By Peter DE KUSTA
What is the best thing that I love about my work?
As a novelist, I love the creative process itself—the challenge of developing and constructing plots that include mystery, romance, and suspense, told in beautiful prose. Writing is both a passion and a compulsion, and the most satisfying form of escape I’ve ever experienced. My greatest reward comes from sharing my imaginary worlds with others who enjoy taking the journey. If readers talk about my characters as though they are real people, I know I did my job well.
What is my idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness comes to me in many forms. Certainly what lies at the foundation of happiness is the appreciation of life itself. I find this planet miraculous, from subatomic matter to the galaxies in space. I enjoy the beauty of ecosystems, how so many forms of life—plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects—the smallest creature to the largest; are integrated and dependent on each other for survival. My idea of perfect happiness is living on a healthy planet where people live together in peace, and are trusted guardians of nature.
What is my greatest fear?
Being impoverished, homeless, or mentally or physically impaired and dependent on others. I did undergo some terrible threats to my health five or six years ago. First I had breast cancer, and after I overcame that, I had a bout of debilitating pain for about 8 months, which diminished my ability to enjoy life. I was chronically depressed, and dependent on pain pills. I’m now completely recovered, and feel I’ve been given a second chance at life. The experience sharpened my awareness of how fragile life is, how it can be taken away at any moment, how one might be forced to languish in pain for a period of time. It heightened my appreciation for the quality of life I have now, for every precious moment I’m healthy and independent.
What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?
Lack of patience. Sometimes I get caught up in the every day demands of life, and the illusion that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do. I have to remind myself at times to live in the moment, address what is happening right in front of me, and listen to people, even when I feel I’m short on time. Giving another human being a few minutes of conversation can make a huge difference in that person’s life. Kindness goes a long way.
Which living persons in my profession do i most admire?
There are hundreds of writers that I admire. I read everything, and admire countless writers, from journalists to screen writers to poets to authors. I especially love mysteries, and I read an average of two books a week. If the writing is solid, and the story is well-constructed, I’ll read it.
What is my greatest extravagance?
Disconnecting from the world. Getting out in nature with my husband and our dog in our motorhome. I love being on a lazy schedule, where the only decision we have to make is when to eat and what hikes to take that day. I can write in uninterrupted peace for hours at time, surrounded by nature, sometimes listening to the gentle patter of rain, watching water drip off leaves. I love going to national parks, off season. We went to Bryce and Zion and Arches and the Grand Canyon two years ago. Last year we went to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, and this year we may be going to Yosemite.
On what occasion would I lie?
I don’t tell big extravagant lies, but I tell baby lies all the time, mostly when complimenting people. For example: “no, your ass doesn’t look big in those jeans” or “you look marvelous” when in actuality, you look hungover. In a heartbeat, I would lie if it was a life or death situation and someone’s life hung in the balance. I’m a pretty honest person and I’m frank about giving truthful opinions when asked, albeit diplomatically. I refrain from giving advice otherwise. Giving advice freely sounds like criticism. I’ve learned you can’t change people. People are going to live their lives exactly the way they want to, irrespective of the opinion’s of others, and harping on them only sounds like nagging. People are shaped by their own experiences, and life is the best teacher.
What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?
I don’t like it when I hit a brick wall and I have to stop writing, sometimes for days, while I process my story and play out different scenarios in my head. I never force the creative process. What generally helps me break through the logjam is reading. I’ll bury my nose in a good book, and before long, ideas start percolating to the surface.
When and where was I the happiest, in my work?
This current period in my life is the happiest. Now that I’m retired, I have the luxury of writing every day. I wake up eager to get to work. I take my coffee up to my sunny office that overlooks a peaceful wooded area, and dig in. I believe I’m at my most happiest when my husband and I are traveling and we’re parked in a beautiful wilderness spot and the peace of the place seeps into my bones, and I can write with no interruption.
If I could, what would I change about myself?
I would take twenty years of physical wear and tear from my body. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I would change nothing. If I had to lose twenty years of life experience to be in a younger body, I would say no. I’m more at peace with myself at this stage of life than I have ever been.
What is my greatest achievement in work?
Having three novels completed and coming out this year, 2017. It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment to see the culmination of years of work and endless rewrites in a physical book. My first, Hidden Part One, was just released in January. Hidden Part Two, and Pretty Corpse will both come out within the next few months. Hidden is a complex story with many characters and interwoven narratives. When it became clear all these stories could not be told in one novel, my publisher, Winter Goose Publishing, recommended we divide it into two parts. I really enjoyed the various journeys my research took me on. To write authentically about ranchers and rodeo, I volunteered at a horse ranch, and ended up adopting a horse, and I even sat on a badass bull, (while it was in the chute, of course). To research Pretty Corpse, I did ride-alongs with cops in San Francisco for weeks and became good friends with a lot of cops.
Where would I most like to live?
Ideally, I would stay in Oregon half the year, travel part of the year, and live in Europe part of the year, somewhere warm. I prefer rural areas that are relatively close to amenities like galleries, good restaurants, culture.
What is my most treasured possession?
I don’t have just one. If we’re talking about what I’m in possession of, as opposed to a tangible object, I would say my mind and my personality—my ability to show compassion, sensitivity, and kindness to others. I’m curious, gregarious, passionate, and creative, and these qualities open up little fun adventures every day. In terms of physical possessions, that would have to be my husband, family, and friends. After that, my computer, so that I can write, then my home and my car.
What is my most marked characteristic?
My friendliness. I have always had a keen interest in people, I’m an optimist at heart, and I’ve been blessed with a jolly spirit. I enjoy socializing, but the greater part of my waking life is spent in solitude, writing, reading, and doing projects.
What is my most inspirational location, in my city?
I like to get out on the wilderness trails with friends and dogs. We have a beautiful river, the Deschutes, that meanders through town and changes character every foot of the way. There are many meadows, sagebrush flats, waterfalls, and breathtaking views of the Cascade Range. The look of a wild river, the various sounds of water rushing, falling, cascading over boulders, is invigorating and soothing. Hiking clears my head of thoughts and worries and puts me in a state of peacefulness.
What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city?
There isn’t just one. I love food, and variety is the spice of life. I eat regularly at Toomies, a Thai restaurant, and am partial to the spicy eggplant curry with chicken. I love the lamb shank and garlic mashed potatoes at Moose Sisters, and the chicken Marsala at Pine Tavern. I love the fresh halibut at Kayos, and the butternut squash ravioli in browned sage butter at Pastinis.
You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day?
Again, I love too many types of music to pick one. I would listen to Eric Clapton and BB King do the blues, Al Green and Marvin Gaye do soul. I would listen to Yo Yo Ma and Chopan and Mozart. Early Jonie Mitchell, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac.
Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin This juicy story has everything: the masterfully played game of cat and mouse between Darcy and Bennent, the electric sexual tension between two highly attractive, highly intelligent people who are severely restricted in action and word by the social mores of the time, and their ability to skillfully maneuver within that framework. The book deals with a wide ark of social issues — manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of the British Regency. The eccentric variety and interaction of the secondary characters provide constant tension, conflict, and humor.
Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?
Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, all the suffragettes, Rosie Parks, and all men and women in uniform who protect the freedoms of our great country.
What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on?
It’s about a burned out female homicide detective who leaves a big city and becomes sheriff of a small Oregon town to escape the constant influx of murderers and murders. Everything is relatively peaceful until a serial killer moves into her district. Using her uncanny skills of detection, she starts to unravel his world. But as she gets closer, he becomes more dangerous, targeting her close friends.
Where can you see me or my work in 2017?
My novel Hidden Part One is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Part-1-Linda-Berry/dp/1941058604/