Amazon Interview December 2016
If we snooped on your Kindle or your nightstand, what guilty pleasure might we find?
It’s nonfiction—neuroscience and physiology, current events (including biographies and memoires), and a lot of soft science exploring how the mind works and why people do the things they do.
What's the first book you remember not wanting to put down?
Where the Red Fern Grows—I didn’t get library privileges until I was eight.
What book would you thrust into the hands of every 13-year-old in the country?
The Book Thief, because it will open minds and doors.
What did you dream of becoming as a child?
A horse trainer. I never grew out of the horse thing.
What classic do you feel embarrassed for never having read?
War and Peace, destined to be my big winter read, so I’ll have a different answer next year.
Name somewhere you’ve read about and longed to go.
Antarctica. I’ve been on every other continent.
What do you need to have or to do before you write?
I have to take care of the critters. I’d like to ride, but can write if I just feed my horses and make sure they’re fine. My dog is a Malinois, so must be temporarily decommissioned with mental and physical work before peace reigns.
If you were forced to write in another genre, which would you pick and why?
It could be contemporary or young adult or historical. They all have their appeal and I read them all.
How do you celebrate the completion of a book you’ve written?
I burst out of the house for a run or a ride or both. Also, I buy a pair of bright, short, wool running socks.
Confess your current obsession.
Swimming 1-2 miles, as I’m working on a story in which a young woman swims open water. I’ve a nearby salt water bay to swim across, and the novel’s character must save herself with an open salt water swim.
Is there an author or book series that you love, but no one else seems to know about?
My friend Jo-Ann recommended Joyce Weatherford’s Heart of the Beast, which I had to scrounge around for. It’s wonderful and did not get the attention it deserved.
If your latest book had a soundtrack, what would be the first song on it?
Suzanne, crooned by Leonard Cohen; notions of the lyrics are embedded in Orchids and Stone.
If you could be any literary character for a day, who would you be and why?
Dorothea Brooke, with no apologies to those who decry some of her choices. She was intelligent and spirited and genuinely wanted to help those less fortunate. Ultimately, she marries for love. And she rides.
If you could only read one author for the rest of your life, who would it be and why?
Bill Bryson, whose nonfiction is smart and funny and diverse.
Do you Google yourself? Find anything interesting?
When I was a cop, I used to check occasionally to ensure I was still fairly anonymous. (Women in my family tend to marry guys with surnames like Johnson, Jones, and Smith; you’d think we’re going for Witness Protection-type disappearing.) Trail races and endurance rides that I enter now publicly post results, so after I became a full-time writer, I bowed to the reach of the Internet, and I enjoy connecting when readers reach out to me.
You have a time machine. What’s your first stop?
I’ll go kidnap baby Hitler and rehome him, maybe to a nice family with a cattle station in remote Australia, where he can work hard and not try to conquer the world with prejudice. Then I’ll be off to grab another little future despot.
What would you like your epitaph to read?
My ashes will be flung from a favorite trail, but if I had a stone it would express gratitude. I’ve been able to lead a positive life, genuinely caring for others.
You have the power to instantly fix one problem in the world. What do you do?
If people would stop trying to choose for others, it might fix everything else. I recall the late Christopher Hitchens’s comment that there is a cure for poverty (and it seems if we cure poverty, we stop hunger), but I thought his cure (birth control) was incomplete because there are still constructs in many societies and sub-cultures in which one person inappropriately subordinates another, which results in poverty and unnecessary conflict.
What do you wish we’d been clever enough to ask?
This was a pretty sweet interview. That said, it always works to ask me to go get a cup of coffee or get out on the trails, either on a good horse or in my running shoes, and talk about our favorite books.