict, even by agents. A good agent is one who understands your aims, believes in your work and is prepared to work with you.

9. Who do you consider your inspiration? (Literary or otherwise?)

 Inspiration is inconstant.  Rely on it, and it will probably break your heart.

10. Finally, are there any forums, books, blogs or other sites and services you would recommend to new writers?

Since writers trade in words, reference sources about words, including dictionaries and usage guides, are invaluable. A writer is nothing if not an expert in words. To mention Orwell again – he’s one of my heroes – he stressed the special power of words, and the need for writers to understand and harness that power. His essays on that are well worth reading.

Friday Fiction Feature

Welcome once again to the Friday Fiction Feature, the weekly post that honors great writing as well as notable new releases! One of the more interactive posts, the Fiction Feature includes recommendations from readers collected the previous week. Do you have an author you would like featured here? Send me an email (bschillace) or post a comment!

Today, I will be looking at some up and coming YA releases, as well as some favored new releases of authors–one of whom is on tour! (PS: Scroll down for THIEFTAKER and MEMORY OF BLOOD…plus an anecdote about reading backwards.)

Jonathon Friesen’s THE LAST MARTIN is a new release by Zonderkidz (author represented by the Knight Agency). A fun new adventure of the Gothic variety, this text reminds me a bit of the John Bellairs series (circa 1950s). There’s always a Martin. One Martin. Martin Boyle already has plenty to worry about. His germaphobic mother keeps him home from school if she hears so much as a sneeze, and his father is always off somewhere reenacting old war battles. Julia, the most beautiful girl in school, won’t even speak to Martin, and the gym teacher is officially out to get him. Which is why Martin really doesn’t need this curse hanging over his head. On a trip to the family cemetery, Martin wanders among the tombstones of his ancestors and discovers a disturbing pattern: when one Martin is born, the previous Martin dies. And—just his luck—Martin’s aunt is about to give birth to a baby boy, who will, according to tradition, be named Martin. Martin must find a way to break the curse, but every clue seems to lead to a dead end. And time is running out!

One of Delacourt’s books for young readers, Kendare Blake’s ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD was a Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year title and one of NPR’s Top 5 Young Adult Novels of 2011. It introduces us to Cas Lowood, who has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas’s life.

Released in 2011, Jason Lethcoe’s NO PLACE LIKE HOLMES is a bit of mystery fun for the youngest of Sherlock lovers. When Griffin is sent to stay with his detective uncle at 221A Baker Street for the summer, he is certain that his uncle must be the great Sherlock Holmes! But Griffin is disappointed to discover that Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street and his uncle lives unit 221A. His uncle is a detective, just not a very good one. But when Griffin meets a woman with a case that Holmes has turned away for being too ridiculous, he and his uncle team up to help her. Along the way, Griffin shows his uncle just what it means to have true faith in God, even when the case challenges that.  The woman claims that her husband was eaten by the Loch Ness Monster, but monsters aren’t real—or are they?

I thought, given our focus on mystery, these three YA/young reader novels were a sound addition to the Friday Feature!

NEW RELEASES (for the not-so-young-adult)

Now on a short author tour, D.B. Jackson brings us history, mystery and–fantasy! What more do you need? Introducing THIEFTAKER. A warm evening in colonial North America’s leading city. Smoke drifts across the city, and with it the sound of voices raised in anger, of shattering glass and splintering wood. A mob is rioting in the streets, enraged by the newest outrage from Parliament: a Stamp Tax . Houses are destroyed, royal officials are burned in effigy. And on a deserted lane, a young girl is murdered. Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker of some notoriety, and a conjurer of some skill, is hired by the girl’s father to find her killer. Soon he is swept up in a storm of intrigue and magic, politics and treachery. The murder has drawn the notice of the lovely and deadly Sephira Pryce, a rival thieftaker in Boston; of powerful men in the royal government; of leaders of the American rebels, including Samuel Adams; and of a mysterious sorcerer who wields magic the likes of which Ethan has never encountered before. NOTE: Jackson will join us here for an interview in the future!

This next one is quite dear to me, as I am a big fan of Bryant and May. Christopher Fowler’s latest release just hit American shelves in March 2012 (we were behind schedule for some reason–UK got it sooner). I will give the synopsis below, but first, a little about my introduction to the crime-solving duo.

I am an avid reader, but I don’t read in a straight line. I sometimes read books backwards, last chapter, second to last, and so on. (Incidentally, that does interesting things to Uncle Tom’s Cabin). I also often read a series backwards, beginning at the end. Naturally, when I purchased my first two of the Fowler series, I bought the latest and the first, intending to read them in reverse order. Surprise! The first of the series is actually the last, told from the latter year perspective of Detective May–a reflection on their first case. I was nonplussed. I had just been beaten at my own game–as if the crusty, history-loving Bryant had me in the cross-hairs of his somewhat dismissive sights. In love from day one–I present the latest from Bryant and May: MEMORY OF BLOOD.

For the crew of the New Strand Theatre, the play The Two Murderers seems less performance than prophecy when a cast party ends in the shocking death of the theater owner’s son. The crime scene is most unusual, even for Bryant and May. In a locked bedroom without any trace of fingerprints or blood, the only sign of disturbance is a gruesome life-size puppet of Mr. Punch laying on the floor. Everyone at the party is a suspect, including the corrupt producer, the rakish male lead, the dour set designer, and the assistant stage manager, who is the wild daughter of a prominent government official. It’s this last fact that threatens the Peculiar Crimes Unit’s investigation, as the government’s Home Office, wary of the team’s eccentric methods, seeks to throw them off the case. But the nimble minds of Bryant and May are not so easily deterred. Delving into the history of the London theater and the disturbing origins of Punch and Judy, the detectives race to find the maniacal killer before he reaches his even deadlier final act.

Fiction Reboot Author Interview: Alex Grecian

FictionReboot2Welcome to the Fiction Reboot’s featured author interview!

It is my great pleasure to have New York Times bestselling author Alex Grecian with us today. A man with a truly varied career and celebrated author of long-running graphic novel Proof, Alex has just released mystery-thriller, The Yard. Today, Alex will be talking a bit about the power of history and the ways in which research can drive fiction. Alex–thank you once again for giving us your insights on the writing life (and on the intersection of history, mystery and fiction!)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After leaving a career in advertising, working on accounts that included Harley-Davidson and The Great American Smokeout, Alex returned to his first love: writing fiction. He created the long-running and critically acclaimed graphic novel series Proof, which NPR named one of the best books of 2009. The series stars John “Proof” Prufock, a special-agent-sasquatch.

One of the Proof storylines is set in the 1800′s and inspired Alex’s debut novel The Yard.  It is the first in a projected series about the famous London Murder Squad. The second reportedly will focus on the development of photography in criminal investigation. You can find out more about Alex at his website, or you can follow him on Twitter @alexgrecian.

The Yard

I mentioned this book a few weeks ago on the Friday Fiction Feature. Bibliophile that I am, I just purchased the hard copy, too. It is sure to be a favorite with lovers of mystery and of Victorian England (yes, Sherlock fans, this means you).

1890, London.  Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror is finally over, but a new one is just beginning…

Victorian London is a cesspool of crime and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives – known as “The Murder Squad” – to investigate countless murders every month.  Created after the Metropolitan police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, The Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt.  They have failed their citizens.  But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own…one of twelve…

When Walter Day, the squad’s newest hire, is assigned the case of the murdered detective, he finds a strange ally in the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley.  Together they track the killer, who clearly is not finished with The Murder Squad…but why?

For the history buff, please note: Alex Grecian offers a meticulously researched vision of the bustling city of London! Filled with fascinating period detail, and real historical figures, The Yard is a spectacular debut in a new series showcasing the depravity of the late Victorian city, the advent of criminology, and introduces a stunning new cast of characters sure to appeal to fans of Caleb Carr and Jed Rubenfeld. See the book trailer here!

Author Interview

1. I have always identified with the Asimov quote: “I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I’d die.” Does this describe you? Could you say a bit about your early writing experiences?

I don’t know that I’d die if I didn’t write. I imagine I’d become so utterly bored and useless that I’d fade into the wallpaper and be forgotten. But I’ll never know because I’ve always written and I’ll never stop writing. It’s something you do because it’s something you do, not a conscious choice. You’re wired for it or you aren’t. It’s a way of looking at the world.

When I was a little boy, my father used to collect old radio shows on giant reels of tape. He’d load them on an old reel-to-reel player and I’d listen to mystery/dramas like The Shadow and The Unexpected, Lights Out and Sherlock Holmes. Then I’d try to write my own stories for those shows that had gone off the air decades before I was even born. I knew they were old, but I had no idea radio plays weren’t a popular form of entertainment anymore. I wrote lots of stories about dinosaurs in subways (despite never having seen a subway) and vampires fighting Sherlock Holmes.

2. Not unlike many an author, I come from an academic background where writing fiction is a somewhat closeted affair. Can you talk about when you decided to “write for real”—that decision to write for publication and give this work the time and energy it so deserves?

I have always always always had an eye open toward eventually becoming a published novelist. I read The World According to Garp in high school and decided that Garp’s life was the one I wanted (except for the mutilations, adulteries, and sudden deaths). I wrote two novels that were absolutely terrible and put them away where nobody would ever see them. Then I wrote two more novels that I’m actually pretty proud of and hope to see published someday. I wrote dozens of short stories. Then I got the opportunity to write graphic novels and did that for a bit (I wrote seven of them, actually). When my agent told me that I ought to write this Scotland Yard idea I had as a prose novel, it was all the encouragement I needed.

Fiction shouldn’t be embarrassing or lesser-than. Sure, it’s meant to entertain, but it’s also a tool for navigating and understanding society. If a piece of fiction is good, it can inspire, uplift, teach, or even just provide a means of escape for a few hours. There’s real value to that, I think.

3. As an author and medical humanist, I am always interested in the intersections of history and fiction. Given your recent novel (set in the 1800s), can you say a bit about the relationship between research, history and the creative process?

I think you have to walk a fine line. A dry history text isn’t going to keep people turning pages. But you have to impart the right flavor to the work and that means you have to steep yourself in the history. You have to have a feel for the time and place that you’re writing about. I like to do as much reading as I can stand before I start writing. I need to have the broad overview. Then, as I write, I discover the details that I need to know. By then I know where I can find the information I need because of all the reading I did at the beginning. It’s the details that convince people. They want to feel like you know what you’re writing about. If you can convince your readers of that, they’ll go along with you and let themselves enjoy the story you’re telling. So, if you mention a pair of suspenders in your story, go in and make sure you know how suspenders are made, what they’re for, exactly, how they should be worn, who sold them, why your character wears suspenders instead of a belt… You don’t have to tell the reader all of that and you don’t have to know it all before you start writing, but you should be willing to figure it out along the way.

4. I know you began your career in a very different field of expertise—advertising. How has that shaped your approach to writing? To marketing your work?

I think I was relatively successful at the advertising game, but when I left it, I left it wholeheartedly. It was a job, nothing more. So now I don’t think I’m as good as I should be about hyping and marketing my work. That process feels false to me. I want people to enjoy what I write and tell each other about it. That said, I recognize how the book industry works and I recognize that I need to stand behind my work and make people aware of it. As proud as I am of the book, I want people to know that I’m sincere about it. I’m not pushing it, I’m genuinely happy that it’s out there. So I avoid hype, but I make sure to be available to talk about the things I’ve written. I hope that’s enough.

5. Proof was named one of the best books of 2009 by NPR—and is a graphic novel about a secret agent sasquatch. Can you tell us a bit about the process of crossing genres? Can you tell us about your experience as a cross-genre writer and what it takes to be successful?

I think having done Proof was important. It helped me develop my craft, it helped me better understand deadlines (although a few years working in advertising had already done a good job of hammering home the importance of deadlines), and it gave me a platform of readers who might be willing to follow me over and read my prose. That said, it’s a completely different industry and a completely different art form.

Of course, any time anybody says “secret agent sasquatch,” I feel like I have to explain that the book was basically Tarzan, turned on it’s head. It’s an ape-creature, captured as a child and raised by humans as one of them. Eventually, he becomes more sophisticated than the people around him, but he doesn’t really fit in with them and he wouldn’t fit in with other sasquatches either. It was his quest to find other creatures like him that drove the series, the quest for identity. And that’s, I think, the common theme in everything I write.

As far as being successful goes, I think that’s always a matter of doing the best work you’re capable of, no matter what the medium or genre. Everything matters. My name is on Proof and it’s on the Yard and so I have to be able to feel like I can hand anything I’ve written to someone and be proud and happy that they’re reading it.

6. Every writer has a different writing strategy—or so I tell my novel-writing students. How do you approach the writing process? Revision? Writers’ block?

I’ve always had a 2,000-word-a-day goal. For The Yard and its sequel, I settled for 1,000 words because there was more of a start-stop rhythm over the course of a working day. There was so much research to do that I had trouble hitting my original goal. Still, that daily word-count helps keep me focused. That way, no matter what distractions might crop up, I know I’ll still get a certain amount of work done. That’s comforting.

I tend to write in the morning, before the phone rings, before I have to pay bills or run errands. Before the real world intrudes and breaks the spell.

Revisions are a tough slog for me because I’m always ready to put a piece of writing away and move on to the next thing. But I try to look carefully at what my editor is saying and, whether I agree that a thing needs to be changed on page 235 or not, I recognize that he saw a problem on page 235. So maybe I need to go back to page 148 and change something so that the problem on page 235 disappears. You have to step back and look at the book as a whole, as a timeline. There are no precious things on that timeline. No matter how much I love something on page 148, I might have to cut it out in order to make the rest of the book work better.

I had never experienced writer’s block in my life until recently. And that’s entirely because the real world has intruded in a variety of interesting ways. I’ll let you know how I end up dealing with it. But I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a matter of sitting myself down and doing the work because I need to do the work. (Lawyers and doctors don’t get to skip work for days on end because they don’t feel like going in. Why should we?)

7. As the mentor for a university writing club, I often preach to my students about the value of networking and workshopping. Could you say a bit about your own responsive readers and mentors? Your approach to criticism?

I have many writer friends and everybody’s mileage varies on this subject. (On most subjects, actually, but especially this one.) Some of them like to show a story around at every addition or revision, every step of the way. I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. I prefer to keep my cards close to my vest until I have something I like. I don’t want people reading chunks of a book, and I don’t like to inflict multiple versions of the same thing on anybody. For me, knowing fellow writers who are going through the same things I am is enough. There’s a sort of invisible camaraderie there that I find comforting. Once I finish a book or story, I have a handful of people whose opinions I trust and I send it to them and cross my fingers. I know that one or two of them will like everything unreservedly and my ego needs their feedback in order to brace itself against the two or three others whom I know will pick a manuscript apart. I want it picked apart, I want to find the problems and fix them before everybody else in the world sees them and I’m not deluded enough to imagine that I don’t make mistakes. But a little unconditional love makes it easier to confront my fallibility.

Once my early readers have had their way with a story and I’ve fixed everything they’ve pointed out that needs fixing, I send it to my agent and editor and brace myself all over again.

8. Do you have advice for new writers on “breaking in” to the publishing world? Or upon the need/value of agents?

There’s a quote I sling around quite a bit: “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Anonymous.

If you can give up writing and walk away, you probably should. But if you have talent and you don’t give up on yourself, eventually something will happen for you. I believe that.

That said, the publishing business is complicated. You can’t concentrate on writing and also develop the knowledge and contacts in the industry that you’ll need. At least, I can’t. I think it’s essential to partner with someone reputable, someonewho can take what you’ve done and get it in front of the right people. That’s not an easy thing to do and you need an expert to handle that part of the job for you. It’s important, though, not to settle for the first person who answers a query. Be patient and find an agent you click with, someone you feel comfortable working with, and someone who will deal with you promptly and honestly.

9. Who do you consider your inspiration? (Literary or otherwise?)

There are so many! Odd as it may seem, one of my biggest inspirations is the actor Jimmy Stewart. There are always disappointing days, days when things don’t go the way I’d like them to. I have to take a step back and remind myself not to give in to cynicism or depression or anger. I try to deal with everything in the most genuine and honest and heartfelt way I can muster and taking a couple of hours out to watch a good Jimmy Stewart movie is often the best way to sort of reset my attitude.

Also, there’s Graham Greene, Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, John Irving, Grant Morrison, my wife and son, and many more.

10. Finally, are there any forums, books, blogs or other sites and services you would recommend to new writers?

Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript by Cynthia Laufenberg, Stephen King’s On Writing, Terry Brooks’sSometimes the Magic Works, Anne Lamott’sBird by Bird, Michael Chabon’sMaps and Legends, Scriptshadow.com, Roget’s College Thesaurus in Dictionary Form (I have two copies; one next to my desk and one I carry around with me), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Lawrence Block has written five books about writing and they’re all good.
Read every author interview you can find. See if there’s anything you can take away from them. And every time you find an author who’s doing something you like, read everything she ever wrote. You don’t want to ape her style, but you might unconsciously absorb a little bit of what you like from her work.
And keep writing every day.