Name one book you think everyone should read (besides your own!).
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez.
2666 by Roberto Bolaño and Life by Keith Richards. They don't have much in common, but they're both terrific.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
There are two. One is what my father told me upon graduation from college when I told him what I wanted to do. “Go write something. Even if it’s bad, just write it.” The other one is Elmore Leonard’s well-known idea: “Leave out the stuff readers skip over” (or something like that).
How would you earn a living if you weren’t a writer?
As a young man I would have been a hydrologist; as an older one, I think dry cleaning looks like a good gig.
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one fictional character, who would you want it to be?
Oh man, trouble ahead on this one. How about Roxane Coss from Bel Canto by Ann Patchett?
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
The Southern California Independent Booksellers Association named an award after me. I get to give it away every year to writers better than I am. I’m very proud of that. Though I do worry that someday the writers will form a posse and come after me.
What are you working on now?
It’s a novel about a gringa pop singer kidnapped by a Mexican cartel kingpin and taken off to his castle in the jungle. It’s about music, love and finding something to believe in.
Author photo by Rebecca Lawson