That would probably be Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I just can't read that enough times. The book is insanely quirky and filled with such hilarious characters that contrast so dramatically with the very normal and boring, protagonist, Arthur Dent. I guess I can also identify with everything around me seeming so crazy on a cosmic scale, and I wish I had a guide to get me through it. Finally, it offers the best advice to every problem - "Don't Panic!"
Have you ever gone someplace or done something exclusively as research for a story? Where/what?
My novel, Pukawiss the Outcast, has a culminating scene that takes place at an Chippewa powwow. While I've been to many powwows, I hadn't actually been to the one I featured in this book, so it required a special trip to get a feel for the place.
What was the best piece of writing advice you've gotten?
Engage the senses! It's tempting as writers to describe a scene visually. But it really helps bring the reader in if you also awaken some of their other senses - smell, taste, touch, etc. This can add so much dimension to even a very simple environment.
When family complications take Joshua away from his fundamentalist Christian mother and leave him with his grandfather, he finds himself immersed in a mysterious and magical world. Joshua’s grandfather is a Wisconsin Ojibwe Indian who, along with an array of quirky characters, runs a recreated sixteenth-century village for the tourists who visit the reservation. Joshua’s mother kept him from his Ojibwe heritage, so living on the reservation is liberating for him. The more he learns about Ojibwe traditions, the more he feels at home.
One Ojibwe legend in particular captivates him. Pukawiss was a powerful manitou known for introducing dance to his people, and his nontraditional lifestyle inspires Joshua to embrace both his burgeoning sexuality and his status as an outcast. Ultimately, Joshua summons the courage necessary to reject his strict upbringing and to accept the mysterious path set before him.