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How I Write: Jane Goodall


The renowned naturalist addresses accusations of plagiarism in her new book, ‘Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants’.

Where did you grow up?When I grew up, World War II was raging and when I was 5 years old, I went with my mother and baby sister to the south of England, Bournemouth. We had very little money, but a nice big garden. It was my grandmother’s house. Right from the beginning it was animals, animals, animals. I was watching them. Writing stories about them. So I was born like that. But I didn’t have any desire to be a scientist. I wanted to be a naturalist.


How I Write: Meg Wolitzer

Leon HarrisLeon Harris/eyevine/Redux

The author of the acclaimed novel 'The Interestings,' now out in paperback, talks about Scrabble, Edith Wharton, and writing without a desk.

Where did you grow up?In Syosset, a town on Long Island, aka Exit 43.Where and what did you study?I started out at Smith College and transferred to Brown University. I resisted the then-loud siren song of Semiotics at Brown, and studied English instead.Where do you live and why?Manhattan. In an uncool neighborhood that’s quiet and far from everything, which forces me to walk a lot. Describe your morning routine.Wake up, walk dog, play a little online Scrabble, start to work.


How I Write: David Baldacci

Andersen Ulf/Getty

The bestselling thriller author, whose new novel, 'The Target,' is available for preview this week, talks about writing since he was a kid.

Where do you live and why?I live in Virginia, right outside of Washington, DC. I was born in Virginia, I’m a life-long Virginian. I came up here to practice law in DC over twenty years ago, just loved the area. It’s a great place to be a writer, because I can kind of look out the window and ideas come to me.Okay, where’s the best barbecue in Virginia?Ha! Growing up in Richmond there was a place my family would go every Saturday. Bill’s Barbecue.

Endless Work

How I Write: Scott Spencer

Everett Collection

‘Endless Love,’ adapted for the big screen in 1981 and 2014, made Scott Spencer’s novel a household name. But the National Book Award-nominated author was already regarded as a modern master.

Where did you grow up?I was raised in a house on the far South Side of Chicago, in a development erected on landfill made from slag and other industrial by-products a few years after World War II. My father worked in a nearby steel mill—I learned later in life that he was a manual worker as a matter of conscience—and my mother worked for an opinion research company, going to people’s homes and interviewing them about their reactions to products and advertising.


How I Write: Doug Dorst

Emily Berl/The New York Times, via Redux

The writer talks about working with filmmaker J.J. Abrams on their beautifully illustrated and executed meta-novel ‘S.’

Where did you grow up?Chappaqua, New York.Where and what did you study?As an undergrad at Stanford, I was an English and Political Science double-major. I got a law degree at UC-Berkeley, then fled to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for an MFA in fiction. A few years later, I went back to Stanford as a Stegner Fellow in fiction.Where do you live and why?I live in Austin. My wife and I moved here from San Francisco for her Ph.D. program at UT, and we’ve put down roots.


How I Write: Manuel Gonzales

Jessica Gonzales

The debut short-story writer, whose book ‘The Miniature Wife’ is now out in paperback, talks about his Tumblr project, vampires and werewolves, and a dessert that’s named after him.

Describe your morning routine.So when I’m writing, and it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to do this, because it’s just been really busy…I try to get up around 5:30 in the morning. I have two kids, and my wife and I trade off getting everybody ready, but if I’m going to get any work done, I need to get it done before my day takes over, which it usually does around 7:30. So I’ll get up at 5:30, get dressed in the dark, quietly grab my bag and computer and drive out to one of a couple of 24-hour coffee shops I know of.


How I Write: Julianna Baggott

Julianna Baggott Official Fan Page/Facebook

The author of the popular ‘Pure’ and ‘Fuse’ has completed the trilogy with the new book, ‘Burn.’ She talks about breaking into an Irish accent, her first book, and Michael Moore.

Where did you grow up?A yellow, ivy-covered house on a dead-end street in Newark, Delaware.Where and what did you study?In college, I majored in Creative Writing and French, which my father referred to as Starvation and Poverty.Where do you live and why?I’m moving from sunny Florida to the bitter cold of the progressive northeast – to be closer to family and for my kids.What’s your morning routine like, particularly with your four kids?I stay up late working (or worrying).

Monuments Man

Bob Balaban: How I Write

Victoria Will/AP

The prolific actor, who stars as Private Preston Savitz in this week’s ‘Monuments Men,’ is also a successful children’s book author.

Where did you grow up?Well, I was born in Chicago. My family moved there in about 1898 or so, escaped from some pogrom in Russia, got there, and eventually set up a chain of movie theaters. I got hooked on movies as a little kid and never really got over it. I love Chicago and I go back whenever I can.Is there a film that you remember seeing, an earliest one that you really loved and made you want to be in the film industry?One of my earliest memories is going to see, when I was 7 or 8, Guys and Dolls, which was playing at one of my dad’s theaters.


How I Write: James Patterson

Bret Hartman/Reuters

The best-selling author of the Alex Cross novels talks about how much of his life is spent writing outlines.

Describe your morning routine.I pretty much write seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. I’ll get up around 5:30, put my house in order, write a little bit, maybe an outline for that day. Then I’ll go out around 7, frequently walk a golf course for an hour by myself. Then I’ll come back and write until, oh, 11 or 12. It’s a combination of any business I have to do, whatever novel I’m working on, outlines … I was just compiling the number of outlines I do and found that I write about 900 pages of outlines a year.

Creative Writing

Chang-rae Lee: How I Write

David Levenson/Getty

The Korean-American writer, whose new dystopian novel is ‘On Such a Full Sea,’ speaks about his first failed book, his favorite assignment for his students, and golf.

I understand you went to Exeter Academy. Tell me about your time there.Vis-a-vis writing, Exeter was the place I got interested in writing. Not sure that would’ve happened at my local public high school. Exeter alum writers were really promoted and we always had a troop of them coming through: Gore Vidal, George Plimpton, John Irving. We had a James Agee year, where we all read Agee’s work. It’s a place where writing and writers were revered.

In the Garret

All About Paris

Herve BRUHAT/Getty

Famous for her novels about Americans living and loving in Paris, Diane Johnson’s new book is about home: America. She talks to Noah Charney about her writing routine, the best advice she ever got, and life in Paris.

How did you first come to live in Paris?I went to Paris as a trailing wife, when my husband John was doing medical research with a French colleague there. At first, I resisted, hoping for England, because I was and am a great Anglophile, and also I couldn’t speak French.Which neighborhood in Paris is your personal favorite and why?We lived for a number of years in the Fifth Arrondissement, and I think that’s still my favorite, for its vestiges of Roman and medieval Paris, present student life, little theaters and bookshops, foodie markets and all.


How Michael Connelly Writes

Ulf Andersen/Getty

He blacks out his office and drinks gallons of tea—how the creator, Michael Connelly, of Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller writes a book a year.

I understand that you’re a big Raymond Chandler fan. Which book is your favorite and why?It’s The Little Sister. What has inspired me for going on 40 years is chapter 13. In that chapter Philip Marlowe, frustrated by the events of the day and the case he’s on, takes a ride around Los Angeles. He ruminates a bit on what is going on in his case, but the chapter has little to do with plot, and everything to do with the interplay of character and place.


How I Write: Paul Lynch

Richard Gilligan

The debut novelist Paul Lynch on Irish writers, advice to aspiring authors, and a funny coincidence at a book event.

Where did you grow up?I was born in Limerick city but grew up in a small town in County Donegal—remote, windy, lots of rain. That’s how I recall it. As soon as I was of an age, I got the hell out. One of the discoveries of my writing life was that my imagination was in a rush to go back there. At first, this was a source of huge frustration—I wanted to write about cities and modern life. I wrote a few exploratory short stories set in Dublin, but the moment I relocated my writing to Donegal and found for it a mythic register, the magic began to happen on the page.

Joy and Luck

Amy Tan: How I Write

New York Daily News Archive

On being on ‘The Simpsons,’ playing music with Stephen King, and the importance of the opening line.

Describe your morning routine.I’m usually woken by a vibration on my up-band. It’s the gradual vibration for about ten seconds, and then the chimes of my blue light. It’s just a way to wake gently. It all gently puts me into awake-mode. I play music off of my Sonos playlist. The Rachmaninoff Concerto 3 in D-minor, 1st movement. Then I have to play with my dog, who’s on the bed and has brought me a toy. We play tug-of-war. Then I have to make the bed before I do anything else, as soon as I get up.

Good Lord

How I Write: James McBride

Victoria Will/AP

The newly crowned National Book Award winner for fiction tells us about his pad in New York City, being able to write anywhere, and rewriting everything—even his emails.

I understand that I’ve caught you in the midst of a visit to the National Stamp Museum in DC?I’m doing an appearance here in DC. I had an hour and a half to blow, so I decided to pop into the museum, take a look around. You’re always hunting for ideas, you know?Congratulations on winning the National Book Award.I was eating an apple tart. Then they announced my book. I was stunned. Pretty surprised. I went to accept the award, and I was still holding my dinner napkin in my hand.

About How I Write

Every week, we interview writers about their daily routine and where they keep their desks.

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