Answers to an array of questions that you might want – or never would think – to ask.
What is something not many people know about you?
I’ve visited six of the seven continents (missing Antarctica) and lived on three of them (N. America, Europe, and New Zealand.)
What made you want to become a writer?
I started out as a songwriter. When songwriting wasn’t quite right for telling the full story of my move from New York City to rural Minnesota, I decided to write a book. I started by writing columns for my local newspaper, and then decided I’d compile them and finish the book by enrolling in an online writing class called How to Plan Write and Develop a Book by Mary Carroll Moore. The class started in August, and I naively expected to have a book finished and ready to go by December. Then my writing teacher and classmates gently informed me that my writing was, in not so many words, terrible. This was a shock! I was already a writer, I thought. I wrote songs. I wrote business reports. Turned out, that writing prose was totally different from the kinds of writing I had done so far. So, I kept writing, and I kept enrolling in writing classes, and I kept working on my book, until one day I wasn’t so bad at prose.
Million dollar question: are you working on another book?
Yes. I am working on a mystery featuring a singer-songwriter protagonist, much like myself (if I knew anything about solving mysteries, could play the guitar better than I actually can, and had some rather nasty family secrets). The preliminary title is Song of a Woodturner.
Do you still write? If so, what does your typical day look like?
I write whenever I can. These days, though, with two small sons under the age of three, there is very little time to do anything other than survive. In earlier iterations of my life, on an ideal writing day, I would wake in the morning, meditate and write longhand morning pages (a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way). Then I would write for a few hours until my eyes crossed and I was hungry for lunch. If I had time in the afternoon, I’d continue writing and maybe do some editing. Then I’d close my computer and meet a friend for coffee or tea and then get back home, eat dinner, relax with a television show or a book, and go to sleep. Sometimes there’d be yoga or a walk thrown in. A number of my days are performing days when writing generally does not get done. These days, when I’m lucky, I manage to shove a few minutes of writing into naptime. And when I’m not, I can go a while without getting words out.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Depends on the purpose. I write most speedily on the computer. But for journaling, songwriting, and freewriting, there’s nothing to beat a Pilot P-700 pen and a 5-star 8.5 x 11 notebook.
Do you write Alone or in public?
I’m at my best alone. But I can really enjoy an anonymous writing stint at a café with my earbuds playing meditative music (must not have lyrics). These days, living in a small town, it’s tough for me to be anonymous, and I usually see too many people I know when I write at the local restaurants and coffee shops. So, I’m more productive at home.
Music or silence
Again, depends. I am best with silence, I think. But when I need some noise to block out the sound of the neighbor’s tractor, the dogs barking, or other patrons at a restaurant, I can write to and enjoy non-lyrical music.
Goals of certain # of words a week or when inspiration strikes
When I am generating material, I work to word count goals. I’ll give myself a goal of 1000 words in a session, and find myself churning out close to 2000 when I get out of my own way and stop editing as I write. The editing then comes later, but the unedited work can produce some gems I wouldn’t have if I was working for the perfect phrase in the generative stage. That’s how I got many of the first drafts of chapters into the computer.
What tactics do you have when writing? (For example: outline or just write)
For the memoir, I tried it all: outline, freewrite, writing prompts, collaging and then writing. Once I even gave myself a Tarot card reading with the intention of using the outcome as my writing prompt for the morning! For the mystery, I needed to outline near the beginning of the process, and then I try to freewrite to the scene.
What has your experience been like as an new Indie Author? Bruises, Highlights, and lessons?
There’s a lot to do for the production and marketing of a book. It takes more time than you think it will. And my own creative work has suffered from putting my attention toward the business end of the book publishing.
What have you put most of your effort into regarding writing?
I am a glutton for good word choice and smooth apposite images that fly off the page to strike the heart. I spend a lot of time making sure my words are exactly the right ones to express what I am trying to say. I blame songwriting for that! Songs have limited real estate, and every word has to carry more than enough weight. I try to approach my prose with that value for each word. I find that prose written by poets reads similarly so that every word is just right and well chosen. I aspire to have every word I write be the exact right one that connotes more than one meaning. Kind of like overtones in music: when you hit a note or harmony perfectly, there are resonances on higher and lower registers.
What is your favorite part of HUNDRED MILES TO NOWHERE?
Ooh, hard question! I often describe my songs as my babies, and each of my chapters feels kind of like that too. It’s hard to choose between them.
If you were running the 100 yard dash with a new writer. What writing, publishing wisdom would you bestow upon him/her before you reached the 100 yards?
Try to write for writing’s sake.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
A little bit of both. In the memoir, the story was already written, so I didn’t have that issue. But with the mystery, I find that the characters sometimes go in different directions than I intended them to, and I love it when that happens. I wish it happened more.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day? (PG-13 please 🙂
Considering that this is a memoir, that’s mostly already happened. 😉 But
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
That my memoir is clichéd. I submitted a section of my memoir to a grant panel, and a number of the panelists thought that my story about coming to Minnesota was clichéd. To me, that meant that my life was not original enough to be good literature. And perhaps it isn’t, but that criticism was tough for me as my move is the story that my memoir tells, and I can’t edit my life to fit the requirements of good literature.
What has been the best compliment?
That my words are well-chosen, and my writing is evocative.
What book that you have read has most influenced your life?
Probably The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. That book changed my life. Reading it and doing the exercises in it caused me to become a singer-songwriter. And that was the beginning of an entirely new story from the one I had started living.
Who is your favorite author?
I love beautiful books, and there are so many people out there who write them in so many genres that I can never select just one.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
I am an expert at analyzing things, dealing with logistics, writing lists, and planning travel itineraries. And I like to think I’m an expert at analyzing people’s motivations and deep underlying psychological truth. I am sure that I am mostly fooling myself about this.
What gives you inspiration for your book(s)?
I guess it starts with my own life. And then it continues with strange synchronicitous and super fun things I encounter as I go about my life.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Stay tuned for Author Q&A Part 2… Coming sometime soon.