What is it about writing that energizes you?
Otherwise I might have to actually work for a living. Besides, I get to transform all of my enemies into characters they can’t recognize and then have them kidnapped by pirates or trampled by elephants.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Marriage. Children. Employment. The usual suspects. Alas, they’re generally unavoidable, so the trick is to write as quickly as possible until you find yourself with a mortgage and a golden retriever, and then to rest on your laurels.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Death. That’s going to be a major distraction. Although my agent often tells me my balance sheet is more likely to reach the black posthumously. Pretty women are also a nice distraction, but as one gets older, death increasingly nudges them out of the picture.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I dare not share their names because being known as a friend of mine might bring their literary careers to a grinding halt. I sometimes have that effect on people.
Do you want each of your books/stories to stand on their own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between them?
I am not nearly organized enough to be building a body of work. I just churn it out and hope some of it sticks. It helps that I have a team of elves and reindeer working alongside me.
What have you done since you won the Howling Bird Press prize?
I have a new short story collection, Winter Honeymoon, coming out with Black Lawrence in 2020. I’ve published nine additional books—four more story collections, three novels, a collection of poetry, and, most recently, Who Says You’re Dead?, an ethics book for laypeople. It’s amazing how much writing one can accomplish when trying to overcome one’s deep-seated childhood fears of inadequacy.
What did you do with your first advance?
I made a down payment on a gumball. The great thing about New York City is you can even buy candy on layaway.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot?
Debra Winger. Especially if the honor comes along with a date. (Apologies to her husband, who I’m sure is a swell fellow, but this is my moment in the spotlight, not his.)
How many unpublished and half-finished books/stories do you have?
Hundreds of stories. Maybe thousands. And my editor has a brand-new novel on her desk, in case you know of a major publisher interested in making an offer. Okay, it’s not exactly new. But it was written this century, so it’s not that old . . .
What did you edit out of this book, The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street?
The original version contained the location of the Holy Grail and a translation key to the Rongorongo glyphs of Easter Island, but I’ve decided to save them for the sequel.
Do you read your book reviews? Why or why not?
You assume that my books get reviewed. To the limited extent that they do, I pretend that they don’t. But I always make a point of thanking the reviewers, if I can find their addresses. I suppose that means I am occasionally thanking a reviewer who has panned my book, but that probably makes them rethink their vitriol, so it is still energy well-spent.