Questions for Writers, Part 3

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison. This book was one that really grabbed me by my shoulders and wouldn’t let me go. It’s haunting, it’s beautiful, it’s twisted, and I just adored it.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

I think if the reader wants to be “cared for,” there are plenty of books out there to serve that need. I would hate that anyone would pick up one of my books when they need comfort and reassurance. My books do have that, in some measure, but that’s not the point or the purpose of my work.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot or avatar?

A sleepy orange tabby cat. It will get the job done. But it’s nap time first.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

The truth.

I have written about real figures in my life without the pretense of fiction. I tried my best to represent them fairly. However, in my writing, I also subscribe to the quote that if they wanted better treatment in fiction, they should have acted better in the real world.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh, thousands.

The thing about poetry is that, if I abandon a project, there’s always a chance that something I wrote for it can be used in a different collection. It’s quite common for me to cannibalize my poems for other works. When something can’t be reused, it ends up somewhere in a dusty corner of my computer. It’s always there. It’s just not moving forward.

Besides, I might come back to it one day. Who knows?

What does literary success look like to you?

I’ve had many ideas about what literary success looks like. Many. But right now, I think it looks like pulling your book out of a box and seeing it for the first time in paperback, flipping through it, and feeling like you accomplished a great task.

What’s the best way to market your books?

Beats me.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

It depends on what I’m writing. I tend to write a lot of contemporary poetry about my own experiences. Which don’t require much research. When I do need to research something, I try to put a time limit on it. One minute I’m looking up something relevant to my book, the next I’m looking at a website about penguin eating habits.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Yes. When you truly hit the feeling of creative flow, there is nothing more spiritual than anything I have experienced.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

I don’t find this truly difficult. This is probably because I tend to view people as people before their gender identity or expression comes into it. So when I sit down to write a character, it’s not chasing after the liquid ideals of masculinity or femininity. It’s more solid traits that define who they are and what they want.