How has your upbringing influenced your writing? My mother was very strong and very creative. Through the last years of her life people started calling her a “character.” She never let details stop her from doing what she wanted. Though I do not want to follow in her footsteps (she was a Pro-Life activist, and could get into a good deal of trouble at times.) I do feel like her example of spending time away from us kids to do something she thought was important probably influenced the way I began to make my writing a priority while I still had kids at home. Especially in the beginning, there was a lot of guilt for taking time away from my family to do something that was just for me. Now I remember her and believe I am showing my girls an example that will serve them when they are adults.
Both of my parents encouraged college, both by example and by letting us know they expected us to go. Our house was filled with books and they each read all the time. My father was big into science fiction and horror and that was what I grew up on.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? With Edgar Allan Poe. I would memorize stanzas from “The Raven” and loved the way those lines made me feel. His stories wrapped me up so completely and set up a very specific mood. I wanted to be able to create a world and make people feel in that specific way.
What inspired you to write your first book? My first book was all about a boy who was born in Argentina in the 1970s. Since I started dancing the Argentine Tango and reading about the country and its culture, I found out what an interesting place it was. The history is exciting and there are some awful parts as well but so much to learn from all of it. These are people have all-night bookstores and this rich literary tradition producing writers like the well-known Julio Cortazar and Jorge Luis Borges plus these fun weird ones like Roberto Arlt.
There is also a dialect they call Lunfardo which seemed very novel when I first learned about it. History is evident in everything from their architecture to their dances to the many languages that are spoken and beyond.
I used the main character to explore some of the more fascinating aspects of that culture and history and also used the setting as an excuse to rewind my life and see what I might have done differently if I had made different choices as a young person.
That was my first book, so mostly it was a big excuse to fantasize and do research!
Who or what influenced your writing once you began? Since I have been writing forever–even if early on I had no intent to publish–I have always been thoughtful about what other writers were doing, about what I liked and what I wanted to see and didn’t. A few things that are important to me come through in my writing. I don’t think I am wholly original, but I do like to think I don’t fit any specific mold that is easily categorized—at least this is what I am shooting for.
Labels bother me a great deal. I know they are important for various reasons, but something I continue to play with is the sense that people are always looking for ways to put each other in boxes, close the lid and stop being thoughtful about each other. I loved how the erotic activity in Anne Rice’s books had no labels at all. And since there were no labels there was no judgment. The freedom I found in these books and the example was very liberating in ways that went way past sexual topics.
There are authors I admire who I use as examples to keep me motivated and moving forward, or who have shown by their example that following a different path can be fun. Junot Diaz and Marco Vassi are two who are just outrageous and seem to go outside what I am comfortable reading so I try to do the same as a writer.
Since I have been working on promotion I have answered this question in so many different ways. I feel like I have mentioned Priscilla Long at least a hundred times in the last week alone. Her book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor contains the instructions and techniques I still work with and continue to try to improve. I have posted two reviews of that book on my website as well as Amazon and goodreads so I won’t go into everything here, but that book went a long way to showing me what was possible. Anyone who has worked with her or read that book will see the influence in the way I worked my sentences, the fragments I used and the way I used language in general.
With or without her I would be writing, but I doubt I would have all the tools that I use this early in my career. Finding that book saved me quite a bit of time, and her friendship and especially the specific encouragement she gave me when Sex and Death was in a very early stage meant a great deal. At that time I was worried that I wasn’t “literary enough” I wanted to be respected as a literary writer with a literary book. At the same time, I wanted to write all sorts of fun sexy stuff and ask all the great questions that erotic literature does. I wanted to make points, and make whoopee at the same time, but I had not found hardly any other writers who had done what I was trying to do. I wanted to know if what I was doing was even working.
She read my early pages which, yes, still needed lots of work, and said, “Absolutely this is literary!” I could have cried.
The label doesn’t matter, what mattered was the validation and encouragement. She told me that what I was doing was worth working on.
Along those same lines, Leslie Fiedler’s book, Love and Death in the American Novel is where I got the title. An editor I worked with mentioned that the topics I was working in my book reminded her of what he said in his book about what men are doing were literature. I read that book and was blown away. Here was someone with the book smarts to say what I wanted to and went even farther.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? Balance, and keeping on even when I don’t have the energy for it. When I am writing the first draft, and mostly through the second as well, I am all energy, loud music, contemplation and living inside this world I have created. Then comes the time to look at what I have and start working on those places that don’t make sense, that confuse the reader, that need to come out or be reworked. I use a different sort of energy for this and it is often hard to give up the fun of starting something new to buckle down and just work.
I also tend to rework the last stage of a piece to death. I could have been stuck in editorial mode forever if we had no had to launch the book in September. So once I get in a certain mode it is hard to switch out of it, even when that is required.
Balance seems to be a challenge for me in everything.
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Genre – Literary Erotica
Rating – X