Hometown: Houston, Texas, USA
Based In: Houston
Education: B.A. in English from Vassar College; M.A. in Fiction from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program
The Bright Side of Disaster
Everyone Is Beautiful
The Lost Husband
Ellen Clayton Garwood Creative Writing Scholarship
Vassar College Fiction Prize
Dolores Welder Mitchell Fellowship
Finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction
Favorite Read: Jane Austen’s Persuasion
Pet Peeves: Snobbery
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…Maybe a photographer. Or a painter. Or a collage artist. Or a sculptor. Or a maker of artist’s books. Or a clothing maker. Or a graphic designer. Or a quilt-shop owner. Or a sign painter. Or a line-dancing instructor. Or an antiques dealer… There are lots of things I love to do.
Author Crush: Right now, it’s Tessa Dare—a writer of historical romance. Her books are delicious.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book You’d Recommend: I love to read how-to books! I loved the book “Hooked.” And Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird is a treasure.
Up Next: St. Martin’s Press will publish my next novel in February of 2015, and then two more after that.
Think for a minute. What’s the earliest book-related memory that comes to mind?
I remember in Kindergarten, learning to read, and thinking, “This is really hard!”
How do you react when you find yourself stuck while writing a book?
I take a nap, or a shower, or a walk. I find that trying to solve a problem will only get you so far. Sometimes you have to stop looking for the answer before you can find it.
Where do you do most of your writing?
On a laptop at my sunny kitchen table. Or curled up on my bed under a soft blanket. Or down at our family’s beach house in Galveston, Texas.
What do you wish you had known before you entered the publishing world?
That the real joy in getting to be a writer is all in the writing. The rest of it can be fun, frustrating, or anxiety-producing, but that magic that happens when you see and hear those characters become real—that’s what makes it all worth it.
You’ve gotten lots of rave reviews for your books, especially Everyone Is Beautiful. Do you read all your reviews?
Not all—but I do read them. It’s fun to get feedback. Writing is such a solitary thing, and the gratification is so delayed, that it’s exciting to hear what people think when it’s finally out there. I’m lucky that people are mostly pretty nice. Sometimes I’ll get a not-so-great review that’s actually pretty thoughtful, and I’ll think, “Well that’s a good point.” I try to enjoy the praise and learn from the criticism—and then move on.
Do you believe in outlines?
I always write them, and I never follow them. For me it’s really important to think I know where I’m going. But once the characters become real, I let them take over and just go wherever they want.
You are extremely active on Twitter and Facebook, and even make videos that you post on your website. Do you think web participation is key in an author’s marketing?
I think an online presence can be helpful—as long as it doesn’t interfere with your writing. And that’s a big if. I used to keep a blog, but I found it too time consuming. I don’t make many videos anymore, either. I just found that when I was doing all that, I wasn’t writing fiction, which is what I love to do. My favorite way to be out there online is Facebook because it’s so easy and low key.
Is the published version of The Lost Husband very different from what you had in mind when you first had the idea for it?
The original version had much more about the husband—the one who was lost. In the end, my editor and I wound up deciding that the story needed to stay in the present and not dwell on things that had happened in the past. We took out a lot! I threw away whole chapters and didn’t look back. I’d never slashed a book so severely before—and I haven’s since—but I think it was absolutely the right call.
I was reading a laudatory comment that a book club member had made about your participation during a session. How can authors make the most of book clubs?
I just go and have a great time. I’ve visited many, many book clubs—both in my hometown and via Skype—and it’s always amazing. To sit with a group of people who’ve read your book and want to talk about it? It’s a dream.
What inspired you to write The Bright Side of Disaster?
My sister dared me! I’d just had a baby about 18 months before, and I felt like my whole understanding of what love is had been redefined, and I was bursting with things to say. And my sister said, “You should write a novel about being a mom. How hard can that be?!”
What’s the brightest side to being an author?
Getting to write stories. The writing is absolutely the center of it. Everything else is icing.
Most writers are known to be procrastinators. Are you one of them?
I only put off things I don’t want to do. I avoid anything that involves math or housework or going to the post office, but I never put off writing. Even when I’m not actively writing, I’m in a phase of writing—maybe just reading other people’s books, or maybe reading books about writing, or maybe thinking about my next one in a passive way, like my brain is a slow cooker and the story’s back there, steeping.
How can procrastination be conquered?
Only do the things you love!