If you were not a writer what would you do?
If I were not a writer. Well, unfortunately, I have a law degree, so I would probably be a lawyer. I went to Harvard Law School. I never practiced. Writing is so much more fun and interesting and fascinating. My goal, when I was coming up through college, was to be governor of Colorado. And that certainly changed when I started writing fiction.
Fiction is what changed your mind?
I went to Yale on a full scholarship and I took an amazing course in my senior year. I only took two English courses, and one was called Daily Themes, and you had to write a 300-word short story every day for eight weeks. And I just loved that course. I thought, Here is a way you could be curious about anything and everything and everyone for your whole life and make it your life’s work. And then I had a weird experience after those first 40 little stories, which were all terrible. Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes was sponsoring a fiction contest because he had a son, I guess at Yale, who had died in a car crash. And I entered a story in it and won the prize and didn’t even know—this is how ignorant I was—didn’t even know three of the judges, who were Ralph Ellison, John Knowles (who wrote A Separate Peace), and William Styron. That is how ignorant I was. They were all Mike Wallace’s friends in New York. But it gave me this idea: Hey, maybe you shouldn’t be governor of Colorado; you could write fiction.