How do you get your inspiration
- I use my imagination, of course. But I am often inspired by what I have seen, heard and experienced, particularly the extraordinary people I have met in Afghanistan during the course of my travels there. They have served as a tremendous source of inspiration for me creatively. And they have also inspired me personally, as they face more hardship by the age of five than most of us do in our lifetime. But despite the daily challenges people face, they remain hopeful, optimistic and open to the possibility of better days ahead.
What is your writing routine
- I write while my kids are at school and the house is quiet. I sequester myself in my office with mug of coffee and computer. I can't listen to music when I write, though I have tried. I pace a lot. Keep the shades drawn. I take brief breaks from writing, strumming poorly on a guitar for a few minutes before returning to the work. I write until about two o’clock; then I pick up my kids from school and switch to Dad mode.
Are there places or people you draw inspiration from? Who? What?
- It’s entirely unpredictable. I am never on the lookout for inspiration, per se, but I often recognize it in hindsight. I will write a story and realize as I am writing it, or sometimes even after the fact, that it was inspired at least in part by something I read, or saw, or overheard.
Are there topics you particularly like to write about
- I enjoy writing about family. It could be argued that both of my first two novels are about family, the dynamics between the generations, between siblings, the complex organism that family really is. I am endlessly fascinated by how people within a family love, hurt, disappoint, honor, support, and encourage each other. It is a rich source of inherently conflicted relationships, which are the best kind when you are writing fiction.
Why did you choose the genre you have as your specialist area
- As a boy, I loved listening to stories and, as a young man; I fell in love with the format of novels. Novels are compelling to me because through them, we can become more aware of the fact that we are all human and share many of the same ideals and aspirations. I did not choose a genre, per se, I merely wrote about what I knew, what I felt, what compelled me.
Do you ever suffer from writers block
- I don’t know that I have had classic writer’s block, at least not the way most people picture it –writer sitting before a screen, blinking helplessly, waiting for inspiration and drawing blank. What I have experienced have been impasses, times when I have discovered that I have written myself into a proverbial pickle. This can be very trying, and sometimes means the undoing of work that I may have spent weeks producing. But I also use these impasses as an opportunity to reassess the story, and try to think outside the box and approach the story from an unexpected angle. Often, it leads to a better, more economic, more gratifying writing experience, once you get over the unpleasantness of it.
What do you do to overcome it
- To use a medical analogy, at these times, it’s helpful for me to diagnose what ails the story, to think outside the box, to approach the story from a new and perhaps unexpected angle that suddenly yields insights I may not have had otherwise. Impasses are a symptom of an underlying ailment within the story as it has been crafted.
Your advice: Techniques for writing well
- Write the story you need to tell and want to read. It’s impossible to know what others want so don’t waste time trying to guess. Just write about the things that get under your skin and keep you up at night. You also have to read a lot—and pay attention. Read the kinds of things you want to write, read the kinds of things you would never write. Learn something from every writer you read.
Can you offer some tips for a writer starting out
- I have met so many people who say they've got a book in them, but they've never written a word. To be a writer—this may seem trite, I realize—you have to actually write. You have to write every day, and you have to write whether you feel like it or not. Perhaps most importantly, write for an audience of one—you.
What are two key principles you advise writers to follow
- Write the story you need to tell and want to read.
- Write for an audience of one—you.
What are you working on right now
- I am currently finishing up a new novel partly set in Afghanistan. As soon as I have news about its publication, I will make them available on my website.