Describe your book in one sentence.
When he was 14, John Calvino killed the murderer of his parents and sisters, but 20 years later, as a homicide detective, he reluctantly comes to believe that the dead man's spirit has returned to murder John's wife and children.
What was your favorite book as a child?
Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. I identified intensely with Mr. Toad of Toad Hall. I still do.
What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
John D. MacDonald told me that most criticism a writer receives is about his style and his worldview, because the critics want you to write and think the way they do. A writer's unique style and worldview, he said, are the most important things any author has to sell and therefore he should diligently preserve them.
Have you ever been tempted to quit writing?
No. Writing talent is an unearned grace. I think it comes with an obligation to explore it and to polish the craft that supports it. I hope to die face-first in my keyboard—but only after I've written the last line of the book.
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one fictional character, who would you want it to be?
Jeeves, the butler from the series of novels by P.G. Wodehouse. I wouldn't need a butler on a desert island, but if I'm going to be reduced to eating snakes and bugs to survive, I want to share the island with someone who can make me laugh.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
All the proudest moments are the same—those books of mine that delight my wife, Gerda. I trust her judgment. And just as I wrote love notes and poems to her when we were dating, I write each book primarily with the hope of enchanting her.
What are you working on now?
This interview. But as soon as I finish it, I'll return to a novel with the scariest premise I've ever had. I can't talk about it because I never talk about a book in progress. I learned a long time ago that talking about a book diminishes the desire to write it.