Answer: Thanks, Chris. No, the characters aren't modeled off people I know, though traits I see in several people can sometimes coalesce in a single character. After more years at this keyboard than seem possible-or sane!-I've learned how to let characters speak for themselves. This might sound mystical and a little weird-who? me? weird?-but I realized one day, in '97, that every act of human creation-whether by a writer, bricklayer, carpenter, seamstress-is a reflection of the divine Creation, the one with a capital C. This is particularly obvious in the case of writers, who create whole worlds and populate them with life, if only on the page. When this insight came to me, I didn't need to brood on it for long to realize that the most generous thing I could do for my characters, the thing that would make them the most lively and alive, would be to give them free will, as God gave us: the free will to flourish or to fail, to learn from suffering or to be broken or embittered by it; to discover themselves and who they are through the course of the story rather than to have any traits imposed upon them. Then an amazing thing happened: Step-by-step, as I learned to let go of my characters, learned to stop shaping them with too much conscious intent, they began to shape themselves in greater depth and with far richer nuance than they would have had if I had kept them under tight rein. In books like ODD THOMAS, I learn about the characters at the same pace that the reader does; I am amazed to watch them flower and become real. There are wondrous and eerie aspects to this process. It is not something I could teach in a writing seminar; the understanding is deeper than instinct, something akin to a spiritual experience. When you allow characters to shape themselves, as you watch them mature before your eyes, there is something humbling about their growth, as well, for it seems that you are tapping not some great genius in yourself but some more profound creative force in nature, and that you are merely allowing it to work through you. See, I said this would sound mystical and weird, but there it is. And though most critics and readers have always been kind about my characters, response to those written since '97-beginning with Chris Snow and his friends in FEAR NOTHING-has been even better. Nevertheless, should I ever need them, I do have on permanent reserve a pleasant suite of rooms at Happy Haze Home for those afflicted with genteel lunacy.
Question: What contribution did Brandon Tartikoff make to STRANGE HIGHWAYS? Sallymop, Shropshire, UK