My book Bias Cut turned out beautifully. Everything just worked. It sells well, it was a semi-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and it won a silver medal at the Independent Publishers Book Award. Something about the weird yet deep bond between the two main characters—practical, middle-aged Nicola and flashy, flamboyant young designer Laurie—has really struck a chord with readers and critics. I usually don’t enjoy rereading my work after it’s published, because the feverish editor inside my brain will always find things I’d change if I still had the chance, but I can happily reread Bias Cut.
What books did you love growing up?
L. Frank Baum’s Oz books were hugely influential in my early years. I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction: Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, John Bellairs, Diana Wynne Jones, William Sleator, David Eddings. Eddings lived in my hometown of Spokane when I was a kid. Even after his best-selling Belgariad series had been published, he still worked as a cashier at a local supermarket. My parents and my sister and I were all fans of his work; I think my dad asked him to autograph a book once while he was bagging his groceries.
What book genre do you adore?
When I visit a bookstore, I’ll hit the general fiction section first, then science fiction, then mystery. Those are the three genres to which I’m most loyal, though I’ll dabble in anything. My comfort reading these days has been Agatha Christie mysteries; I’ve read them all, but when I’m feeling bruised by life, I’ll curl up in bed with a mug of tea and reread them until the world looks better.
Are there any books you really don’t enjoy?
No. As a matter of personal preference, I don’t read many romance novels. I know there are many first-rate romance writers out there, but it’s not a genre I gravitate towards very often. By extension, even though I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, supernatural romances—I’m thinking of the Twilight books, though there are many other examples—are pretty much wasted on me. I’ve read Twilight, and I can understand the appeal, but it’s simply not my thing. If someone whose opinion I valued suggested I read a particular romance novel, though, of course I’d read it. There’s absolutely no advantage to being snobby about what genres you will or won’t read. You’ll just end up missing out on a lot of great books.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Real life and popular culture in equal amounts. I think I probably draw upon pop culture more than most writers. I’m particularly obsessed with the films, television shows, world events, and music videos of the 1980s. I was born in 1974 and thus was in grade school during the mid-eighties, which is really when my stylistic sensibilities began to form; I can’t stress enough how important Duran Duran videos were to my formative years. Eighties nostalgia directly influenced the plot of my alternate-history novel Lonely Satellite, in which the United States was almost demolished in a nuclear attack in 1984 and, thirty years later, is still struggling to rebuild. Lonely Satellite is bursting at the seams with vintage Cold War paranoia.
What marketing works for you?
I’m not a very good salesperson. What I am good at, however, is writing, so I try to make sure almost all of my marketing tactics are writing-based. I get a lot of readers through my personal blog, Preppies of the Apocalypse, where I post reviews and essays about various random pop culture topics; if people enjoy my snark-filled reviews of television shows and music videos, odds are good they’ll enjoy my novels as well.
Do you find it hard to share your work?
Yes! Absolutely! So very hard! The first person to read anything new I’ve written is always my sister, and I always get sick to my stomach waiting to hear her reaction (she is always gentle and supportive, by the way). It’s a thousand times worse when I share my writing with someone who isn’t, y’know, my closest blood relative. I try very hard to maintain a healthy sense of perspective and be open to criticism… but there’s something too personal about writing. When I share my work with someone who doesn’t respond to it in the way I’d intended, it’s almost a physical pain.
What movie do you love to watch?
Katsuhiro Otomo’s animated spectacle Akira was a life-changing experience for me when I first saw it in a movie theater in Spokane in 1990. It’s one of those films I turn to when I need to feel powerful and alive. It’s an incomprehensible mess in many ways, but it has this tremendous, dazzling energy driving it. Similarly, Joe Cornish’sAttack the Block is infused with so much vibrant life and heart that it always changes my mood for the better. Also, it’s endlessly quotable and hilarious.
How do you feel about social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter? Are they a good thing?
Social media sites can be great. They’re undeniably useful for networking, marketing, and connecting with readers. They can also be a lot of fun. I’m reasonably active on both Facebook and Twitter; Twitter in particular is an easy, fast way to make contact with me. Roxanne Gay had a great piece at Salon on the subject of authors and social media a couple of years back, after Jonathan Franzen made some statements disparaging Twitter, in which she stated, “Do what you like. Do what you want. Don’t stress. This should not be stressful. Social networking should not feel like a burden or obligation or something to be resented.” I think that’s a beautiful and comforting way to look at it.
Do you find the time to read?
Absolutely. Reading is non-negotiable. I don’t know any writers who don’t make the time to read—it’s ingrained in the writer’s soul, it’s a part of the job, it’s a part of life. In his book On Writing, Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Reading is never a chore; it’s a delight.
Will you write others in this same genre?
It’s entirely possible. Who knows? Genres tend to sneak up on me. I had no idea I was writing a mystery when I started my book Bias Cut; I just wanted it to be a story about the growing bond between two very different people, and as the storyline developed, they ended up solving a murder mystery together. Similarly, I worked on Charlotte Dent while assuming I was writing general fiction. After it was finished, the universal verdict from readers was that it’s old-school chick lit. This surprised me, but it makes complete sense: It features a young female protagonist making her way in a glamorous profession in a big city while finding a little romance along the way. Those are pretty much exactly the established parameters of the chick lit genre.
When struggling actress Charlotte Dent is cast as a leggy killer robot in a big, brainless summer blockbuster, the subsequent hiccup of fame sends a shock wave through her life. The perks of entry-level celebrity are balanced by the drawbacks: destructive filmmakers, online ridicule, entitled costars, and an awkward, unsatisfying relationship with the film’s fragile leading man. Self-aware to a fault, Charlotte fights to carve out a unique identity in an industry determined to categorize her as just another starlet, disposable and replaceable. But unless she can find a way to turn her small burst of good fortune into a durable career, she’s destined to sink back into obscurity.
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Genre - General Fiction, Chick Lit
Rating - PG
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