By the time I was ten, I had already written numerous songs, a poem for Parker Stevenson ("If there were a Miss America for men, You would surely win"), two autobiographies (All About Me and My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again), a Christmas story, several picture books (which I illustrated myself) featuring the Doodle Bugs from Outer Space, a play about Laura Ingalls Wilder's sister entitled Blindness Strikes Mary, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories featuring me as the main character (an internationally famous rock star detective), and a partially finished novel about Vietnam. I was also an excellent speller from a very early age.
In 2000, I started writing full-time, and I haven't stopped... I've written nine books, and when I'm not working on the tenth, I'm contributing to my web magazine, Germ, thinking up new books, and dabbling in TV. I am always writing.
The Hollywood sign
Dusty research libraries and archives
Crumbling ruins (the spookier the better)
Moors (as in the Scottish moorlands)
Accents (particularly Australian and Scottish)
The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, and other movies in that vein
Boys with guitars
People who do lovely things for others
Favorite writers: My mother, Penelope Niven. Also Flannery O'Connor, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Harper Lee and Nick Hornby
Favorite book: In Cold Blood
Favorite literary heroine: Alice of Wonderland
Favorite storyline: A disparate group of people comes together to fight a common cause. (See Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, etc.)
Favorite love story: John Keats and Fanny Brawne
Fictional doppelgänger: Elle Woods of Legally Blonde
Fictional boyfriend: Sam Winchester from Supernatural; Tim Riggins; Mr. Rochester
Fictional best friend: Jem Finch
Favorite words: lovely, sunshine, obstreperous, yes
If I were a song, I'd be: "Dancing Queen"
If I were an old-time movie star, I'd be: Carole Lombard, who managed to be both glamorous and funny
If I could be another writer for a day: Emily Brontë or Zelda Fitzgerald (the Paris years)
If I weren't a writer, I would be: An international rock star detective, a Charlie's Angel (the 1970's version), or Mindy Kaling (I realize she's a writer, but she's also so many other things)
Things I keep on my writing desk: a Daryl Dixon doll, Lana Turner's alarm clock from her MGM dressing room, a photo of my mother alongside a framed note of writing wisdom she once kept on her own desk, and a tiny marble armadillo to remind me to have a tough hide (which is especially helpful during publication time).
Secret talents: I know the words to every ABBA song. I am good at finding out the answers to things. I can apply lipstick without looking in a mirror. I can run very fast for short periods of time. I can count to ten in Japanese.