In May, our library’s Friends group had our annual membership drive, and it was my responsibility to book talented writers to come and speak as part of the fundraising effort. I wanted to go big, to fill the month with as many of the literary stars we have living in this neck of the woods as possible. My thought was, library patrons are giving us donations and we need to give them quality, thought provoking speakers in return.
On a Saturday morning in May, I had the great good fortune to meet Carla Panciera, friend of my writer friend, Holly Robinson, and Carla’s many talents rocked my world. She is a fine poet, has a first novel in the works, and will see her collection of short stories – Bewildered – debut this October (University of Massachusetts Press). Indeed, she does it all, and so well. Just over a week ago, when Carla asked me to be a part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour, of course I said yes.
You can learn more about her work and see the entry she made for the My Writing Process Blog Tour here.
Below I have answered the few questions required by the blog tour. By reading on, you’ll get to know a little bit more about what I do and how I do it. Oh, and there’s a recipe at the end of it all.
1. What are you working on?
I am writing what will be my third novel. The working title is The Welcome Home, and that title (unlike many of my working titles) may stick. The story is about a husband and wife, David and Jules Herron, who run a bakery together. With a goal of creating a good life for the daughter they dote on, they have built a thriving family business. David’s decision to take on debt, buy more space, and expand the bakery coincides with a market collapse neither saw coming. The family’s financial security is upended, their lives thrown into a tailspin. Driven by shame and unable to tell his wife his actions have ruined them financially, David leaves for work one day and fails to come home.
I wanted to write a story about hardworking people who had been affected by the economic downturn of 2008. About a year ago I began seeing David and Jules in my daydreams. I listened to them, took notes about them, their traits, and the plot, and then started drafting the manuscript in earnest late last winter. The opening section came with me to the Yale Writers’ Conference and in workshop I got some very helpful feedback. Now that I’ve made some tweaks to the opening section, writing the book is taking up all my time. That’s the way it should be, so I’m happy.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I was a shy child. I spent a lot of time observing people and then thinking about what I observed in an attempt to connect in ways I was too shy to do in real life. Rather than ask someone a direct question, for example, I used to dream up reasons for why a person did or said something. My daydreams were often very detailed as I tried to see things from many angles. I think my novels take readers into the inner workings of my characters’ minds, much the same way I tried to get into the minds of humans all those years ago, exposing human complexity. People who do bad things can often be very good people. I want readers to think about this.
My novels also have a mystery aspect to them. Not a whodunit exactly; more of a whydunit. I always want the answer to the question, Why? People, their motivations, fascinate me.
3. Why do you write what you do?
Whenever someone asks me what kind of books I write I tell them I write books about relationships between people. Husbands, wives. Brothers, sisters. Parents, children. These intimate relationships we have are the road maps for the way we move through the world, whether at work, in our communities, or on a global scale. To me, the relationships we have with those closest to us are essence of who we are and help to explain everything we go out into the world and do. I keep writing to understand people, warts and all – foibles, good and bad decisions, all the things that war within us – and maybe myself, warts and all, most of all.
4. How does your writing process work?
I procrastinate, feel guilty about procrastinating, and then let that guilt be responsible for putting my a** in the desk chair to write.
That’s all true.
But to be a bit more detailed, I start thinking about the subject and the characters first. With Hunger, I knew I wanted to write about a woman who loved food but was completely disconnected from feeding and nurturing herself. When I started The Mosaic Artist, I had an idea I wanted to write about the love-hate dysfunction that is sibling relationships. This time around, I really wanted to make the global scale economic crisis something personal. Once I have the setting, I take a step back and let the characters begin to develop. This is the part of my writing process that sounds really insane. But I do sort of relax and let the characters come to me. Eventually they do.
The first draft is always terrible. I write through a lot of my own uncertainty about the story: Who are these people; will they do this or that? Try this plot thread; no, that didn’t work. I hate hate hate first drafts. Mine always stink. What gets me through is a pep talk: “Come on, Jane, you can do it! Write anything down, you can then go back and revise!” Revision, for me, is nirvana. I love it. That’s when you can stop trying to understand what’s going on and really start adding the artistry and honing the sentences to be their best. I love revision so much I usually do it about a million times before I consider work done. Or as done as it’s going to be. Nothing’s ever done, or perfect. It took me a long time to accept that.
To keep the writing process blog chain going, here are some other writers you should know, and who will (I hope) let you know a bit more about themselves next week.
Edith Maxwell is another writer I met at the library in May. Our membership celebration event hinged on an entertaining mystery author panel, and Edith was one of the authors who delivered the entertainment. She writes mysteries with a local food hook, and her stories are snappy and fun to read. Her most recent Cam Flaherty mystery, Til Dirt Do Us Part, was released in May. Edith blogs about her novels on her own website, and about the craft of writing mysteries for the Wicked Cozy Authors.
Joel Brown writes for the Boston Globe and many other publications, and he is the author of the Baxter McLean/Libertyport mysteries. The Libertyport books include Mirrorball Man, Mermaid Blues, and the recently released Revolution Rock. Joel also authored The Essex Coastal Byway Guide. I’ve known Joel for a few years now, and he, too, was on the mystery writers’ panel, adding the dose of testosterone our mostly female panel needed. Joel blogs about the Boston are art scene at HubArts and about his novels at his Mirrorball Man website.
I met Ellen Weeren at Yale. She loves attending writers’ conferences, sitting in the front row during panels and lectures, and writing beautiful short stories. There’s a novel-in-progress too. She and her family lived in India for a time and she began blogging to tell that story. Ellen is taking her literary talents to an internship with a lit agency, where she will be reading and scouting for quality work. You can find her at A Reason to Write.
And now for the recipe.
Here’s an easy fruit relish you can whip up with summer bing cherries and serve with chicken or fish (we loved it with grilled halibut). This would also be a great standalone side dish. If you don’t like cilantro, use parsley.
From July’s Saveur magazine:
Cherry and Herb Salad
- 2 red Holland chiles (you may know these as Fresno or Finger chiles)
- 1 pound Bing (or other sweet) cherries, pitted
- 1 cup cilantro (or parsley) leaves, roughly chopped
- ½ cup walnuts halves, toasted and roughly chopped
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1-½ Tbsp. pomegranate molasses
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat broiler to high. Place the chiles on a baking sheet and broil, turning as needed, until the peppers are charred and tender. About 4-5 minutes.
Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and cover the bowl with plastic. Let chiles sit 5 minutes. When cooler, the chiles will be easy to peel. Discard the stems, skin, and seeds. Finely chop and return to the bowl.
Add cherries, cilantro, walnuts, oil, molasses, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and toss to combine.
Serve chilled or immediately, at room temperature.
© 2014 Jane A. Ward