1. I live in a city - Vancouver - but I often set stories in small towns for the sense of community which echoes what I find in my downtown neighborhood. What about you? Where do you live and where do you set your stories? And why?
When I wrote Julia's Child, I was living in New York City and working on moving to the border of Vermont and New Hampshire. So the novel contains some discussion of the relative merits of city versus country life. Now that I've made the switch to the country, I can't wait to set a book here in the boonies. It's such a different perspective for writing.
2. What's your favorite book ever and why? I have 2 or 3 books that I read over and over again - including Jane Austen's Persuasion. I love it because the characters are older and their relationship isn't easy, but you know, when they do finally get together, they're grown-ups and they know exactly who they are.
My favorite is House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I love social criticism, and she was such a master. Not only is Lily Bart's struggle so poignant, but the structure of the book is also very elegant. It's like a falling leaf, sometimes plummeting and sometimes held up for a moment before the fall begins anew. Brilliant!
3. What's the story you've always wanted to write but somehow can't? For me, it's a story about World War I. I'm fascinated by the stories I've read about it but I'm pretty sure I'm never going to write a real war story. I've just finished a book that is set partly during World War I but a very long way away from the battles. I think that's as close as I'm going to get.
The one I'll never be able to pull off is a novel about the wife of Frederick Winslow Taylor. He invented scientific management--the very modern concept of using a stopwatch to time every step of every job, for maximum efficiency. I'd love to write a story about what it might be like to be married to someone who values efficiency over warmth, perfection over love. The problem is that technology was changing so quickly during his lifetime, and he was deeply involved with technology. The research would be impossibly meticulous.
4. Finally, do you have a routine? If so, what is it and how easy/hard is it to stick to it? I try to have one, but because I work as a freelance paralegal and teach paralegals occasionally, my schedule tends to change from week to week, if not actually day to day. I'm always buying lottery tickets, hoping to win just enough money not to have to work and write to a regular schedule though I'm pretty sure that even if I did have the money to write nine to five, I wouldn't, as I've been scrambling like this forever :)
I find that if I write first thing in the morning--the minute the door shuts on my kids and husband as they leave the house--I will get plenty done. If I put it off, I can never win back the day. I couldn't finish a novel until I left my banking job. I simply did not have enough mental energy to hold all of my interests up at once.