Question: When you first started, your wife supported your family and offered you the opportunity to focus solely on your writing. Do you think you would have been as successful (or successful at all) if you were not given this initial support? Stephen, Mount Vernon
Answer: I've always said that this career has two engines pulling it: Gerda and me.
I could not possibly have been as successful if she had not made her generous offer, and perhaps would not have broken through to best-seller status at all. But there were three considerations that made our bargain work. First, we had no children and did not intend to have any until I had given the writing a shot. With kids in the mix, such a risk could not have been taken. Second, I felt such a moral obligation to match Gerda's generosity with Herculean effort that, from day one, I worked 60 hours a week and often even longer, and drove myself as hard as I could. Third, before she made this offer, I had proved there was at least a modicum of talent worth supporting because I'd sold perhaps fifteen short stories and three paperback novels; I wasn't earning much, but we had some modest proof of potential.
Question: You're a wonderful writer! I'm sure you go through writer's block on occasion. How do you work through it? How long does the writer's block usually last? It varies for me. Also I just LOVE Trixie! What a wonderful golden retriever! Christa, Malvern, Ark.
Answer: Christa, you're a wonderful reader! Such taste! Such insight! Writer's block? Never had it. All writer's block arises from self-doubt, and I have more self-doubt than any writer I know; however, I turn that negative energy into a positive by the magic of revision and polish. By doing the aforementioned 20, 30, and more drafts per page, I force myself into a deeper intimacy with the prose and the story, with the result that as it is polished, I become more confident about it and can move on to the next page, where new doubt will arise but will be assuaged by revision. It might not work for you, but it works for me. Staring at the keyboard accomplishes nothing — but revision keeps you at work and in the story. And now Trixie wants to say something:
Ms. Christa, you are good human, good. May you get plenty of biscuits. And tug toys. And tennis balls. And tummy rubs.
Question: Many of your books attribute special powers to animals, especially dogs. Do you feel that animals are more intelligent than most people believe? Ted, Houston
Answer: I can't speak with authority about other animals, but I have no doubt that dogs are far more intelligent than most people believe. I have seen complex reasoning in Trixie's approach to the world, a sense of humor that is sly and charming, and even behavior that I am convinced is based on moral judgment. Most people don't look closely and with full consideration at the behavior of dogs, but when you do … they are every bit as uncannily smart and mysterious as Jack London portrayed them. Someday I will write about Trixie, who has changed my view of the complexity of reality and of nature, and when I do, those observations will not be tainted to any degree by anthropomorphizing. But for now: Dogs rule!