September 15, 2011
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a writer?
Working around my Pug, Buttons. He’s insane. He’s a self-appointed guard dog, and wants to protect me from airplanes. Also seaplanes. I live in Seattle. How many seaplanes do you think fly over my home on any given day? At least five or six. And as for airplanes, well, Seattle is Jet City, right? Though not every craft traveling along the flight path is a Boeing. Buttons is equally agitated by Airbus or McDonnell-Douglas.
A Pug with a fear of aircraft. How does this fear express itself?
With constant angry barking, and occasional mad circuits in and out of my writing studio. He’s a speedy little thing, let me tell you.
Does your dog feature in any of your stories?
Not that dog, in particular. There’s a dog in the last story who’s as badly behaved as the family that owns him.
I like badly behaved families, and so do you, judging from a number of other stories in the collection.
Well, as I love to say, I put the “fun” in dysfuctional.
What’s the oddest situation you’ve thrown your characters into?
Hm. Let me think. Well, one woman is visited by her mother’s ghost. The ghost moves in for a while, and proves to be even more annoying than she was in life.
They had a rocky relationship, your character and her mother.
Was this story based on your own life?
Not exactly. My mother died almost ten years ago and she does visit me, but usually in dreams and sudden memories, not as a definite presence.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes and no. As a young child, I was certain that I’d become one. Then I fell into the piano (not literally). That was the new career choice. I wanted to get to Carnegie Hall and all that, and spend hours and hours a day practicing. Which drove my family insane, by the way. I lived that dream all the way through my junior year of high school. Then my sister moved back in with me and my mother. She was at a hard point in her life, and didn’t exactly suffer in silence. We had to share a room. There was a lot of stress. I had to choose between keeping up my grades in school and the piano. There just wasn’t enough of me to go around.
Then what happened?
I met my future husband and we ran away to Colorado.
You ran away?
We ran off, I should say. I bagged my plan to go to college, though I eventually did. We worked lousy jobs. He built roof trusses. I cleaned motel rooms. Then I went to community college to learn how to be an auto mechanic.
Are you kidding me?
Nope. I rebuilt an engine, all by myself. And a carburetor. And replaced a few brake pads.
Do you still work on cars?
No. But I know exactly how to talk to the guys that work on mine.
So, when exactly did you decide to become a writer – again?
At the ripe old age of 27. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Economics, followed a master’s in Business Administration.
You said once that writers are idiots. Can you elaborate?
I said that writers are sort of idiot savants, in that we enter into a world where our failure rate is extraordinarily high, and yet we sometimes produce brilliant results. I think any artist is like that. No one does this for the money – unless you’re Stephen King, maybe. I’m not saying you can’t make money writing literary fiction, but you certainly shouldn’t count on it. It’s both a labor of love, and an unavoidable obsession.
So would you say this is a life that chooses you, rather than the one you choose?
One that chooses you, most definitely. You realize one day that you have no choice but to write. That it’s the only way to tame the chaos in your head.
Would you care to offer any advice to someone who wants to enter the writing life?
Sure. I’d say try to talk yourself out of it, and when you can’t, join the rest of us who live by the word and walk on. We welcome you!