Q. So, Josh, do you frequent this place often?
A. No, actually, this is my first time here. Are you hitting on me?
Q. Maybe. I haven’t decided yet. Can I buy you a drink?
A. I’d love a shirley temple.
Q. Excuse me?
A. Hey, it takes a real man to order a shirley temple.
Q. Real boys and girls order them too.
Q. Toddlers, pre-teens…
A. OK, OK.
Q. I’m just kidding. Do you mind if I ask you a couple questions?
A. If you’re buying, I’m talking.
Q. Great. Well, let’s start off easy. What is the secret to your success?
A. Every morning I dip my Pop Tarts in awesome sauce. This has in turn, through careful osmosis, transformed me into an Awesome Pop Tart, much like Madonna circa 1982. Want to hear me sing “Like a Virgin”?
A. Are you sure?
Q. Yes. Now can you answer my question honestly?
Q. Why not?
A. The secret to my success?
A. Damned if I know.
Q. Fair enough. What words of advice would you offer to a struggling young writer?
A. Continue to struggle.
Q. That’s not very encouraging.
A. If life were easy, who would appreciate it?
Q. Says the guy living on the edge with his shirley temple.
A. I believe that writers, artists, all people should challenge themselves every day. Obstacles are important. Limitations are important. They force us to become creative. Give George Lucas a restricted budget and he’ll make Star Wars. Give him unlimited funds and he’ll make The Phantom Menace.
Q. Why do you write crime novels?
A. All good novels are crime novels.
Q. The Cat and the Hat is a crime novel?
A. Oh, absolutely. The Cat is a sociopath.
Q. The Shack is a crime novel?
A. What is crime? It’s when someone, usually with malice aforethought and often for selfish reasons, breaks the rules. Show me a novel where no rules are broken and I’ll show you a fast-asleep readership.
Q. You’ve very evasive.
A. It’s the awesome sauce. Want some of my shirley temple?
Q. No, thanks. I have to drive home later. Let’s switch to personal questions for a little bit.
A. I think I’ll need another drink. Hemlock, perhaps.