You can't write about the past and ignore religion. It was such a fundamental, mind-shaping, driving force for pre-modern societies. I'm very interested in what religion does to us - its capacity to create love and empathy or hatred and violence.
The thing that most attracts me to historical fiction is taking the factual record as far as it is known, using that as scaffolding, and then letting imagination build the structure that fills in those things we can never find out for sure.
Yes, it seems we've got this mutant gene in our human personality that makes us susceptible to this same kind of mistake over and over again. It's really uncanny how we build these beautiful multicultural edifices and then allow this switch to be flipped and everybody goes, 'Oh, the other, get them out of here.'
September 11, 2001, revealed heroism in ordinary people who might have gone through their lives never called upon to demonstrate the extent of their courage.
I do believe that our modern English usage has become way too clipped and austere. I have been reading excerpts from the journals of 18th-century seafarers lately, and even the lowliest press-ganged deck-swabber turns a finer phrase than I do most days.
I'd gotten myself into a kind of journalism that wasn't really compatible with rearing an infant. I'd been a foreign correspondent for a long time and had this subspecialty in covering catastrophes. It had spoiled me a little because you have a tremendous amount of autonomy, and I couldn't really see being an editor in an office.