So, you might ask ...
Q. – Why is there a dragonfly on your homepage?
A. Dragonflies are fascinating. For me they represent awesome beauty, amazing engineering, a way into our deep past, and a sense of limitless horizons. I’m no expert on insects, but I do know that dragonflies share the order Odonata with damselflies and have existed for hundreds of millions of years. They are older than the dinosaurs and inhabit much of our planet. The same is true for cockroaches, but, frankly, I’d rather hang with the dragonflies. If humans ever go extinct, I’d like to think that dragonflies will survive.
Q. – Your writing includes fiction, history, biography, and science. What’s the connection?
A. Well, everything’s attached to everything else somehow. My writing life is balanced on the tripod of creativity, curiosity, and connection. Whether I’m conjuring up a storyline or delving into slug slime, I’m reaching for a way to comprehend the world that surrounds us. And this is just Earth. Can you imagine what else the universe has to offer?
Q. – Your bio page says you were a keypunch operator. What’s that?
A. Back in the [Rolling] Stone Age—the 1960s—computers were enormous machines that processed data punched into thin cardboard cards. The cards were 7-3/8 inches wide by 3-1/4 inches high, the dimensions of the dollar bill that was used in 1928. Each of the card's 80 columns could hold one letter, digit, or punctuation mark. A card looked like this:
I once worked for the Charms Candy Company, famous for its lollipops and other hard candy. I used a keypunch machine, like this IBM model 26, to encode payroll information onto these cards.
Q. – Of all of your books, which one is your favorite?
A. Easy. It’s always the next book, the one that’s still blossoming in my brain. Right now my favorite book is the sequel to Blue Thread. Some of it is on paper, but a lot still lives in my head.
Q. – What was the favorite subject of your Animal Angles columns?
A. Hmm…. That’s a tough question. Every animal has an angle that piques my curiosity. OK, let’s go with bonobos. They are endangered and generally peace-loving primates, more closely related to chimpanzees and humans than to gorillas. Their lifestyle seems to epitomize the expression, “Make Love, Not War.” You’ve got to admire a species like that.
Q. – What’s your writing routine?
A. I write nearly every day but not always at the same time or in the same place. You might find me writing at my desk, or at the library, or in my comfy chair facing an expanse of Portland’s West Hills. My writer’s critique group—Viva Scriva—holds retreats or writing days several times a year, and that’s an exceptionally productive time. I think about my writing every single day without exception. The most amazing connections come when I’m half-awake in the early morning.
Q. – What’s the most memorable fact you’ve learned from your nonfiction books?
A. The most memorable? Well, I’d say my biggest surprise came while writing my biography of Chester A. Arthur. For much of his life Chet wasn’t my kind of guy. He was vain, corrupt, gluttonous, always out for the next buck. But then suddenly he was thrust into the presidency. The huge responsibility of his office and the trust of the American people changed him. Chester A. Arthur is practically forgotten among our presidents, but that dramatic turnaround in his life still inspires me.
Q. – Have you had any other pets besides your dog?
A. I've shared living space with many creatures, including carpenter ants, houseflies, termites, roaches, and mice—but that’s another story. As for pets…I’ve had hamsters, snakes, fish, turtles, cats, dogs, and assorted lizards. I once shared my bathroom for a couple of weeks with my son’s free-ranging, two-foot iguana. Of my several grandpets now, my favorite is Mrs. Turtle, a sulcata tortoise who has her own page on Facebook. The turtle sharing the photo with my daughter-in-law Kate now weighs more than my dog and might live another 50 years.
Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any more questions! Who knows? Your question, and my answer, might appear on this page.