Thanks to my generous friend, Sandra Lambert (http://www.sandragaillambert.com) for tagging me to join in a discussion about the writing process. Sandra’s beautiful debut novel, The River’s Memory, scheduled for release in July, 2014, from Twisted Road Publications, establishers her as a truly gifted writer. She immerses her readers in a richness of natural beauty that delivers a unique awareness of both the natural world and the legacies of women she describes as “ordinary” who leave their imprint on the river’s memory.
1. What am I working on?
Before making the mad leap into writing novels, I wrote short fiction. Maybe that’s why I return to my earlier comfort zone when I am between bigger projects. Not that short fiction is easier, but it most often gives me a quicker turnaround – dismissing the fact that I have years of languishing stories yet unfinished. For me, and I suspect others, there is always the hope that a given story will heat up and become the core of a longer piece. My two novels, Dream Chaser and Wildflowers began as shorter pieces. Currently, I am researching the world of homelessness among mothers and their children – a heartbreaking reality. This means only that a vague notion of a story is taking shape in my thoughts. I have only one line that continues to intrigue me: “Oh, hell yeah, it’s what I do. But it ain’t who I am.” Strangely enough, this muse began with a series of newspaper stories I read about the arrival of whooping cranes to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. I can’t say how the astonishing flight of whooping cranes and the plight of a homeless mother connect. For me, this is the magic in imaging another’s world.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I honestly do not know beyond its definition what genre means when I attempt to apply it to my work. Therefore, on this one I tend to drop back and punt; labeling my work as general fiction. While I strive for character-driven fiction, I also have a healthy respect for strong plotting and pacing of story. My work has been labeled gritty, even grim, working class, and contemporary southern fiction. I am drawn to deeply flawed characters, and my challenge is to cause readers to come to care for these characters in ways they may not have expected. That brings me full circle, and I’m guessing I failed to answer the question of genre.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Sally Bellerose mentioned absurdities as a theme in her writing, and I am drawn to the same. Both as a collective adherence to societal absurdities, but more so to those we individuals cherish, hold tightly, even at great personal loss. The burden of working-class life and its multiple implications for the loss of human dignity is the emotional momentum for much of my writing. I know something about indignities and the personal loss that comes with owning these harsh messages. Some of us survive to tell our stories while others don’t. It’s these stories that I’m compelled to write.
- How does my writing process work?
I agree with Bett Norris and others on the tour that there is no substitute for planting my ever widening butt in the chair and pounding the keyboard. All too often I write to discover what it is I mean to write. For me, this organic process requires that I allow myself the freedom of taking what may turn out to be a wrong path. While this makes me a slow writer, it results in my never starting the day facing a blank page. There’s rewriting, revising and starting over. This daily process serves to launch me into new writing. I work steadily for four to five hours, six day a week. Far, far more sitting than is good for my nagging sciatica. Then there’s always acupuncture.
I would love to hear from you and learn about your writing process. Leave your comments here on the Contact link.
Next up are Glenda Bailey-Mershon (www.glendabaileymershon.com) and Darlyn Finch Kuhn (http://darlynfinchkuhn.com/).
Glenda’s highly praised and richly deserving first novel, Eve’s Garden, to be released in September, grounds the story of a family living on the margins of the Piedmont Textile Belt in her family history of Romani deportees from Scotland who survive slavery and forced indenture. Her earlier publications include sa-co-ni-ge: blue smoke: poems from the Southern Appalachians; Bird Talk: Poems; A History of the American Women’s Movement: a Study Guide; and four volumes as editor of Jane’s Stories’ anthologies by women writers, including Bridges and Borders (2013). She has been a finalist in Our Stories‘ fiction contest; featured author at the Illinois Book Fair; and a grant recipient from both the Illinois and Florida Humanities Councils as well as the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. www.glendabaileymershon.com.
Darlyn Finch Kuhn’s beautiful novel, Sewing Holes, to be released in 2015, opens with “Memories are colored by perception, and the truth is pocked with holes. This is the way, after almost half a Century, I’ve stitched those holes together.” I love the promise and mystery of these words. In addition to being a fine storyteller, she is a poet known for her saucy style and engaging readings. Her poems have been featured on Poetic Logic on WMFE-FM, and read by Garrison Keillor on the Writers Almanac. She was a Kerouac Project writer in residence in 2006. Her first book, Wax Rose, a poetry and short story collection, was published in 2007. Her second book, Three Houses, is a collection of love poems with collaborator Brad Kuhn, her husband.