Tag Archive | writing novels

Author Interviews: On Writing

Readers talk about books. Writers talk about writing them.

Martin Amis says, “Literature is a war against clichés,” and he expressed this belief in his book, The War Against Cliché.

Fran Lebowitz exclaims, “Nothing lives up to books!”

Zadie Smith states, “A book is your best self.”

Jonathan Franzen‘s goal is to “take his experiences and share them with people.”

In the video below, these authors elaborated on their statements. Very interesting!

Enjoy! 🙂


Library of Congress National Book Festival

2014-08-30 12.33.33Yesterday, the 14th Library of Congress National Book Festival was a blast! This year, it was moved from its traditional spot on the National Mall to the Washington Convention Center, a huge three-story building with plenty of room for all kinds of programs, and proved to be a perfect venue for such an extraordinary event. You could see hundreds (literally hundreds!) of book lovers of all ages strolling around the hallways, carrying big green bags filled with free brochures and posters, and the books they purchased. The rooms where authors, poets, and illustrators spoke about their work were filled with captivated audiences.

I was lucky to listen to several writers, but I was especially impressed by Claire Messud, Siri Hustvedt, and Lisa See. All three are incredible writers and speakers.



Claire Messud said that some books she’d read in high school had a fireworks effect on her. Clearly, that’s what she’s been strivingClaire Massud in her own writing—to affect her readers the same way. And that’s exactly how I felt while listening to the opening of her latest novel, The Woman Upstairs, that she read to us. It sounded like a powerful free verse and yes, it sounded like fireworks!

The opening of this novel is a tirade of a 42-year-old elementary school teacher, a closet artist, who rants about her joyless, unappreciated, unsatisfying life, and she captivates your attention right away. But I’m not going to dwell on what the author said about this woman, because I’ll post my opinion of the book as soon as I read it (soon!). Yes, I bought it and had it autographed—yay! J  I’ll just say that Claire Messud loves ranters—disagreeable people, eccentric people, people with problems. She wants them to be heard, so she gives them a voice.

The Woman Upstairs is about someone who wants to be an artist and about someone who is an artist. In Claire Messud’s view, everybody is an artist, in a way, because every one of us has a creative artistic side—whether it’s cooking or building something or writing. But, unfortunately, “so much of our life never breaks the surface,” and that’s what she likes to explore in her novels—“the interior life” of a person. Intriguing? Yes!


2014-08-30 14.21.37Siri Hustvedt talked about her latest novel The Blazing World, which was nominated for the Booker Prize this year. In it she explores the problem of sexism in art, how a woman artist’s work is unappreciated and neglected mainly because of her gender. So when Siri Hustvedt leaned about the nomination for this prestigious award, her first thought was not about her own recognition, but the recognition of her protagonist—“Oh, Harriet will be so happy!”

Highly interested in philosophy, psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience, Siri Hustvedt brings these subjects into her work. “Where do we draw the line between ‘normal’ people and not so normal (with mental illness)?” is a question she keeps asking herself, and her answer is: “It’s all about how we manage in life.”

Her advice to aspiring writers: 1. No one can write well without reading. So read, read, read! 2. When you’re stuck, read a great piece by another author, and then do “automatic writing”—immediately! That’s how she overcame her writing block. After her first poem had been published in a magazine (1980’s), she wasn’t able to write anymore because she scrutinized every line she wrote, comparing it to “great literature.” Luckily, she took David Shapiro’s advice about “automatic writing” and she knocked off 30 pages at one setting!


Lisa See, whose two novels I reviewed in this blog, spoke about a person’s identity, the reason she writes about China, and her latest novel China Dolls.2014-08-30 15.05.19

“How do we identify ourselves?” Lisa See asks, and answers, “We identify ourselves by the people around us.” She has 400 relatives, many of them Chinese, many American, or mixed. So no wonder she’s influenced by her heritage.

“Art is the heartbeat of an artist.” And that’s what her writing and her books mean for her—they are her heartbeat.

Is it easy for her to write a book? No. Sometimes she spends long months in a “dark place,” trying to make it right. So it is hard. But she hopes that she’s improving with every book.

Her advice to aspiring writers: Writing is not a “one-night-stand” but “a long marriage.” There are too many distractions in your life that can prevent you from writing. So be passionate about it! Live in the clothes of your characters. Care. Write 4,000 words a day—every day! Or at least 500 words, but do not stop!

Well, what a better advice can you get?

I was absolutely thrilled by the festival. And I must say, it’s one of the greatest sources of inspiration for me.

Happy New Year, my friends!

2007-12-26 03.20.15Hey, year 2014! I’m welcoming you with open arms. I hope you will be happy to everybody!

The previous year was pretty good to me, in regards to my writing.

My first novel, Disengaged, co-authored with Cindi Rockett, was added to the Fairfax County Public Library and now four copies are in circulation.

My second novel, Without Thinking Twice, was chosen to be included in the Abbott Press 2013 honorary catalog, which made me proud and delighted.

On January 3d, Abbott Press published my third novel, A Measure of Guilt, a mystery, set in San Diego, with Nick Kirrov as one of the main characters who first appeared in Without Thinking Twice.

My talented daughter made a book trailer for each of my three novels and posted them on YouTube. Now, when I watch one or another, the memories of creating that fictional world rush on me and I feel exhilarated. Frankly, I don’t even think of my characters as fictional, but very much real. That’s why I don’t want to let them go, but bring some of them into my next novel.

And that’s why I’m writing a sequel to A Measure of Guilt, tentatively titled Trust Me, Kate. I’m currently on my fourth draft.

I also participated in NaNoWriMo and whipped out 61,000 words of my fifth novel, The Unknown. It was an exciting journey and quite a challenge, but I enjoyed the process immensely and someday I will certainly resume working on this book. Well, how can I not, since it’ll be a sequel to Trust Me, Kate? 🙂

So, like I said, 2013 was productive for me.

As usual, I made a New Year’s resolutions for 2014, prioritizing the publication of my novel #4. If I succeed, it would definitely make me scream with joy. 🙂

I wish you my readers a very happy, prolific New Year! 🙂


nanowrimo-347e908fcd6e84fe77f38fbc8b88bc6c[1]Twenty days down, ten more to go. I reached the required goal of 50,000 words yesterday. Yay! 🙂

It’s only half of the novel, really, although I haven’t even gotten to the middle of it. So I’ll have to write twice as much in order to have something to work with when I start my second draft.

I love to be in a state of anticipation. (And who doesn’t?) So it was fun to get to the computer every morning with no idea whatsoever as to what I would write about today (Where will my characters take me? What will they say? What will they do? How will they surprise me?), and then type the first few sentences of a scene and…keep typing for 3-4 hours, and voila! The scene is there, on the screen!

I wrote on average 2600 words daily, but today I…um…slacked and did only 500 words.

Well, there’s always tomorrow, right? I still have ten more days.

Author Interview: Francesca Segal

Here’s an interview with Francesca Segal, an award-winning author of The Innocents.

Although the author talks at length about her novel, she doesn’t give away too much. She lures the reader into her novel, instead. I personally want to reread it.

Ms. Segal loves Edith Wharton‘s work and says that her novel is a contemporary recasting of Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (hence the resemblance in the titles). I personally can see that: They both describe an upcoming marriage, as well as a close  community  with its virtues and vices.

What triggered her writing this particular novel? What questions, problems, ideas did she try to explore in it (and succeeded, I must say)? How was this novel received by her Jewish community in London?

These questions and many more Ms. Segal answers in this fascinating interview.

Enjoy! 🙂

Novel in Progress: Taking a Break!

2013-Participant-Facebook-Cover[1]I finished the third draft of my fourth novel and it’s still unreadable for anyone’s eyes but mine, so I decided to take a break from it.

Luckily, National Novel Writing Month is presenting me with this chance. Yes, I consider it a present. If not for this gift, I would’ve never put this novel aside, but kept toiling over it, even if hating it, some days.

Most writing instructors believe that a few months-long hiatus from your manuscript is absolutely necessary because your coming back to it will be quite rewarding: you’ll be able to see your creation in a different light, noticing the flaws that you’ve previously missed, coming up with ways of fixing them and improving your book overall.

And that’s exactly what I need right now. Not only because of the much needed hiatus, but also because of my plan to eventually write a sequel to this book, so I figure why not knock off its first draft now? I’m sure a sequel will help me with its prequel, i.e., my current novel.

It’s actually funny that just a month ago I didn’t even think about starting yet another novel until I completed this one and got it published, and now I’m ready to launch its sequel.

How do I feel about this new endeavor?

Very excited!

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, Nov. 1st, and ends at midnight on Nov. 30th.

In just 30 days, I’ll have to write at least 50,000 words. Sounds like a lot, but it’s not, because it’s only about 1,700 words a day. Easy! I’ve done more. (bragging…bragging…) 🙂

But of course, it’s easier to say than do, because at this moment, except for a general idea for my newest creation (and two main characters), I don’t have anything in my mind. So how do I execute this idea? I don’t know.

But! Since I’m an organic writer and never plan my first draft in advance, I’ll take my usual route—I’ll give the reins to my characters and see what they’ll do and say. Amen.

Good luck to me! 🙂

Author Interview: Patricia Cornwell

Here’s what Patricia Cornwell, the author of Red Mist, says about her research: She actually visited Savannah many times, as well as a prison there, where she talked to inmates and watched them in different settings (sitting in class, training dogs in the courtyard).

That’s why her writing is so good. The setting itself is a character, she says, which is true.

To other writers this gifted author gives an invaluable advice: Don’t give up!

Thank you, Ms. Cornwell! 🙂