Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: This is a question that irritates most writers, but a perfectly valid one nonetheless. We often forget that people in other professions don't see a potential murder in a perfectly innocent situation or a fiendish twist in a casual conversation. Ideas are all around us: in the morning newspaper; in the words to a song; in a friend's complaint about her boss; in that book on ecology we're reading because it's a subject that interests us. It's all a matter of tapping into a subject and letting the imagination run with it. Of course, then there's the task of shaping the idea and actually getting it down on paper....

Q: What's your writing schedule like?
A: I write five days a week, and more when I'm on a roll or a deadline. Since I can set my own schedule, I may take off the middle of the week and work on the weekend, but it is a profession and, as with any job or profession, a certain regular output is required. Generally I work in the morning, take a break, then work from late afternoon into the evening. In addition to the actual writing, there are business matters and research to deal with, and even when I'm relaxing or socializing, the work is never far from my mind. The commute and dress code are great, but the hours are long and I'm the toughest boss I've ever had.

Q: What's it like being married to another writer?
A: Great! Bill and I have collaborated frequently, and even when writing solo, we kick ideas around, help each other work out problems, and edit each other's work. But most of all, we each understand the demands the work makes on the other's life, and are tolerant of the long hours and sometimes bizarre switches of schedule, such as the time Bill decided he needed to finish a novel on Christmas morning -- which, incidentally, was the best present he could have given me. People ask if we compete. No, we don't, but we do compete with ourselves, in a constant effort to grow as writers.

Q: You've often been called the "founding mother of the hardboiled contemporary female private investigator." Why, at a time when there were few such characters, did you choose to create one?
A: Founding mother? I think that by this time I'm the founding grandmother, as so many wonderful female investigators have appeared on the scene since the early eighties. I created a female character, San Francisco investigator Sharon McCone, simply because I'm female, and I wanted to address the problems a woman would encounter in what was generally considered a man's profession. I must admit that I also figured the character was different enough from those who already existed in the genre that I might have a good shot at selling the book.

Q: How difficult was that sell?
A: Moderately. I wrote two manuscripts featuring McCone, and both were deservedly turned down, but an editor at David McKay Company, Michele Slung, liked the character and invited to me try again. She was the first person to consider EDWIN OF THE IRON SHOES, and bought it immediately.

Q: What about Sharon McCone's love life? Will she ever find permanent happiness?
A: I must admit that over the years Sharon has displayed perfectly terrible taste in men: the police lieutenant who called her "papoose"; the free-spirited disc jockey who turned into what I call a houseplant and began to complain about meals getting cold while she was out on surveillances; the university professor who wanted to marry her and have a child which she then would presumably have had to take along on said surveillances. Then she met fellow investigator Hy Ripinsky and for once displayed good sense. Hy is as independent and committed to his career as McCone. He understands and tolerates the demands on her time, as she does with his. They share a love of flying, and an airplane. And he's sexy too! I'd say she's found permanent happiness.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
A: Plant seat of pants on seat of chair in front of the computer or typewriter or stone tablet. Write something every day, even if it's only a one-sentence paragraph. Do your own work. Don't ever try to copy other writers or chase trends; let your unique ideas and mode of expression set a trend instead!