I was afraid of anyone in a costume. A trip to see Santa might as well have been a trip to sit on Hitler's lap for all the trauma it would cause me. Once, when I was four, my mother and I were in a Sears and someone wearing an enormous Easter Bunny costume headed my way to present me with a chocolate Easter egg. I was petrified by this nightmarish six-foot-tall bipedal pink fake-fur monster with human-sized arms and legs and a soulless, impassive face heading toward me. It waved halfheartedly as it held a piece of candy out in an evil attempt to lure me into its clutches. Fearing for my life, I pulled open the bottom drawer of a display case and stuck my head inside, the same way an ostrich buries its head in the sand. This caused much hilarity among the surrounding adults, and the chorus of grown-up laughter I heard echoing from within that drawer only added to the horror of the moment. Over the next several years, I would run away in terror from a guy in a gorilla suit whose job it was to wave customers into a car wash, a giant Uncle Sam on stilts, a midget dressed like a leprechaun, an astronaut, the Detroit Tigers mascot, Ronald McDonald, Big Bird, Bozo the Clown, and every Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, Chip and Dale, Uncle Scrooge, and Goofy who walked the streets at Disneyland. Add to this an irrational fear of small dogs that saw me on more than one occasion fleeing in terror from our neighbor's four-inch-high miniature dachschund as if I were being chased by the Hound of the Baskervilles and a chronic case of germ phobia, and it's pretty apparent that I was--what some of the less politically correct among us might call--a first-class pussy.
I write about scoundrels; my specialty is generally scoundrels. If somebody's done a bad thing, I just talk about it. I don't prettify it or anything. My characters, a lot of them are disgusting — what they've done in the past. Somebody described them once as "last-ditch attempts at justification." And sometimes that's what my characters or my personae are doing: they're saying, "Yes, I did this and that thing, and perhaps it was evil. It was bad — maybe it wasn't even evil — but this is why I did it. You don't know the circumstances surrounding it." And this is the telling; they're almost retelling what happened from their point of view .... I use "bad words" whenever I feel the need, you know, I just put 'em in there — if it's true to my character. I always like to think that I'm doing things that are true to my charcter. And I hope that, when I'm dealing with violence, for example, that it's not gratuitous, that it's coming out of character that requires that .... I usually start with character, rather than a concept or an idea. If I do want to deal with an idea, I must create a character, in order to work from there, from that angle.
The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play. I say to myself, if a big name were playing this part, and if he found that after a strong first act he had practically nothing to do in the second act, he would walk out. Now, then, can I twist the story so as to give him plenty to do all the way through? I believe the only way a writer can keep himself up to the mark is by examining each story quite coldly before he starts writing it and asking himself it is all right as a story. I mean, once you go saying to yourself, "This is a pretty weak plot as it stands, but if I'm such a hell of a writer that my magic touch will make it okay," you're sunk. If they aren't in interesting situations, characters can't be major characters, not even if you have the rest of the troop talk their heads off about them."(Interview, The Paris Review, Issue 64, Winter 1975)