Sometimes I am just blessedly overwhelmed by all the amazing people writing great books, and Gay Degani is one of those people. I hope you will enjoy this interview with her today.
1. Tell me about your latest project.
Since I feel as if I’m making up for lost time, it’s hard for me to say “no” to any writing opportunity. My suspense novel, What Came Before, came out this year, first as an online serial at Every Day Novels—a 1000-word chapter a day—Monday through Friday for fourteen weeks. Camille Gooderham Campbell, managing editor at Every Day Publishing, then created a gift edition hardcover, and now ebook formats are also available. Hopefully the trade paperback will be out soon. I’m working on the prequel, What Came First.
I’m also one of thirty-one authors involved in a writing experiment developed by Matt Potter at Pure Slush, titled 2014. His idea was to have each of us write one story to be read on a specific date for each month in print. That’s a total of 365 stories in twelve books!!!
I chose the 19th of each month for my contribution called The Old Road which explores the lives of several people who live in bungalows on the edge of a small city. Every monthly issue is bound and printed with a gorgeous cover. It’s also available in ebook formats as well. Hard to believe the editor deals with 31 authors writing
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
I have always read voraciously from Heidi through Great Expectations to Middlesex. I have always wanted to be a writer, scribbling a novel in the fifth grade called The Twellington Twins which borrowed from The Bobbsey Twins, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and of course, Little Women.
During an Apple podcast interview, Jennifer Weiner made some insightful comments about this. She believes being a “nerdie kid” who listened and observed other people to figure out how to fit in, gave her an advantage as a writer. This resonated with me. Perhaps the feeling of not belonging pushes some of us into books.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
I write every day, though now that my husband has retired, I’ve lost my office above the garage. Accompanied by Pandora set on Zeppelin, he’s been sawing, hammering, vacuuming, and drilling, so we can park the cars inside. I’ve moved inside (yay, air-conditioning) and set up shop there. I work on and off all day, every day because I find distraction can help me be more creative—walking away and coming back with fresh eyes. However when I have a deadline, I try to keep the seat of my pants in the seat of the chair.
4. Who are you reading now?
Reading in print: RK Biswas’s Culling Mynahs and Crows. On my Kindle, just finished Robert Swartwood’s Bullet Rain. And on CD, Fay Weldon’s The New Countess. Next line, in print Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin, on Kindle, Race for the Iron Throne by Dr. Steven Attewell, and on CD, whatever the public library has to offer.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
To Kill a Mockingbird, The Razor’s Edge, and Tale of Two Cities. Oh, and I can’t leave out Tess of the D’Urbevilles and one more, The Count of Monte Christo. They explore what makes human beings human. To co-opt Dickens, they reveal “the best and the worst” of our natures.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I’ve simultaneously incorporated both into my life.
“Building a writing platform” has been a big part of the fun. I got serious in 2007, my goal to write well and find an audience after years of striving, waiting, and giving up only to start all over again. I love the internet because it has made publishing my stories possible, and it’s through the internet, I’ve been encouraged by community, trained by experts (thank you, Randall Brown, Kathy Fish, and Michael Czyzniejewski among others), and been aided by the ease of online submissions (no regrets about the demise of most “No simultaneous subs.”)
As for writing, the challenge of learning the craft has been one incredible journey, and I’ve still got my traveling boots on. There is so much I don’t know.
7. What is a typical day like for you?
Wake up, make coffee, read paper, do the easy Sudoku and half the crossword puzzle (the husband does the other half). Boot the computer, read email and visit Facebook. Go to work on one of two or three different projects. Eat lunch. Take nap. Work some more. Walk. Make dinner. Watch Jeopardy and good TV. Back on computer. Bed.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
Combination of what I have in the garage and in the house with all the books in both places in one place again. Other than that, it’s perfect. Computer, sofa, a door that closes.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
I’d say the anonymous Kirkus Review I paid for!! My book isn’t a deep literary treatise and perhaps it was unwise of me to submit it for such a review, but my ego and all the many people who like the way I use language convinced me it that even though it’s basically a family-saga, suspense novel, it also has some literary elements. The review missed the things that work in the book (the sense you are watching a fast-paced movie, the identifiable characters, the suspense) and focused on the fact that it didn’t follow an expected formula (Kirkus calls it a thriller. I have never called it a thriller). The review made me feel like I’ve had my head up my butt for the last twelve years.
However, after stewing a while, I remembered the kind things many readers said about the book and decided to offer a counterpoint and publish it on my blog. I did not want to rant or complain exactly, but rather to address the points made by the reviewer in a calm and reasonable way. A few people who did like it took the time to rebut the review. Can I say it? It made my heart swell.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Never ever give up, find a way, everything works, even delaying the dream of writing. If you really want to write, you will. BUT keep in mind, nothing is easy. You need to be willing to fail, you need to write shit, you need to take classes, you need to read everything, novels, articles, newspapers, books on craft, poetry, A Whack on the Side of the Head, you need to have faith in the process because writing is a process. And if you do all this and more, you will be surprised at what you can do.
Gay Degani has published fiction online and in print including her short collection, Pomegranate Stories. She is founder of EDF’s Flash Fiction Chronicles, an editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and blogs at Words in Place. She’s had three stories nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. Her novel, What Came Before, was serialized online by Every Day Novels and is now available on Kindle and in print at Amazon.com as well BN.com.