If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
RAE: Neil Gaiman, and I would serve charcuterie and wine, so we could eat slowly and have conversation without a goal in mind.
MARK: Adolf Hitler and I would serve death cap mushroom bouillabaisse. Okay, that’s too dark. Actually, let me go with Isaac Newton. And I would serve bangers and mash, with apple pie for dessert.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
RAE: I don’t find the writing process terribly scary… the worst is probably thinking that no one would read it; that it’s no good. That’s when I have to remind myself that I am writing for me, my own joy and my own pleasure!
MARK: Finding the time to do it - fear that it will never get done. I am not sure if this is the healthy solution to that problem, but I bully myself into carving out the time and try to block out the world so that I can progress bit by bit. It helps being stubborn.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
RAE: I weirdly love Jack Reacher – I love a serial character and I’ve been getting to know him since high school. But my favorite is probably Calvin, the boy in Frank Schaeffer’s ‘Portofino’. Having grown up in a religious family, I see so much of myself in him, and he is so damn funny. I have read that book a dozen times and Calvin cracks me up!
MARK: Chekov. In particular, his short story “The Kiss.” I first read it when I was in highschool, and though it was written a century prior to that, it so perfectly captured the feelings of a boy that age. It made me feel known.
What books are on your nightstand?
Lilith’s Brood – Octavia Butler
Broken – In the Best Possible Way – Jenny Lawson
Me and White Supremacy – Layla F Saad
Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe - Steven Strogatz
Two Kindle readers containing an array of books by Patrick Rothfuss, Ursula Le Guin, MARK Twain, J.F. Lewis, George R.R. Martin, Christopher Moore, and others
The Devil’s Dictionary - Ambrose Bierce
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
RAE: The ellipsis… it’s how my brain works. Never really a whole thought on it’s own… always a pogo stick jumping from on thing to the next, but always connected…
MARK: I wish I could say semicolon, because they seem so sophisticated, but I never know when to use them properly, so I’ll just say comma.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
RAE: I always read what I was supposed to… and then some. Even the driest, worst books … western Canada is full of months where the only thing you can do is stay inside and read books. Add to that a kid who wants to please the teacher, and no page was left unturned.
MARK: I know there were some I skipped out on, but I don’t recall what they were. Presumably if I had read them, I’d remember.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
RAE: The internet, 100%. I got to know Mark entirely online – through hundreds of instant messages and emails. We were back and forth close to a hundred times a day, I’m sure, for months and months. It allowed an immediacy and closeness that made Oregon to North Carolina irrelevant.
MARK: Rae has a good point on this one, but I would argue that the internet is nearly animate (or will be soon...). For me it would be the [Delete] key.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
RAE: It’s much easier once you start.
MARK: Writing is never easy, but is sometimes worth it.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
RAE: Writing energizes me, but the activation energy it takes to get started feels exhausting and overwhelming. I start feeling tired, and then get more and more engaged as words hit the page, even if they’re the wrong ones or I need to delete whole chunks. I love it.
MARK: Writing energizes me when I have the time for it. Editing is like trying to kill all the ants in your kitchen with a hammer - it is frustrating as hell and often does more damage than good.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
MARK: I am going to answer this like an engineer (because that’s what I am, really). The first trap I fall into is starting to tell the story before I have the scenes properly mapped out. I need a completed storyboard before I can start writing the story. Start with the key scenes you want to show and map out the rest before putting pen to paper (or finger to macbook).
What is your writing Kryptonite?
RAE: The internet, 100%. Instant distraction, time suck, brain numbing and addictive. Sigh.
MARK: Anxiety. Anxiety about anything and everything.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
RAE: Reader’s block? Like where I can’t finish a book? Sometimes… not often. Even if I skim the ending, I like to know how things end. I rarely go long periods without a book on the go.
MARK: All the time. My reading time is at the end of the day usually, and when work demands are too much I just don’t have the mental energy for reading. Especially if I don’t have my teeth into something good.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
RAE: Actually, I think do, particularly maybe with fiction? The pure imaginative creativity to weave and unravel a story… I think you could write an amazing story with vast imagination, without necessarily feeling passionate. It would depend on the type of writing, I think.
MARK: What about people who bury their emotions behind an analytical wall of science and reason?
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
RAE: Just Mark... and he makes me a better writer because he reminds me to do it!
MARK: My biological brother Vinny, and a dear friend Amanda. Neither of whom are exactly published (at least the way they would like). Both of whom are better writers than I, and both of whom directly helped me with the editing of this book!
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
RAE: I have a very clear memory of sitting at the dinner table and my dad teaching us “p” words – propitious and pulchritude. That’s when I realized how specific and strange and exotic words could be!
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
RAE: Probably The Princess Bride, which was written into a novel after the movie. It’s so fully realized, and has so much in it! I love that book – I have given away and lent more copies of it than I can count, and always replace it.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
MARK: Just one - a YA book I started writing with and for my daughters.
What does literary success look like to you?
RAE: To have someone read my writing and feel it, have it raise questions or conversations, not to just have it skimmed over.
What did you edit out of this book?”
MARK: Many letters and several chapters written by Vinny, my biological brother. Those chapters were beautifully written, but distractions from the main theme of the book.
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