Blog

Interview with Wendy Walker

  

AllIsNotForgotten-CoverFlat-400w-300x456thumbnail_BillMiles_WendyWalker-489r-web-2

Wendy Walker lives in the next town over from me. She is a wonderful story-teller, and her persistence in the tough game of writing is inspirational!

  1. Your earlier books were ‘women’s fiction’, and All is Not Forgotten is much darker, definitely a thriller. What made you change your focus? Were you influenced by novels like Girl on the Train?

My first two published novels were called Four Wives (2008) and Social Lives (2009). These books were in the genre of women’s fiction and involved stories of women in wealthy suburbs struggling with their identities, marriages, children, and former lives. I have lived in suburban Connecticut most of my life, both as a child and a grown woman, and I find it fascinating! But those books didn’t “break through” so I went back to practicing law. It was hard to give up the dream of being a writer, so I also managed to keep writing! I signed with a new agent and she loved my concept of a psychological thriller based on memory science. Gone Girl and Girl on a Train had created this new genre and editors were hungry for more. I was a bit nervous about switching genres, but I had always enjoyed suspense and thrillers and I was very interested in this story concept, so I dusted it off and wrote All Is Not Forgotten. It was great advice!

2. I know you’re the mother of teenage sons. Was it hard to write about rape in that context?

 I am asked this frequently and honestly, it was not difficult in the way people suspect. I get very emotionally detached from my own life when I’m writing. I try to be in the head of my characters. In this book, Dr. Forrester is telling the story and he is at times detached and at times emotional so I tried to follow that path. Focusing on the words he would use at various points in the story kept my mind off of the events and on the choice of those words. What was hard was trying to write the violent scenes in a way that would stay true to the language and descriptions of both survivors and professionals who work with them. I did a lot research to see what that language was – how they want us to hear about what happened to them – and I worked very hard to walk that fine line.

3. Do you still write wherever you happen to be ( I remember you used to write in a minivan!) or do you have a more settled schedule and writing venue now?

Ha! That’s true. Those days are long gone, but I still consider myself a time scavenger. Every day, I map out how many hours I have until my kids are home, and then I squeeze everything into those hours. I keep waiting for it to get easier, but it just doesn’t. When the kids were younger, they were home most afternoons and evenings without much to do. I could often get household chores done then. Now, every minute from 4 until 10 is packed with driving and help with homework, so my daytime hours are always shrinking! The good news is that I can write at a desk.

4. What books are on your bedside table right now?

A pile of psychological thrillers which haven’t been released yet! I get asked to blurb books by other authors, which is quite an honor. I have read some really good ones. Look for The Twilight Wife and The Clairvoyants – both are out now.

5. Are you working on your next book, and will it be a thriller?

My next book is called Emma In The Night and it will be out August 8, 2017! I’m so excited about this book because it delves into narcissistic personality disorder – not the one we talk about casually, or even the one often used in books and movies. This new novel dissects the complex pathology of the psychological illness, which is actually quite rare. Here is a little teaser!

Three years ago, two sisters disappeared from their home in Southern Connecticut. Now, one has returned to tell the dark story of her time spent on an island off the coast of Maine. As the FBI searches for the island and the sister who did not make it out, we learn about the twisted past the girls endured in their own home before they left – and the truth about where they have been comes under scrutiny. Through the voice of our narrator, the sister who has returned, and the investigation by the FBI’s forensic psychologist, the stories of past and present converge in an unexpected ending.

6. Are you one of those writers who likes to plan every detail of the story before you start, or do you create on the fly? Does this change from book to book?

 Because of the way my novels are structured, I have to plot everything from the very beginning to make sure the pieces all fit together. I write the different story lines onto colored index cards and then layer them into the chapters when they seemed to fit organically into the narrative. I am a meticulous plotter! Of course, things do change and grow as a character comes to life, and sometimes I will go back and make adjustments for that. In All Is Not Forgotten, the character Charlotte evolved quite a bit and as I decided to give her more depth, I adjusted the plot to accommodate this new angle.   

7. When you’re not writing, what are your favorite things to do?

I love spending one on one time with a good friend or my fiancé, or having people to our home to cook dinner (I usually watch!). I also love skiing with my kids, yoga, and watching a really good TV series after a long day of work.

 8. What is your idea of a perfect day?

Kids off to school, a quick run, 6 hours of writing with no interruptions, kids home, dinner, no driving, no drama, then a glass of wine and catch-up with my fiancé. A girl can dream!

 

Advertisements

Tahereh Mafi Made me Cry

Unknown-1.jpeg

Autocorrect doesn’t even want to recognize her name, keeps telling me I’m trying to write ‘There’. But I’m not. I’m trying to write Tahereh because I’ve just come back from the Grand Hyatt in New York City, and her words are still ringing in my head.

Mafi stood up on the podium in front of more than a thousand writers and illustrators at the SCBWI Winter Conference and told us to lean into our pain, lean into the rejection we all experience as writers and artists over and over again. Rejection by agents, rejection by editors, rejection even by readers who don’t ‘get’ what we’re writing. She told us to ignore the advice writers so often receive that they need to develop a thick skin. She told us we shouldn’t try to anesthetize ourselves against the pain that necessarily comes with ‘commoditizing’ our inner lives, with making a product out of our thoughts and hopes and fears, and being told the product isn’t good enough.

She said that having a thin skin is good for a writer.

She told us about her mother, “The best person I’ve ever known”, whose skull was cracked when she was just fifteen, because she was caught walking around in the wrong place at the wrong time somewhere in her native Iran. When Mafi was struggling to be published, her mother read every word she wrote and was never afraid to tell her when the writing was terrible. Her mother also cried when Shatter Me was finally given a yes.

Mafi revealed that she still has the handwritten notebooks where she kept the details of her submissions when she first began sending out her manuscripts. She wrote five books before breaking through with Shatter Me. Five books. She wrote them quietly and secretly, learning everything she could about publishing from the Internet, never having the courage to attend a writers’ conference or even to call herself a writer.

Mafi’s writing was rejected by agents and editors hundreds of times. Yes, I’m pretty sure she said hundreds. But she persisted.

The last I saw of Tahereh, she was sitting behind a table in her sparkly silver top, smiling tenderly as she signed book after book, the line of her fans snaking the length of the ballroom.

Author Interview: Joelle Charbonneau

51bQ5bt8CIL._UY250_.jpg51XPrpfRh8L._UY250_.jpg51tLrOJ6YhL._UY250_.jpg

1. Did you always want to be a writer?

Ha! No. Nope. Not at all. I have long felt guilty that being a writer was not part of my aspirations growing up. In fact, I feel a little silly at times admitting that I didn’t like any kind of creative writing assignments, but I have always loved stories. I have adored reading since I first sat down with a book and I loved telling stories on stage in plays and through music. When I was younger, what I wanted most was to become a professional musical theater actress, which I did do for a time.

2. What sparked the idea to write The Testing trilogy?

Not only did I perform professionally after college, I also taught singing and acting. (And still occasionally do) Many of the students I work with want to go on and major in music and theater and as their teacher I help guide them through the college admittance process…which can be VERY stressful. I had one student freak out during the process and I told her that the process was the most stressful that I’d ever seen it, but that it always turned out okay. She worried that if the process was this bad now, it would be worse when it was time for her brother to go to school and I told her it couldn’t possibly get worse.

Once she walked out the door I started wondering –what would be worse? How could I make it worse to get into college? I started thinking about all the essays and applications and tests required for college admittance and then thought about all the high stakes tests our society requires of kids just to get to high school and I realized I wanted to talk about those tests. That’s when I decided to write The Testing.

3. What is your writing process like— do you plot everything out ahead of time? Do you hand-write or use a laptop? Where do you like to write? Are you very disciplined or more sporadic?

Plotting sounds WONDERFUL. Like, I adore the idea of outlining because it is terrifying to sit down in front of a blank page and have no idea what comes next. However, I can’t do it. I get the opening idea, I know where the first chapter or two is sort of going and then I sit down and write. I write every day when I am drafting and I type on my computer…which is a way better idea than longhand. Trust me. My handwriting can get a little wonky when I’m not being careful. As for where I write – well, I have an office that I rarely use. I prefer the couch or when it is warm out I like to write on my deck. But I mostly can write anywhere. I’ve written in parks, in coffee shops, on planes, in hotels and poolside when my son is taking swim lessons. When I have something to write, I find a way!

4. If your characters could come to life, who would you like to hang out with –and why?

Oh-goodness. Well, that’s an interesting question and I’m going to have to answer it with a character people don’t know–yet. I would very much like to hang out with Carys from DIVIDING EDEN. She’s a little prickly, but smart and loyal and very laser-focused on her purpose in life and I find her fascinating. I think she’d make for a very interesting friend.

5. What are you reading right now? What are you going to read next?

I just finished reading CARAVAL, by Stephanie Garber. It’s a unique and fantastical story about two sisters and a thing called CARAVAL that sweeps them into it’s magic and might be threatening their very lives. It comes out soon and I totally recommend it. Next…I have a stack books that I need to pick from, but I think I’m probably going to grab SCYTHE by Neil Schusterman from the pile next.

6. What’s your favorite YA book of all time? Why do you love it?

Oh goodness, this is a difficult question. I will always love THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. I remember reading it as I was leaving High School (right after it came out) and as soon as I finished the final page going back to the beginning and reading it again. It’s a story I’ve gone back to a dozen times since, so it certainly ranks as one of my all-time favorites. I would also say that the Harry Potter books are favorites, perhaps because my son has now read the first two and I love that he is being swept into the magic of Harry’s story!

7. If you were stranded at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere with one of your characters, who would that character be – and why?

Nate, from NEED. He’s smart. Something tells me he’d be able to get us where we need to go without much trouble. And if not…The guy has a good sense of humor, so he’d make it an interesting adventure.

8. What do you do when you’re not writing?

Wait…there’s a time I’m not writing? Kidding, although I’ve had lots of deadlines lately so it does feel like I’ve had less time for other things. I love cooking! Like, sign me up for Chopped on Food Network and let me play. I read when I can and I have been binge watching a few old shows that I love on Netflix. I’m also a big fan of great movies (and cartoon movies, which I have a fantastic excuse to see since my son loves them, too) and I adore hanging out with my son. Oh – and if you ever want to race in MarioCart for Wii…I’m your girl!

YA Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta

51xfejtfzl-_sx330_bo1204203200_

I wanted to love this book. So many things about it tugged at me before I even read it. It’s set in Australia, a place you hear about in passing all the time, but that you never really get to know beyond “G’day, mate” and kangaroos. And the story centers on a fierce and vulnerable schoolgirl coping with mysteries and loss and first love, all at the same time–which sounds irresistible. But here’s the thing. I could never actually picture the setting. Couldn’t really get my bearings. Physical descriptions don’t take up much space in the book, which would be fine if we all had a mental image of that part of Australia–but we don’t!

What takes up space is Taylor Markham’s mental landscape. And there are things about Taylor that don’t add up. For a start, people at the Jellicoe school are always putting her in charge of things, even though she seems to lack the will (not to mention the focus!) to lead. She is driven to the point of mental breakdown by her worry about the disappearance of Hannah, the woman who rescued her when she was abandoned by her mother at a convenience store. She even ends up drowning a cat, for heaven’s sake!

But the story is really about Taylor’s search for her mother. The connection between the past and the present is rather beautifully bridged through a manuscript written by Hannah about a group of teens who went to the Jellicoe School in the eighties. This manuscript holds the key to Taylor’s own story. But I wish Marchetta had shown a little more restraint when she was ladling out the tragedies and violent deaths in this book! It seems that her idea of a hero is someone to whom horrible things keep happening over and over again. Talk about misery overload! Still, it’s a book that sticks with you, leaving an aftertaste so distinct that you know you’ll never forget it.

Interview: Rebekah Crane

51lssk2fthl-_sx332_bo1204203200_518lthz5dpl

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t discover my love for writing until I was thirty. I’m a late bloomer! Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I’ve been writing for six years now.

2. How did the idea for The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland come to you? Any direct experience with that kind of summer camp (ie the kind for kids with ‘issues’)?

I went to a few summer camps, all much more pedestrian than Camp Padua, but I loved the idea of using a camp as a setting. Along with that, I wanted to write a fresh story with a different perspective. At the time, I was reading a non-fiction, short story book written by a psychoanalyst with individual stories about patients he treated. All I kept thinking was—no one is normal. Normal doesn’t exist. It’s a façade. And what if all these patients went to a summer camp together in their teen years? What would that look like? I threw the idea around with a few friends and the next thing I knew, I was writing a new book.

3. Do you have a place you always write? Do you write in public spaces (libraries, coffee shops, etc)?

I write in a few different places. Sometimes, I head to a coffee shop if I need to get out of my house and see people. I also have this comfy chair in my bedroom that’s perfect for writing. Any place where I can think and observe.

4. If you could invite one of your characters to dinner, who would it be? What would conversation be like at the table?

I’d invite Bek from The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland. He’s a compulsive liar and a truly comical human being. It would go something like this:

Bek: So this is an Italian restaurant.

Me: Actually, it’s French.

Bek: I love meatballs and pasta. Do you think they have pizza on the menu?

Me: I said it’s French.

Bek: Did you know I speak fluent Italian?

Me: You do?

Bek: Totally.

Me: Show me.

Bek: Who are you and why are you sitting at my table in this lovely Chinese restaurant? Do you think they have fried rice on the menu?

5. What’s your process when you write? Do you plan everything out ahead, or just go with the flow?

I used to go with the flow, but that changed quickly. I like an outline. I may not always follow it, but it gives me ideas and parameters. At the very least, I think it’s essential to know the climax of a story before you start writing, then you know where you need to go.

6. What’s your favorite YA book?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I read it in college in 2001 and fell in love. It’s been my favorite ever since.

7. What’s your single best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

I have a few writing tips that I love to share with people:

1) Secrets should remain secret until the story demands they be told.

2) Don’t overwrite. Tell 70% of the story. Let the reader meet you for the other 30%. That way they stay invested.

3) Characterization is the external representation of a person (a football player, a cheerleader, the lead singer in a punk band). Character is their true internal self. The best characters have opposing characterizations to their true selves (the sinner masquerading as the saint).

8. If you were stranded on a desert island with just one of your characters, who would it be, and why?

Kim Choi from Aspen—If there was one character to get me off the desert island, it would be her. She’s smart and hilariously sarcastic, and a fiercely loyal friend. I know she’d never leave me behind when the plane came to save us.

images-6.jpeg

Is Your Mom a Helicopter?

Does the woman who gave birth to you still think you’re an extension of her own body that she needs to monitor and protect at all times? 

Does she hover over you, waiting to drop down and airlift you out of any difficult situation?

Is she a commercial helicopter, or more like a military one?

Take the quiz and see!

  • Does she follow you on all your social media sites to make sure you’re not being bullied?
  • Is she on a first-name basis with any of the teaching staff at your school, and has she verbally or physically threatened any of them who gave you a grade lower than an A minus?
  • Did she put that app on your phone so she can track your location at all times (or at least find your phone when you lose it)?
  • Does she do all your laundry? (Oops! That was for the ‘Is your Mom a Doormat’ quiz.)
  • Does she bring your lunch to school when you leave it at home?
  • Does she start spitting, rolling her eyes and threatening to get the coach sacked if things go wrong at practice?
  • Has she offered to write your college essay?
  • Has she tracked down a professional who can do an even better job writing your college essay?
  • When you went for your first solo drive after getting your license, did a sudden strangled shriek from the back alert you to the fact that she was hiding on the floor behind the driver’s seat?
  • Does she count your calories?
  • Does she lay out your clothes for the next day?
  • Did she choose your prom dress?
  • Did she choose the boy you went to prom with?

Okay, if you answered yes to even half of these questions, your mom needs to get a life! And you need to help her by gently snapping the blades of that helicopter!

Tough times, tough measures: Hosting the At-Home Kids’ Birthday Bash

These days we’re all trying to cut corners: mowing our own lawns, shoveling our own snow, ironing our own shirts… and even–ye gods!–throwing our own kids’ birthday parties!

As anyone who has ever hosted a little kids’ birthday party in their own home knows, the journey from the first ding-dong heralding the arrival of a small guest to the handing out of the last party favor is never a smooth one.

Balloons will be popped,  juice will be spilled, food will be trodden into the carpet, clothing will be destroyed, and  feelings will be hurt (especially if you decide to play musical chairs).

Nonetheless, at-home birthday parties can be fun and rewarding. Honestly.

The most important thing is to rope in a couple of mothers to help you on the day. Promise them wine or chocolate, or both. You could even offer to do all the car pooling for the next few weeks–whatever it takes. Just get them to stay, because no woman–gosh darn it, no couple–can handle seventeen seven-year-olds on a sugar high without back-up.

Choose your helpers wisely, though. You don’t want to your right-hand woman to be the kind who panics when the papier mache volcano blows, or  is too squeamish to mop up blood.

Perhaps most important of all, make sure non-designated parents understand that this is a drop-off event. Don’t allow lingering mothers to block up your kitchen for the duration of the party. They will stand around gossiping about the teacher and eating the kids’ Goldfish crackers by the fistful. They won’t be any help at all. And if you give them wine, you’re done for. They won’t leave when the disignated hour arrives. They may even suggest  moving the party on to a pizza parlor or other den of iniquity. Above all, they will not help cut cake, sing happy birthday, blow noses, hand out goody bags, or even clean up. The noise of their general merriment will vie with the cries of the children, who by then will be tired,  cranky, and primed to pick fights.

It goes without saying that you should keep the kids outside, if at all possible. To foil the devil in his eternal quest to find work for idle hands, set up stations where small groups of guests can fish for rubber duckies, throw beanbags at a coconut, or shoot hoops. Fit as many stations as you can into your space, to accommodate potentially short attention spans. At all costs, you want to avoid ending up with a crowd of bored elementary schoolers on your hands. The destructive potential of bored elementary schoolers can never be over-estimated.

If your child has a winter birthday, you’re probably better off  celebrating the half-birthday instead. Little kids trapped indoors, in sizeable numbers, are a recipe for disaster. In the event of a forecast of rain, phone around and see whether anyone you know has a canopy they can erect in your backyard.  Failing that, phone around again to see whether anyone has an obscure but gripping DVD that none of the kids are likely to have seen before. If the kids end up watching a movie, do NOT give them popcorn, unless you’re happy to be excavating it from your floorboards and furniture for the next several months. Darken the room as much as possible. Station an adult to keep order, or you may come back from heating up nuggets to find that the TV has been reconfigured and now operates only in purple and black.

Check toilets frequently and have a plunger standing by. Small children believe that paper cups are flushable.

Be sure to take photographs of all your party guests so that you can send cute thank you  notes back to the parents, showing their beaming child in the act of taking apart your antique Japanese fan collection. These will come in handy when you sue for damages.

Keep party favors simple and cheap.  It’s best if you can dream up a craft/activity that also doubles as a favor. For example, have the kids decorate cookies and send those home in a Chinese takeaway box with a couple of cookie cutters tied to the handle with pretty ribbon. Or have them create one of those fiddly crafts from Oriental Trading that involve glue sticks, googly eyes, and press-out pieces of foam. Nobody can ever complete these crafts, but that’s okay. Simply send them home as works-in-progress in an attractive goody bag–and let the mother dispose of them herself  in her own garbage can.

At-home parties are definitely making a come-back, and with just a little planning and imagination, your whole family should be able to enjoy a couple of hours of birthday cheer the old-fashioned way. Be aware though that you’ll need about a week to recover, so schedule carefully.