Here's an interview I did for Chicago's Printers Row Lit Festival in June 2013:
Q: What do you think of when you think of Chicago?
A: I walk everywhere in Chicago – I’ll walk for hours in one direction or another. One of the things I love about the city is that if you walk in the city, you never know what you’ll find upon turning a corner. I’ve suddenly seen acrobats. I’ve found one orange shoe. I’ve come across festivals for dogs (yes!), as well as hundreds of street festivals. It’s not strictly urban either – I’ve seen all sorts of birdlife here, including a nesting of black-crowned night herons within city limits. Chicago is full of surprises. … Then there’s Lake Michigan. What a gorgeous lake! You never know what color the water will be from one day to the next. Some days the water is so blue you’d swear you’re in the Caribbean, and the next day, it’ll turn steely and it’ll remind you of the ocean in some northern place like say, Scotland. Lovely!
Q: What’s the worst question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?
A: I’m twisting your question around a bit, but what feels like the worst question is the one I can’t answer. A kid once asked me, “Who is your favorite skateboarder?” He asked this so solemnly that I knew my credibility was at stake. Truth? I didn’t even know there were famous skateboarders, let alone the name of one. I blinked, stammered, and then the teacher told the kid to ask about “her book.” He shrugged. He didn’t have a question about that – he just wanted to know if I was cool. I wasn’t.
Q: What’s your guilty pleasure reading?
A: I’m a big fan of mysteries. This goes back a-ways too: When I was old enough for a library card, the first thing I did was sneak into the adult section for Agatha Christie mysteries. I wasn’t even tall enough to see over the library checkout desk. I remember lifting the book up over my head and sliding it onto the desk along with my library card. The librarian would lean over to look down at me (this is really how I remember it) and say, “Does your mother know you’re checking this out?” “Yes,” I’d say, which may have been one of my first lies.
Q: What’s your favorite font to write in?
A: Hands down – Palatino. May I rant a little? Why does everyone love Times New Roman? I mean, it’s caveman-ish to the elegance of Palatino. Or Garamond…
Q: Do you listen to music while you write? What music?
A: Yes! But I only listen to music in the early drafting stages. Later on, I need to be able to hear the rhythm of the language and music throws me off.
What music? Wordless. Then, the choice depends on the story I’m writing, because the feel of the music will communicate itself into the draft. The Punch Brothers, and music by Ennio Morricone were very important for my most recent book, ONE CAME HOME. It’s a western set in southwestern Wisconsin.
Q: How do you celebrate after you’ve finished a book?
I go out for a hand-packed burger, home-cut fries, and a glass of red wine. Yes!
Q: What’s your favorite first line of a book?
I love Norman Maclean’s first line from A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT: “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.”
Q: What book do you read over and over again?
About the only thing I re-read is the Bible. Otherwise, I’m a story addict in a way that can’t be entirely healthy. (Thanks for bringing this up.) I totally want to be a re-reader. I even have book lists going in my head! But I don’t re-read. Instead, I’m always on the search for the next hit of story – some new story, something I’ve never read before. When I find an author that does this for me, I end up reading all of their books. The last author that did that for me was Tim O’Brien. I believe I’ve only got JULY JULY to go.