Question: I am now 23 years old. In sixth grade I got grounded for breaking the knob off our television. Picking up your novel Lightning was what turned me on to reading. Thank you so much for the novels that you write. Also Strange Highways and the story of Benny was something else — do you like this character? Cheers. John, South Glens Falls
Answer: I wonder why you broke the knob off the TV. Was some program so crappy (obviously not one on ABC) that you switched it off with fury? Were you in the mood to break something and the TV was just there? Were you channel surfing at high speed in primitive mode, sans remote? Were you running through the house in youthful enthusiasm, tripped over a duck, fell, struck the TV knob with your forehead, snapped it off, and therefore suffered amnesia for the next three years? Possessed by a demon? Well, whatever the reason for your violent, destructive frenzy, I'm glad that it ultimately led you to Lightning. I like the character of Benny, and I like the man his father came to be in that story. I've received considerably more mail on that piece, "Twilight of the Dawn," than on any other short story I've written.
Question: Whose books do you read? And has there been an author that has influenced you? Cheryl, Kissimmee, Fla.
Answer: I read almost everything, by anyone, in all genres, including so-called "literary" fiction, which is really just another genre. So many authors have influenced me that I'd test the capacity of the ABC Web site if I listed them all. Some of the deepest influences and the longest lasting have been Charles Dickens, James M. Cain, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, Herman Wouk, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Conner, Emily Dickinson.
Question: Do you plan out your novels, such as with an outline, or do you just start writing and see where things go? Casey, Star, Idaho
Answer: For me, outlines are the death of creativity, but they work well for many writers. I start with an intriguing premise, theme, and a tantalizing character or two, then take the plunge. (See the first round of questions in which I discuss character and theme, which are pertinent.) Sometimes I worry that I have no ending, but if the characters work, they have a story to tell, and they always prove to know what their ending is-and should be.
Question: Do you listen to music when writing? If so, what type of music and what artists? Robert, Green Bay, Wis.
Answer: I love big band music; I listened to a lot of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, and their contemporaries when I wrote The Bad Place. As might be obvious, I listened to nothing but Chris Issak CDs when writing Fear Nothing and Seize the Night. As I noted in both From the Corner of His Eye and One Door Away from Heaven, I listened exclusively to the incredible music of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole while writing those books — as I did while writing Odd Thomas, and will probably listen to IZ again when I write the sequel to Odd. Weirdly, or so it seems to me, when I was working on Dark Rivers of the Heart for long hours during almost a full year, I listened to only one CD; Paul Simon's Graceland, hour after hour, day after day, over and over! Eventually I could sing every song, not only with perfect fidelity to the lyrics but with all the vocal nuances that Simon brings to them (though certainly not as melodically as he sings)-and I kept looking around for Garfunkel.