I have a dirty secret to tell you involving my pants. I do not fly by the seat of them. Writers love to say that they do. They claim that their stories emerge, Athena-esque, fully formed from their split heads: beginning, middle and end intact; armed, even, with a marketing plan. Anything less is not art, they claim. So, here’s another confession. I am more craftsman than artist. My stories are painstakingly plotted. Each chapter is a carefully crafted image in a photo mosaic that I recolor and arrange until the whole can only be seen by standing back. I set out my plot twists like points on a map. Sometimes, I am surprised by how I get there. Sometimes, the characters become different people who refuse to go where I’d like, necessitating another storyline or idea. But, more often than not, they are designed with particular characteristics and backstories in mind that should set them off on the path I’ve envisioned. If writers are Gods of our little worlds, then I am a deterministic one. My characters can no more escape their inclinations than I can escape my genetic compulsions. So I don’t sit down and let the muse take me where she will. I cajole her. I conspire with her. And when I write, I know where I expect her to take me. Though, if I get somewhere good, I might take a seat and enjoy the view.