What does your writing space look like?I LOVE my writing space. It has evolved over the years from a corner of the kitchen table to a converted store room in the garage to a proper room with lots of natural light, carpeting, and grown-up furniture. I even have glass doors onto a private patio and garden. I work on a laptop so I never sit at my desk. I have a nice cushy chair and ottoman in a corner that takes in the mountain view. It's a pleasure to go to work in the morning. I'm very fortunate.
What is your writing process? Do you outline from start to finish or just write and see what comes next?
I have to start with something. I know some writers just sit down and start on page one, but I can't do that. I need a story idea, some notion of how to structure it, and I need the main characters. I usually write life histories of my main characters, even though I won't use that in the book. Sometimes I even sketch my characters. Anything to make them as rounded and real as possible. Details are what make characters come alive on the page, so I spend a lot of time getting to know my characters. The pay-off is that at a certain point they start helping to write the story. A situation comes up and I know that this character simply will or will not do a certain thing. That's when the writing really gets interesting. Do you have any writing rituals?
I always grab a cup of coffee on my way into the studio every morning, but I would think that's pretty universal. There's nothing that I would call a ritual, but I do have certain habits. I write all morning and then, in good weather, I force myself to take a walk. But I walk with a tape recorder. When I'm immersed in a book I'm writing it 24/7. I dream about it and think about it all the time. I also drive with a tape recorder. At first I tried to drive with a notebook, but that is a very very bad idea.
Is there anything you know now, as a published writer, that you wish you knew when you first started?
I am amazed to learn that it takes almost as much time and effort to promote a book as it does to write it. Since The Book of Unholy Mischief was published last December I've been on tour all over the U.S. and in Europe twice. I've also done a ton of interviews and written dozens of promotional pieces for magazines and websites. I squeezed in a research trip to India so I could finish my next book and it felt like a vacation.
These days, authors are expected to help promote their books. A lot of writers balk at this, but it's a losing battle. Publishing is a very competitive industry and authors who will not pitch in are going to get left behind. That's just how it is.
Did you know that your novel was going to be called The Book of Unholy Mischief when you were writing it or did that come later?
I actually self-published this book under the title Bones of The Dead. That title was taken from a line in the book: "Civilization is built on the bones of the dead." But my agent felt the title should be changed for a number of reasons and one day she called me and said, "How about The Book of Unholy Mischief?" Well, that's the title of the first chapter. I wrote it so it sounded OK to me. I said sure, she said fine, and that was that. That was the day I learned the meaning of a New York minute.
Who did you dedicate this book to and why?
I dedicated The Book of Unholy Mischief to teachers because one of the main characters is a kind of teacher/mentor, and the theme is the importance of passing on knowledge. Without teachers civilization would grind to a halt. Knowledge grows exponentially and passing it along is how we've been able to go from squatting in caves to sending e-mail. Teachers are the bedrock of society, and I don't think they get a fair shake. We give them our children and put the future in their hands and then we underpay them and take them for granted. It seemed appropriate that a book whose point is the importance of learning be dedicated to teachers.
Thanks so much Elle!