1. What are the most salient N (choose any N>0 you like) differences between California and Minnesota for you?
"Most salient." Hmm. (Some of you have heard a lot of this before and can skip on to #2.) Well, there are four seasons here rather than two; that's a biggie. Wet season vs. dry season is a very, very different experience from fall, winter, spring, and summer. Related to that, the passage of time is much easier to mark here, timing of events in memory and so on. "Oh, that was the fall it stormed all the time...I guess that must have been three years ago," that sort of thing.
Also there are not mostly hills that threaten to eat one here. Don't tell me they don't threaten to eat me out there, either. I know. Maybe they don't threaten to eat you.
Also there are...social middle grounds. There is the concept of stranger interactions and of being acquaintances, rather than being friends or people who don't exist except as obstacles on the pavement. When we were in California last, we were walking through a parking garage, and we passed a middle-aged woman on the path. I did the Tight Smile Of Passing Strangers In Close But Not Uncomfortable Quarters. She looked away, expression unchanged. You see? Like that. Not always, but a lot more often. timprov and I went to the same coffeehouse almost every Saturday late morning or early afternoon, for a year solid, and we ordered almost exactly the same thing, and we sat in there awhile. We recognized the barristas, but they had no idea who we were or that they had ever seen us before. (And it's not like the place was ever really crowded!) Here, we go to Cam Ranh Bay far, far less often than weekly -- and the servers there still comment if we order something we've never had before. There are all sorts of human interactions from here that are skipped or actively avoided out there. (On the other hand, people here -- the ones who are from here -- take longer to move from acquaintances to friends, since they have acquaintances in the first place. In many circumstances this can be a drawback, but since it's also my genuine reaction 90% of the time, it's easier for me personally. The remaining 10% -- the times when I instantly like or dislike someone -- feel anomalous to me.)
We have more subtext here. A lot more things are text there.
Most everything (except toro, sigh) costs less here, and sometimes you get bits of niceness without having to ask for them. I suspect that you do in California, too, and it's just that I don't know what they are, because they're not the same bits as here. (All these things that make me prefer here are not moral absolutes. They are personal preferences. I don't want California to be more like Minnesota, because lots of people like California, and that's good; I want them to be happy. I'm just not them.)
Here, people generally gauge my ethnicity correctly ("Scandosotan" or some variation on that idea). Out there, the idea that I have an ethnicity is a little weird for a lot of people, because I am white, and a lot of people out there react oddly to the notion that white people can have ethnicity as anything but an academic question. Here, if I am asked to give my last name and say "like the fruit but with an e instead," they write down L-i-n-g-e-n. There, they say, "Like what fruit?" Or they write down L-e-m-e-n. Here, people will routinely ask me, "-e-n or -o-n?" There, when I tried to tell a friend this question as a fact of social existence at home, she thought I was saying, "Ian or Owen?" and couldn't figure out why. Here, we consider Gj- and Kj- and Sj- perfectly logical and pronounceable beginnings to names. Here, we have an agreed-upon social pretense that lutefisk is food. You couldn't get Californians to pretend that sort of thing. Someone would point out about the Emperor's naked butt. It's not that everyone here is Scandosotan. It's that they know that Scandinavia exists, and in more than a broad geographical sense.
Here we have passive-aggression. I mean, some people there have it, too, but strictly on an amateur basis. Sort of hobbyists, really. Passive-aggression can be absolutely maddening, but I think it's also underrated by people who have not considered what aggressive-aggression would look like when directed at you by some 6'5" fella called Sven, whose name ends in -son, -sen, or -inen and who has shoulders like a truck. We should all spare a moment of gratitude occasionally to a subculture that encourages that fella to repress his anger and sulk and pout and sigh meaningly rather than yelling and pounding the rest of us, even if the same cultural trait is awfully annoying and overused at other times.
And kind of related to that...matociquala's foul lies about the Mythbusters guys not being sexy (how she can tell such liiiiies is beyond me) alerted me to the idea that "phlegmatic" is apparently not everybody's sexual orientation. But honestly, do you know how many phlegmatic men with beards live in this state? Lots.
I'm just sayin'. If you want someone to say, "Hmm," noncommittally into his beard when faced with an emotional situation (or a non-emotional one! It always works!), this is the place to be. This or maybe Wisconsin. Probably the UP.
I expect that people with California temperaments who live here feel extremely constrained in their emotional expressions. But out there I felt that I had to do a broad-gesture interpretive dance with emoticon flashcards to get anyone to understand how I was doing on a given day.
Also, the banners in downtown St. Paul that used to proclaim this "The State of Hockey"? They are not kidding. People in California just found about curling, and most of them have no idea what broomball is. The icy death potential is way higher here. And the awareness of same and enthusiasm for same is much higher, on the average.
We have almost no sense of our own kookiness here. In the San Francisco Bay area: much sense of own kookiness. Some Minnesotans have a sense of their own individual kookiness, but that's different.
2. Do you have conversations with your characters?
No, I have conversations with my backbrain and it talks to my characters.
Writers are all fruitbats. We're just not all the same kind of fruitbats.
3. You once said your family members were either irresistible forces or immovable objects. Which are you?
Heh. Oh dear. Heeheehee. Hee. Oh my.
See, this is not entirely a gendered thing. But it is largely a gendered thing; in the kind of Scandosotan family from which I come, the women are the irresistible forces and the men are the immovable objects. Some women do immovable object as well, but very very few men get to do the irresistible force. (See above re: aggression, large men called Sven.)
I am not the archetype of irresistible force in social terms; that would be my grandmother and her sisters. But I am learning, and I am like them.
That's mostly family-internal/close-friend-internal. And I can still go into block-of-stone blank-faced Scandosotan stoicism in the blink of the proverbial eye. But I'm generally the one who's finding out what everyone wants for dinner and what time and who should bring the veggie tray and whether anyone is making a non-dairy option because Ted is allergic and like that. It's because of women like me that anything happens among Scandosotans, like, ever. Not me personally. But women like me.
4. What book are you most ashamed of enjoying?
I am not ashamed of enjoying books.
I'm not even ashamed of enjoying books in the past that I wouldn't like in the present. I am not, for example, so much for Mercedes Lackey novels at this point in my life. But I respect what they did for my 12-year-old self.
5. The Queen of Faerie offers you the opportunity to spend a year and a day in her country on condition that you may never tell anyone what you saw there, even in stories. Do you accept, decline, or try to bargain? If the last, what is your counteroffer?
I cannot reliably keep what I did yesterday out of my fiction, no matter which day yesterday is. The stories we tell come from the people we are and the experiences we've had; if I couldn't tell anyone what I'd seen, even in stories, I couldn't tell stories. So if I couldn't bargain her into metaphors being okay, I would have to decline. It would break my head, and this is yet another case where we find out that, no, really, I'm a writer, not a nuclear physicist: because the urge to be able to tell stories outweighs even the urge to know. I think if I'd stayed in physics, the urge to know would have the upper hand.
Incidentally, among the things I did yesterday was to write down a science fiction short story idea spurred by the brain playing with this question. That's how much the storytelling has the upper hand right now.
Also, I wouldn't want to be away from my life for a year and a day, honestly. If I had time to arrange it, maybe. But quite possibly not. I like living here, with and near the mammals I live with and near, doing what I do. It would take a fair amount of arranging to get me willing to uproot that.