Full Interview Below:
1. What were you doing in your mid-twenties? Did you picture yourself here, as a successful writer? In my early to mid-twenties I left a somewhat entry-level job at NBC News to go to Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism to make the switch from television to print journalism. I loved that year, and became extremely excited about working at newspapers. I also met the person I would one day marry while I was there. Right after graduation I worked at The Riverdale Press in the Bronx, and eventually moved to Philadelphia to be with my then almost-fiancé. I got a job as a reporter at The Gloucester County Times. I continued to work at newspapers until my daughter was born when I was 31. And I would say while it often seemed like an impossible dream, I did always hope to become a published fiction writer one day.
2. If you had a "defining" career moment, what would you say that is? This is probably not what you are expecting from this answer, but here goes. I would say my defining career moment happened when my husband and I were living in New Orleans just before we got married. I was teaching journalism at a community college, and working as a freelancer for The Times-Picayune. One day we had friends over and we shared an Epoisses cheese. It was gooey and perfect, and I kept offering tiny bits to our cat – A Streetcat Named Desire – who had been rescued from the city streets. One of our friends said something along the lines of: this is so crazy! That cat was living on the streets not long ago and now she is eating Epoisses cheese and living with the restaurant critic and his wife! She turned to me and said, “You should write a book about that!” I mean it when I say that was the beginning of my fiction-writing career. First I thought it would be a children’s book, but it quickly became my first women’s fiction novel. I started writing that night and haven’t stopped since.
3. What is the best advice you've ever received for your writing career? Did you take it? How did it play out in your life? It is hard to say what the absolute best advice I’ve been given is, but here are a few great writing tips that I use regularly. The first is to just write through your first draft – think of it as a dump-it draft – don’t edit, almost don’t think, just write. The second draft is when you can really start to sculpt your novel. Another tip has to do with writer’s block. An author once told me that if I find myself at a dead end with nothing to write, I should back up a little and take a different path. In other words, if I’ve gone down one road and it seems like there is no place to go, just take a few steps back and go down another road. It might just be the last scene I wrote, it doesn’t have to be too far back. I use that tip often while I write. And one piece of advice I often give to people who are looking for an agent is to make sure the agent will take them on as a writer, hoping to support them for their career, rather than just for that one book they are trying to get published at the moment. I didn’t know to ask that question when I was looking for an agent, but got so lucky in that department with Uwe Stender of TriadaUS.
4. How do you encourage yourself to write? Do you have any weird tricks you use to knock out a manuscript?It really depends on my deadline. If I have a definite deadline, I usually set some sort of rule. For example, I’ll try to write 3,000 words a day, or 2,000. If I’m at the beginning of a project with no real deadline yet, I spend a lot of time thinking about the characters and their world. Eventually, if I’m lucky, the novel starts to write itself in my head and that’s when I sit down at the computer. The trick, though, is being patient enough to let that happen.
5. What book are you currently reading? Did you find it on Amazon, or did a friend recommend it to you?I just finished reading This Bright Beauty by Emily Cavanagh which I was lucky enough to read early. It will be out on March 1. I loved it. It is the story of twin sisters, and how family history and the secrets we keep affect people in both good and bad ways. Next I plan to read Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, and Class Mom by Laurie Gelman, both of which I read about and bought on Amazon.
6. If you were not a writer, what career would you be pursuing?I would pursue a career in teaching. It is the other path I could have taken. At times I have had a chance to combine the two. I taught journalism at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, and also managed the school newspaper there. More recently I taught a writing workshop at The University of Pennsylvania. But I have always wondered what it would be like to be a high school English teacher. I was so influenced by my English teachers in high school, particularly my senior year at Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York. Sometimes I fantasize about what books we would read, and what papers I would assign. Who knows, maybe one day…