Since I’m not doing anything but waiting for this trip to end so I can resume my normal life, I’ll just answer even more questions. I know I’m not a real author, but hell – get to know me! Why not? Well, there’s a lot of reasons why not, but too bad. On to the questions!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Um . . . I went to Palestine after reading Joe Sacco’s Palestine? As a Neruda fan, I tried to go to Chile, but lost a drunken, late-night bet and consequently bought tickets to Peru instead. Does that work?
What is the first book that made you cry?
Oh, I remember this well: Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows, age 9. I had to stop reading because I could no longer see the words on the page. I had no fucking idea what was happening to me.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
Prolly killin’ trees. #I’mFromOregon I’m also not a huge fan of the heavy emphasis on genres that takes place – I view it as limiting and creatively stifling to aspiring writers. But I’m not sure that’s an ethical issue so much as me being annoyed that I can’t fit my writing into a marketable genre.
Does writing energize of exhaust you.
Depends 100% on whether or not I like what I’m writing.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Mine involves an impenetrable wall of secrecy, but with most of the other writers I know, I’d say a lack of thorough editing.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I’m gonna go with help.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Absolutely! I’ve gone years at a time unable to find a book that holds my interest. My own imagination is almost always a far more entertaining place for me than those of others. That may sound arrogant, but do note the “for me” stipulation. My imagination probably sucks for everyone else.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Every day of my life. Still undecided.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I highly doubt I’ll ever have readers, so I’m gonna say I’m totally original, bro. Super unique.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I think there are MANY writers who don’t feel emotions strongly. In my experience, emotions aren’t much help.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
My husband writes. In fact, we pretty much got married because of shockingly similar plot points & overlapping character names. Having similar life goals was nice, too, I guess. He is largely responsible for the fact that I write anything coherent & readable at all. Before meeting him, my story was purely a private indulgence. My BFF also writes. She has the kind of belief in & passion for writing that makes you feel like it’s something proper to do, rather than a dark secret fetish that you must hide in the underworld while lying about who you are to the whole world. Can’t say no to that.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I’m doomed to connectivity.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Psst. It’s not actually a sin.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Dude, if I ever published a book I think my process of writing would degrade into bourbon on the rocks & an early but happy death.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
A lap top? Coffee? Bourbon on the rocks?
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Neil Gaiman comes to mind. For the most part, though, it’s gone the other way.
What did you do with your first advance?
Bourbon. Rocks. Right?
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Have you ever traveled abroad?
What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
My husband knows about a thing that lists all the publishing companies and their specialties. That sounds pretty damn important to me.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Not a novel, but I once read some really impressive Star Wars fanfiction. For real, it was better than almost anything I’ve ever read.
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I kill the main character.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Endless blushing, flubbing of words, and a slow death from one-by-one admitting the life-long crushes I harbor on them.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
What does literary success look like to you?
Aside from bourbon on the rocks? Being read and appreciated by a small handful of strangers who happen to make really good fan-art.
What’s the best way to market your books?
A couple of weeks ago, my plan involved illustrating, self-publishing & selling my book alongside my art at events like Short Run or Linework, but as of late I’ve been too painfully aware of how shitty my drawings are. That means I have no plan and I’m screwed. So, yeah.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I take in information via a relentless, overwhelming, uncontrollable osmosis, and there is no end in sight.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
. . .
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
Subtly communicating that, because gender is a social construct, my boys shouldn’t be written off as unrealistically effeminate; they are foreign. And anything having to do with sex. Sex is just gross.
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Countless lifetimes in this cursed Samsara that I’ve yet to escape.
How many hours a day do you write?
Roughly three, on average. Unless I’m traveling, when it’s zero and all I can think about is throwing myself from this 17th floor hotel window.
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
I don’t generally write about my life, unless it’s in a journal or this blog or something. In which case: young adulthood. And whatever you call my present age. Adult adulthood?
What did you edit out of this book?
Believe it or not, there was originally even more suffering. Really, so much is left out, so as not to overwhelm: multiple languages, cultural details, characters (most notably my main character’s little sister. She’s fucking amazing, but didn’t influence what I isolated of the plot, so I had to drop her), landscape quirks (about 10,000 Bermuda Triangles), flora & fauna (!DEADLY SPIDERS!), religious traditions, foods, sub-plots mostly revolving around nomads, wildly convoluted unexplained supernatural phenomenon of all sorts, regional histories & previous political structures — basically, everything one would dream up in 20 years of surreal world building. It’s all still there, in my head, in my heart. It’s still real to me. But it had to go. I mean, a book is only a book. Honestly, I’m just writing about some ill-fated kid.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated, and everything Richard Brautigan ever wrote.
What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
My take: play it safe by keeping it weird.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I change them constantly until for some inexplicable reason one of them sticks. And once The Sticking takes place, no amount of second-guessing can change it. I use several character names that I don’t like, but those are their goddamn spaceman-fucking names.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Astronaut. j/k my eyesight & math both suck. I worked in childcare for ages before becoming a stay-at-home mom and witch.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
If such things existed, I would *say* I wouldn’t read them, but then I would. Obsessively. While drinking. And because I hate myself, I would over-focus on the bad ones and repeat their words in my head until they coalesced into a crushing migraine.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Surely I do this by accident. Sometimes even I stumble upon secrets I didn’t realize I hid.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Any scene that sets the scene. You know how beginnings are the hardest part of a book to write? Well, in truth, every book has a billion tiny beginnings scattered all over the place. They’re all the hardest part.
Do you Google yourself?
I hate myself. Yes.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
It’s tough one, but I think I’d be willing to part with my crippling self-loathing. Trade?
What are your favorite literary journals?
What is your favorite childhood book?
Now or then? What parameters are we talking about here? In preschool I was crazy about Carl Sandburg’s The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It as well as Max Velthuijs’ The Painter And The Bird. As an older kid I dove headlong into popular adult lit, for some baffling reason reading Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels like 10 times in 5th grade alone. I don’t recall being super into books for kids my own age, aside from Mary Downing Hahn’s Wait Till Helen Comes. I loved ghost stories, especially ones that involved death by drowning or fire – *BIG* props if somehow both played a role. Now days, though, my favorite kids books are more in the neighborhood of Colin Meloy’s Wildwood Chronicles.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Knowing that everything I create is a toxic vat of vomit bound to poison everyone it comes in contact with and destroy all that is good in the world.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
My husband definitely does. My parents don’t. They don’t seem to know what the fuck writing even is. What they believe it is, they support. What it actually is, they are repulsed by and always have been. Or maybe they’re just repulsed by my inner worlds. Either way, growing up was AWESOME!
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Having just one truly supportive person would have made a big difference. Imagine if all the energy I spent frantically hiding my creative output was instead channeled into MORE creative output?
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Between 20 and 30 years.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
This might come as a surprise to whoever thought this was a worthy question, but people aren’t actually machines. Please, let me know if you discover EVEN ONE SINGLE GODDAMN THING that can be sustained at a consistent pace indefinitely.