People often ask me... I got started as a writer.

The answer is a long story and almost a book in itself. The most important influence was my grandfather. I often visited him in Alabama, and he told me a lot about his youth and how America used to be. Nobody else had such a good memory and took so much care in their choice of words. He taught me how to truly tell a story. Later, I wrote stories myself and sent them to him. He always responded to them in very long letters, and this is how we had some kind of author correspondence. That was the beginning. It shaped me and led me to become a professional writer.

...what I do when I cannot think of anything.

That depends, too. Sometimes, I look for something to keep me busy in the house, like doing dishes or mowing the lawn. When I focus on a simple chore, the ideas quietly work by themselves, and later I can just return to my desk. If I cannot think of anything for a longer period of time, I intensively work on a new topic or do some research.