Three years ago I decided that I wanted to live where I could breathe more private air so Susie and I bought a place out in the country where life is slower. Our neighbors were standoffish, but after three years we have gotten to know most of them, and our lives are richer for it. As Michelle said in her post, people do not get to know their neighbors like they used to. The fact is, I get to know my neighbors. I always have done. I have had neighbors I cared for less than others, but the idea of living as a stranger in a place and not knowing who I share air with is alien to me. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the south in small towns, or maybe it’s because I’ve always had this curiosity about people and things.
When I was playing census worker a while back, I often asked someone about the people next door to learn that they had no idea who their neighbors were. Even when I lived in large cities I knew who my neighbors were. If you aren’t curious about people and don’t get to know them, how can you write about people?
I got this Kindle 3 and I’ve been reading a lot since. It’s weird at first, but I’ve gotten the hand of it. This week I’m reading Ken Follet’s WORLD WITHOUT END, the follow up to PILLARS OF THE EARTH. Great book. Rich characters. Kenny flat knows people and understands psychology and conflict. You don’t get that way by shutting people out. He was one of the best thriller authors of all time. EYE OF THE NEEDLE was one of my top five all time favorites, and still holds up today.
Do yourself a favor and speak to the people around you. Some of my best friends have been people I’ve lived near. Go out of your way and be a good neighbor and your neighbors will surprise you. Who knows you might just find characters who’ll put your next book over the top.