Kit De Waal didn't start writing until she was 40.
Ben Percy began Writing With a Love of (Fictional) Wooly Underpants
I knew I had to have Ben Percy on the show because I kept mentioning his book, Thrill Me, and it's argument that genre fiction and literary fiction have a lot to learn from each other. Ben and I talk about how he began to study writing with a great love of fantasy and science fiction only to be told he wasn't allowed to write either in his degree program. As he studied literary fiction, he fell in love with character development and wanted more from the people he read about in books.
But he still wanted to read about adventures and exciting things happening in his stories. So a thought began to grow: what if the best parts of genre fiction – the wooly underpants and the chases and the racing plot– were combined with the best parts of literary fiction – the love of language and the deeply developed characters? Ben has spent his writing life since trying to find out how to write from the best parts of all fiction. This conversation was equal parts hilarious and inspiring, an ideal combination in my mind. Also, Ben has one of the greatest voices for podcasting I have yet encountered. It's a true shame that he didn't enjoy recording the audio version of one of his books... enjoy this voice on this show - you may not get it anywhere else... happy listening.
Jasmin Darznik knew she had to tell her mother’s story first.
On this episode, we discuss Jasmin’s second book, and her first novel. After the smash success of The Good Daughter, Jasmin turned to fiction in order to tell the story of Iran’s most famous woman poet. Forugh Farrokhzad’s short life takes her through many of the same heartbreaking obstacles that Jasmin addressed in her memoir, along with many new ones. This book explores what it means to be a woman and an artist in a culture where women were shut behind closed doors and expected to stay there by the political and religious regime of her time.
We discuss resilience, writing fiction about real people, fighting to live the creative life, and the importance of telling stories to bridge culture and time to build what we all long for: connection and beauty in the world. It is wonderful to discuss a book like this, one that takes a poet like Forugh Farrokhzad, a household name in Iran, and brings her story to a new country that has mostly never heard of her. Get ready to be inspired!
Before Me Before You sold 8 million copies, Jojo Moyes wrote three books that didn't sell at all.
Jojo Moyes wrote three books that the publishers rejected before she was published at all and 8 novels over 10 years before she had a hit. Listen up to this incredible conversation to learn why she wouldn't change a thing. Her perspective on the beauty of great success that happens slowly is one you'll listen to over and over. Let Jojo be your guide to never giving up on your writing. One of my favorite episodes so far.
Sometimes the hardest part about writing is having the guts to get started.
In a time where it has never been easier to publish a book with indie publishing on the rise, I still hear from person after person afraid to take on the title of "writer" for themselves, sometimes even after publishing several books. The statistics have reported that 4 out of 5 people would like to write a book, but far fewer people do. In this 3 part episode, we launch a new anthology, leap over obstacles, and talk about some truly amazing books.
Chloe Benjamin is equally adept at creating myths and busting them.
The Immortalists has enjoyed a tremendous amount of buzz, listed as one of the most anticipated books of 2018 on more than one list. This is the kind of buzz usually reserved for debut novels or novels from household name authors. Chloe is, instead, a second-time author following a first novel that sold well, but on a more modest scale.
In the publishing industry, like any other industry, there are many myths, and not just the ones that live inside of books. One of them is that you can't expect to sell a second book if your first wasn't a blockbuster. Chloe broke this myth herself with The Immortalists. We discuss this myth in this episode, along with many other things: our shared love of bathrobes and a debate about the advantages of executive assistant jobs while writing books.
Chloe is living proof that things don't always proceed the way "they" say they will. She's written a gorgeous book that deserves every bit of attention it is getting and I hope you leave this episode just as inspired as I was after our conversation.
Cecil Castellucci has been writing for young people for over fifteen years, has published a stack of books and writes an ongoing comic book through an imprint with Marvel. She knows the world of YA and gave me the lowdown on that world in this incredible conversation.
We talk about her latest book, Don't Cosplay With My Heart, which I loved and read in a single sitting. I expect you will, too. We dive into tons of hot-button topics in this episode: capturing the teen experience, why people are suddenly being accused of being "fake geeks" now that geekdom is cool, and the issue that's got a lot of people talking: sensitivity readers and what this means for writers.
If you've thought about writing for young people, or are working on a story for that audience, this is essential listening. And even if this isn't your usual genre to read, you may find yourself diving in after listening. This is such a fun audience to write for, and one worth spending time with. Bonus... you'll learn who the main character of Cecil's book is named after toward the end of the episode, something I guessed while I was reading and had to confirm. Happy listening!
Anu Partanen never planned to move to the United States.
She was very happy living as a journalist in Finland until she fell in love with an American, and ended up moving to NYC so they could marry and be together.
Once moving here, Anu became even more aware of the advantages her home country had provided: universal high-quality health care, childcare, maternity leave, elder care, and on and on. For the first time, she was presented with bills and policies that didn't make sense to her. As a journalist, she began researching the differences between the US and the Nordic countries, expanding her research to include policies in Sweden, Norway and Denmark as well as Finland. The result was the book, The Nordic Theory of Everything.
I read this book in late 2017, wooed by the topic of social change. I was blown away and immediately knew I had to speak to the author. Our conversation explores the potential impact on writers and people in creative fields and how the way the US treats people could be the reason countless people choose not to pursue a career as a writer. Thankfully, we also find hope in this conversation, as well as actions people can take (in addition to seeking Finnish citizenship) to improve life as a creative professional.
I'm so grateful to release this episode in the last slot of 2017, just in time for us to make big changes that support more and more writing in the New Year. Happy listening!
Everyone has heard the classic trope write what you love. In some cases, I have felt a bit bullied by this concept. "How am I supposed to know what I love most?" I have wondered. I think the best thing you can do to figure this out is to listen to this conversation with Mark Frauenfelder and listen to how he followed what was fascinating to him and wrote books and articles about these things along the way.
In this conversation we talk about the day job that Mark escaped to write and it is the worst day job for a writer I have yet heard of. In addition, learn about how Boing Boing was founded. The original office space for the zine version sounds like my version of heaven and I'm sure it will to you, too.
Above all, Mark is an incredible role model for making a living from curiosity, enthusiasm, and being willing to dive into a world you don't entirely know yet. His fascination with a variety of topics and being willing to write about them just because he loves learning is both infectious and a great example to the rest of us. If we follow his lead, I think we are in for a lot of amazing books to hit digital and physical shelves very soon.
A journalist and author of numerous non-fiction books on the Middle East, Malu Halasa has just published her first novel, Mother of All Pigs. Born in Oklahoma, her Jordanian Filipina heritage gave her a unique perspective from the beginning. After growing up in Ohio, she attended Barnard College in New York and now lives in London. From this vantage point, she's taken on the fascinating world of the Middle East and has worked hard to expand the number of voices heard from that area.
Throughout the conversation we explore the tricky thing that is "American Literature." When she first began working on this novel in the 90s, Malu didn't expect to publish it because there didn't appear to be a market in the states for Middle Eastern narrative. People were willing to read non-fiction, but not a novel. As she looked on bookshelves she wondered "where is my family story?" Luckily for us, she wrote it herself.
It is my hope that more people do the same. If a story is missing from the shelves, it doesn't mean it shouldn't be included. We need to challenge the publishing status quo by supporting fiction that expands our boundaries and helps us learn. I hope you are inspired by listening to this episode to think about what story you have to tell that isn't currently getting heard. I can't imagine how many stories we aren't reading that need to be read. If you have a story like this, listen to this episode and then write your story. We want to hear your story, too.
Sandra Scofield is like a warm hug from writing itself.
For ages, I've loved Sandra Scofield's The Scene Book with its reassuring composition notebook cover and its practical advice about writing great scenes. When I learned that Sandra had a new book about writing coming on, I knew I had to have her on the show. Her latest, The Last Draft, tackles that tricky topic of revision and polishing your work until its ready to be read by others.
I adored talking with Sandra because her approach is so generous and comforting to the writer. She grants permission to explore the world you want to build in your story fully and gently guides us through the process of working through your draft. Those who love analog and stepping away from the computer at points to reflect will feel at home with Sandra.
David Rocklin found a novel in a photograph.
While researching his first novel about the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, David Rocklin was struck by an image she had taken of the Prince of Abyssinia. The image wouldn't let him go and despite his hesitation and fear in taking on such an enormous topic, he wrote his second novel, The Night Language, anyway.
I am loving discussing how people incorporate history into writing and the ways that novels force us to look at stories different than our own and to do them justice. In addition, those curious about the publishing experience with a small press from the writer's side will enjoy this episode. (For a conversation with a small press, please check out episode 10 with Rare Bird Lit's Julia Callahan.)
Lisa Cron is a woman on a mission: she wants to help you write your story so that your reader is glued to the page from the moment they pick up the book. She's going beyond plotting versus pantsing to a new level of story analysis.
We dive into the WHY of your story, and what you hope to achieve by telling it. Lisa is not about the slow exploration and wandering through story options; she wants you to get to the meat right away. If you've felt frustrated and unsure of what the point is of the book you're writing, Lisa will help you plow forward. I can't wait to see what the fire she lights in this episode does for all you writers listening. Get ready for some jet fuel in this one!
There are genres and then there are subgenres. One of the things I love about speaking with writers across all types of books is learning about the complicated world their books inhabit. In this case, Piper Huguley writes historical black romance, and this sits inside the romance novel world, but in a completely new way.
I was so moved talking to Piper about how she focuses on an era that has been so glossed over, and tells stories that bring the people of the time to life, people who have been forgotten or ignored in our textbooks, and I know you will be, too. Enjoy!
Since writers can be a fearful bunch, I️ wanted Fran Krause on the show as soon as I️ saw his work. He decided to explore an idea he had to illustrate irrational fears. He started out with his own, but before he finished drawing them, people began submitting theirs. Now-as he puts it- many fears later, his latest book from this project is out.
I️ love this project because reading about these fears made me feel less alone. Even if they weren’t always fears that I️ related to, I️ still felt connected to the people who had them. And there were so many fears that had me laughing with recognition because I️ saw them in myself and the people I️ know.
We spend so much time trying to hide our vulnerabilities- this project is an amazing example of what happens when you put them down on paper instead. Happy listening!