Q: WHAT INSPIRED THE MULLIGANS OF MT. JEFFERSON?
Growing up in a small town; knowing the people I knew and wanting to preserve that culture for folks who’ve never experienced it. The characters are more important to me in many ways than the story. I want them to live and I enjoy the time I spend with them. I even get to believing in them and think of new things for them to do and thus, a plot forms. I’m just a sucker for nostalgia and reminiscing.
Q: ALTHOUGH YOUR BOOK IS FICTION – WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SOME ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK THAT CAME FROM REAL LIFE?
The town came from real life. If I could walk down the main street in my hometown, Staunton, VA, with you, I could show you where the restaurants are or were; I could show you the jewelry store and the movie theaters and where Cal got his bag of popcorn every Saturday morning. The buildings are still there; they may house a different business than Cal and Buddy and Harlan knew, but they are still there and it only makes the memory richer and dearer to my heart.
Q: WHEN MAKING UP STORIES, HOW MUCH DO YOU DRAW ON YOUR OWN LIFE EXPERIENCES AND PEOPLE YOU KNOW, VERSUS DRAWING ON RESEARCH ABOUT COMPLETE STRANGERS?
I think the most important word in writing fictional characters is ‘composite.’ No one person I ever write about is a perfect description of someone I know or knew. But a physical description of this friend is melded with a personality trait of that friend and after a few additions and subtractions you have a character of your own who is capable of doing something maybe no one friend could ever do. That is the joy you bring out of a darkened room lit only by the computer screen. You put him together and just hope and pray it’s believable.
Q: IN YOUR NEW NOVEL, WHO IS THE CHARACTER IN THIS STORY WHO SURPRISED YOU MOST?
Buddy Briggs for sure. He’s the police lieutenant. We see him as a father and husband. Then as a friend and a policeman. And every time he put on a different hat, he did something just a little surprising to me. He reacted sometimes in a way I wasn’t expecting. He replied to a question in a way that startled me.
I know this sounds silly to a person who may not totally understand the creative process. They probably think I should know exactly what he would do and say if I invented him, but it’s not always true. Once you start writing, you let the situations happen and you have to stop and think, not how I would react, but how Buddy would be affected and what he would do.
Q: HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH STORY TO WRITE?
I’m not real sure. I live with ideas. Maybe for months. And when something lingers with me and captivates me, then I know this might have enough heart to make a book.
I disregard more ideas than I keep. I don’t even write them all down. I just wait for that one that won’t go away and then I start giving it conversation. (If you see me talking to myself while sitting at a traffic light, I have no excuse. I really am talking to myself. I’m writing dialogue in my head.)