To get into Afghanistan, I bribed my way into a camel caravan of smugglers.
I learned to interpret the ancient pictograph codices and read Nahuatl, the Aztec language.
Everybody has done something about Marco Polo. It's the tiredest, most trite and worked-over subject in the world, and that was why it appealed to me, because I wanted to do something really new and different about something that had been worked over all these centuries, and I think I did.
When I was living in Mexico and writing a book called 'Aztec,' I had to make a deliberate effort to ignore a lot of the 'typically Mexican landscape' around me – banana and citrus groves, roses and carnations, burros and toros – because they did not exist in Mexico in the 15th century, the time of my book.
When I was in Thailand, I went into the up-country because Marco Polo didn't get down into the flesh pots of Bangkok because they didn't exist in those days.
In the 20th century alone, there have been 1,600 books about the circus. My adding one more would be superfluous unless I do something totally new and different.
I write novels, mostly historical ones, and I try hard to keep them accurate as to historical facts, milieu and flavor.
I could list hundreds of words I've come up against in the course of my work that did not exist in the era of which I was writing and for which I never could find a suitably old-time, archaic or obsolete substitute.
I starved and slept on park benches. I wrapped myself in the pages of my manuscript to keep warm. For two and a half years I took odd jobs; nothing was going to deter me.
I contend, most seriously, that there is a real need for a good, thick, complete-as-possible dictionary of 'What People Used to Call Things.'
When I got back to Madison Avenue, I realized that copywriters made more than artists, so I switched.