Author interview – Linda Legters

Website Pic1-2Linda Legters’ debut novel, Connected Underneath, is unusual in several respects. Its chief protagonist, Persephone, is a confused teenager whose life becomes even more complicated when her tattooing habit, which she pays for with sex, gets in the way of her love for her best friend, Krista. Meanwhile, Celeste, a wheelchair-bound young woman who lives nearby, is watching and meddling in other people’s lives. I’ve not read a novel like it, and although the writing was a little tricky because of its unusual style, it seems to suit the novel perfectly, as the characters collide with one another like pinballs. The book is available as an eBook right now, and as a paperback on April 2nd. (Just so you know, I know Linda and she gave me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.)

File Jan 11 Cover shot

GC: You’ve picked an unusual set of characters and story-lines in Connected Underneath. Was it the characters or their situations that developed first for you?

LL: The characters, definitely the characters. Celeste, for example, grew out of a childhood memory of a neighbor, and aspects of Persephone’s character come from the many wonderful and interesting but sometimes troubled students I have worked with while teaching at Norwalk Community College.

GC: Would you say that the overall tone of the book is dark?

LL: It certainly has some shadows, but there is also hope, hope that we can be more self-aware, more honest, and, well, more connected. The title of the book comes from the first line of Muriel Rukeyser’s poem “Islands,” which chides us in our thinking that we stand alone.

GC: How important is the location, a decaying upstate town, to the novel? Could the story have worked in a more upmarket place?

LL: I don’t think so. I didn’t want readers thinking about upscale solutions, such as therapy. Also, the fictional town, Madena, has been left behind by ‘progress,’ and yet maintains its struggle to survive and even move forward. At the beginning of Connected Underneath, the characters are isolated, and this parallels the ways the town is isolated, even though only a short train ride away from big cities. At the end of the story, Madena comes together, as do most of the main characters.

GC: Did you feel the changing points of view were a risky way to tell the story?

LL: In fact it’s always Celeste’s point of view, even as she describes others’ experiences. At first her information comes from what she witnesses or thinks she witnesses from the safety of her kitchen. Later, as her circles of contact widen, and her connection to the truth is on firmer ground, the story she tells becomes more and more accurate. In terms of the ending – which I won’t give away – we often imagine what moments like this must have been like for someone, and our imaginations can run wild in the way Celeste’s does.

GC: Your book is published by Lethe Press, a publishing company that specializes in books across the gender spectrum. The gay theme in the book is relatively minor, so would you describe this as a gay novel?

LL: I’m delighted Lethe Press welcomed my novel to their list, but, no, I don’t see this as a gay novel. Members of the LGBT community are part of the fabric of our lives, just as Persephone is part of Madena’s. A good friend, Dan Jaffe, who is also published by Lethe, and who first read this manuscript, appreciated the way it was not ‘one more’ coming out story, but instead showed Persephone in the throes of all-too-common teenage problems, of which her sexuality is only a part. Connected Underneath is also about parenthood, particularly single-parenthood, and about coming to terms with family dynamics, in all of its dimensions.

Thank you so much for chatting with me!
You can connect with Linda via Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.

 

 

 

Author Interview: Nancy Roman

nanacy romanNancy Roman is a debut author whose book, Just What I Always Wanted is garnering 5 star reviews on Amazon. I’d put it in the category of what some of my British friends call Hen-lit – like Chick-lit but for smarter (because they’ve been around longer) women.  It’s the story of a 50-year-old woman who decides she wants more out of life than her corporate job, and the results of her decision to quit work. One of these is that she ends up taking care of a very tough teenage girl, who changes all her plans. The book was an easy and satisfying read because I loved the characters. And the story didn’t end as I expected, which made it more fun. It’s not easy to write and publish a novel, especially while holding down a day job, so I wanted ask Nancy some questions about how she did it.

GC: This is your debut novel. Could you tell us something about how you came to write it?

NR: Several years ago, I wrote a short story, Aggie’s Genes, about an unwed mother in the 1960s. The story was told from the point of view of the child the young woman gave to her brother and sister-in-law to raise. While I was working on that story, the idea for my novel Just What I Always Wanted kept intervening. I knew I had something there. I started the outline as soon as I finished Aggie’s Genes.

GC: The story has several interesting and quirky characters. Which is your favorite?book cover final

NR: I’m partial to the narrator, Cynthia Breault. At fifty, she is determined to change her quiet, uneventful life. She’s smart and unsentimental and sees the humor in even the most dire situation. She’s the type of person I would want for a friend. (And I would want Carlos, the strange little dog, too.)

GC: If I traveled to your part of the world would I recognize any of the places you mention?

NR: You’d recognize Watertown, Connecticut, where Cynthia’s shop, Maya Maria, is located. There is even a store very much like Maya Maria. Cynthia’s house is modeled after a little house in Bristol I wanted to buy when I first got married. It was falling down, but it charmed me. The falling-down part did not charm my husband. It has been miraculously restored for Cynthia’s use.

GC: I know you have a very successful blog. How long have you had it?

NR: I’ve been writing my blog, Not Quite Old, for three years. I started it as soon as I finished the first draft of Just What I Always Wanted. Writing a novel is such a solitary pursuit – I love the immediate feedback and chat of a blog. You write a little something and right away, everyone is chiming in. So different from a novel, where you write for years and no one even sees it. Everyone just thinks you’re a recluse.

GC: Most authors these days have to do much of their own marketing. How important do you think your blog is when you’re marketing your book?

NR: My blog has been a fantastic resource for marketing my book. Over the last three years, I have made such good friends with many fellow bloggers and readers, and they have been amazingly supportive of my novel. And I post new material on my blog about twice a week, so that’s twice a week I can reach new readers with the link to my book.

GC: And how else are you promoting it?

NR: As a financial executive and a writer, my marketing skills are negligible. But my husband is a salesman (truly born that way) – and he’s helping me with ideas and marketing tools. And my friends are hosting book-signings and readings. I even have one enthusiastic friend who has started a chain letter – challenging five friends to read my book and post a review (a nice one, I hope), and send the challenge on to five more friends.

GC: Where can people find you online?
NR: I now have an Author’s Page on Goodreads and also on Facebook – thanks to you, Gabi, for pointing me in that direction. If your readers have suggestions and feedback, or if they want to talk about the writing process, I’d love to hear from them.

Author Interview: Catriona McPherson

CMcPI’ve recently been enjoying the books of Scottish author Catriona McPherson . Her first series was the Dandy Gilver mysteries, featuring an aristocratic lady sleuth in Scotland and the books take place after the First World War. Unlike Charles Todd (author of the Ian Routledge mystery novels) and Jacqueline Winspear (The Maisie Dobbs novels) which are set in the same era, McPherson’s heroine moves easily among the upper classes, and sometimes among the people below stairs. She’s helped in her detecting by a handsome young man called Alec…and occasionally hindered  by her husband, Hugh. It’s the tone of these books that sets them apart from the others. There’s a lightness to the prose like that of P.G. Wodehouse, and a self awareness in the heroine that makes her very credible and likeable.

Catriona’s last book, As She Left It, is set in 2010 and has us in a working class area of the North of England. The plot concerns the disappearance of a child ten years before, and the determination of the young  protagonist, newly-orphaned  20-something Opal, to find out what happened back then, as well as unraveling several other mysteries in her own life along the way. This was, in fact, the first of Catriona’s books that I read, and I loved it. It was proof that a Scottish writer doesn’t have to stick with a Scottish backdrop; the characters, language and plotting had me utterly convinced. This is one of the few mysteries I would read again, just for the pleasure of the writing. (see my Goodreads review here)

I contacted Catriona to ask her a few questions about her work.

GC: On checking out your bio, I found that you had a strong background in academia. What made you switch to writing mystery novels?

I did an MA and then a PhD and worked as a university lecturer for five years.  In that sense, you’re dead right.  But the thing is, I was a hopeless and miserable academic.  I loved my subject – linguistics- and loved teaching the students, but it wasn’t my world.  My PhD supervisor and good friend, Ronnie Cann, always said my thesis was as close as you could get to a science fiction novel and still be awarded a degree for it.

I had always wanted to write stories.  But for one, I thought working-class kids from small Scottish towns didn’t burst out and become writers.  And for two, when I told a careers adviser I wanted to write (I was fourteen), she scoffed and told me not to be so daft.  I was a clever girl, she said. I should stay on a school and make something of my life.  So I stayed on at school until I was thirty five.  What a chump.   

Moaning to a friend one night about how much I hated my job but how stuck I was (first in my family to go to university, parents so proud, all that) I tried to prove I had no options by passing on that careers adviser’s scorn.  “The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is write stories.’ I said.  ‘And since that’s daft, I’m stuffed.’

She didn’t even have to say anything.  She just looked at me.  The light bulb came on.  I resigned and started writing.  But seriously, what a chump.

GC: How did the character of detective Dandy Gilver come to you? dandy

CMcP: She arrived fully formed the day I started planning to write a crime novel.  I had to decide where she lived, what she was called and who her friends and family were, but Dandy herself just turned up. Where from?  The answer to Q.1 tells you she’s not me, right?  she’s posh, English, dark-haired and a dog-lover.  I’m unposh, Scottish, “blonde” and  – here’s the clincher – a cat-lover.  On the other hand, one of my favourite descriptions of Dandy comes from a Guardian review “brisk, baffled, kindly, heroic and – above all – very funny.” I’ll admit to brisk and baffled, and I aspire to the rest, so maybe she’s sort of me.  We’re both tenaciously logical and passionate about truth and justice too.  That helps no end with solving cases and with plotting novels.

GC: I would say that the Scottish settings of the Dandy Gilver novels add a great deal to the reader’s enjoyment of them. What made you switch to the North of England? Is that an area you know well?

Thank you!  It’s always a juggling act.  I want the books to be rich in setting, without that horrible info dump.  You know – “I’ve spent months finding this out so you’re damn well going to read about it.” 

The reason As She Left It is set in Leeds?  The University of Leeds was where I worked for those five unhappy years and I adore Yorkshire people.  Still miss being called “love” by strangers.   And the real-life incident that set the story going happened in Leeds: I met that little old lady, in her apron and slippers, looking for the party, and took her home. I should say, even though Opal’s house in the book is my friend Diane’s real house in Leeds, none of that stuff happened there.  But the bed’s real.  

GC: Opal, the main character (among several other memorable ones) in As She Left It  is a world away from Dandy. What is your favorite thing about her?

CMcP: I love Opal!   She has had a tough life so far but she’s not hardened by it or broken.  She’s got her tender spots – places she doesn’t go – but she’s fierce and brave and she cares about the people around her.  Also, I love her haplessness.   She’s like an anti-diplomat, charging in with the best of intentions and getting thing calamitously wrong.  But what a good heart.  It was very refreshing writing a character who’s never careful.

GC: I know you have a new novel coming out next week. Could you tell us something about it?

CMcP: Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses is coming out in the US on the 19th of November.  It appeared in the UK last year.  In it, Dandy is undercover as an English mistress in a girls’ boarding school in Portpatrick, where teachers are vanishing (five) and bodies are piling up (four).  That mismatch is what makes the number of corpses bothersome.

And I’ve just finished the edit of Dandy Gilver and the Reek of Red Herrings (trouble and strife in an Aberdeenshire fishing village) which is slated for June 2014 publication in the UK.

day she diedThere’s also the second in the modern stand-alone strand.  A follow-up to As She Left It, although not a sequel.  That one, The Day She Died, will be out in May 2014. It’s the story of Jessie Constable – a survivor – whose careful little life gets turned inside out and upside down by a sudden death and the appearance of a stranger.  I love Jessie just as much as I did Opal and there’s a gallery of secondary characters – toddlers to elderly Irish priests – that are now my friends for life.

GC: Will these be available in all formats?

CmCP: The Dandy books appear in the most traditional way: hardback followed six months later by paperback and (these days) eBook.  The stand-alones come out as trade paperback and eBook simultaneously.

GC: Now that you’re living in California, do you have any plans for a book set there?

Hm, it took me ten years after leaving Leeds to set a book there, so California might not figure very soon.  There is an idea for a mid-twentieth-century suspense thriller (possibly a series) but it’s the faintest whiff at the moment.  Like smoke from a distant bonfire. One thing I think I can guarantee is that Dandy Gilver will never get in a wagon and roll west.  At most, she might take a luxury liner to New York (how I’d love to do that research!) but I think Inspector Morse should stay in Oxford, Miss Marple belongs in St Mary Mead and Dandy Gilver should be tramping about rural Scotland in the plotching* rain.

GC: * I have to admit I didn’t know the word plotching, so I asked Catriona what kind of rain this was and here’s her answer: heavy, windless, downpour, plopping off leaftips and drumming on roofs! The Scots have a word for everything!

 

Hercule Poirot rides again…with Jeeves and Wooster

HPI read today on the BBC website that Sophie Hannah (poet and author of the Zailer and Waterhouse mystery series) has been commissioned by the author’s grandson to write a new crime novel based on Agatha Christie’s immortal (it seems) sleuth Hercule Poirot, probably best known from the television series starring David Suchet. From the comments I’ve read on the BBC’s website, reactions are mixed, and I suppose mine are too. On the one hand, it seems a shame to let the character disappear, but if the new novel doesn’t read like Agatha Christie, will it be as good? Conversely, would it be better not to attempt Christie’s style but simply use her character? Clearly the plot will have to be set in the past – there’s no way Poirot could be expected to grapple with the modern world.

A few months ago, Sebastian Faulks, (author of Birdsong, Charlotte Gray and Jeevesmany other literary novels) was commissioned by the Wodehouse estate to write a new Jeeves and Wooster novel in the style of their original author P.G. Wodehouse. Faulks has already written a hugely successful James Bond novel, Devil May Care, so this isn’t his first attempt at writing in a style other than his own. Wodehouse seems easy to copy, but in fact, his erudition and incredible knowledge of poetry, the classics and the Bible, which he uses in many a throwaway line, will no doubt render the job difficult. But I think I will give the new book, due in November, a try because I adore Wodehouse so much that any new offering is welcome. But if it doesn’t satisfy within the first chapter, I will have to abandon it. Here’s what Evelyn Waugh had to say about PGW: “Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.” Exactly. So I can’t have my memories of Wodehouse’s world sullied by an inferior copy.

Author interview: A.J. O’Connell

AJOConnellI’ve just finished, rather reluctantly, the second episode of A.J.O’Connell’s trilogy of novellas (available as paper or eBook), which began with Beware the Hawk. The Eagle & the Arrow continues from where our last cliffhanger ended. But the point of view in this installment is that of Helen Roberts, director of the Resistance, the secret government agency that our nameless heroine from the first book appears to work for. I say ‘appears to work for’ because nothing in this book can be taken for granted.

A,J’s voice here is pitch perfect, so far as I know, because I’ve never actually met the director of such an agency. But I was convinced by the crisp dialogue and the slightly world-weary but ever vigilant Helen who is landed with babysitting a former agent gone rogue and a slew of double-dealing colleagues that kept me guessing as I read. There is a problem with this book. We have to wait, now, for part three, which I hope won’t take long to write, because I have to know what happens next! And since A.J’s writing is becoming more polished as she writes each successive book, I think I’m justified in expecting a new one quite soon.

With this in mind, I had a few questions for her when I met her recently at Made in Bridgeport, a funky little shop in the eponymous town, where I’m sure agents of the Resistance have assignations on a regular basis.

1.So – when is the next book coming out?
I don’t know; I’m hoping for sometime in 2014, although I predict that this one will take a little longer to write because I now have to resolve the story I started in book one and the one I started in book two. At the moment, I’m working on another project, but I’ve sketched out some ideas for book three, and I’m choosing my new protagonist. (Currently I’m torn between two new voices.) [So frustrating! GC]

 180693542.      This is your second novella. What made you decide to write in this form? And is there a novel in your future?

I definitely never set out to write a novella; I just tend to write short, and at the time I wrote the first draft of Beware The Hawk, I was working as a reporter and because of that, I wrote very short.

Additionally, I was working on the project for a writers group that only shared five pages at a time, out loud, every two weeks. Because of my schedule, I was really only writing five pages at a time, right before the meetings and because I was reading them aloud, basically performing them, I always ended my five pages with a cliffhanger, like it was a radio play.

At the time, I believed that the manuscript was much longer than it actually was. I remember being surprised to discover that I only had 35 pages of the first draft. I always thought I’d lengthen the draft, but that changed when my editor contacted me about the manuscript for a series of e-novellas her publishing house was putting out.

As for a novel, yes! There is definitely a novel in my future. Lord knows, there are many, many novels in my past. I’ve been writing longer manuscripts since high school; my hard drive is full of them. Currently I’m finishing a second draft of a novel that I began working as part of a project for grad school. It’s very different from the two books I have out now, which is something I love.

3.      Your first book (Beware the Hawk) is set in Boston, and this one has DC as its background. Any reason why you chose these locations specifically?

I chose Boston because I used to work at a newspaper there. I was just out of school and had no car, and I spent a lot of time walking around the city and traveling on public transportation. I got to know the city pretty well. Chinatown in particular fascinated me. There was the sense that you could find all sorts of adventures there, if you know where to look for it.

Washington D.C. came to me as a natural setting because of the plot of The Eagle & The Arrow, but the problem with that was that I don’t know D.C. nearly as well as I knew Boston. I ended up asking a few friends who live in and near D.C. to read through the manuscript and tell me where I got the city wrong and how to correct it.

4.      Love your female protagonists. Are they modeled on anyone, either real or fictional?

Thank you! It’s a mixture, really. The first protagonist in the first draft of Beware the Hawk (written 10 years ago) was a young me, but when I retooled the draft in 2011, I changed some of that. I work as adjunct faculty in a local college and I incorporated several of the traits I see in my students into her and also made up some traits to bring her up to date.

My second protagonist, Helen, is more or less invented, but there are traces of at least two or three career women I know and admire in her. And, I recently realized that, subconsciously, I gave Helen my aunt’s apartment. Maybe because when I was small my aunt was the only women I knew who was single and had a career and her own apartment, and I was always drawn to that. There was a kind of power in her lifestyle and her apartment was a symbol of that power to me.

5.      Could you tell us a bit about how you found your way into this kind of writing style?

If you mean the thrillerish style, I blame that first writers’ group, the one that had me reading five pages at a time every two weeks! And also, I blame Michael Crichton because I remember reading Jurassic Park as a kid, and staying up long into the night and wondering “How is he doing this? I really don’t want to read about anyone getting eaten by a dinosaur, but why can’t I stop reading?”

Honestly, these books are a departure from my natural writing style, which is a bit slower in pace, but I like writing them because it’s a challenge to figure out how to break a short book into short segments that will (I hope) keep people turning  the pages.

6.      Lastly, Thanks for my Authorgraph.:)  How did you come across this way of ‘signing’ e-books, and is it complicated for authors to do? Click here to see it: Authorgraph from A.J. O’Connell for Beware The Hawk

You are quite welcome! I heard about Authorgraph last year, when Beware the Hawk was only out as an e-book. Instead of signing books, I was mailing signed Post-Its to anyone who asked for one so people could stick the notes to their e-readers while they read my book, and thus, have a signed copy. Another author saw this and sent me the link to Authorgraph. It was very easy: I just signed in using my Twitter account, uploaded my signature, and added my books. If a request comes in, I can sign a book from my smartphone and the signed flysheet will get sent directly to the readers’ Kindles, although I believe readers have to create an account to access those. It would be ideal if readers didn’t need a login and if there was an associated app, but I’m hopeful that will change soon. Honestly, the biggest hurdle is getting readers to try it.

A band in your bookshop?

 

Photo by Owen Benson

The Bookshop Band is a quirky British band who write songs about books which they play at author events in bookshops throughout England and Wales. For example, they’ve written songs about The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, by Alexandra Fuller, and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime walk by Ben Fountain, among many others.

They started in September 2010, in their home town of Bath. All three members are singer-songwriters. But their talents don’t stop there. Poppy Pitt plays the guitar as well as the occasional harmonium and ukulele for Bookshop Band. She fronts her own Bristol based band Poppy and Friends where she is accompanied by Drums and double bass. Poppy is also an artist and has her own art practice in Bristol. Beth Porter is the band’s cellist. She plays for a number of musicians, including Eliza Carthy, as well as her own band Beth Porter and the Availables, and string quartet The Stringbeans, with whom she also recorded for the BAFTA winning Eagleman Stag. Ben Please is a guitarist based in Bath, and is part of indie-folk band Urusen. He composes music for film and animation, including work on the BAFTA (2011)  winning animation The Eagleman Stag. He is co-founder of the Bath arts / music / poetry monthly The Bath Burp, has a linocut studio, and often works as a filmmaker in East Africa.

They’ve produced four CD’s so far: Travels From Your Armchair, with songs based on folk tales from around the world, And Other Dystopias, which covers dark themes in literature, the self-explanatory Revolutions, and Into the Farthest Reaches, which covers books about extreme people in extreme predicaments. They’re about to launch two more in December. I think any one of these would make a great present for the book lover in your life. You can listen to some of the songs by visiting their website. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook and see their videos at vimeo.

It’s the Place and the People: interview with Alice Mattison

I first met Alice Mattison several years ago when she was part of a panel of writers doing their best to enlighten some neophyte writers (me included) on ways to improve our writing, specifically when we had plot issues. Even when we peppered her with questions she was very approachable and so are her novels. She’s written six so far, of which the latest is When We Argued All Night, described by the New York Times Book Review as ‘a fine novel of a friendship that lasts more than half a century.’When I ran into her again recently, she agreed to be interviewed for this blog. I wanted to find out, among other things, why place and multiple generations of characters are so important in her work.

GC: Your novels have a very strong sense of place. Brooklyn is often almost a character in itself. Is place an important part of your work?

AM: I picture people in context, with a background, whether they are my characters or other people’s, imaginary people or real. I need to know where everybody is and what they see out the window. The places I’ve written about most, Brooklyn and New Haven, are places where I’ve lived, cities about which I feel passionate, but I like thinking about setting in any story, and trying to sense what it would be like for my characters to live in a particular place. I’ve recently written stories set in the mountains in New England and in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

GC: If so, do you have to travel to each place, or can you write about it from research?

AM: I write about places I’ve lived in or visited. I make up houses all the time but I don’t think I’ve ever made up a city—oh, yes, I did: Boynton, Massachusetts in The Book Borrower. I don’t think I’d set anything of length in a place I’ve never been, but a couple of times I’ve used research to write briefly about someplace I don’t know.

GC: Your novels often span several generations. Can you tell us why family histories interest you?

AM: I don’t always write about several generations, but I’ve done it more than once, yes. My grandparents were immigrants to this country. I don’t know much if anything about anybody in the family before them, but they were real and important to me when I was a child—even my mother’s father, who had died before I was born, and for whom I am named. My mother’s mother couldn’t read and write, and that is feels central for me: I will always be the granddaughter of someone who couldn’t read and write. She used to dictate letters that I’d write for her. My parents stories made a time just before my birth come alive for me. When I think about people like my family—even when I am not writing autobiographically, and I’m usually not—I have to include the older generations.

GC: You include politics and historical events in your books, with a particular fondness, it seems to me, for the 30’s until today. Why those years particularly?

AM: My parents were young in the 1930s. It seems like a fascinating era that I missed. I keep trying to get back and know what it was like for them—to see through their eyes. I love photographs from the thirties. I suppose life did not take place in subtle blacks, whites, and grays, but it’s hard not to think it did.

GC: Could you tell us a little about your latest book: When We Argued All Night?

AM: When We Argued All Night is the story of the difficult friendship between two Jewish men from Brooklyn, Harold Abramovitz and Artie Saltzman, beginning in 1936 when they are 26 years old, and ending in 2004, as Artie’s daughter Brenda and her partner watch Barack Obama on TV as he gives the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. The book is about the lives of the three main characters during difficult times—the Depression, the buildup to the Second World War, the McCarthy era, the Vietnam War. But even more than that, it’s about love, friendship, and the complexities of family life.

GC: Readers are always interested in the process of writing. I know you write in the afternoons, but where exactly do you write?

AM: I start in the late morning, but I rarely produce anything good until afternoon. I write in a small room on the second floor of my house. Sometimes I carry my laptop into the bedroom and write with it on my lap on top of a pillow, and occasionally I write in the attic. I leave my study when I don’t feel sufficiently alone there, when I’ve been answering too many emails and the room feels crowded with other people. Then the dog and I migrate elsewhere. It’s not logical, because I take my laptop with me and I can check email in any part of my house, but it feels helpful anyway.
GC: Do you have any writing rituals that help you get started or stay on task while you’re writing?

AM: No. I just keep going away from it and back to it until I can write something. I never stay on task. I turn away and back, away and back. It’s sometimes painful, but eventually I can write.
GC: What are you working on now?

AM: I’ve started a new novel and have also written some short stories, which are all about women at work. One was in the PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories collection of 2012; one is coming out in The Threepenny Review. Now and then I write an essay.

GC: You can find out more about Alice on her website  and she’s on Facebook. She also has a Facebook fan page

TwitFic via the Guardian – 21 authors try their hand at 140-character novels

Last Friday, the Guardian published this great inspiration for those of us with writer’s block. Even blocked, surely you can write a 140 character story, right? here’s the beginning of the article. You can see the whole thing here.

We challenged well-known writers – from Ian Rankin and Helen Fielding to Jeffrey Archer and Jilly Cooper – to come up with a story of up to 140 characters. This is their stab at Twitter fiction

Twitter View larger picture

. Illustration: Kelly Dyson

Geoff Dyer

I know I said that if I lived to 100 I’d not regret what happened last night. But I woke up this morning and a century had passed. Sorry.

James Meek

He said he was leaving her. “But I love you,” she said. “I know,” he said. “Thanks. It’s what gave me the strength to love somebody else.”

Jackie Collins

She smiled, he smiled back, it was lust at first sight, but then she discovered he was married, too bad it couldn’t go anywhere.

Ian Rankin

I opened the door to our flat and you were standing there, cleaver raised. Somehow you’d found out about the photos. My jaw hit the floor.

For David Lodge, Sophie Hannah, Helen Fielding and more click here

Looking for love in all the wrong places…re-post from Linda Howard Urbach

Seduced Again. How Scrivener Stole My Heart and Left My Novel in the Lurch

How could I resist reading this? I happen to love Scrivener, even though I don’t know how to use the extra fancy stuff in it, but Linda Howard Urbach, author of the best-seller Madame Bovary’s Daughter, has been looking for the ideal writing partner, and most of the candidates don’t seem to have been marriage material. Here’s the beginning of her article on Huffpost. There’s a link to the rest of it below.

It made sense that I would turn to software in my time of need. I was going through a very rocky time with my novel. I had fallen out of love with it. (I even hated the chapter titles.) I was lonely, desperate and needy.

I was not a complete ingénue when it came to software. I used Final Draft years ago on a couple of screenplays. But the relationship was confined to a lot of heavy tabbing that a screenplay format requires. (One tab for character, two for action, etc.)

I needed a more meaningful, fulfilling connection. Who or what could I get to help me with my novel?

I went on Writerstore.com. (What’s a nice writer like me doing on a website like this? Shouldn’t I be able to write on my own like Jane Austen did?)

Like Match.com I found all sorts of interesting possibilities… Read on here

Repost: Katharine Britton: The Art of Learning When to Breathe

I met Katharine Britton at a book signing for her first published novel, Her Sister’s Keeper, and was struck by her air of serenity, which was the more impressive when I read the book and saw that her characters have deep, not to say painful,  emotional lives. So when I read a recent post of hers about her writing process, I asked if I could reprint it here.

Katharine is  a member of the League of Vermont Writers and PEN New England. She teaches writing at Colby-Sawyer College, and is an instructor at The Writer’s Center. Her second novel, Little Island, will be published in Fall, 2013 and you can find her on Twitter and Facebook

I like her description of what she does in her spare time: When not at her desk, Katharine can often be found in her Norwich garden, waging a non-toxic war against the slugs, snails, deer, woodchucks, chipmunks, moles, voles, and beetles with whom she shares her yard. Katharine’s defense consists mainly of hand-wringing, after-the-fact.

Here’s the beginning of the article:

I like sentences. I like words. I have always liked stringing words into sentences, and then shuffling them around to see how the meaning changes. There is a spiritual component to writing. Stringing enough words together to create a novel that someone will want to buy is an act of faith.

The English word “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath,” and so I decided to subtitle this piece, The Art of Learning When to Breathe, because learning when to breathe was perhaps the most important spiritual lesson I have learned since pursuing a career in writing.

Anne Lindbergh describes the writing process so poetically in “Gift from the Sea.” She says that when one sits down to write, one must wait to see what “chance treasures the easy unconscious rollers of the mind might toss up.” Neither the sea (nor the page) reward those “who are too anxious, too greedy, too impatient.” This is wise advice. Writing, perhaps particularly a novel because of its length and complexity, requires…read more here