What am I working on?
Oh, I’m having such a great time! I’m working on a young adult novel called Pride that’s Pride and Prejudice set in contemporary Wyoming. My protagonists tend to be teenagers anyway, and so YA is a natural fit for me. Plus, you wouldn’t believe how well-suited British classics are to present-day adaptations. I mean, down to the very movements of the dialog. Sure, it’s different language, but you can say exactly the same thing. Plus I’ve set it in Jackson Hole. If you remember, Pride and Prejudice is a lot about class, and so Jackson is perfect because you have the well-off people flying in for vacation or they have summer houses or winter ski condos, and then you have the locals who can’t actually afford to live in Jackson. I’m thinking about developing a series called the Wyoming Chronicles. The girls’ YA novels will be rewrites of Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights, and the boys’ YA novels will be rewrites of The Island of Dr. Moreau and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide. And they’re so much fun to write!
How does my work different from others of its genre?
Now that is a good question. What first leaps to mind is that I have two major influences, the Western and literary fiction. The genre of the Western hangs heavy over life in the West, even today, and people still hold it close to their hearts. Literary fiction, on the other hand, has always been close to mine because I’m interested in trying to capture the subtleties of lived experience, two people in a room and the small violences and small kindnesses they do to one another. This is reflected in the two writers I admire most ~ Hemingway and Virginia Woolf. I love Hemingway because he’s our natural inheritance here in the West, and I love VW because she also tries to capture homely interiors and relationships. So I guess you could say that I write literary fiction but it’s setting of the contemporary West is unusual.
Why do I write what I do?
This question seems to imply a choice. I don’t think we have a choice. Sure, we are drawn to certain genres and types of writing, but that’s just it. We’re drawn to it. It’s inexplicable sometimes why we like certain things and not other things. Growing up on a ranch, you would think I would love the Cowboy Way and country music and horses, but I don’t. Or rather, I do and I don’t. I’m deeply ambivalent about it. I take to heart the advice that your best material is what makes you uncomfortable, what embarrasses you, what obsesses you. All that stuff and the underlying psychology fascinates me, obsesses me, because of course it’s the water around me, to quote David Foster Wallace.
How does my writing process work?
I avoid. I feel guilty. I think about it and cogitate and work it out in my mind. I avoid some more. I think some more. Sometimes the idea goes away. I have lots of ideas all the time, especially when I’m being productive, and so they’re always slipping away from me. But then sometimes I’m able to set boundaries and tell the world to go to hell and start writing. Getting started is by far the hardest part. Once I get going, it usually just flows. I’ve thought so much about it that it carries me along and it’s fairly final when it gets on the page. Sometimes stories will require major restructuring, but usually not. Novels on the other hand almost always need major rewrites. Which sucks. I rewrite as I go too. I always reread and edit through what I wrote the last couple of days before I start writing that day’s work. It helps with continuity and also helps the work improve every day. Once I have a complete draft, I put it aside and then reread it. Okay, to be honest, I reread it obsessively until I can’t any more. If I send it out, I reread it obsessively again. You know how it is ~ you’re trying to see how other people see it. Often, if I haven’t read something for a while, I get to thinking about how bad it is, but then when I reread it I go, “Hey, this isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was.”
The Cool People I’m Tagging
Rusty Barnes is an appalachian writer and an editor of Night Train and Fried Chicken andCoffee, among many other things, and he is the author of the flash collections Breaking It Down and Mostly Redneck and the novel Reckoning. I know from experience ~ he’s a great editor.
Patty Chang Anker is from NYC and is the author of Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave. Her blog is Facing Forty Upside Down and her work has appeared in Psychology Today and O Magazine, among many other great places. Oh, and she’s funny and a great Bread Loaf roommate.