Jonathan Franzen addresses four unpleasant questions that novelists often get asked in a lecture included in his collection of essays entitled Farther Away. He mentions Elmore Leonard when he answers Question No. 4: Is your fiction autobiographical?
...And this is why writing good fiction is almost never easy. The point at which fiction seems to become easy for a writer—and I’ll let everyone supply his or her own examples of this—is usually the point at which it’s no longer necessary to read that writer. There’s a truism, at least in the United States, that every person has one novel in him. In other words, one autobiographical novel. For people who write more than one, the truism can probably be amended to say: every person has one easy-to-write novel in him, one ready-made meaningful narrative. I’m obviously not talking here about writers of entertainments, not P. G. Wodehouse or Elmore Leonard, the pleasure of whose books is not diminished by their similarity to one another; we read them, indeed, for the reliable comforts of their familiar worlds. I’m talking about more complicated work, and it’s a prejudice of mine that literature cannot be a mere performance: that unless the writer is personally at risk—unless the book has been, in some way, for the writer, an adventure into the unknown; unless the writer has set himself or herself a personal problem not easily solved; unless the finished book represents the surmounting of some great resistance—it’s not worth reading. Or, for the writer, in my opinion, worth writing.
This seems to me all the more true in an age where there are so many other fun and inexpensie things a reader can do besides picking up a novel. As a writer, nowadays, you owe it to your readers to set yourself the most difficult challenge that you have some hope of being equal to. With every book, you have to dig as deep as possible and reach as far as possible. And if you do this, and you succeed in producing a reasonably good book, it means that the next time you try to write a book, you’re going to have to dig even deeper and reach even farther, or else, again, it won’t be worth writing. And what this means, in practice, is that you have to become a different person to write the next book. The person you already are already wrote the best book you could. There’s no way to move forward without changing yourself. Without, in other words, working on the story of your life. Which is to say: your autobiography.
Here’s his answer to Question No. 2. The final sentence bears a resemblance to Mr. Leonard’s hands-off approach of getting the writer out of the writing. The second question is: What time of day do you work, and what do you write on?
This must seem, to the people who ask it, like the safest and politest of questions. I suspect that it’s the question people ask a writer when they can’t think of anything else to ask. And yet to me it’s the most disturbingly personal and invasive of questions. It forces me to picture myself sitting down at my computer every morning at eight o’clock: to see objectively the person who, as he sits down at his computer in the morning, wants only to be a pure, invisible subjectivity. When I’m working, I don’t want anybody else in the room, including myself.