Why is writing important to you and why do you think it's an important medium for the world?
I love that the same flights of fancy that got me into so much trouble as a child in school are now the bases for my career…and my joy. As for the world…have we ever needed books, escape, imagination…hope…more than now?

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer's block?
I've never experienced writer's block. Perhaps it's because, in addition to writing, I edit and teach. Being busy, and having to allot time for each endeavor, might be the reason the words come when I have time to write them!  And, of course, there's the dreaded outline. A comprehensive one, scene by scene, chapter by chapters, tells me where I am in the story.

What is your favorite time to write?
My favorite time is first thing in the morning, but I rarely get to it until mid-afternoon. My students come first (online, UCLA Extension Writers' Program), followed by my clients (freelance editing). But it's not unusual for me to write into the late hours, sometimes until 3am. If the words/story are coming, I do my best to be available to them.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received and would like to impart to other writers?
I interviewed Jane Smiley at the San Francisco Writers' Conference. During the Q&A, someone asked her about the perfect novel. I expected her to name some classic, but no: "The perfect novel is your first draft, after you've completed it." There were perhaps 500 people in the room. It became very quiet...and then they cheered. So...finish that first draft...that's perfection. And then don't be afraid to make massive changes in characters and plot line.

What excites you most about being a writer in today's age?
Perhaps the freedom to cover any subject and create characters based on what drives the story and not what pleases the public. I realize that these are more about my own growth, but today's climate of fear and uncertainty either freezes creativity or sets it free. I hope the latter applies to me.

Private Investigations: Mystery Writers on the Secrets, Riddles, and Wonders in Their Lives edited by Victoria Dana Zackheim is now out with Seal Press.