In my July blog post, I answered a few of the questions I was asked during school visits I did last year. Here are a few more.
Where do you get your ideas/find your stories?
I find story ideas nearly everywhere I go. Since I mostly write historical fiction, historical sites abound with story ideas for me. So do museums and libraries. I find ideas in books about historical events, and I listen to stories people tell (oral histories). My next book (NOT ON FIFTH STREET) was inspired by stories my dad used to tell about his time during the 1937 Flood.
How do you create your characters?
Once I know the story I want to tell, I decide what kind of character can best tell that story. Then I imagine myself as that character and ask a lot of questions. How would I react as that character in a given situation? What would I (the character) do? How would I talk? The important thing for me is to think through the story from my character’s point of view.
Of all your characters, which is your favorite?
That’s like asking a mother which is her favorite child. I created all these characters, so it would be impossible to choose one over the others. Pete Brinkmeyer (in NOT ON FIFTH STREET) was loosely based on my father, so he has a special place in my heart. Given McGlade (in LIKE A RIVER) is a character I admire, but that’s not the same as being a favorite.
Which of your characters is most like you?
There is a piece of me in all my characters, and in writing the novels, I “become” them for a period of time, so that is another impossible question. Perhaps one day, I will create a character who is somewhat autobiographical, but for now, I can see elements of myself in each of my characters.