February 4 – 10: “If you could reach any author, dead or alive, what would be your first question?”

This week ITW Members Ada Madison, Heywood Gould, Ralph Pezzullo and Lori Armstrong discuss what their first question would be if they could reach any author, dead or alive. You won’t want to miss it!


Heywood Gould got his start as reporter for the NY Post. Later he financed years of rejection with the usual colorful jobs – cabdriver, mortician’s assistant, bartender. He is the author of fourteen published books and nine screenplays, including FORT APACHE, THE BRONX, BOYS FROM BRAZIL, COCKTAIL, and ROLLING THUNDER. He has directed four features, ONE GOOD COP, starring Michael Keaton, TRIAL BY JURY with William Hurt, MISTRIAL starring Bill Pullman and DOUBLE BANG with William Baldwin.

Camille Minichino has published 17 novels, eight in the Periodic Table Mysteries, featuring retired physicist GLORIA LAMERINO. As Margaret Grace, she’s published six novels in the Miniature Mysteries series, featuring miniaturist GERALDINE PORTER and her eleven-year-old granddaughter, Maddie. As Ada Madison, she’s published three novels in the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries, featuring college professor SOPHIE KNOWLES. The latest is A FUNCTION OF MURDER, paperback from Berkley Prime Crime.Camille is on the board of NorCal Sisters in Crime. She’s a member of NorCal Mystery Writers of America and the California Writers Club.

Ralph Pezzullo is a New York Times bestselling author, and award-winning journalist and playwright, and screenwriter. His books include Jawbreaker, Inside SEAL Team Six, The Walk-In, At the Fall of Somoza, Plunging Into Haiti (winner of the 2006 Douglas Dillon Prize for American Diplomacy), Eve Missing, Blood of My Blood, Most Evil, The Navy SEAL Survival Handbook, the SEAL Team Six thriller Hunt the Wolf, and the upcoming Hunt the Scorpion and (with Don Mann).

Lori Armstrong left the firearms industry in 2000. Her 1st book, BLOOD TIES was nominated for a 2005 Shamus Award. HALLOWED GROUND received a 2006 Shamus Award nomination, and won the 2007 WILLA Cather Literary Award. SHALLOW GRAVE was nominated for a 2008 High Plains Book Award and finalLed in the WILLA Cather Literary Award. SNOW BLIND won the 2008 Shamus Award. The 1st book in the Mercy Gunderson series, NO MERCY won the 2010 Shamus Award for Best Hardcover Novel and finalled for the WILLA Cather Literary Award. MERCY KILL released in Jan. 2011. MERCILESS released in Jan. 2013. Lori lives in western South Dakota.

  1. If I had the opportunity (who knows? maybe I will some time), I’d ask William Shakespeare where he got the inspiration for his many diverse and multi-dimensional characters, and how much they changed and evolved during rehearsal and performance. Hamlet, for example, was he based on someone he knew, or a historical figure he heard about? Did he come up with the character first, then put him in the dramatic dilemma, or vice versa? Did he imagine his characters first? How did he work, and to what extent were his plays collaborations with actors and directors? I think his answers would be fascinating. Don’t you?

  2. Great questions Ralph.

    I’m more fascinated by contemporary authors, though. I’d love to have lunch with Joseph Kanon, for example, and ask how he goes about his research, or ask Peter Robinson if he knew all along what he was going to reveal in Before the Poison, or ask Kazuo Ishiguro how he gets the courage to write realistic (as opposed to Hallmark) endings.

  3. I think all writers are intrigued by how Shakespeare could capture the essence of characters he could never have met in real life. I would ask him who were the models for Othello and Shylock, for example, and if there were none how could he have so precisely imagined a sensibility so alien to his experience.

    I’m intrigued by how much autobiography there is in the great novels. I’d ask Fitzgerald if there was a real life Gatsby and was Meyer Wolfsheim based on Arnold Rothstein. I’d also ask if any female characters were modeled on Zelda

    I would also ask Hammett how closely the San Francisco of his stories resembled the real San Francisco. Same of Chandler and LA

  4. Posted on behalf of author Lori Armstrong:

    I would want to ask William Shakespeare if he purposely put that many intricacies in his writings, or if scholars are now attributing things/actions/reactions to his prose – both plays and sonnets – that weren’t originally intended. I often wonder about this when readers ask me about hidden meanings in my books, about things I never specifically created to have a deeper meaning. It’s interesting when they read more into it than I did!


  5. Having written both plays and novels, I can tell you that there’s nothing more nerve-wracking and thrilling than watching an audience react to one of your plays. The cool thing is that they pick up everything. If you felt something when you were writing certain words, it’s mysteriously communicated to them, too. The same happens in novels, as well, but as authors we’re not present in the room with them.

  6. Not exactly the same as with a play, but there is a thrill also when an audience responds to a reading, hopefully laughing/feeling in the right places.

    I wonder how Hammett and Chandler would have handled today’s need for an author’s presence everywhere—in person, networking online, in chat rooms, making trailers . . .

  7. They would have been so loaded they wouldn’t have cared where they were. I once went to a Charles Bukoski reading. He came out with a bottle of Jack Daniels and after a few shots he stopped and said: “do you really wanna hear this stuff?”

  8. Hey, 2 of us picked Shakespeare – which is cool. I’m a writer who doesn’t like to talk about the writing process much beyond – put your butt in the chair, your hands on the keyboard and get to work. So I get what Charles Bukoski means – thanks for the visual Heywood 🙂

  9. I KNOW, right? I had to really think about it for a minute, which is sad…the first time I posted it was addition. Now it’s multiplication. My 3rd grade self had a panic attack.

    I’m not going to T-fest, sadly, wrong time of year for me with family obligations, but it looks to be a great conference.

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