| Q. You receive lots of book manuscripts, outlines and sample chapters from aspiring writers. Do you read them all?
No, it's impossible. I wish I could, but I'd never have time to write a word of my own if I read all the stuff that was sent to me. I don't want to discourage anybody who's worked hard to write something, but if you mail it to me there's an excellent chance that it will be lost or buried under a mountain of unread manuscripts and galleys. Save your postage and please send it to an agent or publisher instead.
Q. Why don't you answer all of your fan mail?
An apology in advance, to all the folks who send cards and letters: I try to answer as many as possible, but there's no way for me to get to all of them. I have no secretary, and in any case would never hire anybody crazy enough to want to work for me.
So, if you don't get a reponse to your letter, please don't take it bioally. It probably means I've shackled myself to the computer, trying to finish my next book before the lawyers and wiseguys show up on my doorstep.
Thanks for understanding.
Q. You're obviously a fan of rock music. Do you play any instruments yourself?
I have a Fender Strat that Dave Barry helped me pick out. It's blue, though Dave tells me that the red ones sound much better. I can now play several chords consecutively without taking a muscle relaxant.
Q. How do you balance writing the newspaper columns and the novels?
Easy. You write every waking hour and have no life. Actually, the jobs complement each other. In a place as wild as South Florida, true-life events are almost too big and too weird to be dealt with appropriately in a newspaper. The journalism feeds the imagination, which feeds the fiction. As for keeping a schedule, it's pretty simple: Two days a week I write for The Miami Herald, and the rest of the time I'm working on novels or magazine articles. Or fishing.
Q. How did you get started as a novelist?
Most young writers need luck and some good breaks, and I had both. In college I helped a friend write a couple of novels that were both eventually published -- which is always a confidence builder. Later, working at The Herald, a reporter named Bill Montalbano and I wrote five chapters and an outline for a thriller that was set in the midst of Miami's "cocaine wars" of the late 70s. Another friend recommended an agent, who passed us off to her assistant, who somehow got us a book contract. Bill and I wrote three novels together, and learned a lot about how the world of publishing works. Twenty years later, I still have the same literary agent.