QUESTION #1 Where do you get the names/inspiration for your characters?
Often from real people I know. I need an image in my head to create a character. (Brag here: one site said last week that my characters are people you think about long after you finish the book. YAY!)
I start with someone I've known--perhaps a coworker or a former student--and imagine how that person would react to the scenario I'm creating. I always add when I admit this that those people NEVER stay real. As soon as I have a firm picture in mind, the character becomes a whole new person, with his own personality, attitudes, and personal details.
For example, Verle in the Loser Mysteries started out as a man who was sort of my second dad, since I practically lived at his house as a kid. Readers who knew him would soon find, however, that he isn't like the real Verle at all. For one thing, he's afraid of his wife--like that would happen!
Loser herself was inspired by homeless people I saw during a stay in Richmond, Virginia, in 2007. I can't explain how it happens, but I started wondering what might happen if a homeless woman felt compelled to investigate a murder.
Once I tell them that, people are likely to ask if I know introduced myself to any of those homeless people so I could get to know them. No. People are people, and over the years I met plenty who lived outside what we consider "normal" circumstances. Though their situation separates "them" from "us," they have similar motivations. Their coping methods just have to be a lot different.
Reality is where my characters start. After that it's all my imagination.
The Loser Mysteries are available in print or as e-books on Amazon and by order at your local bookstore. Killing Silence is also available in audio format.