I promised a few days ago that I would post an interview with Mindy Klasky, author of WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD, the book I told y'all you had to go read. Yesterday was the book's official release date, so here is a Q & A with Mindy to celebrate!
She'll be giving away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter. BUT YOU HAVE TO GO TO MY MAIN BLOG AT http://deborahblake.blogspot.com AND COMMENT THERE! (Remember I told you that I was going to moving my blog over there by the end of the year...) In fact, now would be the perfect time to start following me there...
Mindy Klasky Interview
Describe a typical day for you. How you do get yourself to sit still long enough to complete an idea/story?
In theory, I wake up, send my husband off to work, attend a fitness class at the community center, eat a breakfast of oatmeal and fresh fruit, make a pot of tea, then sit down and draft 2500 words each day. I break for lunch, then run household errands and spend the afternoon reading materials related to my current or next project before making a healthful, well-balanced dinner.
In practice, I'm usually running behind on deadlines for a variety of reasons, some of which are my own fault, and many of which are not. When I'm running behind, my days are a lot more harried: I wake up, send hubby to work, rush through some fitness activity (walking, an exercise DVD), skip breakfast, drink too much tea, write 5000 words, gulp lunch, edit 5000 words, then frantically make dinner from my carefully cultivated stash of "ready in 20 minute" recipes.
Having contract deadlines hanging over my head is a great way to concentrate on completing ideas and stories. I have never missed a contractual deadline, and I'm determined not to do so – even when I'd rather be outside in the fresh air, or lazing around reading a book for fun. My first publishing break came about because an author missed his publishing slot, and I'm not willing to give up mine!
Which do you like better, writing the first draft or editing? What is the most difficult aspect of editing?
I've always preferred editing to writing. I find a blank screen totally intimidating. While I try to avoid being scared off by having an outline for everything I draft, my favorite part of the writing process is creating the second draft of a chapter. Then, I get to roll up my figurative sleeves to get into the nitty-gritty interplay of words, massaging the scene into the best storytelling that it can be.
The most difficult aspect of editing, for me, is knowing when to move on. Because of my aversion to writing new material, I tend to delay when I'm making my so-called, really-this-time-I-mean-it "final pass" on a chapter, convincing myself that I should read and re-read the entire section, every time I tweak one tiny word.
What three books or authors have had the largest impact on your writing?
I suspect that the real answer to this question would be "my Jane and Dick readers" – those were the books I used to learn how to read, and they inspired my lifelong interest in reading and writing. Instead, I'll give a few more specific answers:
J.R.R. Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS, which infused me with a sense of wonder that has rarely been equaled in my reading life, convincing me that made-up worlds could be every bit as real as the one I live in, with complete histories for every character and place.
Katherine Kurtz's DERYNI series, which I read and re-read in junior high and high school, because the characters seemed so real, and because their moral dilemmas (and yes, sometimes melodramas) captured my imagination and made me long to create my own characters.
Helen Fielding's BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY, which still makes me laugh out loud at the crazy antics of a Singleton in a world of Smug Marrieds.
What fascinating piece of research did you find while writing WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD?
WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD is the story of Becca Morris, a dramaturg for a theater company in New York. When I started writing the novel, I had a vague idea of what dramaturgs do, based on the essays that I'd read in a variety of theater programs over the years. In order to get a better idea of Becca's day-to-day life, I contacted three prominent dramaturgs at local theaters and invited them over for dinner, so that I could ask them detailed questions about their jobs.
The dramaturgs who helped me were incredibly generous with their time, and they shared numerous tales, many of which made it into Becca's story. One of the key things that surprised me as we all chatted around the dinner table, was how many ethical issues a dramaturg must resolve, particularly when working on a new, never-before-staged play. Of course, I gave Becca every ethical dilemma that I could!
How did you get your agent? Do you work with one publisher or several?
In the early 1990's, I completed my fourth novel, a quest fantasy. (I had completed two category romances and one mystery prior to the fantasy novel. All four of those novels will never see the light of day, for which you should be very, very thankful.) The quest novel had better characters and a stronger plot than my earlier work, so I decided to track down an agent.
I used a Writers Digest book that listed fee-charging and non-fee-charging agents. There were indexes in the back, which I used to identify non-fee-charging agents who were accepting new clients and who represented works of fantasy fiction. (No author should ever pay an agent up front for representation; agents should only earn their money on commission from sales.) I sent query letters to my top ten agents, and was thrilled when one, Agent X, agreed to represent me.
Six years later, after I had broken up with Agent X twice (and taken him back), he broke up with me. In those six years, he had not sold my quest fantasy, and he concluded that my most recent manuscript was too flawed to sell. Nevertheless, we parted under good terms, and he recommended that I contact several other agents. One of those agents – Richard Curtis – saw something more in that most recent manuscript. He agreed to represent me, and he sold that book – THE GLASSWRIGHTS' APPRENTICE – in a year.
I have worked with two publishers so far (Roc for my traditional fantasy, and Harlequin for my contemporary comic romances.) Different manuscripts are appropriate for different publishing houses; I suspect that I'll work with several more publishers before my career is over!
Do you have a dream project that you haven't written yet?
I have – literally – six projects that are clamoring for attention at the back of my brain right now. All of them will have to wait until I finish the As You Wish Series (the third volume will be out in October 2010), and the Night Court Series (vampires, and lawyers, and Washington, D.C., oh my!), which will start in April 2011.
The six projects include several different genres: category romance, magic realism, YA issues fiction, etc. For now, I'm making notes about each of these stories, and I hope to choose one to complete within the coming year.
What do you hope readers will take away from WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD?
First and foremost, WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD (and the entire As You Wish Series) is entertainment. I hope that readers will escape into the book, enjoy themselves, laugh a lot, and learn a little.
GOOD/BAD has a few "real world" issues running through it. Becca Morris, the heroine, learns a great deal about the world around her – both the local world of New York City (where she discovers the joys and dangers of guerilla gardening!) and the wider world, including Africa (where she learns about the plight of many women who struggle to make ends meet in challenging political and social environments.)
If nothing else, I hope that readers will leave with a distinct sense of which popcorn flavors are good and which are bad. (Yes, there's ample opportunity in the book to explore the bad….)
I had the pleasure of meeting Mindy in person at last year's RWA, and we have been online pals for ages. (She is also an insanely good freelance editor; I've worked with her professionally and she taught me a lot about improving my writing.) She's just as smart, funny, and sweet as she seems in this interview. I hope you'll take a peek at her books!