Please tell us your latest news!
Maybe This Time, my latest novel, is coming out August 31. It's an homage to The Turn of the Screw, and I'm looking forward to finding out what people think of it.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don't think so. It's hard not to want to go back and fiddle with it, but there's a window where the book is fresh and alive and then that closes, and after that the best thing you can do is leave it be or you'll damage it.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have a lot of favorite authors but my go-to guy for sheer pleasure is Terry Pratchett. I think it's his mad language and his askew world view married to really good storytelling and wonderful comedic timing. Plus he's just smart, but he doesn't beat you over the head with it, he just invites you along for the ride. He's wonderful.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Nope. I think if you pay too much attention to the way you're writing, your story dies. That doesn't mean I don't think language is important; I think it's vital. But I think you have to develop an ear for rhythm and echo and then just keep that running in the background while you work on story.
Do you see writing as a career?
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I've always been a voracious reader, starting when I was very little, but I never seriously wanted to write. Then I was researching romance novels for my PhD and began to read them for the first time, and after a month of constant romance reading, I began to write. It's such a feminist form of fiction, so women-centered, that I couldn't resist.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Take the writing seriously, but don't take yourself seriously. The minute you're thinking more about what a great writer you are than you are about the story, the book dies.
How does your family feel about having a writer in the family? Do they read your books?
They seem proud. My father reads everything; the rest of the family really doesn't read much. I was always the weird one. I think that's a requirement for a writer. You have to be the weird one.
What did you do before you became a writer? Do you write full time?
I began as a weaver (it was the seventies) and then taught art and English for fifteen years. I quit to get my PhD which morphed into an MFA when I started writing fiction. I've been writing full time since I left grad school, about ten years ago.
What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both?
I write first drafts off the top of my head. Anything goes, no editing, no boundaries, and definitely not in chronological order. Then I take that mess and break it down and analyze it into a coherent cause-and-effect linear plot. And then I write some more, and then I analyse again, and then I write . . . Lather, rinse, repeat. At some point, I have a truck draft, which means it's not where I want it to be, but if I get hit by a truck, St. Martins can publish it, and I send it to my amazing editor, Jennifer Enderlin, and she gives me her advice which is always stellar, and I start rewriting again. I also give the book to people I know are good readers and analysts for beta reads. I also make soundtracks and collage and keep a map of the book on a huge white board. Basically, I'll grab onto anything that'll help me make the book better.
Do you have a favorite object that is pertinent to your writing? If so what is it and please describe it. (Pen, Coffee Cup, Pet, Blanket, Chair)
Aside from my MacBook Pro, nope. If I get stuck, I move myself to a different place physically, so writing on a laptop is crucial. There is always a dog around--we have five--but I consider them more family than favorite objects.
Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example..get coffee, blanket, paper, pen and a comfy place
Nope. It's different every time. I do a collage for every book now, but that's more brainstorming than it is ritual. And I play music that evokes the scene, especially if there's music in that scene, but again, that's more research/inspiration than it is ritual.
I've been writing for almost twenty years now, and the biggest thing I've learned is to concentrate on an emotionally true story--characters and plot--and make sure you're delivering that cathartic experience to the reader. If you've got that, everything else will fall into place.