Did you always want to be a writer?
Whenever I'm asked that question, I find myself thinking about the subtle distinction between 'being a writer' and 'writing,' both of which start with a love of reading. The discovery, as a child, of books was a way into that quiet place -- a kind of retreat from the noise of the 'real' world into those imagined worlds where words could transport me. Writing was second nature, in a sense -- another form of exploration that became a means of self-expression. The notion of being a writer evolved from that. By the time I entered college, all I knew was that my career pursuit would somehow involve writing.
When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
It's 'official' when you put it on the resume. ;-) Seriously, my early career involved working in the magazine world, both as an editor and writer. When I began writing fiction, and getting published, I could comfortably call myself a writer.
Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
To support my writing habit -- fiction, that is -- I've worked for magazines, in both an editing and writing capacity. I also conduct workshops.
How do you market/promote your book?
In the best of all possible worlds, writers would write their books and leave the marketing/promotion to publicists. Most writers I know have to do it on their own. So I do my best to target book review sites and put together a good pitch, one that I think characterizes my book -- i.e., a short story collection that essentially weaves stories around everyday symbols, in the hope of revealing their deeper resonance. I also participate in giveaways and I'm always open to interviews. Ultimately, the best promotion is word of mouth, so I'll post on Twitter and Facebook any time a new review/interview/giveaway appears online.
What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller?
Putting aside the occasional phenomenon in self-publishing that we read about, I think most best-selling books are easily pigeonholed in marketing categories and have a lot of muscle behind them -- a team that would involve writer/agent/editor/publicity and advertising professionals. I'm more drawn to books of a literary nature, so I'm really happy when a book like "A Visit from the Goon Squad' becomes such a hit. From a standpoint of 'bestsellerdom,' doesn't get much better than the Stieg Larrson trilogy -- with its fantastic main characters, political and social undertones, and a thriller pace.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I do yoga, take walks, listen to music, play the piano. And read.
Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
I don't think a writer can help basing characters, to some degree, on people we know, even if it's simply a particular aspect of someone. The skill, though, is letting that character take on a more imagined form, and how that happens is something I recently wrote about, Autobiography in Fiction. With regard to events, I'm forever fascinated with the way in which everyday events, and the ones that become part of our collective consciousness in a profound way, can be a kind of frame or backdrop to fiction. The first story in my collection, "Shoes," is autobiographical only to the extent that, yes, the narrator finds herself back home when her mother is ailing, but the turn of events is completely fiction. And the last story, "Twin Tales," is drawn from the events of 9/11.
Which format of book do you prefer, ebook, hardback, or paperback?
I find myself back and forth between formats. I've grown to appreciate ebooks for the instant gratification -- I want that book, I get it in seconds -- and the ease of traveling with a library on my iPad. But I love print books -- both hardback and paperback -- for the pure pleasure of holding them while I read. I think there's such a strong association -- sensual, memory, etc. -- with a book in your lap while you read.
What do you think about book trailers?
Well now that I've done one, I would have to say I hope they're useful. Here's the link.
What piece of advice would you give to new writers?
Read. Read. Read. Read as much as you can of the authors you admire, and read a little of the authors who interest you minimally. Understanding why you don't like a particular author can be useful in your own development as a writer. Creative writing programs and workshops serve their purpose in honing skills, but the best writing comes from a place of authenticity -- call it the writer's unique voice -- and the only 'formula' for arriving there is to spend hours up hours alone with oneself, listening.
Do you have plans for a new book?
I am in the final stretch of a novel. ;-)
Where can readers follow you?
Your website/blog ?
Your facebook page?
Your Goodreads author page?
Your Twitter details?