What do you think of when you think of Chicago?
The very first thing that comes to mind is the memory of the house I grew up in, with its narrow gangway, busy alley, and the two block walk to grammar school. The second thing that comes to mind is the wind at the corner of State and Wacker in winter. Brutal.
Who is an author you'd like to meet, dead or alive?
Ray Bradbury. No question about it. I adored that man. I wrote him a heartfelt fan letter once, letting him know how much his stories meant to me and he called me at home, to say thank you. He also sent me an inscribed copy of "Fahrenheit 451." It's one of my most treasured possessions.
What's the worst question you've ever been asked in an interview?
"How did you get your job working at the White House?" Um…one of my protagonists works at the White House. I don't. Thank goodness that question came as a warm-up before the TV cameras went live!
What's your guilty pleasure reading?
Is there such a thing as a guilty pleasure in reading? We all enjoy what we enjoy. For me it's mostly mysteries (all types: cozies, thrillers, police procedurals, etc.), but I enjoy short character-based (as opposed to gadget-based) science fiction, too. I read The Chicago Tribune on a daily basis, More Magazine every month, and loads of non-fiction for research. I enjoy it all and I don't feel guilty about any of it.
What's your favorite font to write in?
Times New Roman, 12 pt. It calms me.
Do you listen to music while you write? What music?
I prefer silence. No, wait. I require silence. I'm too easily distracted and music jumbles my brain. Or maybe it's the writing that jumbles my brain. And yes, even soft, instrumental music is too much.
How do you celebrate after you've finished a book?
My husband and I usually go out to dinner somewhere nice to celebrate "The End." We also go out to dinner to celebrate other good news, like making the New York Times bestseller list, or signing a new contract. Or receiving a check in the mail. Sounds like we look for reasons to go out to dinner, doesn't it? I suppose we do.
What's your favorite first line of a book? Last line?
"It was a pleasure to burn." —"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury
"Respectfully submitted, Kinsey Millhone" — how Sue Grafton generally ends books in her Alphabet Mysteries
What book do you read over and over again?
When I was a kid, I read "A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett 13 times. So far, no other book has pulled me back in quite as often. I do read Bradbury's short stories over and over again, though. They've become dear friends, and I need to keep them close. There are a couple of novels I've read twice, including "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon, and "Rebecca" by Daphne DuMaurier.