Charles J. Shields
Charles J. Shields is the author of And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, the highly acclaimed, bestselling biography of Harper Lee, and I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). He grew up in the Midwest and taught in a rural school in central Illinois for several years. He has been a reporter for public radio, a journalist, and the author of nonfiction books for young people. He and his wife live near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Where are you from?
I spent most of my life in Chicago. Currently, I live in Virginia.
Who are your favorite writers?
Truman Capote, Christopher Hitchens, James Boswell, Claire Tomalin
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
I tend to read classics because I read slowly and I analyze what the author is doing as I read. Style and structure are everything to me.What are your hobbies and outside interests?I read a great deal of history. Other than that my interests are literary criticism, culture, psychology, science, engineering, technology, math, and robotics. I'm a generalist. I work on tabletop projects related to science, technology and robotics, too.
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
"Do it at the time."-my father
What is your favorite quote?
"The great goal in life is to take your destiny out of the hands of others."-mine
What is the question most commonly asked by your readers? What is the answer?
Q: How does someone become a writer?A: Writing is a craft that can be learned like anything else. Practice, and finding models you admire are the keys.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was a three-page, stapled booklet: "The Life of the Three Stooges," written when I was nine. My motives then were the same as they are now: to know more about people who interest me.
Where do you write?
I have a room in my home, a study, where all my books and resources are. I work there every day for six to eight hours.