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.  Turgid.  Wet.

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 writer”?

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.