With the incredible success of my new novel, The Man Who Loved Too Much - Book 1: Archipelago, released only two weeks ago but already peaking at #11,496 on Amazon's Fiction/Coming of Age/Fantasy/Zombies /High School Cheerleader/Romance best-seller list, people often ask me:"John, how do you come up with your characters?"First, I drive my Mercedes to a local ramen restaurant, where not only do they have great meals, but I can get my kitchen knives sharpened.I walk in and sit down. I say something in Japanese. They just roll their eyes.An eighty-five-year-old lady is across from me, slumped over at her table. She might be breathing but I don't see how, with her face immersed in the bowl of noodles.I picture her as a twenty-year-old university student, dressed in either sexy lingerie from Fredericks of Hollywood, or a Lycra fetish costume purchased from an online store in the West Village. There's a tennis ball strapped in her mouth.Now . . . what is she feeling?Suddenly, an off-duty Japanese police officer drives through the front of the restaurant on a Harley Davidson. There is broken glass and disposable chopsticks everywhere!Inspiration!And the plot thickens.I thought the police officer had tattoos on his arms but they are just temporary removable sheer hosiery tattoos he picked up in Thailand, while on his police precinct's annual sex tourism holiday.He orders the lunch special, Salty Miso Beef Ramen with Deep-Fried Pork Dumplings on the side. Of course, all the rice you can eat is included . . . and it's free!Now I hear the sound of a helicopter hovering overhead. Understandably, my first instinct is that it must be Navy Seals either conducting exercises or mounting a raid. There are so many suspicious people everywhere you look these days. Especially here in Japan!But no, it's a medical rescue team. Four paramedics tethered to long nylon ropes drop down onto the street out front. They rush into the restaurant. The first medic through the door grabs the old lady's hair. He violently yanks her head out of the bowl of ramen, then gagging, gives her mouth-to-mouth. But it's too late. Her wind pipe is clogged with congealed noodles. She is dead.While they drag her body out of the restaurant to hoist it into the helicopter, some young boys, probably elementary school age, are passing. Several of them are taunting a pathetic little guy, who unfortunately is cross-eyed and suffers acute lymphedema. His legs look like pontoons, very unusual for someone his age. The other boys are mocking him by chanting: "Dalai Lama! Dalai Lama!"Hmm. I don't get this. Dalai Lama? But I can use it! Sometimes you need something a little off the wall to keep a reader's attention.All this time I've been slurping away. The food here is truly amazing! My bowl is just about empty, when a huge stabbing pain shoots through my gut. I feel like someone has stuck a samurai sword in my belly button, twisting it like they're wrapping pasta around a fork.Food poisoning!I don't know why I keep coming here. Every time I eat here __ I mean every time! __ it's the same thing. I get food poisoning and spend the next six hours . . . well, you know.My only excuse for this habitual self-sabotage is that this place has been so good for my writing. This is where it all starts. The huge cast of misfits and miscreants that populate my stories are all denizens of the social tapestry of this little hole-in-the-wall soup shop.I'll tell you something else. No way am I giving away my secret.You can try Googling "ramen shops Japan" if you like.Ha! Good luck finding it.