The Tyler Questionnaire


What is my idea of absolute comfort?
Sitting in my den in front of a roaring fire, cat in lap, novel in hand. Don’t forget the flannel pajamas and the hot tea in the trout mug.

Favorite place I have ever lived as a writer? Savannah, Georgia. I felt like a local and was treated as such and the antebellum beauty took my breath away. I lived there in the early 1990s so it was still very much like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. In fact I knew Luther and Lady Chablis. I never had to worry about freelance assignments; editors were hot after stories from the Deep South.

Favorite book? Madame Bovary. Obvious reasons. There is not a word or phrase that is not just perfect. Can’t say the same about Sentimental Education.

Least favorite book category? Murder Mystery.

What is my strangest writing habit? When I finish with paper at my desk, I throw it on the floor. Once I’ve finished the task at hand, I gather up all the scraps and either toss them out or put them in the recycling bin. I think I do this so I know I’ve finished with that piece of paper and know not to save it. So, if you walk into my office when I’m writing, there are scraps of paper balled up and scattered all over the rug. The cats love this.

Greatest writing challenge? Sentence structure.

What am I most proud of as a writer? The fact that I’m self-taught. I was a history major at Kenyon and I never went to grad school. (Which brings to mind that great Mark Twain quote: “I never let schooling interfere with my education.)

Who are some writers I’d like to have tea with? Well, I love Somerset Maugham and Gustave Flaubert, but I think they’d both be rather chilly so I think I’ll choose Jane Austen. I can count on her to be polite.

What will I do with the dozens of journals I’ve stored in boxes in the attic? When I am about 80, they will be tossed out, I don’t want people to read them when I’m no longer here to explain – or defend – myself.

Is it boring for a writer to live in her hometown? Not at all. I see stories everywhere every day and a lot can be said for the imagination. Richmond is teeming with as much drama as New York or Paris.

What is one of my writerly weaknesses?
Quotes. I love them and tend to use them too much in my writing. I often have to admonish myself and put Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations back on the shelf. I’ve used my copy so much the spine has split. With quotes like this how can one resist? “A writer is like a bean plant – he has his little day, and then gets stringy.”
E. B. White in a letter to Harold Ross.


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