A chat with author, Victoria Costello (part 2)

Edith Wharton’s estate.

VC….While working on my memoir, I did a ton of freelance writing, mostly science and psychology for outlets like Scientific American MIND, the kind of writing where facts and evidence reign supreme. I plan to stick with fiction from here on out. Just last year, I started teaching writing and I find that I love it. I’ve now taught both in person and online, through Southern Oregon University, and this Spring, for WritingWorkshops.com. The course I’m teaching now is called When Memoir Becomes Autofiction and it’s for memoirists who, like me, want to fictionalize their life stories to one degree or another. I’m having a blast and I’m sure it’s making me a better writer.

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

VC. I know many smart people say you should just sit down and do it, free write whatever comes into your head. Others listen to music or read poetry. For me taking a walk is the best thing for getting past a major block, or that blah, I have nothing worthwhile to say feeling.

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

VC. I usually begin with a feeling and then connect it with a character and a situation, in that order. For Orchid Child that feeling was one of disconnection, of not belonging anywhere, something I felt which I gave to Kate, along with her Daddy issues.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

VC. I think it was my early conviction that I was a weird kid, so I better tell no one what I was really thinking. It was safer to write things down.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

VC.   Aside from the moment when I laid eyes on my first-born son, getting lost in writing has been the best feeling I’ve ever had. I think it’s the same for artists working in any medium, and for athletes, too, although I wouldn’t know about that. As a writer, losing time and space while getting lost in my stories is everything. The euphoric feeling that carries you along, the words and sentences that seem to come out of nowhere, or from someone long ago. Not that this happens all the time. or even a lot. But when it does, it’s the payoff for suffering through all the drudgery of blank screens, and mornings when you have zero inspiration, not to mention the feelings of insecurity that are part and parcel of the writing life. That said, this high can conflict with other parts of life, like mothering and partnering, so it becomes a challenge to set boundaries, both for yourself and others.

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

VC.  I, and, maybe, most writers, tend to circle around the same themes no matter what we’re writing. For example, there’s a scene in Orchid Child that first appeared in my memoir, A Lethal Inheritance. It’s a traumatic childhood memory I’ve carried forever about finding my father passed out in our flooding basement. In the memoir I told it in the voice of my seven-year-old self as best as I could recall. In the novel, this same memory is shared by my protagonist Kate, a brilliant neuroscientist with serious Daddy issues. As Orchid Child opens, Kate has lost her job in the wake of an affair with her married lab director. Later, Kate tells her drunken dad story to Ryan, a work colleague and her soon to be love interest, who responds empathetically. Indeed, Ryan’s availability for relationship tests Kate’s predilection for doomed affairs. Like all unrecovered sex and love addicts with Daddy issues, Kate—like me for much of my adult life—resists a healthy relationship with an available man.

Suffice to say, I’ve struggled with this issue in therapy for decades but, oddly. it was only after I went to the bottom of it in fiction that I finally felt done. So, for me writing this novel has had a profoundly healing effect. I’m also gratified when I hear from readers who email to say that reading Kate’s story has helped them process their own issues. It’s also a lot of fun to make up stuff after spending decades adhering to the facts.

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names.

A. Now that I’m living on my own, I relish the company of my two, four-year-old Maine Coon sisters. Venus is the wary, mischievous one, while Queen Luna is the epitome of sweetness and calm who believes I exist solely to meet her needs.

Join us next week for the conclusion. Did you miss Part 1?

To receive my weekly posts, sign up for my  On the home page, enter your email address. Watch for more interviews with authors.  March-Apr:   Joshua Hood, author of ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE TREADSTONE RENDITION  April: Author, H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard, May: Victoria Costello. 
 June: Laila Ibrahim


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