All posts in "Author Interviews"

3 Questions with Summer Wood

[I’ve been thinking a lot about story, so bringing forward this post with Summer Wood.]

“And, honestly, I don’t think of my novels as my
children in any way.”

—Summer Wood

Summer Woodis the author of the novels Wrecker(Bloomsbury) and Arroyo (Chronicle Books), and teaches writing to adults at the University of New Mexico’s Taos Summer Writers’ Conference.  In 2007, she was awarded the $50,000 Literary Gift of Freedom from A Room of Her Own Foundation.  She lives in Taos, New Mexico, and currently serves as Executive Editor at Voices from the American Land

Meredith: Is voice, to you, a constant? Does it ever hide or get shy? Self conscious? Has yours as a writer evolved over the years? Or have you just gotten more confident in using what was always there?

SUMMER: Because I’m a fiction writer, it’s not so much a question of “voice” as of “voices”. Always different, always exciting to encounter, never predictable – but always, so far (crossing fingers, knocking wood!) reliably there. I count heavily on voice to guide the piece, because it contains and directs all the other elements of narrative. The structure of the language as reflected in diction and syntax, as well as the content of what’s being said, speaks volumes about character (even when the “character” is simply the narrative voice, embodied solely through the telling). And even when I don’t like the voice (and often I don’t!), I tend to be engaged enough by the energy it sparks and the consciousness it evokes to follow it for as long as it cares to speak.

What’s especially interesting to me about this, though, is the way I trust voice to guide even my most free, most preliminary writing. In a way, it’s a window to what’s going on in my own consciousness. I start every writing session with a period of free composition, and I’ve learned to pay attention to the structure of what comes out. It may be brief staccato bursts; it may be long, languorous passages; it may be a repetition of a rhythmic pattern, or a delight in words that start with, say, D. I don’t control the process, and a lot of times the words come together into a surprising new voice that brings with it a story. I love when that happens.

An example? When I first started writing Wrecker, my new novel, I knew one thing:  a baby was born in a public park in San Francisco. That’s it. But the telling of that – the voice that established the tone and told the story – was so unexpected to me, so unsentimental but so engaged and alert to nuance, that I was really interested. I wanted to know more, mediated by this narrative voice. There was something deeply trustworthy to me about it, even while it took radical leaps and liberties. So I went with it, and it carried me through.

Meredith: What purpose does rejection serve—or how do you view it in such a way so it best serves (rather than dis-serves) you? (Oh, by the way, I’m talking about rejection from an outer source [editor, publisher] and also from yourself.)

SUMMER: A friend – the wonderful writer Kat Duff – told me that she once went on a submission rampage just to be able to “get used to rejection.” I was horrified when I heard that, but I’ve since learned what a useful lesson it can be. For me, rejection has two parts: the event itself, which is usually fairly benign and localized; and my reaction to it, which can be enormous, overreaching, and often quite poisonous. So I’ve been practicing Kat’s “getting used to it” strategy, in hopes that I can come to healthier terms with the experience.

You know what? I have to say, it’s working. And on both kinds of rejection, internal as well as external. The funny thing is, the more acquainted I’ve become with rejection, the less power I hand over to the judges. I don’t care as much about the acceptance/rejection spectrum, and I have more time and energy for the joyful and demanding requirements of creation.

And – having had some spectacular rejections as well as some magnificent acceptances – I’ve come to see that, well, my own life seems to have some role in all this. It’s as though, when it’s the right time for something to happen, it happens – and I’m better off trusting that dynamic than trying to fight against what isn’t happening.

Which is not to say that I’m immune to the sting of rejection. And I can’t claim to be all that good at learning much from it when it happens. More often than not it seems capricious, prejudiced, or just plain wrong. (Of course, that can go for acceptance, too; right?) All in all, I prefer other methods of instruction. Intelligent, compassionate critique goes a long way with me.

Meredith: Some people refer to their creations as their children. I’ve tended to see our creations more as an extension of our own biology—though I’m starting to rethink it a bit. I’ve thought that our words are who we are, expressed in an alternate form (kind of like how water freezes to ice and then melts and flows again). How do you view your creations? Can you relate to this or no?

SUMMER: Hmmm. I can go with this – but only if “who I am” is allowed to be much bigger than the self I’ve constructed and the personality I inhabit. And, honestly, I don’t think of my novels as my children in any way. (My sons would object strenuously if I did. They already have to compete for affection with the dog.)

I spent so much time building houses, first as a carpenter, then moving into design and contracting, that I find a construction analogy a bit more useful. Both endeavors – writing a novel and building a house – require a fair amount of audacity, a good chunk of time, and some serious stamina once you run out of the first two. But there’s more to it than that. I do think I write and build in similar ways.

Like a raven or a raccoon, I pick up miscellaneous shiny bits as I go through my days and store them for later. They hang out in dusty outbuildings (stay with me, here), and sooner or later they emerge to be incorporated into whatever creation I’m working on. Sometimes, for the writing, the “shiny bit” is an overheard scrap of conversation, or an unresolved emotion, or a particularly vivid or evocative landscape instead of a cut-glass doorknob or a weathered threshold. But in both cases, the creation evolves organically around these – what – these vessels of meaning? These story-keepers? And both creations, the house and the story or novel, ultimately stand apart from me and shelter me as I wander through.

I was just kidding about my kids having to compete with the dog for my affection. I love them way more.

But he’s a pretty great dog.

[Thanks, Summer!]

Summer and her partner Kathy Namba have three grown sons, one spoiled mutt, and have served as foster parents through New Mexico’s Child Protective Services. She can neither whistle nor carry a tune. Although she possesses a bachelor’s degree in geography, her sense of direction is frighteningly bad. Visit her some more at her website by clicking right here.

Author photo by Miriam Berkley

The 5-Question [Author] Interview: Yuvi Zalkow

“I’m not frightened of what is inside me…. I’m frightened that I won’t be able to get it out in a way that will affect people.”
—Yuvi Zalkow

♦ 

YUVI ZALKOW’S debut novel (A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS) is now available online and in stores, and was a Rumpus Book Club pick for July 2012. He received his MFA from Antioch University and his stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, Carve Magazine, and others. He is the creator of the “I’m a Failed Writer” online video series [awesome] and has been rejected more than 600 times by reputable and disreputable journals. Visit his website [and subscribe] at http://yuvizalkow.com.

Meredith: When you find it hard to pay attention to your writing, like when it’s really bugging you or annoying you or evading you or being mean to you, how does it win you over again?

YUVI: It’s funny, I don’t think about IT winning ME over. For me, it’s more like I have to trick IT into letting me in. What I mean is that I try all sorts of games to get back into the zone. Often times, I’ll try to convince myself into thinking that what I’m about to write is just throw away material.  Once I’m convinced that what I’m doing is pointless and no one is going to care, then it’s possible for decent material to bubble up to the surface. Or else, I’ll make up a writing assignment that is only loosely related to what I’m writing. Perhaps it will involve the same character but in a totally different situation, or something like that. These little games can bring me back into the right zone to focus on my main writing project… Usually.

Meredith: What do you do when you sit down to write and nothing happens? Is it really nothing?

YUVI: This happens more often than I’d like to admit. Maybe it is a touch better than nothing, but it just doesn’t seem to be what I expected or what I wanted from that writing session. Sometimes, I’ll write the scene I intended to write but it is just flat or boring or clichéd. I’m not driven by word count like some people I know are, so even if I do write 1000 words, if they suck, I’m disappointed. However, I’ll typically just give it a few days before I revisit what I wrote. When I revisit the writing, usually I can pluck something useful out of it. Or even just discover a core issue with my storyline or my character or something like that. I try not to let myself get too disheartened; I try to think about what I learned from the experience that can help me moving forward.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’m always constructive about these difficult moments. Some weeks, I just mope and feel sorry for myself. 🙂

Meredith: Are you a receive-oriented creator, or a hunter/gatherer type?

YUVI: I think I’m a gatherer. It’s not that I do a lot of active research, but I’m constantly taking notes (either on paper or in my head) about the things I notice in the world. Often times these are interactions between strangers that I’m creepily listening in on. Riding on the train or on the bus is my main form of research. I collect these moments and then build stories around the moments that I can’t let go of.

Meredith: Writing—or the dream of calling oneself an author or writer—seems, for many, to have this highly addictive, seductiveness about it. Like: I’d really be someone if I could write. Or be a writer, author, etc. But it’s not writing that imbues itself with these characteristics, it’s the person. Why, do you think, it’s such a seductive slope?

YUVI: It definitely seems like we give the notion of a writer some kind of fabulous heroic quality. It’s easy to romanticize. But it’s misleading, I think, because so much of writing is just tedious grunt work. You watch a few movies about writers and suddenly you think that it’s this fabulous amazing thing where you write a brilliant novel in a weekend. But at least for me, most of the time writing is spent lost and scared and achy and disheartened. Months and months of that stuff and then there will be a week of elatedness. And then back to the grunt work. 🙂

Meredith: Are you ever frightened of your own ideas, or what’s inside you? Does it help to know it – or not really, when it comes to getting the words on the page?

YUVI: I’m not frightened of what is inside me.  I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with all of the yucky mess inside of me. I’m frightened that I won’t be able to get it out in a way that will affect people. For me, all the angst comes from the fear that I cannot deliver on the promise of a powerful story. Thinking about this fear too much doesn’t serve me. I acknowledge it, and then try to ignore it.

Thanks so much for speaking with me, Meredith. I love what you do on your website.
[Thank YOU, Yuvi!] … When I asked Yuvi for something about himself, something he doesn’t typically get to squeeze into conversations he wrote: “One thing about me, is that I like to take a shot of bourbon before embarking on a difficult scene or recording one of my videos. This is true at least when I’m writing in the evening. Just one shot (or less really). Just enough to feel a burn down my throat but not enough for it to cloud my thinking. It’s like I get horrible stage fright when trying to write something. At first, acknowledging this bourbon-based crutch scared me. But I’ve grown comfortable with this ritual… as long as one shot doesn’t grow into something more serious!”

The 5-Question [Author] Interview: Kathy Leonard Czepiel

“I think it’s really important that as writers we not take ourselves too seriously, not take on that mantle of importance and mystery because the narrative of life also tells us that “pride goeth before a fall.”
—Kathy Leonard Czepiel

 ♦

Kathy Leonard Czepiel is the author of A Violet Season, a historical novel set on a Hudson Valley violet farm on the eve of the twentieth century. She is the recipient of a 2012 creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts [congratulations!], and her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals including Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, CALYX, Confrontation, and The Pinch. Czepiel teaches in the First-Year Writing Program at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and their two daughters.

♦ 

Meredith: Are you ever frightened of your own ideas, or what’s inside you? Or maybe the question should be, are you more scared of putting them down on the page?

KATHY: The only time I’m scared to write something is when I’m writing close to my own experience and I’m worried I might offend someone I care about. Usually what I do is write it anyway, just for myself, to see what happens. Often it turns out looking different and much less autobiographical than I expected it to, and I can move forward. I know some writers are willing to go anywhere, but for me, offending a friend or family member would never be worth it.

 ♦ 

Meredith: How do you find that a work of your takes shape? Does form follow idea? Or does idea follow form? Or is it a process that gets worked out in the writing, waiting, reflecting, pondering? Or you a let-it-be type of writer, or a shape-it, form-it, make-this-thing-work kind of one?

KATHY: For me, form usually follows idea. Most of what I write is in a pretty conventional form, but when I have experimented with form, it has been because I think the story could be told better in a different form, not because I wanted to play with a particular form and came up with a story to fit it. Probably the most experimental form I’ve ever used was for a story called “Wendy as Elsa” that was published last summer in Indiana Review. It plays with some of the conventions of drama although it’s still a short story—one which happens to take place during a community theater production of The Sound of Music.

♦  

Meredith: Your writing is descriptive in a way that is so inviting and organic. When you write, do words come first, or do images, or sensations? How have you nurtured and refined your process?

KATHY: Thank you! Sometimes when I’m drafting, the sensory language comes naturally, but if it doesn’t, I go back and work on it deliberately. For example, I tried to draw upon all five senses in every chapter of A Violet Season, unless doing so would have felt forced. I find the sense of smell especially challenging to describe. It also helps to actually visit the places you’re writing about. I’m from the Hudson Valley, so it was easy for me to evoke that setting, but I still paid attention on every visit back there while I was writing the novel for particular little details that would enrich the story.

  ♦ 

Meredith: Buddha said, “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” If traveling is writing, then arriving is…what? Is it money? Fame? Love of the finished piece, or process? And what is it not? We know it will differ by person, but I sense we are all looking for answers…perhaps you are, too?

KATHY: I love that quotation. I’m a very goal-oriented person, so it’s a good reminder for me. I’m not sure that any of us ever truly feel we’ve “arrived.” That’s one of the curses of being human, I think. (Wouldn’t it be great if in life there were a voice like the one on my GPS, that emphatically announces, “You have arrived!”) You could call publication of one’s debut novel an “arrival,” but over every hurdle is another hurdle: will it sell? Will the critics like it? Will I get to publish a second novel? I keep thinking of what my wise writer friend Monica Bauer once said: Selling your novel doesn’t make your problems go away. It just means you have better problems! I think that advice applies in many situations!

  ♦ 

Meredith: Writing—or the dream of calling oneself an author or writer—seems, for many, to have this highly addictive, seductiveness about it. Like: I’d really be someone if I could write. Or be a writer, author, etc. But it’s not writing that imbues itself with these characteristics, it’s the person. Why, do you think, it’s such a seductive slope? 

KATHY: I think writing is mysterious to a lot of people. First, it’s something many people really hate to do, and they can’t understand why you would even want to shut yourself up in a study for hours and write! Where we get our ideas is a mystery, too. People often ask about that. And throughout history, writers (poets, philosophers, novelists) have been seen as the people whose job it is to translate the world for everyone else. As a result, writers have this special status; they can do something unexplainable and hard to replicate. However, I think it’s really important that as writers we not take ourselves too seriously, not take on that mantle of importance and mystery because the narrative of life also tells us that “pride goeth before a fall.” In terms of self-worth, I don’t think it’s just writing we say this about. It’s also, “I’d really be someone if I had a degree/were married/owned my own business/could be better at X than Y is,” and so on.

 ♦ ♦  ♦ 

When I asked Kathy to tell me one thing about herself that she doesn’t often get to squeeze into conversations, she said: “I almost froze to death sleeping along the trail up Mount Sinai in Egypt when I was in college. I was a much bigger traveler and risk-taker in my twenties, but my older friends assure me that I might be able to reclaim some of that when my kids are grown. I hope so!”

Visit Kathy at her website by clicking HERE.

[Thanks, Kathy!]

The 5-Question [Author] Interview: Barbara Abercrombie

The author and beloved professor discusses how “to write” is a verb (and not an identity), the overwhelming versus the manageable, and what chaos has the ability to deliver.

BARBARA ABERCROMBIE’s latest writing book, A Year of Writing Dangerously, was just published by New World Library, and in 2013 they will published her fifteenth book, Kicking In The Wall.  She has published novels, children’s picture books, including the award winning Charlie Anderson, and books of non-fiction. Her personal essays have appeared in national publications as well as in many anthologies.  Her most recent books are Courage & Craft and Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They’ve Loved & Lost. She’s received the Outstanding Instructor award and the Distinguished Instructor Award at UCLA Extension where she teaches creative writing. She also conducts private writing retreats, and writes a weekly blog at Writing Time (link at end of interview).

Meredith: We all seem to have rules we are attached to—whether they actually work for us or not is another story. What is it about rules that make us feel like we are doing something correctly? Why, once we set up rules does it seem we need to break them to set ourselves free?

BARBARA: This is a complicated question! In art I believe the “rule” is to break all the rules if you need to; there are no rules in art. That’s what I try to get my students to do – be loose and free and forget all the stuff they learned in school about ‘good’ writing. But then there are “rules” that have to do with discipline and morality. Knowing your own rules about discipline is part of getting your work accomplished.  I have personal rules about how I conduct my life and correct or not I know that if I don’t follow my own rules my life doesn’t work.

Meredith: Your book is written in a daily reader format–which I love. You can read in order or not–which I also love. The one-day-at-a-time, one-step-at-a-time, one-word/sentence/graph-at-a-time has always worked for me. Can you talk about why it works for many? Why it is more satisfying in the end than we might think it will be at the start (what, just one graph, page today? etc).

BARBARA: I think it’s satisfying because it’s the only way to do something huge and wonderful. To write a novel or to run a marathon or to play a sonata or to raise a child can only be done one page at a time (or one word at a time!), one mile, one note, one day at a time.  And all of these can be overwhelming endeavors unless you break them down into manageable parts.

Meredith: Writing—or the dream of calling oneself an author or writer—seems, for many, to have this highly addictive, seductiveness about it. Like: I’d really be someone if I could write. Or be a writer, author, etc. But it’s not writing that imbues itself with these characteristics, it’s the person. Why, do you think, it’s such a seductive slope?

BARBARA: I always tell my students that to write is a verb. If you’re writing you’re a writer.  I really think you have to love to write and love literature – good books and writing, to be a writer. Another part of wanting to be a writer is yearning to connect with other people, to get real and be known and loved for who you are when you write the truth.  That gets people down the seductive slope – and also can get them off it pretty fast.

Meredith: Buddha said, “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” If traveling is writing, then arriving is…what? Is it money? Fame? Love of the finished piece, or process? And what is it not? We know it will differ by person, but I sense we are all looking for answers…perhaps you are, too?

BARBARA: Definitely not money and fame – to earn a modest living by writing is success and for me and most of the published writers I know we also have to teach to make a living.  And most of us don’t always love the process. It’s damn hard to write. For me the arrival is making order out of chaos and finding meaning in experience. Nailing down my own feelings, realizing where I’ve been and why. All my books have started in chaos and confusion and ended up teaching me something.

Meredith: The child development writer Joseph Chilton Pearce said: “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” Let’s talk about what “wrong” is, or what we think it is. Can you help us dissect?

BARBARA: Great quote! And so true – To be a writer (or painter or anyone in the arts or creative fields) you have to be willing to be wrong, to make a fool of yourself – i.e. make a mess, go off in the wrong direction, not know what you’re doing, make huge mistakes.  Careful people should become engineers or accountants – where there’s a right and wrong way to do things.  As a teacher of writing my biggest task is to get people to loosen up, realize there’s no right or wrong to writing – just finding and expressing the truth.  This doesn’t mean the truth is belly button gazing and venting, but needs to be crafted. But the craft comes later –

Barbara lives with her husband, Robert V. Adams, and their rescue dog, Nelson, in Santa Monica and Twin Bridges, Montana. As for what isn’t usually in her bio: “One thing would be my wonderful large, complicated  family – my daughters and sons-in-law, my stepchildren, my grandchildren and my brother and his family and nieces and nephews – plus my daughters’ husbands’ families too.  Even one of their ex-husband’s parents are still included for holidays – as well as my ex-husband’s new children.  We have a twelve-year-old uncle in our family and a six-year-old aunt who have a four-year-old niece.” Visit her at Writing Time, her blog.

[Thanks, Barbara!]

stuck/unstuck: writing with baby/kids in the house

In this installment of stuck/unstuck, I wanted to find out how a novelist and professional writer got back to writing after a baby arrived while there were already a couple of little ones in the house. Camille Noe Pagán is the author of The Art of Forgetting (just rereleased in paperback), and her work has appeared in national publications and websites including Allure, Cooking Light, Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Reader’s Digest, SELF and Women’s Health. I told Camille: “The issue to write to would be about how you moved forward when you faced whatever it was you faced after your children were born – overwhelm, priorities, tiredness, etc etc.”

by Camille Noe Pagán

I’m on record as not believing in writer’s block. But as I learned after having my second child a year ago, sometimes you just can’t rush the fiction process, no matter how many hours you spend in front of your computer.
I’m a novelist, independent journalist and mom to two children, a three-and-a-half-year-old girl and a fourteen-month old boy. I didn’t take a real maternity leave with either child; both births were uncomplicated and my recoveries were easy, so I eased back in with a limited number of magazine projects and worked while my babies were napping. By the time both kids were about four months, I was back to business as usual, with the help of a sitter and my husband (who, like me, works from home). I wrote my first novel, The Art of Forgetting, around the time my daughter turned a year old. I’d been hit with a sudden streak of creativity and productivity, and I wrote the book in about four months, mostly at night and on the weekends while she was asleep or with my husband.
I attempted to start my second novel shortly after my son was born last December. I’d made several other false starts, but I was sure about the topic this time and was itching for a creative outlet—something other than journalism and dirty diapers. Besides, I assumed it would be a relatively straight-forward process. Not easy, per se, but I knew how to write a novel and had already done it while juggling a “real job”, play dates and night feedings.
The only thing straight-forward about the whole thing was that I couldn’t “push through it”. I was exhausted from having a newborn, launching a book (the novel I’d written while my daughter was a baby came out last May, six months after my son was born) and transitioning from one child to two. The few brain cells I had left were apparently being used up by book publicity and journalism, and I couldn’t seem to write a single chapter of fiction that was not, frankly, horrible.
So I gave up for a while. I took naps and played with my kids. I drank wine and read books, often at the same time. During the time that I should have been working on fiction, I did research, reading everything I could about the topic of my next novel. Then one balmy day last August, I sat down and began to write … and this time, I kept going. I’m now a few thousand words shy of my first draft, and while it needs work, I’m actually happy with it. Like many moms, I have a hard time ignoring the “you should”s that dance around in my head. But in the end, giving myself permission to take a break was the best thing I could have done for my productivity … and my family.

Five More Questions With Allison Winn Scotch

The writer talks honestly and openly about the beauty of writing when the stakes are really high, writing big versus writing quietly, and the intense and focused work of promotion and publicity.

Allison Winn Scotch is the author of The Department of Lost and Found, and the New York Times Bestseller, Time of My Life, The One That I Want, and, her brand-newest one: The Song Remains the Same, which has received awesome raves (most recently from Kirkus). Allison, always generous and supportive of other writers, was The Writer’s [Inner] Journey’s inaugural interview, so in this follow-up, I got to ask Allison about her progression as author, and what that feels like from the inside out. Welcome back, Allison!

Meredith: As an author with many projects across many genres in motion, many platforms at work and many works in the public eye, how do you balance the left-brain activity of promotion with the right-brain activity of creation?

ALLISON: As strange as this sounds (or maybe it doesn’t sounds strange), but I don’t have such a difficult time juggling them. It really just means that I have to better organize my time. Right now, for example, I’m finishing up the draft of my next book, but I’m also totally slammed with promotion for The One That I Want. So…I designate chunks of time throughout my day for each. Say, 10 am to noon is for my manuscript, and then 1pm to 3pm is for answering Q/As. I actually really enjoy wearing different hats. I’m the type of person who functions much more efficiently when I have more, not less, to do, as when I only have one thing on my to-do list, I spend half the day procrastinating and web-surfing. As long as I make my lists and allocate my time wisely, I’m a happy (though busy) camper.

Meredith: Digging deeper (and wider): Does the creative+platform+publicity process of expansion feel like you are moving forward on parallel tracks or is the process more unified and seamless?

ALLISON: I wouldn’t say that it’s unified, as they require really different energies and focuses for me. The manuscript is much heavier lifting, in terms of brain power, and my publicity stuff is much more in tune with my personality and open self-expression. So while I don’t have a difficult time juggling them, I do really shift gears and thus, to answer your question, I’d say they’re on parallel tracks, each getting nudged forward bit by bit.

Meredith: Is publicity building an organic process, or is it something that has to be created—literally—from the ground up? How has it changed for you over the years?

ALLISON: Oh no, publicity is 99% pure hard work. Like, roll up your sleeves and dig in work. There are too many voices and books competing for readers’ attention these days for anyone to assume that it happens naturally or that you can stand out without putting a ton of effort into it. The good news, for me at least, is that since my first book came out a few years ago, social media has really taken off, and thus, I feel more in control of reaching readers and steering a decent portion of my publicity than I could in years past. I really think that if an author isn’t tweeting and networking on line, he or she is shooting himself in the foot. Yes, it would be wonderful to think that you didn’t have to get out there and become someone who courts publicity, but the bottom line is that you do. At least if you want to sell books. I really can’t think of a single example of a book that went on to be a huge success without a big promotional effort. That’s on both the part of the publisher AND the author.

Meredith: With a hat tip to Time of My Life and The One That I Want, what would you the novelist today tell the budding you-novelist of yesterday? What should she concern herself with? What is she worried about that will make absolutely no difference whatsoever?

ALLISON: I would tell her to write big. And what I mean by that is that I’ve written several manuscripts that were much quieter than Time of My Life and The One That I Want, and that ultimately, went no where. When I say “quiet,” I just mean the stories were smaller, the stakes weren’t as high, the themes not as universal or resonant. In today’s market, often times, it’s the bigger books – those high concept ideas or the books with a tasty hook – that get sold. And this doesn’t mean that you sell out. It just means that in terms of the scope of your writing, you push the boundaries of your plot and your theme. The writing and the characters are still just as intimate and cared for, it’s just that the ideas themselves are bigger. This isn’t for everyone, but now that I understand who I am as a writer – and who my audience is – it works for me. And I might have saved myself a lot of time and grief if I’d understood this years ago.

As far as what my former self worried about that really doesn’t matter? Hmmm. Well, there are very few things that don’t matter at all, but I would tell her to recognize – like it or not – that 95% of what happens with your book is out of your hands. At least once it’s bound and packaged and sent on its way. You’d like to think that you can control who reviews it, who sells it, what the print run is, etc, etc, etc, but…I’ve learned, as I wrap up work on my fourth book…that you can’t. And I think most debut authors – myself included – make themselves CRAZY in trying to control everything and take care of everything, and the let-down, when you realize that the mountain is too big for you to scale – is pretty enormous. My author friends who have been published more than once will often joke that the difference between who they were as a debut author and who they are now is that they’re jaded to the process. 🙂 Which isn’t negative AT ALL. It’s realistic. A lot of what happens with a book has nothing to do with you. And once you accept that, you might sleep a little more in those days leading up to the launch.

Meredith: Okay, using the 6-word memoir approach, describe your writing style. Now, please describe your promotion/publicity style.

ALLISON: Writing style: Intimate, sisterly, spirited, fantastical, whimsical, honest.
Promotional style: Conversational, self-deprecating, inclusive, expansive, funny (I hope). That’s eight. Sorry!

Allison lives in New York with her family. Click here for THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME. Click here to learn about The One That I Want and here to order. Also, check out Ask Allison, her blog about the business and life of writing. To read Allison’s first interview at The Writer’s [Inner] Journey, click here.

[Thanks (again!), Allison!]

Images courtesy of Allison Winn Scotch.

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