Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Broad

No, I'm not talking about going overseas. I'm talking about broads. I got a kick out of Meta Wagner's piece reposted on Alternet. She says there aren't any good broads left. Here's her list of broad qualities:

•Would never be caught speaking the words "that's hot."
•Doesn't own any pairs of Manolo Blahniks.
•Uses salty language, especially around men.
•Developed her brain and talents and flirtiness, in part because she couldn't coast on her looks alone.
•Doesn't watch her cholesterol or have her body mass index measured.
•Can probably be found right now in a back room somewhere playing poker and smoking cigars with the boys.
•Can kick your ass, and mine.
•Is not the librarian with glasses and her hair in a bun who then tosses her glasses and shakes out her hair to lure a man. She's the librarian. Period.
•She's not the superhero/martial arts heroine who beats the guy at his own game and then lets him "take" her. She's the one who beats the guy at his own game. Period.
•Knows who she is, and so no one would think of asking her to be something she's not.

I think I'm a broad. I fit most of these, except the bit about smoking a cigar with the boys. Of course, I can't hold a light to the likes of Molly Ivins or Mae West. Now they was some broads!

How about youse? Are you a broad or a limited?

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Made Visible

Mmmm. It’s an almost perfect Columbia River Gorge day today. We had rain showers. And periods of sunshine. The air is clear and crisp, with mist rising above the dark green sides of the gorge, rising until it is indistinguishable from the clouds, becoming clouds, I suppose. Does mist have ambition to be a cloud? Rain? Snow? The snow dusts the higher elevations of the gorge like powdered sugar on top of a conifer cake. Still feels like winter. Yet the cottonwood trees are all leafing out. Their leaves are lime-colored and tender-looking. The osprey are sitting in their huge nests alongside the river, slow-cooking embryos into bird babies.

Yesterday we had to go to town. It was beautiful then, too. Storming one minute, sunny with rainbows the next. Kind of like life, babies. As I was coming out of the library in the Hollywood District, a man came in the same door I was leaving from. I stepped out of his way. He looked at me and yelled, “Fuck you, too, for letting them rape my neighborhood.” It was hailing and raining outside, and Mario had gone to get the car because I had forgotten my hat and scarf and it was cold. A few seconds before my encounter with the man, I had been standing by the window watching the downpour and talking with another woman. We talked about the winter that never seems to end. Wondering when the locusts were coming. Then I saw our car and I started outside. Met the man. “Fuck you, too, for letting them rape my neighborhood!”

I thought he was probably schizophrenic and wasn’t actually talking to me. I looked back at the woman I had been speaking with and I shrugged and said, “Okay.” And I laughed. The woman looked afraid. So did another woman, younger, who sat on a bench near her. I started outside again. I could feel the warmth from the library entranceway and the fresh coolness from the rocky rain blending for a moment. And I heard the man say, “Don’t laugh.” So he had been talking to me, he was noticing me. I had my back to him and it flashed through my brain that this was how people got killed. In a moment like this. By a crazy person. An angry person. I didn’t like having my back to him. I sensed he was coming after me. I knew he was going to try to hurt me.

I ran. I ran into the hail and rain and I got into the car. Safe. Safe. Safe. Locked the door. Then I looked to see if the man had followed me. He hadn’t. He hadn’t followed. Mario drove away.

I was all right. Nothing had happened.

It made me wonder though: What had I done to allow the "rape of my neighborhood." Or what hadn't I done. How had I acted or not acted? How responsible was I—were all of us—for the state of the world.

Mario and I drove through the storm toward home. Huge blue-black storm clouds hung over us like magnificent paintings in a sky gallery. Ahhhhh. We had the radio on. Someone recited Kahlil Gibran's quote "Work is love made visible.” I’d heard that quote before, but it hadn’t really resonated with me. This time, this day, it did.

I said to Mario, “Wow. I think maybe that’s what I do with my writing: try to make love visible.”

“I know it’s what you do,” he said. “That’s why I was so sad when you said you were quitting.”

We drove through a tunnel just then. Into a kind of golden darkness. A noisy silence. Rumble. Then into the stormy light again.

Love made visible. As I thought about it, I knew that was what I did with my writing. It was what I did when I was a community librarian. All the work I did was an expression of my love. I remembered when I first heard that quote years ago, I imagined people slaving over widgets, cotton fields, office computers. How was that love made visible? I had wondered. I associated the word “work” with drudgery, unhappiness, this thing we had to do to stay alive. I’ve always been aware of how lucky and privileged I am to have the choice to try to make a living doing something I love. We should all be so lucky. So when I heard that quote before, I thought Kahlil Gibran must not understand what work is.

Yet now I wondered if maybe I should adopt a more catholic definition of the word "work."

My writing is work. I love my work. I love the creation process.

Some of my writer friends think it’s silly that I consider my writing to be my art, that I think of it as something that is sacred to me. Writing is something that sustains me, it is one of the ways that I communicate with the world. For these friends, we put words on paper. That's what writers do. Period. That’s all right. They can do that. I think that’s wonderful for them! Me? I’ll be the story shaman. It is my work.

Love made visible.

I’d like my entire life to be love made visible.

When I got home yesterday, I read an interview in Alternatives with Gary Holthaus, a sustainable agriculture activist. It was Part 2 and I hadn’t read the first part, but the person conducting the interview summed up some of the things Holthaus had said previously.

“Are you saying that the best course may be to leave that which is unsustainable to its inevitable fate? In other words, not spend a lot of energy fighting the giant institutions and corporations because they are, by definition, unsustainable and will collapse anyway, of their own weight? I’m thinking of Cargill, Monsanto, ADM, and the others. They buy the politicians, and they’ll write the Farm Bill as they please. But never mind them, let’s get to our work, which is about sustainable local and organic food, building up the soils, and teaching people about urban agriculture that works. Is that what you’re getting at?”

Holthaus answers, “Absolutely. It’s about finding out how to feed ourselves healthy food, and to heck with those other guys. I’d say to heck with Congress, we can ignore them, too. We can ignore the Farm Bill, we can do fine without Monsanto—in fact we’re going to have to learn to do that.”

I thought, yes, yes, yes! I’ve been an activist almost all my life, starting back in elementary school when I tried to protect the killdeer from the insane boys who crushed the birds eggs with hysterical delight. Most of the time, I’ve been fighting corporations, big businesses, big governments. I end up defeated; these entities end up energized by my defeat; and nothing is accomplished. The problem remains unsolved.

Holthaus goes on to say, “We’ve got to change our world-view. The difference between a sustainable agriculture—or sustainable culture—and one that’s commodity-driven and short-term is a difference in world-view. Only when we change the story we’ve been telling ourselves about how the world works can we transform the culture. That’s what we have to do.”

Of course he’s right. So much of our efforts have been based on bringing down the big guy or becoming part of the big guy so we can transform him. That ain’t working. It ain’t gonna work. We have to go on without them, almost as if they didn’t exist. And we can’t feed them, of course: We can’t buy their chemicals; we can’t buy their crap. We can’t use it. We must change our world-view and change how we act.

The root of the word “work” means “to act.” If work is love made visible, then isn't any act, any action, love made visible, too? Is it love to spray chemicals into the air and on our lawns? Is it love to create warfare in our homes, communities, and nation? Is it love to support businesses that aren’t sustainable? Is it love not to act?

I’ve talked many times about how we each have a responsibility. We each have some ability to respond: responsibility. Only you know what that means for you. But we can’t sit around wringing our hands. Step up to the plate, man, and swing, batter, batter, swing! No excuses.

Holthaus says that information will not save us.

“For instance, we’ve known about global warming for the last three decades,” he says, “and it hasn’t changed our behavior a bit. We’ve had all the information about the end of oil for three or four decades: hasn’t changed our driving. We aren’t going to win this with arguments—arguments just create defensiveness or aggression.

“No, the most powerful tool we’ve got is to change the story we’ve been telling ourselves. That old story is as toxic as it comes—‘bigger is better’, and ‘if you can’t get big, you’d better get out’. That’s the story of agriculture in the last fifty years. ‘Chemicals can fix anything’—they obviously can’t....The story we’ve been telling ourselves is about speed, growth and chemicals. It’s destroying us.

“The new story is about compassion instead of condescension or indifference. We are in this together, and we are going to take care of each other—not competition, but cooperation. Somehow or another we’ve got to find ways to spread that story, and we’ve got to spread it fast.
“One of my optimisms is that, we’re gonna multiply smallnesses, instead of encouraging bigness. Think about how rural America would look now if over the past fifty years we’d been encouraging smallness instead of ending it. We’d have lots of small farms, which inevitably give us prosperous small communities. And those prosperous small communities would be feeding us, and we wouldn’t be dealing with the urban sprawl, and all the problems that brings. That’s the story we need to tell and get out there.”

Multiply-smallness. Ain’t that a grand idea?

Love made visible.

Holthaus says we’ve got to change our story. Do you understand what that means? We must all be story shamans. You, me, him, her, us. Us. It has to be about what we teach our children and what stories we continue to tell ourselves.

This is the long way of saying that I've decided I am not going to quit writing. I’m not going to quit telling my stories. I'll keep doing it, keep writing it my way.

With love.

Made visible.

May You Work in Beauty!


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Internet Explorer Problems

Hello! So some of you have been having trouble with the website if you use Internet Explorer. Sorry about that. I don't use IE, so I didn't see it and when I checked it on the old IE, which is the only one you can use on a Mac, it looked fine. But we went someplace and looked at it with the latest Internet Explorer and saw what you were seeing, so we're hoping it's fixed. We don't see the things on Jane's post that some of you are seeing even when we get into the HTML, so we're confused.

By the way, I would suggest you try other browsers than IE if you can stand it. I like Camino, Firefox, or Safari much better than Internet Explorer. But if you do keep IE and you see problems with the website, let me know, because otherwise I won't know. Hope that makes sense. That was always true with Furious Spinner, too.

May You Surf With Beauty!

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Everyone Wins!!!

Yeah!!! The free book giveaway has come to an end. Thanks to everyone for reading the interviews and to everyone who commented. I've decided to give everyone who commented one of my books. I have most of your email addresses, but Gypsy, Vancouver Gal, Robert, and Melissa need to email me because I don't have yours.

By the way, someone said that in one of the browsers, Jane's interview has some squares in them. I don't see them, so I can't take them out. Sorry about that. Macs don't have access to updated Internet Explorer, so I have no idea what it looks like on that. I looked at an old IE, and everything was in caps. I hope it's not like that on the newer versions.

Anyway, I did check the blog on three browsers and it looked good on all three, although the font was smaller on one of them. Did you know that in most browsers you can go up to "view" and increase the font size of any page from there? Very convenient for readers.

Okay! I'll start getting those books out to everyone.

More later, gators.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Over Sixty People Interview Me!

Here is the interview with me, Kim Marie Ann Antieau! About sixty writers, editors, family members, and friends asked these questions. I didn’t think about the questions much before answering them. I just went down the list and wrote my answers. Even so, this took me days! It was a lot of fun.

By the way, if you asked me a question and I didn’t link to your correct website, just write to me and I can fix it. And if you asked me a question and it isn’t here, that doesn’t mean I don’t love you! It means I either never got it or I lost it. I lost about six questions (that I know about) but I was able to find them again. So just send the question along again and I’ll add it with my answer. All of this is probably far more than you ever wanted to know. I hope you have fun! Thanks to everyone for the fabulous questions.

Don't forget that I'm giving away books to thirteen people who leave comments anywhere on the blog through Tuesday night. On Wednesday I'll put all the names in a hat and pull out thirteen.

Happy reading!

Michael Bourret (my agent): When did you know you were a writer?

Kim Antieau (KA): Before I could write, I drew pictures to tell a story. Then for a few years, I wrote stories and drew. I won an art contest when I was in first grade. I remember thinking that I could be an artist or a writer when I grew up, but I figured I could make a living as a writer. Why would such a young child be thinking in those terms? I have no idea, especially since as an adult I’ve never made big decisions based on high-paying jobs. I have been a professional writer for a little over half my life, and I still have never made a living at it. Perhaps I should rethink all this and become an artist instead?

Julia Richardson (my editor): What's your favorite swear word?

KA: The ef word is definitely my favorite swear word. No other word in the English language feels as good to say when I am frustrated or amazed. I do often recall my third grade teacher, Miss Root, however, who said that it displayed more imagination, creativity, and class to swear in style without using curse words. So when she was frustrated, she would say something like, “Ooooh blueberry fudgesickles!” Or “blueberry muffins!” (She used other combinations, but I remember she liked them blueberries.) I appreciate her sentiment, and I do try to vary my swear word repertoire.

Robin Wasserman: If you could spend the day with a fictional character, who would it be and what would you do together?

KA: That’s a tough one. There are so many cool fictional characters. I’d love to hang out with Jane Eyre and find out where she got her backbone. I wouldn’t mind following Sissy around from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. She had herself some adventures. The Count of Monte Cristo. I’d like to find out how he survived. Oh and the Scarlet Pimpernel. I don’t like looking foolish, and he reveled in that and used it to his advantage. And Ripley from Alien. I’d definitely like to learn a thing or two from her on surviving. But I'd only like to meet her on Earth, where there aren't any of those lovely creatures she was always fighting with. And I’d love to meet Gloria, from my novel The Gaia Websters because she can heal people.

Alyson Noël: You are going to a desert island—for the next ten years—you can only bring one book—which one do you choose?

KA: One book? Oh geez. Probably if there was a book about all the flora on the island and their medicinal uses. That’s what I’d take.

Lara M. Zeises: If you could live inside any television show (past or present), what would it be or why?

KA: Hmmm. I really liked the sense of community in Northern Exposure, although I don’t like cold weather. I’d love to visit the world in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Although I wouldn't want to stay too long. I like my feet planted on Mother Earth. I liked the town in Gilmore Girls, but I wouldn’t be the star, so would it really be that much fun?

Terri Clark: From one librarian to another, what's your favorite thing about working in a library and what's your least favorite thing?

KA: I now select books, so I’m not in the branches much. My absolute favorite thing about being a librarian is being with the public. I loved it! I loved helping people, finding what they needed. I loved working with teenagers especially. I loved the energy teenagers brought to a library. My least favorite thing was dealing with administration. I see myself as one of the true librarians! (How pompous is that?) I became a librarian to stand up for our intellectual freedom and to protect the civil rights of the people in my community. I have no patience for whimpy library administrations or boards who pander to the few people who complain about materials.

Judy Gregerson: How many Pulitzer Prize winning books you have read?

KA: I had no idea! I don’t usually notice when a book wins a prize, although I love the idea you have of reading X amount of Pulitzer Prize winning books in a year. I got my Masters in American Literature and before that I was an English Language major; I got weary of some of the standard “great” book lists. So many of these novels were written by men, about men. (Back in the day.) Plus many of them were boring! After college, I started reading as much popular fiction as I could, like science fiction and mystery and fiction from other countries, especially Latin American novels. Anyway, I just went and looked up the list of Pulitzer Prize winners. Here are my totals. Fiction: I’ve read 6. Dramas: I’ve seen or read 17. History winners: 2. Bios: zero. Poetry: 5. General non-fiction: 1.

Nancy Viau: Of all your characters, which one shares most of your personal traits?

KA: Mario says Gloria from The Gaia Websters is the most like me. That’s funny to me because I admire her the most of all my characters. (Although it’s difficult to pick which I admire most; I really admire Mercy, Nadira, and Ruby so much!) Gloria is very strong. She doesn’t suffer fools, and she doesn’t understand or really care about some of the social niceties. She’s a problem-solver. She’s also not very in touch with her feelings. She’s not mushy. But she’s extremely loyal and competent. I am a problem-solver. I am very loyal. I used to be very competent, not sure I am quite that way any more. And I have trouble with personal relationships. I go away and do my work for long periods of time and then when I put my head out the door again, I wonder where everyone has gone.

Bev Katz Rosenbaum: What is your secret vice?

KA: I’m not sure it’s so secret, but I watch TV. It feels like a vice because I don’t think it’s that good for me. I love stories. I hate commercials. We turn off our TV service several times a year for months at a time. But when I’m stressed, that’s how I zone out.

Charles de Lint: Have you ever met or seen a ghost?

KA: Not that I know of. I’ve had creepy feelings in places although I don't see anything that's strange. Also when I was in college, a my closet door fell off of its hinges when I was resting on my bed one afternoon. My roommate and I joked that we had a ghost or poltergeist in the place. That day I heard a “boom.” I got out of bed and saw immediately that the door was off its hinges. The weird thing is that for it to be off its hinges someone would have had to lift it up so that the acorn pin came up out of the hinge knuckles—it couldn’t have just slipped off; it wasn’t physically possible. That is the weirdest thing that has happened to me, and we were never able to explain it. I was alone in the apartment, by the way, which was the top floor/attic of an old house in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Cynthia Leitch-Smith: If you could change one thing about your apprenticeship (pre-publication, craft-building time as a beginning writer), what would it be and why?

KA: I don’t think I’d change anything I did. I wrote and I tried to get it published. Maybe I wouldn’t have concentrated so much on genre fiction because my work didn’t really fit in genre, so publishers often didn’t know what to do with it or how to categorize it. My writing is what Charles de Lint and Terri Windling call “mythic fiction.” When I was starting out it was too weird for mainstream but it wasn’t really straight science fiction or fantasy. I wish I could change how publishing is now. When I started out, once you got a book published, the first one, publishers stuck with you and helped you build an audience. But that has not happened with me and it doesn’t happen with many writers now. We’re expected to “go big” right away.

Melissa Walker: What songs would you definitely put on the soundtrack for Ruby's Imagine or what song would Ruby want on there?

KA: This was so much fun, Melissa! Thanks for asking. I'm not sure I can post these—I mean I hope I'm not violating anybody's rights. I bought all the albums and I'm linking to them. But if the artist doesn't want them here, I will take them down. I actually think the whole album Adieu False Heart could just be the soundtrack. But here's a playlist/soundtrack of songs I think Ruby liked.

"Adieu False Heart," Linda Rondstadt, Ann Savoy, Adieu False Heart

"Stomp Dance (Unity)," Robbie Robertson, Contact from the Underworld of Redboy

"White Flag" Dido, Life for Rent

"Come On In My Kitchen," Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings

"Kindhearted Woman Blues," Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings

"Damballah," Beau Jocque, The Best of Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers

"Nonc Adam," Beau Jocque, The Real Louisiana

"Keep Going," Boozoo Bajou, Dust My Broom

"Rattlebone," Robbie Robertson, Contact from the Underworld of Redboy

"Unbound," Robbie Robertson, Contact from the Underworld of Redboy

"The Healer," John Lee Hooker, The Healer

Lisa McMann: Who is your best friend in the world and will you tell us a little about why you like that person? Also, does he/she have great hair?

KA: My best friend in the world is my husband, Mario Milosevic. What I liked about him when I first met him and what I still like about him is his sense of humor. He is the funniest person I know. And he thinks I’m the funniest person he knows. He’s also very eclectic in his interests. He isn’t macho. He is supremely comfortable in the company of women, and women and men are comfortable with him. My best girlfriend was Linda Ford. She died a year and a half ago. She was funny, too. She knew everything (and I mean everything). She would walk in the woods with me almost anytime, and like me, she hugged trees. I miss her very much. Ruby’s Imagine is dedicated to her.

April Lurie: What do you love about publishing? What do you hate about publishing?

KA: I love the process of getting a book published. I like when a book is first accepted for publication. Knock on wood, my editors usually ask for very little changes. I love looking at the copyedited pages with the little red marks. Although the red marks were a little stressful on Ruby’s Imagine. Ruby has her own way of speaking and the copyeditor wanted her to be consistent in how she spoke and Ruby just wasn’t. I love getting the galleys and seeing the almost-book. I usually love seeing the cover, although covers can be so problematic and I’ve hated a couple of mine (from way back). And then I like seeing the book itself. After it’s published, it’s out of my hands, so I don’t like that part. I just cross my fingers and hope people buy the book.

What do I hate about publishing? First, publishing is not very green, to put it mildly. It is not sustainable. I mean, they still use this archaic bizarre returns system in publishing. And nearly everyone just seems to accept this. Are you kidding me? What other industry does this? “Excuse me, but this shirt didn’t sell; cut off the sleeve and send it back to the manufacturing and throw the rest of the shirt out.” (If any readers are not familiar with returns, it's when the retailer strips the paperbacks of their covers and ships the covers back for credit. Then the stripped books are thrown out. Let’s hope most places at least recycle them.

I also hate how much writers are paid. Most fiction writers in this industry cannot make a living at writing. This is something hardly anyone will talk about! Every time I mention it, I can hear, see, smell the hackles rising. Think about it. Publishing is about these words writers put on paper. It is our art and/or our labor. Yet most of us don’t make a living! The editors make a living, the agents, the publishers, the printer, the cover artists, the people in marketing and sales. Not the writer. So everyone else is able to feed their families and pay their bills except the person who is doing the creating, the person who is doing the work. This is exploitive. It’s not that I don’t want the agents, editors, publishers, etc. to make a living at doing their work. No, that’s not the point. I honor and appreciate all the work they do, and I want them to have happy, fulfilling lives. I want the same for myself and my fellow writers.

Yes, some writers make a living. Reporters can make a living. Some nonfiction writers make a living. Screenwriters often can make a living and this is in no small part due to their union. I know some fiction writers who do make a living. These are people who usually write multiple books under various names—although not always. I got $7,500 for each of my first two novels, $10,000 for my third novel, Coyote Cowgirl. How does anyone live on $10,000 a year—and most writers don’t sell a book a year. No publisher is going to do any publicity or marketing for a novel they pay $10,000 for, even when the author ellicits a promise that the publisher won’t let the novel fall through the cracks. (Well, maybe some publishers, but I don't know any.) Nearly everyone in the industry seems to accept this standard of authorial poverty. Some will wax on about the free market and if you sell more widgets you’ll get more money next time. First, the free market is crap. Secondly, if the publishers paid more money for a book, they’d be forced to pay attention to it and actually do some planning and marketing on each and every title they buy and then the so-called widgets would sell. Yes, less books probably would be bought by publishers, but then the writers who did sell books could actually make a living.

Many writers have a spouse who supports them so that they can take the time to write. What this essentially means is that rich people, or at least well-off middle-class people, are the ones who are publishing much of the fiction. So we’re getting a pretty skewed look at our world. Pay writers decently, and different classes and type of people will be able to write their stories and get them out to the public.

There needs to be a revolution in publishing. The present mode is not sustainable for the environment and it’s not sustainable for the writers—at least not those of us who need to eat, pay our rent and electricity bills. And yes, writers need to stand up and demand more. We are definitely part of the problem.

Debbie Reed Fischer: Do you have a personal experience that made it into your books? If so, what was it?

KA: Hmmm. I try not to fictionalize my life. I like to write to get away from parts of my life, plus I have the blog to write about myself! Like most writers, bits and pieces of my life do get into my books. There were eating issues in my family and some of those made their way into Mercy, Unbound. In The Blue Tail, a YA novel I just finished, Serena Blue gets beaten up by her boyfriend one night at a party. That happened to me at the end of my senior year. Not a high point of my life, and I still remember what I heard and felt thata night. Her experience parallels my own pretty closely.

Eric Luper: You have 30 days to squander $1 million. You cannot pay off debt, give it to anyone or sock it away in a rainy day fund. All the money has to be gone in a month. How do you spend it?

KA: I’d buy land and a house. Or some land and two houses. Live in the Southwest part of the year and live part of the year in the Pacific Northwest.

Linda Joy Singleton: What's the strangest thing you ever did for research on a story?

KA: Hmmm. I’ve done lots of things for research. Maybe the strangest was when I went to a Fish and Wildlife animal forensics lab in Ashland, Oregon, when I was doing research on eagle deaths in Oregon. I got a tour. Interviewed the guy in charge. Watched them start a necropsy on a gold eagle. I saw a whole room filled with items confiscated from people coming into the country. Boots made out of leather from endangered animals, things like that.

Teri Brown: Who is your favorite fictional crush and why?

KA: I do like Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. I love honorable men. Never been attracted to "bad boys." And Sarah Connor from the Terminator movies is pretty cool. I would have run off with Benjamin from The Gaia Websters. And any of the Benjamins in The Jigsaw Woman. (I usually have someone named Benjamin in my novels. No reason. I just started doing it and now I keep doing it. I think I’ve only known one Benjamin in “real” life and he was a jerk.)

D. Anne: If you could interview one fictional character, or one writer who is no longer alive, who would it be and what would you ask them?

KA: Just one? Emily Dickinson. And then Walt Whitman. I think I’d just like to spend time with Emily. I want to walk through the fields of tall grass and wildflowers with her and her dog, her wild red hair flowing behind her. I’d like to sit with her and watch her write. And then maybe, maybe, I'd pick one poem and ask her if she could tell me what it meant to her.

Michelle Antieau: If you could only keep or have one of your five senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch or taste)—which would you choose and why?

KA: As you know, I lost my sense of smell for almost fifteen years, and now I only have it part of the time. I LOVE being able to smell. It makes life much more sensuous. My sense of taste is still pretty poor. But I think I would probably keep my sight.

Joanne Powell Colbert: Which Old Mermaids are you the most like?

KA: I’m probably the most like Sister Lyra Musica Mermaid because she struggles with her fears. I’m also a bit like Sister Ursula Divine Mermaid because she likes to wander around the wilderness a lot, and she can be a bit cranky.

Alice Hoffman: What was your favorite book when you were twelve?

KA: Probably The Black Stallion and The Island Stallion Races. Although my horse phase was fading about that time. But I loved all the Walter Farley books.

Jo Knowles: How did you learn about your first book sale? Can you describe "the call"?

KA: Guess what, Jo? I have no specific memory of it! My agent must have called me, but I don’t remember. I do remember the call when Coyote Cowgirl sold, but that’s probably because it was Winter Solstice and I was making cookies. But other than that, I don’t remember specifically any calls.

Stephanie Hale: If you could be any fictional character for a day, who would it be?

KA: God.

John McNally: What fictional character would you like to bring to life to meet? Explain.

KA: Since this question is asked more than once in this interview, I can answer it more than once, right? I’d like to meet some of my own characters. I’d like to meet all the Old Mermaids and spend time with them, maybe for the rest of my life—as long as Mario could come, too. The Old Mermaids welcome all travellers. They are more than survivors, they are thrivers. They are magical, mystical, earthy, wild, and homey. Yep, I’d love to hang out with them.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted: Which character that you've created do you most admire and why?

KA: Well, I already mentioned how much I admire Gloria from The Gaia Websters and the Old Mermaids. I also think Nadira from Broken Moon is amazing. She lives in a patriarchal culture where she isn’t “worth” much. She’s been mutilated and raped. But she survives and when her brother is kidnapped, she does everything she can do to find him. I admire action even in the face of fear. Same with Ruby in Ruby’s Imagine. She is a beautiful person. She hears the voices of the world, the visible and the invisible. She gets little encouragement from her family—to put it mildly—yet she doesn’t curl up and die: She becomes more and more herself. I think that’s the challenge of all of us. We need to fill up with ourselves, to be full of ourselves, not full of what big business is trying to sell us or what the culture says we should be. We need to figure out who we are and then we need to be that! Gloria, Nadira, and Ruby are full of themselves!

Tera Lynn Childs: If you could only read one book (over and over) for the rest of your life, what would it be?

KA: That’s a really tough one. I guess if I could only read one, I’d write it. And it would be really long, ongoing, and full of stories. Probably about the Old Mermaids. How’s that for a dodge? If I couldn’t do that, I guess I’d find the biggest fairy tale book in the world and read that.

Lisa Yee: What's the oldest thing in your refrigerator, and why?

KA: I read this question in the middle of the night, and I laughed outloud. When I told my husband your question, he said, “If the answer is that celery, we better throw it out.” So I just got up and looked. The oldest thing in the fridge is a jar of sesame seeds I bought from a friend of mine last summer when she was moving from Washington state to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I keep thinking I’m going to make tahini or something with them and I never have. Probably time to toss them.

Jimmy Baca Santiago: What do you think about literary agents?

KA: I have had an agent and I haven’t had an agent. When I didn’t have an agent, I spent so much of my time looking for markets for my books, and I didn’t like doing that. I like writing. I want someone else to do the marketing for me! I’ve had agents I really liked and I’ve had problems with agents. (I've had five.) My biggest problem with agents is that they nearly always tell me to stop writing so much. Also, I don’t understand why an agent has to like a book before s/he sends it out. I see agents as the key to get the publisher’s door open so we can slip my book through and have the editor read it; then when I get a contract, agents are extra eyes to look the contract over. Whether they like a book or not seems superfluous to the process.

Also, agents work for the writers, not the other way around. We’re paying them 15% for their expertise. But writers often kiss up to their agents and/or are afraid of them. They’ve got the relationship half-ass backwards. I really like my current agent, Michael Bourret. I see our relationship as collaborative, but I’ve got the final say. It’s my work and my life. We do not agree on everything, and I get impatient with how long things take, but he understands that. Michael gets my writing and loves it and that is different from some of the other experiences I have had with agents. He understands my world view and appreciates it. He's a great guy; I am fortunate.

I do know that privately, most writers complain about their agents. The biggest complaint I hear is that agents act as editors now and that feels like one more hurdle to jump over before the person with the contract and the check gets to see the manuscript. Our ultimate goal is to get the books out to the readers, and sometimes it just seems to take forever for that to happen. The other complaint I hear is the same one I have, that I mentioned above. Why does the agent have to like the book in order to send it out? Reading it, understanding it, knowing what it's about is one thing; but why do they have to like it?

Lisa Schroeder: How do you decide which books to order for your library?

KA: I read reviews. I look at pre-pub reports. I love hearing from patrons about what they want, but I try very hard to get what the people who aren’t speaking up want, too; in other words, most people don’t tell the library what they want, so I try to figure it out by looking at community trends, circulation stats on particular books, etc. I have a particular budget, depending upon what area I’m selecting, and that determines how many titles I can get, really. I’ve been doing selection for about twenty years, and I’ve never figured out a science to it.

Mario Milosevic: If you were asked to send a message to aliens on another planet, what would you say?

KA: Barada nikto.

Melissa Senate: Ruby's Imagine takes place in New Orleans, where a fortune teller on the streets of the French Quarter once told me something that totally changed my life (for the much better and for only five bucks)! That city will always be a place of magic and mystery for me. What does New Orleans mean for the characters of Ruby's Imagine (and for you) before, during and after Hurricane Katrina?

KA: I was born in Louisiana. My folks were from Michigan, but my dad was in the service at the time, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base. Although we left when I was very young and I don’t remember anything about it, I have a soft spot in my heart for Louisiana. And New Orleans seems to be a place where the Puritans never found a foothold like they did in the rest of the country. In many ways, New Orleans was like the soul of this country. For Ruby, it’s where she lives because her parents were killed in a car crash, so she has to live there with her grandmother. She has fond memories of the bayous, but she loves New Orleans, too. She loves the natural parts of it, when she can find those parts, and she loves the people. It is home to her. Ruby discovers her true strength during Hurricane Katrina. After Katrina, Ruby wants to help put it all back together. For me, I see Hurricane Katrina as an example of what can happen when people think of Nature as a commodity, as something they can constantly strip, pave under, suck the life out of. Everything failed in New Orleans because the government and people ignored the environment, tried to bend it to their will, instead of figuring out to go with the flow of Nature and be a part of the environment. I was ashamed of our government and how the poor people in New Orleans were treated before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. I also think it is just an example of things to come if global warming is not slowed.

Tara Altebrandoe: Rollercoasters. Yay or nay? And what does your answer say about you?

KA: Nay. It says I’m chicken, that’s what it says!

Karen Shinsky: What one person has influenced you the most or whom you have admired?

KA: I really admired my best friend Linda. She was comfortable in the world, for the most part, especially the natural world, and she knew so much about it. Same with Dad. He knows so much about so many things, especially Nature. Mom and Dad both influenced my writing. Dad read to us at night. Mom encouraged me to keep writing when I was very young, and she told me to save what I wrote for future generations! I am a pretty independent thinker, but my family, friends, and my experiences have no doubt shaped who I am now. It's difficult to pick one person! For the last 27 years, Mario has had the most influence on my life. So I'd probably have to pick him as the one, and as the one person I admire the most. He is my sweetheart, and he's just a great person. A good man.

Mary E. Pearson: What was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you in high school?

KA: I don’t know if it was so much embarrassing as humiliating. I broke up with my high school sweetheart my last year of school, in the last semester. He was co-captain of the football team (no big deal; it wasn’t a very good football team). I broke up with him to go out with his friend, the other co-captain. And then I broke up with that guy, too. My HS sweetheart was well-loved, so I was considered the bad guy by the rest of the school. (It was a small school.) And the boys were the worst. I’d go in the cafeteria and walk by boys sitting on the stage and they’d whisper things like “bitch.” You know, high school juvenile crap. Then I went to a party one night. The second boy I’d broken up with was there with some of his friends. They were mumbling stuff about me. I walked up to them to talk to them, trying to be the “bigger” person, and they poured a glass of beer over my head. I ran crying from the garage where the party was and into the night. The host of the party, a really sweet girl, went into the night and found me, brought me back to the house, and washed me up. She was so kind and gentle. (I had had a crush on her when we were very young. I think her house was the first place I had a sleepover.) Anyway, she was very kind and the boys were jerks. After graduation, some of them apologized to me.

Niki Burnham: Who's your favorite fictional character?

KA: Oooh. I get to answer this again. Right this second my favorite fictional character is Frank Pembleton, from Homicide: Life on the Streets. What I liked about Pembleton was the he was great in his job, and he always did the right thing. And let’s face it, he was gorgeous.

Sara Zarr: What's the first thing you do most mornings and the last thing you do most nights?

KA: I get up and pee. What can I say? I try to meditate. Sometimes that means I stay in bed and close my eyes and try not to fall back to sleep. Sometimes I get up and sit on the couch and meditate. Oh wait, before all that, though, I look outside to see what the day is like. Then I check the weather on my dash on the computer and check for messages. Last thing I do at night is kiss my husband and tell him I love him.

Chris Crutcher: Who killed President Kennedy?

KA: The grassy troll.

Jordan Sonnenblick: You seem to have a huge sense of adventure. Why do you write—as opposed to, say, being a cowgirl or a cliff-diver?

KA: I’m not sure why I write instead of doing something else. I was good at it, and I didn’t want to be stuck in an office all day. I was going to be a Vista volunteer. A lawyer. A biologist. I had always been a writer, so I just kept doing it! I love stories. I love people who write and read stories. I make stuff up and I don't get in trouble for it. Most of the time.That’s pretty cool.

Marissa Doyle: If you could choose anywhere in the world to live for a year and then write a book set in that place, where would you choose to live? Why?

KA: I love the Southwest. I’d love to live in New Mexico for a year. I’ve already written several books about the Southwest, so I could write even more! It might be fun to live in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island for a year. Although I suppose fun is the wrong word. New Zealand. Tahiti. Okay, I can’t decide.

Annabel and Elisabeth: We were wondering if you have ever used positive thinking or visualization to help achieve a goal, whether it is in writing, or maybe doing something completely outside the realm of work.

KA: I use positive thinking all the time. And I visualize, especially for healing purposes. I don’t generally use it for my work. However, I’m not one of these people who thinks I have to think good thoughts all the time. That’s just crazy. In a real sense, actually. At least for someone like me. I don’t pretend that things are all good because lots of times they aren’t. I try to find the truth, see the truth, and then chose the action. Wallowing in horror isn’t helpful either. We don’t have the ability to respond (responsibility) if we’re too depressed to do anything. What I try to do is be in the now, whatever that now is. I’m not always successful at doing that.

Rachel Cohn: Turn to page 86 of your novel and read through it. Do you remember what you were doing the day you wrote that section, and did anything about that day influence what you wrote?

KA: So, Rachel, I went to my box of books and I pulled out Coyote Cowgirl. I turned to page 86. It was blank. I thought that was very Zen! So I don't remember what I was thinking or doing then, but I LOVED writing Coyote Cowgirl. I didn't have one minute of angst with that book. It was a blast! And I still miss Crane, the talking crystal skull.

Julia Moberg: How does being a Librarian influence your writing life? And vice versa.

KA: Being a librarian helps me buy groceries so I can be a writer! I love libraries. I love public service. I love working for the public good. Generally speaking, good librarians and good writers understand the issues of Intellectual freedom, so I suppose I’m a double-advocate for intellectual freedom.

Blake Nelson: When you were 16 what did you think you'd be when you grew up and how did you think you would dress?

KA: I think when I was sixteen I was planning to be a lawyer. I don’t think I thought about how I’d dress! I was probably wearing mini-skirts then because we couldn’t wear slacks in school. As soon as they changed the dress code, I was in jeans and sweaters.

Samantha Schutz: What is the first piece of creative writing that you remember doing? How old were you? What was it about? What sort of reaction did it get it (if you showed anyone)?

KA: My first creative writing was in the form of pictures. I drew a story. It was about a rabbit, I think. As soon as I could write, I started writing. The first story I really remember writing is Lily Goes to Fairyland. I still have it. I wrote it in pencil. My mom told me I should write in pen so that it would last longer. So I wrote over the pencil in pen. I guess that’s the reason it still exists! It was about a girl who was frustrated with her parents and she wandered away from home. She went through the wrong door and kept ending up in these different worlds.

Celise Downs: If you had a dance step named after you, what would it be called?

KA: The Goddess Slide.

Jennifer Ziegler: What are you doing to plan for the zombie invasion?

KA: I’m reading Miss Manners’ Etiquette for Eating With Zombies. It has a great intro on what to do so that you don’t become zombie lunch. It’s all about knowing how and when to grunt and avoid eye contact or initiate eye contact. You can’t seem afraid, kind of like with bears and dogs.

Laura Wiess: I'd love to hear more about the Truth-Telling Feasts. Have you ever hosted or attended one in real life, and if so, did most of the guests feel comfortable enough to participate in sharing private truths?

KA: Yes, I’ve had at least one truth-telling feast at our house, and when I’ve done book talks at the library for Coyote Cowgirl we almost always have a truth-telling feast. It is so much fun! There is something about shared food that is so sustaining. I have a lot of food sensitivities, so eating is often stressful and problematic. All the food in the truth-telling feast is food I can eat, so I relax during these feasts. I can’t actually remember if any of us said out loud our private truths. The biggest truth was that we came together as a kind of mini-community, at least for a while.

Brent Hartinger: Ben or Matt?

KA: Matt, of course.

Dia Calhoun: What YA female character would you say is most likely to grow up to be the first woman on Mars?

KA: I have no idea! I’m sitting here and can’t think of anyone from the fictional world. Lots of real girls, of course. Maybe I can't think of anyone because I haven't read much fiction lately. I don’t read fiction when I’m writing and since I’m writing most of the time now, I’m not reading fiction. I just thought of Jamie from Big Fat Manifesto. I bet she could get to Mars first if she had a hankering to do so.

Emma Dryden: If money and talent were no object, what job or career would you choose other than the one you're currently doing?

KA: I would have a sanctuary where I would take care of the land, where those who are in need of temporary respite could come and rest and find strength again before they continued on their way. That's what I'd do!

Will Shetterly: Who inspires you?

KA: Kind people inspire me. I’m tired of smartass cynicism. I admire people who work to make the world easier for others instead of just sitting around wringing their hands and saying, “What do I do? What do I do?” I just want to scream, “Do something!” My father inspires me. He’s a good man. He’s always taken care of his family. He was a teacher and then a principal. He worked in the summers as a carpenter. I learned from my parents that money was not everything. Instead, it was how we lived our lives. My father just walks through any crap that happens in his life. Things might get hard, but he deals with it. I wish I was more like that. When terrible things happen in my life, I want to curl into a ball and never get up. He may feel like that, too, but he gets up, he keeps going.

He’s someone you can count on, too. I remember one Sunday we were all at Pat’s restaurant in Brighton, Michigan, when I was a kid. We went there often after church for coffee and donuts. (Chocolate milk for us kids.) This woman burst into the restaurant and said, “My husband’s going to kill me. I need to get to the police. Can someone take me?” It was a small restaurant. Not a lot of people there. Several men sat at the counter, including my father. None of the men moved, except my dad. He left us there and took the woman to the police post a couple miles away. When he returned, he sat at the counter with the men again, talking. I remember he looked afraid. He looked afraid when he left the restaurant with the woman, and he looked afraid but relieved when he came back. I had rarely (if ever) seen my father afraid. I remember thinking how amazing that was that he did what was right even though he was afraid. A great lesson for a kid.

Emma Bull: What was your favorite place to daydream in when you were a kid, and why?

KA: The woods around our house. We lived out in the country. I was definitely a wild child. I was outside a lot—barefoot most of the time. Sometimes I wandered around the woods across the dirt road from our house, and sometimes I was in the woods that made up our back yard. I called these woods the Lullaby Forest. I often climbed up into the Lullaby Tree, and I sat there for hours, singing, and talking to the trees and the people and creatures in my “imaginary” world. I loved it!

Janet Lee Carey: What was your biggest writing hurdle? How did you leap over it?

KA: About twenty-two years ago, I got really sick. I had trouble reading and writing. The words on the page would wiggle, and I thought I was going to die every second of the day. It was a year long anxiety attack caused by exposure to various toxins. Just awful. I thought I’d have to give up writing. So I decided to go back to school and get a degree that would help me. (I had a B.S. and an M.A. in American Lit.) I was going to go to business school, but I couldn’t do it. I ended up getting my Master of Library Science degree. I didn’t write for a few years, but eventually I started getting better, and the stories were waiting for me and I began writing again. So I guess I didn’t so much leap over it as get on with my life until things changed, and I felt better.

Lorie Ann Grover: Who do you think is the hottest male character in YA lit?

KA: Well, since I’m old enough to be any teen’s mother, I don’t think of characters that way! So I don’t know what to tell you.

David Levithan: What book (besides your own) do you think best captures the way you look at the world?

KA: Well, the title Even Cowgirls Get the Blues would be the title of my life if Tom Robbins hadn’t already used it. Probably any book which speaks of our connection with Nature—or rather any book which speaks about our existence as a part of Nature. This crazy consumption in the West is ruining us and the planet. When I read An Unspoken Hunger by Terry Tempest William I felt like she was my soul sister writing my feelings and thoughts as well as her own. Also Tom Cowan’s Yearning for the Wind. I re-read Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin and the Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau often, so there’s something in those books which speak to me. Maybe it's because I believe all of life is a kind of pilgrimage, too.

Patrick Olson: Which came first? The chicken or the egg.

KA: The question about which came first came first.

Camille Antieau-Olson: What is your favorite tree? Why?

KA: I love, love, love trees! In the Northwest, I LOVE the old Doug firs. Oh my, oh my, oh my!!! The things they could tell us. I miss the big old deciduous trees from my childhood in Michigan. I looked forward to fall every year just to see what the maples would look like on Maple Road. Yum. But probably my favorite trees are oak trees. You look at them and there is no doubt they are druids, that faeries reside there, as well as all kinds of bugs, birds, squirrels and more. I try to hug a tree every day and most often it’s the big old oak tree by our library here in town.

Lloyd Antieau: Can a person be a liberal conservative and if so, do they have to be Republican? Can a person be a conservative liberal and if so, do they have to be Democrat? And how would we tell the difference?

KA: Yes. No. Yes. No. I have no idea. Or yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Ideas I have none.

Joelle Anthony: What do you read when you travel?

KA: For a long time, I took far too many books that I never read, usually something non-fiction. Now I take just one book and a few magazeines, most often Parabola, Shambhala Sun, Gastronomica, and/or Archaeology.

Jane Yolen: Do you enjoy writing or is it a bloodletting? Neither answer is wrong, of course. I am just curious.

KA: I enjoy writing. Love it, love it, love it. Fiction writing is just a blast. Nonfiction is a bit harder for me. I like nonfiction if I’m writing about myself and what I think; otherwise, it’s difficult for me. I like making stuff up, so that’s why I lean more toward fiction writing.

Anjali Banerjee: What's your next book?

KA: I don’t know what my next book is. I’m taking a break right now. I just finished two YA novels, The Blue Tail and My Little Angel. I need to rewrite My Little Angel. Then I’m not sure yet. I might finish the second Church of the Old Mermaid book, The Old Mermaid Sanctuary or the next COTOM book, The Old Mermaid. I’m also 150 pages into a new adult book, I, Assassin, but I’m not happy with the first 150 pages, so I may throw them out completely. We’ll see who taps me on the shoulder and asks me to tell their story. Right now I’m having fun hanging out at the Old Mermaid Sanctuary and seeing what the Old Mermaids are up to.

Kathleen Antieau: What was/is your favorite Soap Opera?

KA: Probably the soap opera I loved the most was Dark Shadows. Remember that? I’d run home to watch it. I’ve seen it as an adult and it’s pretty bad, but boy, was it fun to see something like that on TV back then. I saw the very first episode of All My Children and One Life to Live. I actually remember the beginning of those soaps; I have no idea why! I liked All My Children even though there was no one on there who was like me. I really liked One Life to Live because they did stories from real life. Like drug addiction. I thought that was a great storytline, back in the day. Also, someone was “passing” for white on that show. (It started in 1968.) Plus, remember when Karen Wolek (played by Judith Light) was married to a doctor but working as a prostitute and she admitted to it all on the witness stand? I still remember that. (Why do we remember these kinds of things?) She was so good. I liked General Hospital when Luke and Laura were on. Now the soaps seem so much about serial killers and mobsters, so I don't watch much. I don’t care about that kind of stuff. So yeah, Dark Shadows was my fave.

Mitali Perkins: I'm a firm believer in no apartheid when it comes to storytelling, but how would you respond to that overly politically correct person who mutters something like, "SHE'S neither Pakistani, poor, nor Muslim—how could SHE write Broken Moon?"

KA: I think that as long as a writer is respectful to the culture and people she’s writing about, she can write whatever she wants. I think it’s funny when people say, “Oh, I’m from such and such a place and that could NEVER happen.” Are you kidding me? We hear news stories about people and places every day where we say that could never happen and yet it did! People get too hung up on details. I remember I wrote a story once about an artist living in New York. They had a party and they served hot hors d'oeuvres. It was one line in the story. A friend of mine who was an artist said that artists in New York would never ever serrve hot hors d'oeuvres, only cold hors d'oeuvres. She just didn’t believe it. Now there may have been many things wrong with this particular story, but whether an artist somewhere in New York would serve hot hors d'oeuvres or not was not one of the problems.

I have never been a woman sewn together from the parts of three other women but I wrote about it in The Jigsaw Woman. Never been an amnesiac healer, but I wrote about her in The Gaia Websters. I have been a teen in the Midwest, but I was never sent off to an eating disorder clinic in New Mexico, but I wrote about such a teen in Mercy, Unbound. Never had a grandmother who may have been a mermaid (that I know of) but I wrote about that in The Blue Tail. I never had a brother who was kidnapped to be used as a camel jockey, but if I had, I hope I would have been as strong and brave as Nadira was in Broken Moon.

Michelle Knudsen: What was your favorite childhood breakfast cereal, and what is your favorite as an adult?

KA: I loved Wheaties, rice crispies, grapes nuts, and raisin bran. I loved reading the cereal boxes while I ate. Sometimes shredded wheat. I don’t eat cereal any more. I’m a gluten-free dairy-free gal and that doesn’t lend itself to much cereal eating. I’d love to have some raisin bran again. Mmm-mmm.

R.A. Nelson: Of all your goals and dreams, which one terrifies you the most?

KA: I don’t think any of them terrify me. Life often terrifies me! Maybe it terrifies me that I won’t succeed. But I haven’t succeeded at so many things and I’ve survived failing so many times, so I guess it’ll be all right. My goals and dreams remain quite simple. I’d like to be healthy, safe, and happy, living a life of meaning and purpose with my husband, my family, and my community. And then if I could have land to caretake, maybe create a kind of sanctuary where people can come, that would be icing on a delicious cake!


Read more here...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Interview with Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint is one of the best storytellers of our time. For two decades, he has awed and delighted readers with his mythic fiction. I was sitting here trying to figure out how to adequately describe what Charles does. He writes urban fantasy like no one else, but that doesn’t really tell you anything. You can hate fantasy but love Charles’ work. Maybe his stories are so remarkable and accessible because they are so grounded in myth, grounded in those stories that make up our world; because of this and because they are also rooted in place, the stories become real to us. I suppose that is what all great writers do, but it’s more difficult when you are writing “magic.“ In other words, with most fantasy you have to suspend your disbelief. With Charles’ stories, you aren’t suspending anything; you’re going along for the ride! After reading his stories, you are certain magic does exist, right here and now, in the way the birds fly, the sun sets, and the coyotes howl in the desert.

Charles and I first became acquainted when Nina Hoffman sent me some reviews Charles had done of my short fiction. At the time I was living in Tucson getting my Master of Library Science; I was sick, miserable, and I had yet again quit writing for good and forever. I wrote to Charles after reading his kind reviews, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Before email was popular, Charles and I used to write each other long letters, snail mail. I am embarrassed now on how I would prattle on about nothing. (Not much has changed.) Life took various twists and turns and the long letters stopped, but we’ve never lost touch with each other, even though we’ve only met in person twice. I love his wife, MaryAnn Harris, and I have never met her in “real” life.

Charles has been my mentor since the beginning of our friendship. He helped me get my first agent, and he and MaryAnn were instrumental in getting Coyote Cowgirl published. What I like most about Charles’ work is the same thing I like about Charles. His stories have a kindness to them. He seems to empathize with his characters, even the ones who aren’t particularly “good.“ His stories don’t have a black or white, good vs. evil, view of the world. There is the sense that were are all kin.

Charles has published over 60 books. Eight of his books were chosen for the reader-selected Modern Library Top 100 Books of the Twentieth Century poll, conducted online by Random House. Charles won the World Fantasy Award for his short story collection Moonlight and Vines in 2000. As those of you who’ve read Charles have probably guessed, Charles is a musician, too. You can find lots more out about Charles and his work on his website. Enjoy!

Kim Antieau (KA): What was your favorite book when you were a boy?

Charles de Lint (CDL): Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, the edition illustrated by Ernest Shepherd. I must have reread it a hundred times, and still go back to it. But while most people loved Toad, I much preferred the company of Ratty, Mole and Badger.

KA: Place seems to be very important in your books. Is it equally important in your life? Are you an indoor or an outdoor guy?

CDL: A bit of both. I like living in the city where I have all my books and music and can go out to buy that night’s dinner or easily see a band. But I also like the wild places, especially hiking in the desert and the Eastern woodlands. Do I have to choose?

KA: You really love the Sonoran desert. Can you tell us about the first time you went and/or what it is about this place that speaks to you?

CDL: It’s one of those inexplicable things. I remember stepping out of the airport the first time we came to Tucson (it must fifteen years or so ago, now) and I just felt like I was home. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I lived in desert country when I was a kid (Turkey, Lebanon, with lots of side trips through the Middle East and Egypt). Maybe it was from reading all those Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey westerns when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because it was once a sea and we all came from there originally.

I do know that I miss it when I’m not there. One of the main things that stops MaryAnn and I from moving to Tucson is that we can’t afford the health insurance. And MaryAnn would miss her family, who all live in or close to Ottawa.

KA: Am I remembering right that you left home when you were quite young and were on your own. Was being on your own so young a difficult thing to survive? Do you think that experience contributes to your understanding and empathy with your teen characters?

CDL: You’re right, but you know it was 1967—the Summer of Love—and things were a little different then. Sure, there were dangers and you could get into real serious trouble when you were homeless, but they pale in comparison to what the streets are like today. And there was always a sense of community. Not necessarily with everyone, but you could always find people to hook up with, share a meal and a smoke, play some music, talk into the night.

A fifteen year old hitting the streets today has a lot more dangers to face.

But that kind of experience teaches you about being hungry; about being cold and wet with no place to go; about the kindness and indifference of strangers. I also can’t pass by a homeless person without considering what put them there, because on the streets, you didn’t have to say a word to be accepted, but you could also share war stories long into the night.

KA: When did you first start writing? When did you decide you were actually going to be a writer?

CDL: It seems like I always wrote, I just didn’t think of it as a career choice. I just liked to tell myself, to pen pals (I had a lot of them, all over the world). Of course this was in the days before computers were everywhere, and anyone could access the Web. You had to make an effort keeping up a correspondence, and the arrival of the mail once a day was a big deal. I think if modern technology had been around when I was a kid, I would never have left my bedroom except to take the dogs out for their run three times a day.

KA: You are a musician as well as a writer. Do you view your music as an vocation or an avocation? Or is that just such a capitalistic question? MaryAnn is also a musician, isn’t she?

CDL: We’re both musicians. I’ve been doing it for longer than she has and I think I like to play for people more than she does. She is just as happy sitting on the porch or the end of the dock up at the lake playing her mandolin with only the birds to listen to her. I like the buzz of playing with other people, for people.

It was my career choice from about fifteen on. I’ve always lived and breathed music, running off to buy a new 45 as soon as I got my allowance and playing that thing over and over for hours. I could listen to music forever, and once I started playing, I could play forever. Worked for years in a record shop, which didn’t feel like work because you were listening to and talking about music all day long. Every record store I worked in was like High Fidelity, but there aren’t many like that any more.

In my late twenties, I started trying to make a go of it as a writer and music, didn’t so much take a back seat, as become something I just liked to do.

KA: You’ve always written young adult as well as adult novels, haven’t you? Do you find the experience of writing young adult novels different from your experience of writing adult novels?

CDL: I wrote a couple before I hooked up with Viking, and also used to write stories for the kids in my life, but it wasn’t until Joe Monti (then a buyer for a big chain) got me together with Sharyn November my editor at Viking that I was able to do as much of it as I liked. And I do like it.

To me there’s no difference between writing YA and adult except that in YA I make the book a little shorter and the protagonists are teens. The difference is in the readers. I have great, responsive adult readers, but I adore the interaction with teen readers because they’re so enthusiastic about their likes and dislikes. They don’t pull punches.

These days, I find myself finishing a YA, then doing an adult novel, then back to a YA. I wouldn’t want to only do one—mostly because there are stories that work better, depending on the age of the protagonists.

KA: I’m interested in how writers actually write. Do you have an office? Do you write at a certain time of the day? If you have a regular place where you write, does that mean you have difficulty writing away from your nest? Do you write on a computer or a pad of paper. Etc.

CDL: I write on a computer, but I’ve run the complete gambit. When I was very young, I wrote with a ballpoint pen in school notebooks. Then I got pretentious and started writing with a dip pen on parchment (I wrote at least a novel-length poem that way). Moved on to a fountain pen. Then a typewriter, then an electric self-correct. Then someone gave me a word processor and I was amazed at being able to fit ten pages on one of those floppy discs. Now I work on a computer.

I have an office, and I love it, but I can write, and have written, pretty much anywhere. In airports, on planes, in cafes, at someone’s dining room table...wherever I can open up the laptop and get to work.

KA: Are you ever unsure of yourself or your writing?

CDL: All the time. I think a good writer is a mix of confidence (sure that what they’re writing is going to appeal to their readers) and uncertainty (what if all these words are crap?). If you’re too confident, you get an attitude that seeps through into your writing, affecting the characters and the story. If you’re too uncertain, you’ll never finish anything.

In the end, I can only write a story I’d like to read, do it as best as I can, and hope that others will like it, too. The good thing about this method is that, no matter what else happens, at least I’ll enjoy the process.

KA: Now for the Cosmo portion of our interview: What do you do for fun?

CDL:: I’m boring. I like to read, play music, listen to music, watch TV (my last obsession was Veronica Mars). We’ve recently added a dog to our lives, young Johnny Cash, the dog in black, a Maltese/toy poodle mix. MaryAnn and I love playing with him and walking him. Our cat Clare is still holding judgment.

Also, if we’re in any sort of wild country, I love to hike. I also like painting and drawing, but I haven’t had enough time to enjoy it so much in the past few years.

KA: What’s your favorite thing to eat?

CDL: Chile rellenos at La Indita in Tucson.

KA: Do you have a favorite movie? Or are you not a movie kind of guy?

CDL: This will horrify real movie buffs who love the big screen, but I love watching home. Years ago I pretty much stopped seeing them because I just got sick of the theatre experience (the lines, the talking, the crappy theatres). Then along came Betamax (yes, I always choose the wrong format) and I was in heaven. I’ve since moved on to DVDs, which of course are on the way out now I’m sure with the advent of Blue Ray, but I doubt I’m going to switch. If DVDs become unavailable the way VHS tapes did when the big companies decided that we should only watch DVDs, I’m just going to stop buying them. I’ll still have lots of old ones to rewatch.

KA: What animal do you most relate to? (Not the animal you like the most, but which animal are you most like.)

CDL: If I say crows and coyotes, is that cheating?, considering I like them as much as I do. Or maybe a better term would be that I respect them, and they amuse me and fill me with wonder. But that’s true for pretty much every living thing.

KA: Alice Hoffman said in our interview that you can tell a lot about a person by which novel a person prefers: Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Which do you like best and what do you think that says about you?

CDL: Haven’t read either—but then I’m not necessarily as well-versed in the classics. I had terrible teachers who worked hard to kill any love for reading a kid might have, and since I never finished high school, I wasn’t exposed to them in college or university (neither of which I attended). I’ve subsequently caught up with some, but not with Bronte.

But I liked Kate Bush’s song “Wuthering Heights.”

KA: Do you have a favorite poet? If you do, who is s/he?

CDL: Wow, that’s a tough question. I’m the only person I know who goes out and buys poetry books. (Like I went and bought a little stack of books by Jimmy Santiago Baca after you told me about him—the guy’s brilliant; thanks for the tip!) Anyway, the point is, I love so many. I’ve spent many a happy hour reading Yeats, Wordsworth, the Beat poets, Leonard Cohen and the like. I’d also include people more commonly considered songwriters such as Dylan and Robin Williamson.

Currently (at the risk of sounding like I’m sucking up to you), I’m completely enamoured with your husband Mario’s work, especially the poems collected in Animal Life. Carolyn Dunn is so gifted. Gary Snyder, though I tend to read his essays more than his verse.

KA: I won’t ask you which of your novels is your favorite, but I wonder if there is a novel you love that you wish more people would notice and read?

CDL: I wish more people would read me, period. What writer doesn’t? We’re here to tell our stories to as many people as we can. I’m grateful to the readership I have—they’re loyal to a fault—but I also know that there’s a whole mainstream market I could tap into if I could only let them know I existed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a letter, or someone’s come up to me at a signing, to tell me that they don’t normally read fantasy, but after they read (insert title of whatever book it happened to be) they went out and bought all the others they could find.

That’s gold, for a writer to hear that. But also frustrating because you know you could connect to so many more people.

And I actually have favourite books, but they’re favourites for various reasons other than quality, usually because I tried something different and it worked. I often cite Dreams Underfoot as my favourite because it’s where I learned to write short stories, and it’s also where I learned that one doesn’t need a linear plot, or a clear antagonist, to tell a story that works.

KA: Does MaryAnn ever suggest story ideas to you?

CDL: All the time. Or she’ll point something out in a ms. that will take the story to a better and different place.

KA: Do you want to tell us what you’re working on now?

CDL: Right at this moment I’m in the wonderful position of not being under contract to anyone (though I have a number of offers that my agent’s hammering out), so I’m just writing a story for the fun of it. It’s YA, set in the southwest, with Chinese dragons and bandas and narcocorridos. Maybe it’ll fit one of the upcoming contracts, maybe it won’t, but I’m having fun writing it.

I’d give you more details, but I don’t really talk about what I’m working on because if I tell the story, then I don’t feel like writing it anymore.

KA: I understand. I'm the same way. Thanks so much, Charles! Love to MaryAnn.

Read more here...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Interview with Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris writes about people, places, and food with a delicious kind of magical realism. And I mean that as a description, not as a literary genre, although you could also argue that she is a magical realist writer. In any case, her stories are realist and mythic, sounding as though she is chronicling events that really happened, telling us about people we wished me knew and are glad exist somewhere in the world. Perhaps part of Joanne's brilliance comes from her ability to mix a bit of her own colorful life into her stories. She was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire to a French mother and English father, and food and folklore played a powerful role in her life. Her first book, Evil Seed, came out in 1989, and she hasn't stopped publishing since. She lives not far from where she grew up with her husband Kevin and her daughter Anouchka. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16, and she is currently studying Old Norse. The Girl With No Shadow, a continuation of the story of some of the characters from her best-selling Chocolat, has just been published in the United States. Her website has tons of goodies on it, including in-depth interviews and lots of scrumptious inside info on her books.

Kim Antieau (KA): Hello, Joanne! I’m interested in process, so I’ve got some writing 
geek questions. Where do you write? In a particular place? Chair? 
Bathrobe? Coffee, tea? In the morning, evening? Do you begin with a 
character or an idea?

Joanne Harris (JH): I generally begin with a series of ideas (not always in sequence) and a main character or two. Because I write in the first person, it’s important for me to get the voice right, after which I begin to feel more confident to develop the plot. I write on a very small Sony laptop, which fits into my handbag, and which I take everywhere with me. That way, I get to write on trains, in planes and in airports and hotel rooms (I quite enjoy these because I can order room service). When I’m at home, I generally work in the library, which is the nicest room in the house (it used to be my room, but everyone else adopted it). I don’t tend to dress up at home. Just jeans, Converses and an old cashmere sweater when it’s cold. On sunny days, I work in the greenhouse, a Victorian conservatory with a fig tree growing in it. I have a hammock and a rocking chair, and it’s just far enough away from the house to escape non-essential interruptions. I prefer to work in the mornings, especially in summertime (in winter I tend to suffer from the lack of light, and in spite of my SAD lamp, my work tends to slow down).

KA: Food is important in most of your books. I’m wondering if food as 
a kind of character in your novels is something you plan for each time or if it just happens?

JH: I don’t think of it as a character, more as an indicator of character. That’s why it takes on so many different identities, depending on the characters I’m writing about. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they relate to food. For me, it’s a kind of litmus test that defines the individual’s approach to life, culture and his peers.

KA: Your book Chocolat and the movie made from it were huge hits. Did 
that kind of success impact how you felt when you were writing your 
next book?

JH: Not really. I don’t tend to think much about the past when I’m working on something new. Besides, I had already finished the next book by the time Chocolat was published, so I didn’t feel the pressure to follow through.

KA: I won’t ask you which of your novels is your favorite but is there 
one you have a particular affection for that you wish more people 
read and noticed?

JH: I’m particularly fond of Runemarks, the fantasy novel I wrote for my daughter. I had such terrific fun writing it and working out all the intricate twists, and I think that some of the descriptive passages are as good as the best of my adult fiction.

KA: I read that you were a French teacher and wrote “in secret” while 
you continued teaching. Are you still a French teacher? If not, was 
that difficult to give up?

JH: I barely have time to write these days, let alone hold down a full-time job. Besides, after 15 years in teaching, I was more than ready to re-invent myself…

KA: Are you a good cook? A gourmet? Do you think the source of food is important? Freshness, organics, etc?

JH: I’m a decent (though far from brilliant) cook, with (like most people) very little time for cooking. I don’t prepare very complicated food, and my husband and daughter are vegetarians, so I tend to make a lot of pasta dishes, with soups, salads, roasted vegetables, curries, couscous, fruit, olives, tofu, cheese and rice. I think that the quality of the food matters more than the recipe – good ingredients don’t need much preparation – and I like to use fresh, local ingredients in season, rather than tasteless supermarket food flown in from a thousand miles away. I don’t cook meat or fish any more, and though I do eat them occasionally (especially when I’m travelling), I much prefer free-range, organic, ethically sourced produce. I support the Fair Trade organization, and I try to buy fair trade coffee, tea, chocolate, mangoes, bananas, etc. whenever I can.

KA: Do you want to change the world with your novels or a write a good 
story or both?

JH: If novels could change the world, then I guess someone would have done it by now. I just try to write the best story I can, and to make it as honest as possible.

JH: Runemarks is your first book for young readers. How’s that going? 
Was it a different experience writing for young readers? What does 
your daughter think of the novel?

KA: I don’t really think of this as a book for young readers, given that so many of my so-called “adult” books are being read by teens anyway. But it’s my first try at flat-out fantasy, and it has been tremendous fun. I wouldn’t have written it in this way at all without my daughter to spur me on. She’s very much the prototype for Maddy, and ever since I finished it, she has been pestering me for the sequel…

KA: The Girl With No Shadow, a sequel to Chocolat, is coming out soon. 
Was it difficult to return to that story and pick it up again? Fun? 

JH: I waited a long time to venture back into Chocolat territory, for a number of reasons. Principally because I wanted to explore other avenues, secondly because I knew that if ever I wrote about Vianne and Anouk again, the story would almost certainly be more about Anouk growing up, and I wanted to give my own daughter time to grow before I started to write about a girl on the cusp of adolescence. In many ways, therefore, The Girl With No Shadow has as much in common with Gentlemen and Players (my previous book) as with Chocolat. But I am very fond of those characters, and I’d always felt (as I still do) that there might be more to their story some day.

KA: Alice Hoffman says you can tell something about a person by which 
book they prefer: Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. Which book do you 
prefer? Why?

JH: Wuthering Heights; partly because I live within a stone’s throw of the place, and the landscape has shaped my childhood, and partly because of the raw poetry of the writing and the extraordinary insight the author shows into the darker mysteries of the human heart – an at such a tender age. Fantastic.

Read more here...
All work copyright © Kim Antieau 2008-.