Now, if that title doesn’t scare you, it should – the venue can be a crowded one. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on The Flying Pony Blog about my writer’s process. Pamela Cook knows how to ask some great questions. Welcome to Part 1 of that interview.
What activities (other than writing) get your creative juices flowing?
For me, creativity has a lot to do with carving out a space where silence reigns. I need alone time and quiet to allow my thoughts to percolate.
Walking has always been the time when I mull over ideas. For years, I thought of this as nothing more than daydreaming. When I started to write my first novel, the daydreaming became extremely focused on a group of characters (and, believe me, I’m still asking myself where they came from) and how they might handle being tossed into a variety of situations.
On a more abstract scale, I think my creativity comes from my curiosity. I’m always wondering – what if? This trait has made me a people watcher and every observation becomes more grist to the mill.
What kind of writing routine do you have – disciplined or undisciplined, regular or irregular, focused or easily distracted?
If I’m on my own, I can write twelve hours at a stretch. I might spend the whole day in my PJ’s, eating over the keyboard, and forgetting to allow the elderly dog out until she makes her needs rather vocal. I wouldn’t say this equals discipline; it feels more like obsession. But it is what it is.
When I’m alone, I feel extremely focused. I can dislike the dog, the ringing of the phone, and the need for bathroom and stretching breaks. When other people are around it’s easy to get distracted, but I am also thankful for a good reason to quiet the voices in my head for a time.
When I’m actively writing, I write every day. But I can’t maintain a pace like that for too long. I need extended breaks every couple of months. It’s necessary to leave the seclusion of a cabin by the lake and go out into the world, if for no other reason than the need for new material.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so what do you do about it?
I am happy to say that since I started writing fiction, I have rarely had a serious writer’s block. I did have the experience many times with academic writing, and it was excruciating.
When I get in a tangle with fiction writing, it’s because I’ve strayed off course. I’m zipping along the writing freeway and whiz down an exit ramp I wasn’t planning to take. The writing bogs down. I have to stop and figure out where I’ve ended up in terms of where I thought I wanted to go. This doesn’t always mean retracing my path – sometimes it means rethinking what has come before or what I have envisioned for later.
Which aspects of the writing life do you most love?
Hands down, I love the experience of being caught up completely in the lives’ of my characters. Having them become so real to me that I can’t let them go. I actually dream about them. They become part of my life. When this happens, the writing flows. It’s as if I can’t take down what the characters are doing and saying fast enough. I hear their voices. I know what they would say in a given situation and how they would say it.
What books and writers have most influenced your own writing?
I’ve been influenced by Canadian authors whose novels are firmly rooted in a specific place. Reading these novels gives me a felt sense of what it would be like to live in that area of my country. There is also the sense of understanding how people are formed by that particular environment. Some of my favourite Canadian authors who write in this way are: Alistair MacLeod (Cape Breton), Eden Robinson (Pacific Coast), Timothy Taylor (city of Vancouver) Jane Urquhart (rural Ontario), Elizabeth Hay (city of Ottawa, the Canadian North and the prairies), and Wayne Johnson (Newfoundland).
I think it has been this influence that made me strive to provide the readers of my novel with an understanding of what rural life, on the Northern part of Vancouver Island, on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, might be like and how that geographical area could affect the people.