Q: Who is Lydia within the GroVont Trilogy and why did she
deserve her own book?
A: Lydia is Sam Callahan’s mother.
She is a strong female with flaws. I try to start each book with a character no
one would like and then by the end, the reader either understands or loves the
unlikeable person. With her, it took four novels to make her lovable.
Q: How have your own characters surprised you, or revealed
themselves to you, as they have moved through your books? Can you give a couple
of specific examples?
A: I’ve spent 25 years with the
characters of this last novel, so, like your own children, they have grown in
ways I never dreamed of at the beginning. My plots grow from specific details.
Specific example: I had a woman watching some people go into an AA meeting and
one of the people was in a wheelchair. I’d never considered that guy — just
needed a detail to balance the sentence. Then, he became one of the main
characters of the book.
Q: How has your process as a writer changed over time?
A: I have more faith now that I will
eventually pull a book off, even if I have no idea how. I worry less about the
commercial aspect than I used to. The process counts for more than the outcome.
Tim Sandlin on Lydia (Sourcebooks,
2010) and writing
Q: Please share with writer-readers a couple of insights
about humor? Tricks of the trade?
A: 1. It’s funnier if you don’t write
it trying to be funny.
2. Never explain a joke or point one out to the reader. “I was kidding.
It’s a joke,” generally doesn’t do.
3. Punch lines work better in standup than fiction.
4. Putting italics around a cliché doesn’t make it any less a cliché.
Q: What is it about language and words that you love?
Please share a few of your favorite words.
A: Favorite words: Skulduggery.
Cleave is its own opposite. Ravel and unravel mean the same thing.
Semi-trucks have 18 wheels but whole trucks only have 4.
Q: What kind of advice can you give for how to “think like a
A: Protect your daydreaming time. It
is the raw material on which the characters are built and if you can’t daydream
you can’t tell stories.