The most enduring battle is between head and heart; what would be efficient and logical is nearly always trumped by what is messy and illogical.
Empathy is not as complicated when you have some aspects in common with your character; it's not impossible to know someone who's like you in many ways but different in one. This is true especially if you are a reader. Reading makes you accustomed to inhabiting other lives and sensibilities.
I like the way that psychological extremity can illuminate more 'normal' characters by forcing a comparison.
I want to earn a reader's capacity to be moved.
Most of what one feels compelled to write stems from a deep emotional uncertainty.
I'm not entirely sure why I write about family, but I do know that it hasn't stopped interesting me. You meet and leave other people at different stages of your evolution, whereas family is made up of people who are constant links in your life, who know you over the course of time and have your complete curriculum vitae in their heads.
I'm a little hesitant to make my characters sentimental or to risk having the work labeled sentimental. It's something that I resist as a reader, and I don't resist it in life. I'm not an unmoved person by any stretch, but I think I don't want, I guess, to indulge those kinds of things sometimes in fiction. I can't tell you why exactly.