Questions I've Never Been Asked

What kind of writer are you? Your profile on Wikipedia says that you’ve written novels, children’s books, plays and poetry.

I see myself as a writer who has created works in variety of forms and genres. Whenever I start a new project I let the characters, setting and story determine the form of the work. 

 Is there anything unusual about your life as a writer?

I’ve been a full-time writer for most of my adult life. I’ve never taught creative writing, received a grant or lived off a trust fund. I haven’t had a conventional job since the age of 26. 

What would you do if you hadn’t been a writer?

At various times, I’ve considered being a cop, a teacher, a relief worker or a Buddhist monk.

During one period of your life, you worked as a foreign correspondent. Why would someone who has reported on war and famine write children’s books like Twenty Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street?

Writing children’s books is challenging, but it has given me a great deal of pleasure. It’s a way to connect to memories of my own childhood and the books I loved reading.

Is there any advice you’d like to give to a young writer?

  • Stop comparing yourself to others, and try to find your own voice.
  • A writer’s life isn’t a short-distance run -- it’s a marathon.
  • Any successful writer has learned how to deal with doubt and rejection.

So how can a writer deal with rejection?

Make sure that you stay healthy, have friends and believe in something larger than your self. 

In the past, you have resisted talking about your personal life and have tried to remove all your photographs from the Internet. Why did you do that?

I strongly dislike the government and corporate monitoring that has become possible in our Digital Era. In a wide variety of ways, I have attempted to protect my own privacy and the privacy of others.

So why have you decided to write a memoir and reveal details about your past?

A few years ago I ended up in the hospital with sepsis: a serious infection of my abdominal cavity.

I left the hospital with drainage tubes still inserted in my body, and began the long road to recovery. During this time, I examined my life and realized that I had almost died before writing a book that has always been in my thoughts. When I was healthy, I started writing the memoir. 

Although my feelings about privacy haven’t changed, this book is a story that I wanted to share with others. 

Last question! Give us the one word that describes you.