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Interview with author, Boo Walker

TS. After picking a five-string banjo in Charleston and Nashville and then a few years toying with Wall Street, Boo chased a wine dream across the country to Red Mountain in Washington State with his dog, Tully Mars. They landed in a double-wide trailer on five acres of vines, where Boo grew out a handlebar mustache, bought a horse, and took a job working for the Hedges family, who taught him the art of farming and the old world philosophies of wine. Recently leaving their gentleman’s farm on Red Mountain, Boo and his family are back on the east coast in St. Pete, Florida. No doubt the Sunshine City will serve as a setting for a novel or three soon. Boo’s bestselling page-turners are instilled with the culture of the places he’s lived, the characters he’s encountered, and a passion for unexpected adventure. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? 
Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

BW. I write in my dream space, my mancave in a Spanish-style house built in 1925 by an opera singer in St. Pete, Florida. I’m surrounded by guitars and banjos that constantly try to distract me.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

BW. I have a pretty serious coffee ritual to start my morning and writing day. I always have a bag of single-origin, fresh-roasted beans, which I grind that morning. I measure out an exact amount with my scale, and then brew using a Chemex coffee pour-over. Once the caffeine starts to kick in, I’m sit at my desk. I’ve come to rely so much on this routine that my entire day is shot if I don’t have my perfect cup.
Depending on my mood, I most always write to music without words, be it jazz, classical, or electronic.
I also have a couple less productive rituals that are actually more like procrastinating actions. I’ve somehow come to think I need to restart my computer before ever writing session. It’s totally stalling. And then I’ll grab my guitar for a little warm-up session. Another stalling tactic. Once I’m ready to dive in, though, I use an app called Be Focused, which sets 25-minute intervals where I do writing sprints. I don’t allow myself to surf the net or answer calls or texts. The sprints are writing only. No distractions.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

BW. R.D. Blackmore lingers somewhere high up in my family tree on my mother’s side. He wrote a book called Lorna Doone. He was a big inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson, among others.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

BW. If I haven’t written by noon, I’m in trouble. I’m such a morning person, so only under deadline and at gunpoint can I write much in the later afternoon or at night.

Part II of this fascinating interview posts May 24th.    Click here to read my REVIEW of Red Mountain.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese and May: Boo Walker 
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Interview with Poet, Author, Joe Albanese

Joe Albanese is a writer from South Jersey. his work can be found in publications across the U.S. and in ten other countries. Joe’s the author of For the Blood is the Life, Caina, Smash and Grab, and a poetry collection, Cocktails with a Dead Man. If you are frustrated with the brevity of this interview, don’t despair. He lets it all hang out in this wonderful book of poetry.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

JA. Most of my writing gets done at the dining room table. Although sometimes I write in front of the tv, just for the ambient noise. Poetry I’ve written all over, mostly on my phone, then transfer it so my computer later.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

JA. Yes, I try to avoid writing at all costs. So I clean up a lot beforehand, do any chores that need or don’t even need to be done before I can sit down and write.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

JA. I’m probably done with my writing career. I have two more books I am trying to get published, but then I’ve finished. Or at least I’ll be taking a long break while I try to find a “real” job.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

JA. Usually the middle of the night. There are the least amount of distractions.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

JA. Just sit your ass down and start typing. Something good will eventually come.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

JA. I try to see how they relate to me first. Are they similar, or completely different? Then I try to get into their mindset in terms of how they’d react in the story.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

JA. My friend was high and asked if I wanted to write a screenplay. I haven’t looked back.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

JA. Mostly situation. Then I try to figure out which characters would be most fun in that situation.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

JA. Not really. When I’m writing, I think about it a lot, but I never really get lost in it.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

JA. My novella, For the Blood is the Life, just got published in March. It’s crime-horror.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JA. A few years ago. After my friend stopped writing with me, I got more into it.

Q. How long after that were you published?

JA. A few years before my first short story was published in Sheepshead Review.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

JA. I hope not. I can’t read on a tablet.

Q. What makes a writer great?

JA. Someone who can bring truth to untruthful situations.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

JA. Well, I have a lot more grey hair now than when I started writing.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

JA. Yes, my poetry collection is mostly personal, dealing with my anxiety and depression mostly.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

JA. Ass in a chair, watching bad tv and movies.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

JA. Most of my fiction is crime. I guess I could one day, but my brain loves coming up with criminal characters and situations.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

JA. It’s okay to be yourself.

 

Did you miss my review of Cocktails with a Dead Man? 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese,  May: Boo Walker 
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Interview with Actor PLaywright, Rick Lenz (part 2)

…with wife

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

RL. I sure do. I don’t think I’d stop sometimes, if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve got a body and that it gets tired, hungry, thirsty, and sore from remaining in the same position too long.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

RL. I wrote a book last year that is now complete except for some editing. I’m not yet sure when it will be published, but I hope soon. It’s about an old actor, devoted to his wife, who made a few mistakes during his younger years. He gets a chance to redo those years, but discovers all he really wants to do is get back to his wife.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

RL. I switched my acting career from first priority to second about 15 years ago. Writing took its place as my great passion.

Q. How long after that were you published?

RL. It took me eight years to write some books that were publishable.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

RL. I don’t believe that will happen.

Q. What makes a writer great?

RL. Since writing is very much a craft (plus inspiration, of course) I think the major factor is wanting—no loving—to write and doing it until you get good. I’d add one thing to that: nothing you write is sacred. If it’s not exactly what pleases you, throw it away and rewrite it until it does.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

RL. It is never the same for me. The book I wrote last year unfolded itself within a year. My first two novels took me over 10 years to get right. My memoir, North of Hollywood, took only about a year. I really can’t say what the whole process looks like. I think if I knew that—and this is speaking only for me—I wouldn’t be a very good writer.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

RL. I came from a very dysfunctional family. It was often painful at the time, especially during my teenage years. So, that was certainly a factor. After that, I spent most of my life as a professional actor; my show business life, as a theater actor in New York, and a Hollywood actor, living in Los Angeles, has had a big influence on my writing.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

RL. I read, exercise, meditate, and spend my most joyful times with Linda and my children and grandchildren.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

RL. I have been a playwright (as well as an actor) for most of my life. I prefer writing books now. As to the genre of my writing, some people call it fantasy, but I do like to try to make it as a literary as I possibly can.

…with grandson

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

RL. I think life is meant to be joyful. But in order for that to be the case—again, speaking for myself—I have to constantly practice kindness, forgiveness, and the continual understanding that God loves me no more than He loves everyone else.

Don’t miss Part I of this wonderful interview.

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with Rick Lenz, Broadway & Film Actor, Playwright, Turned Author

Cactus Flower circa 1969, Rick with Goldie Hawn & Walter Matthau

TS. Rick Lenz is a graduate of the University of Michigan, past member of the Actor’s Studio, and active member in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is a veteran Broadway, television, and film actor who first came to national attention when he repeated his Broadway role in Cactus Flower,

the film version. He went on to appear in a long list of movies and TV shows. As a writer, his plays have been produced Off-Broadway, on PBS television and in regional theatres across the country. His memoir North of Hollywood was called “masterful” by Writer’s Digest, while his first novel, The Alexandrite was named “one of the best books of the year” by Kirkus Reviews. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

RL. I write anywhere I can: in my office on my computer. I write in doctors’ offices on a legal pad and also in the car when my wife Linda is driving. I write on my laptop in bed, or in the backyard on nice days, which most of them are in southern California. I write at the dining room table or, actually, anywhere I can do so without being rude to someone.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

RL. I honestly have no rituals or quirks about writing; I just do it whenever the muse is kind enough to land on my shoulder. My wife suggests I not answer this question in regard to anything else in my life.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

RL. I used to be tall, dark, and more or less handsome. Now, I am not quite so tall and I’m gray, and a bit funny looking.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

RL. I really don’t. I usually meditate in the morning, have coffee then start writing. On the other hand, if I’m going through a period of insomnia, I may write all night—I may do it in bed or sitting in my favorite chair in the living room.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

RL. Write a paragraph or two and see if that doesn’t get you going.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

RL. All of my characters are born when they have to be for the story. Most of my characters—when things are going well—are based on people I have known at sometime during my long life. There are a lot of characters, more than I’ll ever be able to use, lolling about in my brain.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

RL. I’m not sure. I liked the idea of writing when I was a kid. Later, when I became a theater actor and director, I saw the usefulness of writing too. So I was about 21 or 22 when I first started writing short plays.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

Rick’s granddaughter

RL. Sometimes an idea for a character suggests the situation. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. Maybe what I’m saying, probably I am, is that they really show up about the same time.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?  Join Us for Part 2 of this Intriguing Interview ~~ Feb…. 23rd

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with author, Molly Gloss

TS. Molly likes to brag (just a little) that on her mother’s side, she’s fourth generation Oregonian, from German immigrants. On her father’s side she’s fourth-generation Texan, as her great grandmother  was the first white child born in Irion County, Texas. She is widowed with one son and was recently blessed with a new grandson!  She says, “Why didn’t anyone tell me how magical this would be?! Oh, right, they did tell me, I just wasn’t listening!” She’s been writing full-time since  1980. “I’m a slow writer, but I’ve managed to eke out six novels and about 20 short stories.” She currently lives in Portland, Ore. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

Writing….

MG. I like to be comfortable. I wrote The Jump-Off Creek in longhand while sitting in my favorite overstuffed chair. When desktop computers became the thing, I wrote while sitting at a desk, but I never loved it, and now I write on a laptop, sitting on the living room sofa with my feet propped up on an ottoman and the laptop literally in my lap.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

MG. Nope. I open the file I’m working on, reread the last few pages, and go to work wrestling with the next sentence. But I do have to have my favorite Roget’s Thesaurus close to hand. And also The American Thesaurus of Slang. Good for finding just the right period-perfect term for historical fiction.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

MG. I have never lived on the “dry side” of the West where many of my novels and stories are set. I grew up on the “wet side” and live here still, in a suburban townhouse at the edge of Portland.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

MG. I try to write from post-breakfast to pre-dinner, with a short break for lunch, but that schedule can vary greatly now that I live alone and have no children or husband or dog to contend with. Now sometimes I surprise myself by writing late at night. But it’s a sad irony that I do have more trouble sticking to a set schedule now that I have more time to write. When I had a family at home and had to keep up the housework, the grocery shopping, the gardening, making meals, etc, I was more disciplined about squeezing my writing into the available time. Now I’ve become a procrastinator!

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

MG. Speaking of which! I’m not the best person to give this advice, as I’ve become a terrible procrastinator myself, horribly addicted to the lure of the internet. I had to go away to a place without wifi in order to finish my last novel. Perhaps that’s my advice? Disconnect from wifi!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

MG. More often than not, a new character arises out of research for a previous novel. In researching for The Jump-Off Creek, which is a novel about a single woman homesteader, I came upon Teresa Jordan’s book of oral histories, COWGIRLS: WOMEN OF THE AMERICAN WEST, and there for the first time heard about young girls traveling the countryside breaking horses during the nineteen-tens, and my character Martha Lessen in THE HEARTS OF HORSES arose out of that research. And then while I was researching the history of horse training for that novel, I fell into a cache of material about how horses were trained (and misused) in the Western movies of the 1930s, and that was the beginning of my character Bud Frazer, a Hollywood stunt rider in FALLING FROM HORSES.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

MG. I’ve always wanted to write. I was a voracious reader and I think I’ve often been driven by a desire to write the story I couldn’t find on the library shelves.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

MG.They are intertwined. The character doesn’t exist for me until I know what sort of situation they are in. And the situation doesn’t mean anything to me unless I can see how it impacts a particular person.

Don’t miss Part two of this Interview on January 25th
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss. February:  Patrick Canning and March: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with author, Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Amanda Quick)

TS. I have been buying and reading Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick (pseudonym  for her period pieces) for more than three decades and am one of her biggest fans. Since 2013 I have been requesting an interview from this author and finally the stars aligned and Santa granted my wish. Wink. It is my honor to share with my fans, writers and readers this fascinating look into Jayne Ann’s writing processes and down time. 

Q:  Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?   Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

JAK: I like to write in my office.  It’s my refuge, retreat and comfort zone.  That said, I can—and do—write just about anywhere—on a plane, on vacation, etc.  Writing is an addiction for me.  No matter where I am or what I’m doing there’s a story going on in my head.  I can make notes, work through plot issues, and jot down ideas with a pen and a yellow notepad but I do my most creative writing on a computer because I’m fast with a keyboard.  That means my fingers can keep up with my thoughts.  Every morning when I sit down to write I send up a personal “thank you” to the teacher who taught that touch typing class back in high school!

Q:  Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

JAK:  No special rituals, well, except coffee.   I just need my computer and a keyboard and a cup of coffee.  I also need solitude.  I know a lot of authors write to music but I can’t do that.  My brain starts going in two different directions, one part following the music, the other trying to focus on the writing.  Guess I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

Q:  Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

JAK:  Nope.  Okay, I love to shop at Nordstroms (Seattle, Washington) and I love to cook vegetarian/low carb but those two passions are not exactly secrets. Everyone who follows me on Facebook or Instagram knows that much about me. (and apparently also loves to crawl around in Lava craters.)

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

JAK:  I’m definitely a morning person. I get up around five am. My husband and I love our breakfast routine which includes coffee, cottage cheese, peanut butter on rye crisp and three different newspapers.  After the papers, I take my last cup of coffee to my office.  I’m usually at my computer by six-thirty at the latest.  I write fairly steadily until noon with a one hour break at some point for working out.  Afternoons are for the other things that go with writing—untangling plot problems, figuring out motives, checking research, and, oh, yeah, real life.


Fun Fact
: Is there any fan out there that doesn’t know that Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick are one in the same??

 

Join us for Part 2 on December 21st

Untouchable will be on sale January 8, 2019

Coming Soon!  My Review of Untouchable

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss and February:  Patrick Canning.
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Interview with author, Joe English (part 2)

Q.  Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?   

JE.   Definitely.   The rest of the world goes on, I am told and occasionally realize, while I am puzzling over a phrase, a sentence.   Should I add a poem to the beginning of a given  chapter to foreshadow  the chapter’s worth?   Should I use the word large or big?  Is the simile in the sentence “The sky was as blue as the bluest  eye. . .” apt?   [Answer:  no.  Why not?  Well, the sky is vast; the eye, small]. How about “The sky was as blue as the bluest eye and the jungle as green as gold”?  The second half not as bothersome, but still not quite there yet.  So, after hours and hours (literally) of tinkering, thinking, playing, rewriting:   throw the sky overboard.  Go with just the jungle:  “The rising sun stoked greens—emerald and jade, myrtle and moss—into glistening gold.”   There! 

Q. You have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.  

JE.   I am working on a short story.   What has kept me going all these years is that many, many readers have praised SCHUGARA.    Gratifying.   But the bills must be paid.  I am not sure I want to  put myself through the torture, abuse, neglect, duplicity, that an unestablished  novelist must endure.   Tell me:  is posthumous  recognition appealing?  I think frequently of Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”:  

Full many a gem of purest ray serene, 
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear: 
Full many a 
flow’r is born to blush unseen, 
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
  

Q.  When did you begin to write seriously?    

JE.  Since I was a child, ten years of age of thereabouts.  I have always been fascinated with words.   Elegance has all but disappeared from writing.   From our use of language.   From our culture.   From the ways we interact with others. 

Q. How long after that were you published? 

JE.   High school.  Literary publication. 

Q. What makes a writer great? 

JE.   Having something to say and saying it well.  

Q.  (Note to Self: a life lesson you’ve learned.) 

JE.   I quote Lily Tomlin in SCHUGARA:  “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”  I don’t like saying so, or recognizing this, but I have come to the conclusion that, for the most part, people simply don’t care, don’t give a damn, pay lip service to the concerns of others, and live inside solipsistic bubbles.  My advice to aspiring writers:  get off the beaten path.   If you are in a city, move into one of the many “ghetto” areas the United States cultivates, dumping grounds for people without money, for the most part people of color.  Do not get sucked into the television world of lies and happy faces:  YOU DESERVE A BREAK TODAY!  HAVE IT YOUR WAY!   Those who are idealists in their teenage years and twenties sell out by age thirty without ever realizing so.     Do we need more stories about suburban angst?

 Q. and the all-important:  What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?   

JE.   A book is NEVER finished.  The writer must force himself/herself to stop.   Now that I have been forced to stop, I suffer the slings and arrows of trying to get attention paid.   The literary gatekeepers keep a close-knit mutually praising society, frightened, so it seems, at anyone or anything that goes against the grain.

Ours is a close minded culture, wherein those who know know they know better.   They are the tastemakers.   Do you think a novel published by a struggling tiny press located in Louisville, Kentucky, clearly the hayseed  capital of the nation, has a chance of being reviewed by the New York Times?

Did you miss part 1: Click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss and in early 2019  Patrick Canning.
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Interview with Jonathan Rabb, Writer (conclusion)

TS.  This has been a terrific Interview. All writers achieve the same goals using different paths to get there. 

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

JR. Muscle memory. That’s where it is now. I can’t imagine not having a book I’m working on. In other words, I have to be working on something. So, in some sense, I never fully enjoy “finished book” because I’m always at least thinking about the next one. In the same way, I never feel I’m in “no book” territory.

You don’t get a lot of resolution in your creative life if you’re a novelist (at least I don’t). It’s probably why I do crossword puzzles. Resolution is immediate.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

JR. How can they not? When I first started writing, I was in NY and single. Now, I’m in Savannah, married with two kids, and a professor of writing. Save for that first novel, I don’t borrow from my own life as the foundation of a novel. Yes, my characters grapple with the same anxieties I grapple with, but they aren’t me in a fictional guise. But as the challenges have changed in my life, I think they’ve changed for my characters as well. And my interests have shifted. Five years ago I would never have thought about a book in Mexico. Now, I can’t imagine not writing it.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

JR. I’ve been accused of bucking genres. My first two books were clearly thrillers, based around historical documents. Then I dove into historical fiction entirely with three books in Germany and Spain in 1919, 1927 and 1936. Yes, there was a mystery in each of those, but the mystery was always less important than the political and social anxieties that the characters were dealing with. Some reviewers called them historical fiction, others literary fiction, still others mysteries. And then I jumped to my last book, which is Savannah 1947 – a much more intimate novel, less about the historical backdrop and more about one man’s struggle. And now I’m doing contemporary Mexico in one book, and 1606 Venice in another

So, I don’t really think in terms of genres. I just write what excites me. So far I’ve been lucky enough that my publishers let me do that.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

JR. Writing is hard, maybe harder than anything else in the arts for the simple reason that everyone thinks they have access to language. Very few people walk around thinking, Yes, I can design a dress or produce a self-portrait. But everyone thinks, Hey, I can write. Just look at me on Facebook….

But that’s not true, which makes writing even harder if you really want to take a stab at it.

So, the lesson I’ve learned is: do whatever you can to make writing easier while you’re writing. Take the pressure off and just try and get a single sentence down that you don’t hate. Some days, that one sentence is enough. It paves the way for the days when you write 5,000 words and you can’t imagine how you did it.

Give yourself a break. Writing is hard. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Did you miss Part 1 or 2 of this fine Interview? Click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.

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Interview with Professor of Writing, Jonathan Rabb (part 2)

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

JR. The paperback of my last one came out a few months ago, and I’m at work on two very different projects right now. One is contemporary in Mexico; the other is 1606 Venice. I’ve never written two at once, but it’s proving to be exciting, even if it is more challenging. We’ll see how it works out.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JR. I was 28 or 29. I decided that political theory wasn’t for me, and I got the idea for that first book, The Overseer. There was no pressure, so I don’t know if I really thought about it as “serious” writing (there’s the old chestnut: you have a lifetime to write your first book, about a year to write your second). But somewhere in there I began to think, “Maybe this is what I’m meant to do.” I got lucky and have been allowed to do it ever since.

Q. How long after that were you published?

JR. I started The Overseer in late 1993 or early 1994. I finished the first draft (a very economical 750 pages) in July of 1996. By happenstance, I was working a translating job and someone else on the job heard I’d written a manuscript and said he had a friend in Lectures at William Morris. He said he’d be happy to show the first chapter to the woman at WM. I sent it to him, he sent it to her, and three days later, the woman called and said she had sent it on to someone in Literary. Three days later, the agent in Literary called and said he needed to see the rest of the manuscript. I sent it over and, two weeks later, I signed with WM. My agent had been an editor, so he helped me trim the manuscript down to 525 pages. We sent it out, got rejected, sent it out again, and then Holt, Crown and Harpers all came in with offers. We went with Crown in June of 1997, and the hardcover came out in June of 1998.

Q. What makes a writer great?

JR. I don’t know. I think you have to find whatever it is that makes writing a need for you, and that’s purely idiosyncratic. And then commit yourself to it. Writing a novel is like any long-term relationship. There’s the infatuation at the beginning, but then the feelings mature. And it can be hard. But it’s the best kind of hard you’ll ever experience if you keep your focus.

I also think taste plays a large role in any of the arts. I suppose we can all look at a select group and say, Yes, those are great writers, but even then, I don’t know. I’d be hard-pressed not to include Graham Greene on that list or Ivo Andric or Joan Didion, and some folks can’t stand any of them. Is there something that ties all the greats together? Maybe it’s that, if they ever wavered, they never gave up entirely. Even Kafka. If Kafka (by my lights in the top three of all time) could muscle through it, then anyone can.

Did you miss Part 1? Click here

Part 3 of this Interview will return on September 28th.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Interview with Writer, Jonathan Rabb

TS. I stumbled upon Jonathan Rabb, a local, fellow author and transplant, quite by accident. I found his take on writing fascinating and asked that he share it with my readers.

 Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

JR. I have a study in the house, which many of my old friends say uncannily resembles my old one-room apartment back in New York before I got married. It’s bookcases everywhere, maps, and an entire shelf devoted to my kids’ artwork. When the writing is going well, it’s hard to find a path from the door to the desk. I like to keep the blinds drawn, with a single overhead soft light. And the desk is an architect’s desk – a flat space with no drawers.

As it turns out, it is my dream workspace.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

JR. My ritual (now) starts with the kids getting up, breakfast, the dog out for walk, carpool (on my days), and then a mug of hot water at the side of my computer, which I refill throughout the day. I usually dive in at about 8:30 and, if I remember to eat lunch, a break at 1, then on again until about 3. And then the kids come home. If I’m deep into a book, then I’m in the study at all hours. Those last three weeks are tough on everyone.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

The Whiffenpoofs

JR. I sang in a group called the Whiffenpoofs in college (the oldest cappella singing group in the country). I also soloed with the NY Pops at Carnegie Hall.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

JR.  As I said, usually in at 8:30, out at around 3. But that shifts the closer I get to the end of a book. That’s when I need to be with the characters, and I need to know how the whole thing will find its way to a conclusion. Not necessarily a resolution but a stopping point. I can’t step away from it for too long when I’m at that point.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

JR. Writing is all about making choices. They don’t have to be big ones (or at least appear to be big ones at the moment), so make one. Writer’s block and procrastination are really just about being overwhelmed by the infinite number of choices you could make. That can freeze you. So choose. It might be the wrong choice, but at least you’ll be writing. And nothing is ever completely wrong.

It’s the old NY Lottery motto: you have to be in it to win it.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

JR. For me, place is always a central character, so I usually start there. Then I have to find the people to interact with that character, and that’s when idiosyncrasies and cadences begin to make themselves known. But the best part of creating characters is when they surprise you. That’s when you know you’ve created someone real.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

JR. I was an academic at Columbia in political theory, and I needed an escape. So I came up with an idea for a thriller, in which the main character is a young academic at Columbia in political theory….who saves the world. That was great for my ego and sent me to the computer every day to see how the character would make good on that promise. It turned out to be my first novel, The Overseer.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

JR. Hard to say. I think both are crucial – at least according to Stephen King – but I’m not sure I can distinguish them from one another as completely as I’d need to in order to prioritize one over the other. The characters reflect the demands of their situation; the situation shifts to meet the needs of the characters. I suppose the answer shifts from situation to situation and character to character.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

JR. Yes. My wife often has to call me to remind me to have lunch. Those are the great days.

 

My interview with Jonathan continues September 21st. Don’t miss it! 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

To receive my posts sign up for my   On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks! 

 

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