Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in a great family with absolutely fabulous parents, which has, yes, crippled me as an author because I have no past angst or trauma to draw on. We also lived in a dull, generic suburb so that doesn’t help either. I read constantly when I was young, probably largely because there was nothing else to do. Then for the first 15 years of my adult life, I had a 1-hour commute each way 5 days a week, so I read even more.
About the only other formative experience, I can think of was going on a family road trip with aunts and cousins in the 7th grade. We only went from Ohio to Pennsylvania, but it’s what got me started on the travel thing.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
That I did not need to marry. I didn’t plan to have children anyway, so there was really no reason to.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
That you have to write every single day. That’s fine if it works for you, but I don’t write at all between books. Except for personal letters, which I still write consistently.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
See #1. I don’t have any dark periods. I’ve had darker periods, and I suppose I learned that they end, is the most important thing. Also, that a temporary Lexapro prescription can really help.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Discipline. Writing takes a lot of discipline. It’s a long, often tedious process and one is completely unable to judge the value of one’s own work, so you’re never sure if you’re wasting your time or not.
What is your morning routine?
I work a rotating shift. So on workdays, I’m up at 5:10, out the door about 5:35, start work at 6.
On non-workdays, I’m up about 8. I have breakfast on my lanai and read the paper (yes, I still get a printed, delivered paper every day). After that I will write or do other writing work until about lunchtime, then work out, eat something, take care of household chores, maybe practice my violin, and take care of dinner.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I can’t think of any in particular. The writing discipline (I have a daily word count when writing the first draft) and the daily workouts, I’ve been doing for 30 years.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Things have to be non-optional. Writing every day when I’m writing the first draft, is not optional (excepting, of course, hospitalizations, major holidays, vacation, and my birthday, or if something comes up at work that requires a lot of overtime). Working out every day is not optional (unless I’m actively injured or running a fever). Having a to-do list helps a lot, though that can be a downward spiral into a rabbit hole because, of course, it’s never possible to reach the woman’s Holy Grail—to get everything done!
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Books that have influenced my writing would be: Ellery Queen, because I loved the way he put all the clues together. Alastair MacLean, because I loved his characters who were always determined but also quick with a quip. And Tami Hoag, because she showed me the pattern that’s key to a successful thriller.
Books that have influenced my life…anything by Somerset Maugham, I think because his characters were always trying to work out what they wanted to do with their lives and were never wholly successful.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Life is risk. I think I just made that one up, but I say it all the time. I do not, unfortunately, live by it. I am the staidest, careful, conservative person you’ll meet.
And Life is short. Nothing teaches you that like working in a morgue, and I think it’s a super helpful thing to always remember. I also live in an area with a lot of elderly people and our circle of friends is mostly elderly too, so I have become determined to travel and do all the things I want to do while I still can.