Currently, I haven’t published anything big—I have a degree in journalism and English, and I’m almost through a Masters in English. So far, I’ve written a lot of features and straight news for local newspapers. After college, I wrote stories about the elderly, hung out with scads of Amish people (and written about them) in Northern Ohio, and now I write a lot of academic and non-academic stuff. As far as getting things published—honestly, I am taking my time to make sure what I’m putting out is what I want and not what I must do just to get a line on my CV or to meet a deadline.
What am you writing right now?
A series on princesses (think inverted fairy tales), a novel about a young woman in the early 1980s chasing down her family through gathering grave rubbings in ghost towns in the dusty flatness of middle-America, and nonfiction essays about funny and sad growing up/life stuff. I'm also sharpening some academic essays on women writers of the mid-nineteenth century and the high modernist period. In all likelihood, the princesses and academic work will get done first.
What sets your work apart?
If anything of mine is set apart, it’s probably because it’s simultaneously dark and hopeful. Or funny and sad. I like using disparate things to create.
Are you reading anything right now, or have you read anything recently that is worth mentioning?
I’m reading a lot of short stories. It’s what I like to write, so why not learn more about the art? I always tell myself I should be more into contemporary stuff, but I’m a sucker for Hawthorne, Twain, Gabriel García Márquez, and Rebecca Harding Davis. In the past month, I’ve been reading bits of “The Artist of the Beautiful” by Hawthorne to my husband and we drink coffee when we don’t want to do anything. I’ve read it before, but there’s something so wonderful about reading aloud and sharing something meaningful with someone. It’s not something people do anymore and it’s quite a shame.
Does music inspire or motivate you to write? If so, what kind of music?
Gosh. Everything. I mainly use music to keep me focused because I'll just start cleaning something if I'm not careful. John Fields’ Nocturnes got me through many a term paper in grad school, and then weird sounds like Beat Happening, beautiful moods like Mazzy Star, or a dose of The Clash circa 1977 for a bit of nostalgia. Really it depends on the purpose of the mission. Sometimes it’s best not to listen to anything at all. I was a DJ for four years in college, though, so it’s pretty difficult not to do that. Right now, Pandora’s on shuffle and in the past few minutes, I’ve had Ryan Adams, Yo La Tengo, Bill Evans, Rites of Spring, and Dinosaur Jr. in the lineup.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite novels?
What a crazy question. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, If I Forget Thee Jerusalem by William Faulkner, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, any Márquez, Toni Morrison, Camus, or Virginia Woolf. Those are the go-to authors for me. Why lie and try to be avant garde about this? I don’t mention a lot of the unheard of stuff because I’m so busy reading all the stuff that is known—except for my academic work. That’s different and more niche.
Are you one of those people who don’t own a TV? Do you have any favorite TV Shows? Favorite movies?
I can honestly say I don’t own a TV, but I like to watch Rocko’s Modern Life on Netflix and share with my husband all the 80s movies he missed like Ghostbusters and Driving Miss Daisy that I remember watching at my grandparents’ basement in Nowhere, Kansas. I think the next venture is sharing Young Guns I & II with him. I’m pumped for The Dark Knight Rises at the drive-in.
At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Probably second grade. I still have the notebook I had that I'd use to write letters to my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Carr.
Tell us about your writing process.
I think all the time and write notes on my steering wheel, receipts, and church bulletins. Then, when I can’t stand it any longer and I've done any research that is necessary, I sit down when I’m alone (or I warn people I’m busy), and get going for a while. After that, I read it to the husband or print it out. Then, I make a decision about what I want out of it or where it goes in my list of priorities. Is it something I should finish now or just store away for a time when it’s further developed? If it’s important, I mark off time for it, and sometimes I stick to it. Sometimes I don’t. Then, I have a few friends who look at it who may or may not get back to me. I edit it a few times, put it away for a bit, and then pull it back out to see if I still like it a few months later and then I decide if it should be circulated or given over to mass consumption purposes.
Writing for my jobs, though? That’s totally different. What I share here is merely in place to make sure I can write for fun.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
Eh. Marginally. It just needs to be believable.
How do you define success as a writer? Have you been successful?
The first question is too broad for me to address right now. There are so many different kinds of writers. Do I want to be Nicholas Sparks? No. But man, I’d bet he’s pretty darn “successful” by some standards. I haven’t read anything he’s done, though. For me personally, success is reaching people and drawing out their senses of human empathy while making them think long and hard about what it takes to have it. It's also "success" to make someone laugh. In regard to the latter, I know I've often achieved that, but I think time will tell about the former.
Do you have words of wisdom about writing that you want to pass on to novelists and writers out there who are starting out?
I feel grossly under-qualified to give this kind of advice because I'd classify myself as a "youngling" in this department, but I say this:Write and find people you trust and will honestly and consistently work with you if you want to have your work reviewed.
What should readers walk away from your books knowing?
How should they feel? I really don't feel like I should answer this question. I don't like giving directives when people are experiencing something. If you read close enough, I would hope you have some questions.
What is your End of the World Playlist?
This is so difficult, but I guess I'd want to go out listening to the tried and true of my life: The Clash, The Replacements, The Cranberries, The Beatles, Ride, Cat Power, Pavement, Television, The Zombies, Sonic Youth, Broken Social Scene, The Velvet Underground, Whiskeytown, Pixies, Beach House, Beat Happening, Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, "Jamie" by Weezer, The Lemonheads, something off Pablo Honey or The Bends...
Bio: I was born in Oklahoma, lived in Nebraska, grew up in Ohio, and now live in Texas. I grew up trying to reconcile my love for Jesus and rock 'n' roll in a small town between Cleveland and Columbus. I think I'm starting to figure out how that all works, but I'm not sure I'm all that atypical.
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