“If I’m not having fun, it’s not going to be fun for the reader. That doesn’t just apply to writing – it goes for workshops too. I’ve done innumerable little short courses here and there. I did one one-semester Creative Writing thing for Columbia College in Chicago, and it was fun and it was interesting, and they wanted me to do it again. I thought, ‘No, if I start with a new group it’s going to be the same damn thing, and I don’t want to do that.’ So I didn’t.”

“When you do anything in a book, you really have to be doing several things at once. You need to pique the tone of the book; to move the plot forward; to touch on the character of the person. If you’ve got a dinner scene where somebody says, ‘Pass the salt,’ it’s a waste unless it’s said in some particular way, or the character wants the salt for some special purpose, or something like that. When I’d only been writing for a year, I used to waste that kind of scene. (Then I would go back and take it out later!)”

“The more science-fictional part of Home Fires uses war in space as a plot device. To get my heroine Chelle off-planet so I would get the time-disparity thing where she hardly ages while decades pass for people on Earth, I needed a war for her to fight. There they were, just waiting in the wings: the Os, the cyborgs. Somebody could probably grab a first-level cyborg and do some reprogramming, and wouldn’t that be interesting? Hook ‘em up to a computer, and start tinkering with the software. So I have Rick Johnson, who went to West Point but has been reprogrammed as a spy for the Os.

‘‘I’m told that I am a fourth-level cyborg now, because I’ve got a pacemaker. The whole thing with my heart problems just dropped into our lives like a bomb, because I had thought that for my age I was in excellent health. Then, after an echocardiagram, I found out I was actually scheduled to die within the next few months unless I had surgery! In the April-May-June quarter of 2010, I was admitted to the hospital five times. They would send me back to the nursing home and something would go wrong – off in the ambulance and back to the hospital. Riding in an ambulance got to seem normal to me, like taking a cab! (Boy, do those things jolt.)”

“For years, my routine at home would be to write all morning and for the rest of the day do things like answer letters and do filing, the accounting stuff that is required if you’re a writer, and so on and so forth. Now it’s just a matter of finding time somewhere, where I can write. We’re traveling and I’m taking care of Rosemary and I’m having a tough time trying to find writing time – to say nothing of reading time.

‘‘I don’t have a Kindle or any such device, basically because I own something like a hundred books or so that I would like to read and have never read. I think the Kindle is a really neat idea to keep from having a basement full of books, but it’s not for me until I’ve read a lot of that stuff. There’s a bunch of Robert Louis Stevenson that I have never read, for example, and I like his writing. All sorts of stuff.”