What is a typical writing day like for you?
Let’s assume it’s summer, since attempting to write fiction during the school year (“grant season”) would likely make my brain melt and leak right out one of my ears. I get up around 8, pour a cup of coffee and head right to the computer, and find ways to procrastinate: I check email, comment on a few blogs, write a blog entry, watch an amusing YouTube video, expand my To-Do list, check email again. BUT: when inspiration finally hits (or when the story is flowing well), discipline sets in and I write first thing when I get up, every day of the week.
If you could only own and read 5 books for the rest of your life, (excluding your own) what five books would you choose?
The Stand, by Stephen King (I used to read this nearly every summer—a truly sweeping, complex, riveting story.)
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (I devoured this book in a matter of hours—a chilling and critical book.)
I Like You by Amy Sedaris (never fails to make me laugh: eye burrito, anyone?)
Complete Home Gardening (yeah, I’m a gardening nut)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (well-written, interesting, and has fantastic recipes).
Do you have a vice that you’ve given up, but long to continue?
I pretty much let my vices run around like they own the place, but I have begun to wean myself from candy. The crash I feel after even just a few pieces just isn’t worth it. I never smoked, but a glass of wine in the evening or a half pot of coffee in the morning? I’m so there.
For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?
Honing my time-management skills. I haven’t figured out how to juggle the researching and writing of one novel with the promotion of another. This is a tie with “learning to let go” when you put a story out there. You feel so naked and vulnerable right after a novel is released, because who knows how people will react to it. (Well, that’s been my experience, anyway.) But many authors I know are sensitive, somewhat introspective and even shy people, so I don’t think I’m alone in this. So time management, and learning to thicken my skin. To me, they’re two of the most difficult parts of being an author.
What do you love about being an author?
I love hearing from readers who were affected by something I wrote. I love making people laugh or cry, and I’m honored whenever I hear from a reader who took the time to tell me they liked my book. I also love the act of creating a story…getting started can be daunting, but once the story is unfolding and the characters are taking you in directions you never anticipated, or when just the right turn of phrase comes readily to mind, it’s the best feeling in the world.
What’s next for you?
I’m wrapping up my next novel, tentatively titled Mandatory Release. It features two characters who work in a medium-security men’s prison: a social worker in a wheelchair, and the teacher he falls for. I was a teaching assistant at just such a facility back in college, and I always wanted to revisit the setting for a writing project someday, because it was just ripe with the full range of human emotion: boredom, pathos, rage, warped humor, fear, confidence, anxiety, love, hate, even joy. It’s got plenty of the same dark sense of humor that made Driving Sideways so fun to write, and it also examines the binge drinking culture of Wisconsin, the class divisions in resort towns, and how broken people can find healing in the most unlikely of places. I’m about to send it to my agent this week, so keep your fingers crossed for me!