If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
Penny Niven. She was my mentor and I’d make truffle mac & cheese with ground bison, roasted brussels sprouts, and Guinness Chocolate Cake.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
That I’ve already written my best stuff. So I just breathe, accept that that may be true, and write anyway.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
Oh Ross Gay! I’m utterly in love.
What books are on your nightstand?
Bible, Jim Butcher’s White Night, Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
I LOVE a semicolon! I think it is entirely underused.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
Sorry, I read them all.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
My “Joy” tea mug
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
The world is better with your voice in it.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Yes, both. Sometimes I’ve had several poems in the back of my head and finally getting them out is energizing. But other times I’m writing some of the harder darker stuff and I just want a nap.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Editing while writing. Just get the words out there and THEN go back.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Sure! Hate it.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
No, I don’t. I think so much of writing is from an emotional place. Now, my father (award winning novelist John Carenen) says he doesn’t have emotions, but I beg to differ.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have an incredible writers’ group full of friends. They are forever encouraging me to to write more and tell the truth. In my head I’m bffs with Leesa Cross-Smith. Her books make me a better writer because she is so honest and beautiful and rich in writing.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I think it is a body of work, but more tracking my own growth and progress as a human.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I don’t think it has. I hope not.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
My faux fireplace in my living room. It creates exactly the right cozy vibe.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was maybe 9 I tried writing a Doogie Howser esq journal and shared it with my mother. She teared up and I realized that I could share what I was feeling without having to say a word out loud.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I’m going to have to go with Leesa Cross-Smith’s Whiskey and Ribbons. I think it is nothing short of brilliant. Her prose is often poetic and I get swept up in her language. Also the Alice Hoffman Practical Magic series. I love her work and I just want to wear warm sweaters, leggings, and fuzzy socks and curl up on the couch with my cat and some tea and get lost in her world.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I’d like it to be an owl, but in reality my cat Minerva.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I don’t think I owe them anything. Maybe a heads-up that they’re in the book?
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
What does literary success look like to you?
Just that strangers found hope or some aspect of themselves in my words.
What did you edit out of this book?”
Poems that didn’t ring true any more.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Yoga teacher. I’m certified, but my creativity goes into my writing and my editing.
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