If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
I would cook dinner for Jean-Paul Sartre. His novella Nausea is a favorite of mine. I think that Sartre would enjoy something from my background, dishes my grandmother taught me, but with a modern touch: collard greens with fatback, fried green tomatoes with a mole sauce, and perhaps a Greek chicken dish with lots of lemon and olives. The wine would be a Juveniles cuvee.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
I am always afraid of what my characters might do. They surprise me and lead me into realms that I would never explore otherwise. This is a fear that I do not combat, but rather embrace. I never write from an outline and need my characters to lead me forward. I am dependent on them.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
Sartre, of course, would be one. I own a fine, leather, five-volume Gallimard editions of his fiction and am teaching myself French so that I can his works in French. More close to home, Flannery O’Connor is an idol of mine. She is probably the only author that can make me laugh out loud. Her story “The Enduring Chill” is a classic example.
What books are on your nightstand?
I have a five-year project to read the complete works of all of the major nineteenth-century French novelists, including Zola, Dumas, Merimee, Sand, Balzac, Hugo, and Flaubert. I have already purchased the sets on Ebay, very nice old books. I am currently working my way through Emile Zola’s works and then will devour Balzac. I just finished The Sin of Father Mouret and have begun Fruitfulness by Emile Zola. These writers encompass a realist approach, sometimes referred to as naturalism, which is rife with concrete details of daily life. On my nightstand are Fruitfulness by Zola, a French textbook, and a French copy of Le Petit Ami (which I am translating) by the irascible Paul Leautaud.
Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
I get my ideas from real life. When I drive down the street, I glance at the houses and wonder what is going on inside. Travel is a large part of my learning. I recently traveled to Peru to take part in an ayahuasca ceremony and have written a short novella and two short stories based on that experience.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
My favorite punctuation mark is the tilde. I don’t really know why. It doesn’t look like a punctuation mark but rather something natural, like a wave.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
I think that would be Gone with the Wind.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
I would most definitely thank my cigars, which add a layer of velvet to my writing.
Why do you write? The first 5 words that come to mind. Go.
To reach back to the beginning.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
Pay attention and then write about it.