Part Two…my Interview with Heidi Jon Schmidt
HJS: “Procrastination is the way of avoiding the suffering involved in seeing that what you write doesn’t live up to what you CAN write.”
Q. Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment?
A. Outer Cape Cod, or my own imaginary (but carefully mapped) world based on Outer Cape Cod. Place has always been terribly important to me. The other pole of my childhood was the thick countryside I lived in, among dairy farms in Connecticut. We were miles from civilization and we were often without a car. I spent hours and hours walking in the woods, the fields, following the brook that ran through that area, just paying attention to every bit of it. I’d try to draw a tree with every leaf exact. It was a deep, deep comfort.
Now I’ve lived out here for 30 years, and this is the place I know best–I’m lucky because it’s inherently a fascinating place. Provincetown has been the wealthiest and the poorest town in Massachusetts over the last two hundred years. There are layers and layers of history here, and in the winter when the tourist life fades away, there’s a community of very different people who live together in an unusually intimate way. I could write a novel about it…oh, wait, I did!
Q. When did you begin to write seriously?
A. I didn’t want to be a writer. I hated being ‘lost in my work’. I found myself, at 23, working as an inner-city librarian, living on a tiny salary. One night as I was locking up the library, a group of kids on a work release program from Juvenile Detention poured a bucket of dirty water over my head. I wish I could say that this cemented my understanding that my work for the library was important and I should bravely keep it up. In fact it threw me into a panic. I called an old professor, who told me I ought to apply to the Iowa Writers Workshop, so I did. The competition then wasn’t as fierce as it is now, and tuition was minimal. So a lot was luck, but I got in.
Q. How long after that were you published?
A. It was about a year until I sold my first story to The Atlantic. It felt like a dream come true, but in fact it happened too fast– I hadn’t built up a body of work, nor a body of understanding of life. I just wasn’t ready to be a full-fledged writer. So my hard times came later.
Q. What makes a writer great?
A. A deep understanding of character and its strange relation to fate. An ability to write clearly about complex things, so that a place and it’s people come
vividly to life. An awareness that what we do matters, in a daily, momentary way. And an instinct for entertainment. John Williams, who won the National Book Award in 1973 and has since lapsed back into obscurity in spite of his brilliance, was once asked “Is literature written to be entertaining?” Stoner replied “Absolutely. My God, to read without joy is stupid.”
And finally, an ability to stand clear of the prevailing cultural winds. This is no mean feat. But fiction tells it like it is, not like we want it to be. That is the deepest comfort a writer can offer, and that’s what endures, what brings readers back and back and back.
Don’t miss Part 3 on December 12th. Click here to read Part 1
DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with best-selling AUTHORS! “The Writer’s Corner”
In addition to my twice weekly blog I will also feature an interview with another author once a month. These authors have already responded and you can read their interviews by clicking on their name: Janet Evanovich, Ann Purser, Susan Elia MacNeal, Karen Robards, Mark Childress, Rhys Bowen, Dean Koontz, Tasha Alexander, Patrick Taylor, Sheryl Woods, Jo-Ann Mapson, Jeffrey Deaver, Cathy Lamb, Elizabeth Gilbert, Amber Winckler, Raymond Benson, Andrew Grant, Heidi Jon Schmidt, Robert McCammon, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, Walter Mosley, and many others.
So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create! Patrick Taylor joined us in November. Heidi Jon Schmidt will be under your Christmas tree. Raymond Benson will be my January author. Slick mystery writer, Andrew Grant will join us this winter. Loretta Chase will be featured later this year. Raymond Benson is my January author. Sherryl Woods in our Valentine author. Janet Evanovich is March’s author.