You really should read: Face of Betrayal

Henry writes mystery novels for adults about teenage protagonists with dirty secrets and sex lives. And they take place in her current home—Portland. What's not to like? It's like a Gus Van Sant movie on fast-forward. 2 pm Sunday, Oct. 11, with Sundee T. Frazier. Target Children's Stage.

What's your personal writing ritual?

MacBook Pro, Pandora or the OPB music stream, and, on bad days, an open box of low-fat Wheat Thins. On really bad days, an open bag of Lay's barbecue potato chips.

What are your favorite themes to write about (or that you're most guilty of rehashing)?

Betrayal. Secrets. Lies. Obsessions. Murder.

The most beautiful word in the English language is: Fug. Because it's short and most people don't know it and it's a great word.

What authors made you want to pick up a pen in the first place, and why?

I loved Robert C. O'Brien's The Silver Crown so much that I stole it from Medford's Roosevelt Elementary (and years later, gave them some money to ease my guilt). I still have that book.

Fight Club time: If you could fight one author (or critic), who would it be and why?

Scott Smith. I loved A Simple Plan. But The Ruins? I hated it. Lots of it was well-written. I just hated the plot, the characters, the solution to the mystery, and the end.

Name a book you think is highly overrated. Be honest.

I am in the minority here, but I didn't like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I'm not sure if it was the translator or the author. Something was "dead as a doornail" and people "grasped at straws." My understanding is that the translator was so unhappy with the book he used a pseudonym. Perhaps for sentences like this: "She married someone, never even introduced him to the family, and anon they separated." Anon? Or "Every family had a few skeletons in their cupboards, but the Vanger family had an entire gallimaufry of them." I guess "gallimaufry" means hodgepodge. Leaving aside how many readers actually know the word, it doesn't seem like the right word. It seems like it should be something many times bigger than "few."

Dream project:

Always the one I haven't started on yet. Before you begin work on your new idea, it's like the guy at the gym who you think is really cute. After you've been working on the book for a while, it kind of becomes like your husband. Passion mixed with ordinary days and a little drudgery.

Most recent nightmare:

Your standard "I'm naked at college and realize I never attended a vital class but I must now take the final even though I can't find the classroom."

Your cure for writer's block:

If I don't write, I don't get paid. If I don't get paid, I don't eat.

Pessimistic question: Will you keep writing even after people stop reading?

I hope people will continue to want stories. Maybe I'll just have to try out a different form, like writing programs for special sensory suits worn by people manipulating avatars.

Cautiously optimistic question: Obama? Discuss.

I'm more than cautiously optimistic. Anything looks good next to Bush, but especially Obama. The haters scare me.

Share one thing you've had to change in your everyday life thanks to our current recession.

I hesitate more over little splurges, like lemon curd or a latte.

Please paste a short paragraph from a story you're currently working on:

"Last time the man who called himself John Robertson was here, he waited until Gabie's back was to him. Then he took the pen off the counter and slid it in his jacket pocket, next to his X-acto knife. Later, he sat in his car in the darkened parking lot and slid the pen along his lips. Between them. Thinking of Gabie. And of Gabie's fingers and lips."