If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
I vacillate between Denis Johnson, Raymond Carver, and Breece D’J Pancake. These men struggled. The latter, to his death. When pressed, Breece. Though, no meal. Think we’d just drink whiskey and ponder one's brokenness as a foundation for creativity. And though brokenness lives in everyone, the severity of particular individuals’ suffering can create diamonds from coal. Breece was a diamond.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
I am a nurse who writes. Without formal training, workshops, or mentoring. I’d embrace those options if presented. I occupy two worlds, the writing and nursing world. It’s a complicated mental space. Though creativity is a hallmark of nursing.
I’m fortunate to have a career, but the responsibilities of a career make balance difficult. Necessity can override passion. I’ve gained a new appreciation for writers, because we obsess over our work before a word ever lands on the paper and long after we hit send. Words can haunt. Lack of words can propagate madness. I teeter on the precipice of madness.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
I’d swap crush for kindred spirit. Moth Smoke tells the story of Daru Shezad and follows his sharp decline. I believe we are one misstep, one firing, one infidelity, away from the circumstances that befell Daru. I have been Daru. My crush lay in the steamy darkness of the character and the sex, drugs, and societal shuffling that ensues.
What books are on your nightstand?
The Best American Short Stories 2020, The Order of Time (Rovelli), and A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories (Berlin). Each unfinished.
It pains me not to read every day. Several of my children are avid readers, which I embrace as a parent. The written word is a powerful learning tool.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
Yikes. I am a grammatical disaster. But I love the comma. Wonderful for describing, listing and linking, but left unchecked can overtake a sentence. Though I lack confidence with the comma. When and where do I apply? It’s a struggle. Punctuation marks are akin to foreplay. Done well, they can be amazing. Too little, too much, and well…
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
Every book assigned. I was a terrible student. I read for pleasure. My mother’s books and whatever was lying around the house. As a teen, I read the North and The South, by John Jakes, for fun. Who was I?
But never remember reading an assigned book. Pure rebellion, because I love to read. Though if I did, I skimmed it. I have a faint memory of reading The White Mountains (The Tripod Trilogy) and The Boxcar Children. But human memory is untrustworthy and fallible, and I am old. So everything I said may be inaccurate.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
My mirror. Shows me what I am.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
Embrace the struggle. It's critical to the mastery of your existence.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Without question, both. No one reads anymore (exaggeration), and making a living as a writer is difficult. There are other ways to survive. Unless you're a writer, then a well-crafted sentence is akin to adrenaline. It’s essential to your survival, and its absence will bleed your soul.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Not developing your own voice.
It’s something no one else has. Don’t mimic your favorite writer. Honor them with your interpretation of the world.
Being too rigid.
If you can’t set aside time to write, don’t worry. Write when you can. If you try to force your writing, you may struggle. The human mind is fickle and moody. Your job is to recognize your personal window. It’s not every day between noon and when your kids get home from school or whenever a blog on the rules of writers says it should be. It’s on your time. Cultivated from your emotions and experiences.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Consciousness. A speck of dirt on the floor can distract, which sends me into a cleaning frenzy. And I’m not a cleaning fanatic, but opportunities not to write are abundant, taunting and self-protective. If you don’t write, you can’t submit. No submissions mean no rejections.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
If I allow myself or find the opportunity to read, never. Finding the time is like catching a high-speed train. Life never slows. I need to do better.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Hard to say. Empathy is essential to translate an individual's thoughts and feelings. Putting yourself in the characters’ place helps your writing resonate. Less empathy, less resonance.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
No literary friends. Please, don’t judge. I’m bearable. I have my professional relationships in the medical world, but not elsewhere. The writing community is amazing, vibrant and supportive. But online, there’s a shared misery. Proclamations put forth into the social sphere. Hardships, bemusing. The following and unfollows. The announced breaks from the platform. How many words did I write today? What editor screwed me? Do we cancel the unpopular, provocative or triggering?
I just can’t. Do assholes write and publish? Yes. Assholes exist everywhere. Our literary shelves will be bare. Write or say something controversial and divisive. That’s okay. I can decide for myself something's value. Have you read the bible?
After I read good writing, I want to become a better writer. It’s obvious I need a mentor. Having someone who has walked in your shoes. The tricky part is allowing that mentor into your life. The pairing needs to be organic and through the growth of my writing. Searching is counterproductive. Someone will enter my life. My doors open.
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?
Being a short story writer, I want each story to stand on its own. At baseline I’m erratic and just write. In my first collection, faint whiffs of a progression exist, though subtle. Even if I tried, I don’t think I could write with the underlying premise of forming connections. It makes me wonder, will others see a connection? Or gobbledygook.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I felt vulnerable. Someone may read my work. It made it more difficult. I’m a hack on borrowed time with tremendous self-imposed pressure. Half of my life has passed. Being published made me realize I have more to do. Yikes.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Thinkpad X1 Carbon. Best laptop keyboard, tactile response and key carry for a writer. [Mic drop]
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Herman Melville. Moby-Dick refuses to die. But who am I to judge? The book can be soul killing and a great American novel. I’ll try again to digest the endless whale facts. Though, I’m still contemplating.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
My father is smart and difficult. Once I scribbled words on scrap paper. He picked it up, read it. He said, “It’s good.”
His words carried me for decades. Still carries me today. It’s the only praise I remember. That's power. A unique power from language. Dysfunctional.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
For me, The Stand from Mr. King. Though others will balk.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A fox. As an emergency room nurse, quick thinking and adaptability are key. Two attributes that serve my writing. And I work nights, Foxes are nocturnal.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
A half dozen unfinished stories on paper. In my head, endless.
What does literary success look like to you?
Is there such a thing? If it compromises my drive, I’ll pass. I have enough problems.
What’s the best way to market your books?
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I’ve done it once. Roach. A short on domestic violence with a twist. It’s my favorite story to date. I believe I captured something, though I’ll never capture the full emotional breadth and strength of a woman. Dare I try.
I never thought about writing from the opposite sex until you mentioned it. Now I’m ruined.
What did you edit out of this book?
This book (Short-Story) collection was my unofficial writing course. Much needed to be edited out, I’m sure. I did my best to condense dialogue, flowery prose. On a podcast, I read a story from the collection after I submitted the final draft. In the future, I may record everything. When read out loud, as an author, you gain a different perspective.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Funny you should ask. The short answer. I have a day (night) job.
Long answer. I tried the maladaptive ways to exist. They did not serve me well. To those in my inner circle, I was a storyteller. And several of those individuals told me I should write my experiences on paper. I am lucky; I have a career as a nurse, but writing was my genuine passion. An anchor for normalcy. When I can’t write, I become unhinged and self-destructive. I spent a lifetime as an emergency room nurse. During my struggles, I was trying to understand who I wanted to be. I am both a nurse and an author. Not writing isn’t an option.
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