1: Do I write novels, short stories, poetry, fiction, non-fiction?
All of those... Whatever comes to mind, whatever I have a reason or an inspiration to write. And I write in various genres, although some more than others.
2: When did I start writing stories?
As soon as I understood it was possible; I began reading very young, and at first I thought books and stories were magical things that just existed. Once I understood you could create them yourself, I went wild. It was amazing to me that I could have such power, to accomplish such a wonder.
3: Did I start with fan fiction or my own creations?
My own creations. Fan fiction didn't really exist when I was young, or if it did, I was unaware of it. My first stories, of course, were heavily influenced by whatever I'd been reading lately, but I did make a deliberate effort to make them my own and not plagiarize anyone else's story.
4: What is the first story I ever wrote? (How long, what was it about...)
The first one I have any memory of now was written to enter a contest in fourth grade. It was a mystery, featuring a boy named John Balla as its hero, and it won the first prize in the (very small) contest. A little later, I entered a contest in the "Young Folks Pages" of the Boston Herald, and won that, too. That was about 100 words, science fiction, about monsters on the moon.
In junior high school, I started writing a novel, Journey of a Karmigan. It was very derivative, and while I didn't actually plagiarize Tolkien, anyone who read it could have told I'd read The Hobbit. Before it was finished, someone grabbed the only manuscript from me, tore it up, and flushed it down the toilet.
Shortly thereafter, I wrote Star Chill, a very melodramatic short story about a man who was the only survivor of a tragedy in space, and how he suffered from "star chill" due to his experience. That was the first one I ever tried professionally submitting, to Analog. They rejected it, of course, but failed to hire an assassin to punish me for exposing them to such an awful story, which is probably what I deserved.
5: Out of all the books I've read, who is my favourite character?
King Arthur stands out, and Gummidge the kitten (if I recall his name correctly), but to name a single favourite out of so many wonderful characters just is not possible. I could easily make this post twenty times as long discussing all the wonderful characters I've known.
6: Who is my favourite character from my own stories?
I will not play favourites with my characters; I love most of them (except the villains, and even then, I understand them too well to hate them). They are all part of me. As I work on various books and stories, certain characters fill more of my mind than others, but that changes with whatever I'm working on.
7: Am I seeking or will I actively seek a job in the writing & publishing industry, other than writing and hoping to be published?
I'd love to set up a small press some day... I struggled to do that for many years, before POD technology existed, using letterpresses and hand set type. The costs were just too high, and the process required too much time. And starting a magazine I could edit would be fun, too. In both cases, I'd seek to be my own boss, so I could make my own vision a reality. It will probably never happen, although stranger things have occurred.
8: What is my greatest "Achilles' heel" as far as grammar goes?
Long and winding sentences.
9: Am I published in any way, paid or not?
I have been published in unpaid markets, paid markets, including paid professional markets (not just contest prizes, in other words), and I've self published some of my work. None of it is well known, none of it is in print, and I haven't been published nearly as much as I'd like to have been.
Quite some time ago, I grew discouraged, both with my own ability, and with the apparent direction the publishing industry was taking, and turned all my efforts towards improving my writing, then self-publishing the results. I did improve with practice, but the expenses of self-publishing proved impossible to bear, and for a few years I tried to forget writing. I was miserable. It was one of the worst mistakes I've made in my life, which is saying a lot. Once I understood this, I gave in to the inevitable. I am a writer. I will go on writing until I die; I will seek publishers when I believe I have a chance of success, but whether publishing trends embrace me or reject me, I will not stop writing.
10: What are my dreams for my writing?
To learn to be as good a writer as I possibly can, to develop my skill and my talent as much as they can be developed, so I can do as good a job as possible of telling the stories inside me. I have so many stories, so many characters, so many worlds, all clamouring for attention inside me. I hope to leave behind as much of those stories as I can, as well told as I'm capable of, but I fear if I lived for a thousand years, I wouldn't be able to get the hundredth part of it all on paper.
I do hope to be able to move to making a full-time living as a writer, not because I have any illusions that will make me rich, but simply because, as long as I can even scrape by, that is the path which will allow me the most time to practice and develop my writing. I wish all writers could have the same opportunity.
11: If I could talk to any author, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Anne Frank, so I could let her know her writing was not lost, nor was it in vain; that her words triumphed over her murderers in the end. And so I could tell her that I mourn the loss of her life and of her potential - in murdering her, the Nazis stole from the world an incredible talent.
I have noticed certain keywords draw would-be commenters. Take note; I am aware the cause of Anne Frank's death was technically typhus. However, she would not have been malnourished, weakened, exposed to typhus, or broken by the deaths of friends and family, if the Nazis had not, against her will, done those things to her. The fact her murder was slow and agonising makes it no less murder. I've replied to your comments in advance, to save you the trouble of making them, and to spare myself the necessity of being exposed to your filth.
12: What inspires me?
In the broadest sense, every facet of life inspires me; in a narrower sense, cats, nature, sunsets, trees, leaves, the ocean, ruined buildings, mountains, fog, wind, the moon, tall ships, fountain pens, the act of writing, the act of printing, swans, geese, raccoons, otters, King Arthur, Winston Churchill, Anne Frank... even when I list specifics, the list could go on and on.
13: Why do I write?
That question implies an alternative - in my case, there is none; I cannot bear not to write. Asking why I write is like asking anyone on the street why they breathe.