Tell us about your lastest project.
My last novel is called “The Dark Lake.” It is the story of a woman who is trying to overcome addiction and alcoholism. She is trying to get her life together. After all, who wants to still be living with their parents when they are in their forties? She is going to therapy. She is looking for a job. She seems to be getting better but she keeps having these nightmares. The nightmares disturb her so much that her therapist wants her to deal with them, and to try and remember what happened the night of the party, the night that was so traumatic that it might hold the key to her mental illness and addictions.
However she can’t remember that night. She doesn’t want to think about it. She avoids thinking about it at all costs. But then they drag her car up from the bottom of the lake. “Why are they dragging her car up from the bottom of the lake after all this time?” she wonders. And how did it get there in the first place, because she can’t remember–she won’t remember.
Your first book sounds traumatic. How did you feel writing those parts?
Actually my first published book was “How to Play Chess Like an Animal,” which of course was not traumatic but quite fun. My second book which was also published by a small publisher (same publisher) was called “Ainsworth,” and was a young adult fiction that took place in the sandhills of Nebraska, an environmentally sensitive area that has recently become the subject of debate since there was an oil pipeline set to go through there. How heartbreaking it would have been to so many people who loved that area and grew up there, as I did–growing up visiting my cousins farm there.
It was my third book that was traumatic, “The Dark Lake.” The second and third books in that trilogy was even more traumatic to write, and it’s already written. I remember literally curling up in a ball and lying down on the bed writing that one. It felt like I had a big steel ball of pain right in my stomach. I have never gotten pneumonia in my life, but I got a severe case of pneumonia that took me out of commission for a month while writing books 2 and 3 of that trilogy, and I’m convinced it was from the emotional trauma. I had buried a memory that I didn’t even know I had! I thought, during the second book in particular, that I was making something up, but it turned out it was a real memory, just buried, and it came up through the writing. And it certainly wasn’t the memory I had expected, either. The first book in the series, the Dark Lake was actually quite easy to write, for me. As I wrote it, I realized that I had been in the process of writing it for twenty years. There was something so…traumatic about my high-school days, even though they were fun. A friend of mine who was also part of that time said we were all basically like combat buddies, and that was what made us so close. We had just done so much, so fast.
Do you have any quirks to how you write?
I have to be inspired to write well. If I am not inspired my writing is flat. So to get inspired sometimes I need the right music, the right environment, maybe take my laptop to an outdoor cafe and sit under an umbrella. I love the rain, so sometimes if it isn’t raining I have an app on my phone and I will put on the sound of rain. In order to write I have to be able to imagine very vividly. Sometimes I go back in my mind to places I’ve been or people I’ve known and they become so real in my imagination it’s as if I were really back there in certain places or with certain people. It’s as if I could literally look around and see things that I couldn’t possibly have remembered, that’s how accurate my perceptions become. Some of the books I’ve written are from places I’ve been as a child. When I was a child I used to stand there and just stare at the things around me and feel the sensory perceptions of being there as if I were storing it up for future reference. I remember doing that.
You mentioned writing stories when you were younger, do you ever consider writing them now?
I didn’t have the discipline to finish a novel, and most of the writing was very adolescent, a lot of poetry and short stories. I suppose there were aspects of my writing back then that are still visible in my writing today. I used to paint, and I remember an english teacher telling me that I write like a painter paints. The main thing I did though, as a kid, was read all the time, and the reading is the thing that has done the most for my writing.
What book do I wish I had written?
That’s easy. T.S. Eliot’s Book of Practical Cats.
What started you writing, if you remember and why do you write now?
I knew that I would be a writer when I was very young, and I think taking in the world around me, and being so mesmerized and in awe of it was part of that, although for a while I expressed that feeling through drawing and painting. The reason I write now is because I think I finally may have gotten past the thousand pages of crap that everyone must write before they finally get good. So it would be a shame to stop when I finally got good.
What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?
After I add the two other parts of the trilogy online or in published format to The Dark Lake, (which are already written) I will finish what I am currently working on which is a novel set in the chess world. I’m a tournament chess player, and am in the top 100 female chess players in the US. That world of chess players is funny, full of drama and tension and interesting. I’m going to set a love story in that world.
How do you balance other things in your life, chess playing and writing?
And parenting! My kids are 14 and 11. That’s probably the hardest thing to balance. The chess is easy, because I love chess playing, I guess I’m a chess addict. And my son plays, and is actually higher rated than I am, so taking him with me is easy. But my daughter has always wanted all my attention, and sometimes it doesn’t seem there are enough hours in the day. I find myself getting up at 3:00 in the morning to write. Chess tournaments are usually on the weekends, although there are weeknight tournaments as well. A typical chess game during a weekend tournament can last as long as six hours, and there are three games in one day, so there is no room for anything else, and my husband has to watch my daughter. My son will usually be playing too, and taking just as long as I do. During the week, the game has shorter time controls, so no more than three hours. I guess I have to squeeze the writing in when I can. Maybe just during the day when the kids are at school, or the middle of the night.