Who is an author you'd like to meet, dead or alive?
Dead: Raymond Chandler. Alive: Elmore Leonard. In the grand tradition of hardboiled American literature, they link generations.
What's the worst question you've ever been asked in an interview?
My Young Adult trilogy, "Cold Fury," is a contemporary thriller about a young girl's entry into Chicago's criminal organization, the Outfit. I wouldn't call it the worst question — maybe the most uninformed? I was asked by a Dutch publication if, while conducting research, I'd had the opportunity to meet Al Capone. Only his ghost, I said.
Can you describe a random or unexpected experience you've had while promoting a book?
During a Q & A following an appearance, an audience member asked if my beard was real. I thought she was being a wise-ass until the signing, when she asked if she could touch it. I said no.
What's your favorite font to write in?
Times New Roman. It just feels official.
Do you listen to music while you write? What music?
Oh yeah — a little of everything, but recently I've been listening to lot of the jazz clarinetist, Anat Cohen. Her version of "La Vie En Rose" rocks very hard.
How do you celebrate after you've finished a book?
Did you ever read "Misery," by Stephen King? If so, do you remember how his protagonist celebrated after he finished a novel? Something along those lines.
What's your favorite first line of a book? Last line?
There are too many to list, too many favorites in both categories, but I think the first line of "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," by George V. Higgins, is brilliant in its simple ability to hook a reader:
"Jackie Brown, at twenty-six, with no expression on his face, said that he could get some guns."
The last line of Nelson Algren's "Chicago — City on the Make" is actually three lines, and captures Chicago with timeless poetry:
"The city's rusty heart, that holds both the hustler and the square.
Takes them both and holds them there.
For keeps and a single day."
What book do you read over and over again?
I have to name three. First, "Out of Sight," by Elmore Leonard. I re-read it because I love it, of course, but also because he's a master of plotting. I dig into it before I start writing a new book or short story, just to remind myself of the importance of connectivity; everything has to click. Also, "The Big Sleep" and "The Long Goodbye," by Raymond Chandler, for the opposite reason — he sometimes jettisoned plot in favor of razor-sharp character development. Without characters who mean something to readers, who gives a damn?Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun