Today I am very happy to present a double-feature type interview with two Tilbury House debut authors: Katia Novet Saint-Lot, author of Amadi’s Snowman, and Amy Lundebrek, author of Under the Night Sky. (It’s a little like listening in to a pair of writing pals chatting at the local coffee shop). Take it away, Katia and Amy!
Lots of people have this idea that the writing life is pretty romantic. What’s one thing that’s completely unromantic about being a writer?
Katia: Well, it is 2:45pm and I’m sitting at the computer, still wearing my pajamas, feeling thoroughly frustrated because my children will arrive in 15 minutes and I have not showered, have not done all I wanted to do because I wasted far too much time answering my emails, doing research, and what not, and because anyway, I’m not creative in the mornings, and, oh, did I mention that I forgot to have lunch? So, now, I only have a few minutes to shower, get dressed, and if I’m lucky, grab a piece of cheese in the fridge, and…dring! the door bell rings, and that’s basically it for the day, at least until late in the evening when both ladies [Katia's daughters] are asleep.
Amy: At first glance, your unromantic scenario looks like my romantic scenario…I literally can’t remember the last time I was able to remain in my PJ’s until 2:45! My alarm goes off at 5:30am. I let the dogs out, pack a breakfast and lunch for myself and my husband, take a quick shower, make some coffee, and try to get myself out the door by 6:45. I get home from work between 4:30 and 5:00, make dinner, read a little bit and email/facebook/websurf… and then by 9:30 I’m winding down. We do have a strong similarity in our lives, though… and that is that at our most creative times of day, we have other responsibilities. My most creative time is from about 8am to lunch time, but I’m at work then, and it’s not the kind of job where I could sneak in a little writing. I accept though, that this is the way it is for me in my journey at this time, and that it will not always be this way. I am also happy for anybody who has created space and time in their lives to focus on being a writer, which it seems that you have done.
Katia: Well, I’m a translator by profession, which means I work from home. In February of this year, I found myself not only alone to look after my 3 year-old in the afternoons, but also trying to tutor my other daughter in French—we were hoping to move to a Francophone country, and so I wanted her to be at the right level for school. So, all of a sudden, I was left with only about three to four hours of free time a day. I thought about it long and hard and then decided to take a break from translating for a few months. But then we didn’t leave India, and now the little one goes to school until 3pm…but I haven’t yet gone back to a full-time translating schedule. So, being able to write until 2:45 is totally new. Funny how we get into a routine and forget about the old ones!
What’s one thing about the writing life that measures up in every way to people’s fantasies?
Katia: I’m not sure what people’s fantasies about the writing life are, but one real high for me is to feel that a story is taking shape. I could be frustrated, worry about the emotional arc not working, spend hours changing one word, and then, suddenly, something shifts, or I have an idea, and things seem to fall into place. Wow, that’s totally worth all the frustrations before, and all those still to come.
Amy: The romantic part for me is actually strongly connected to the difficult part. Being so busy, and still driven to write, I often have to shelve my ideas in the back of my mind for long periods of time, only taking them out and looking them over once in awhile. The secret is, even if I haven’t thought about a story idea for a long time, when I pull it back out from wherever it was hiding… it’s different. It has grown and changed and developed more or less without me, often becoming more relevant. This has happened to me so frequently that now I trust the process, and something about the way that works makes me feel connected to the universe. Is what I’m describing similar to what you mean when you talk about how “something shifts” and “things seem to fall into place?”
Katia: Yes, absolutely. I hadn’t articulated it that way, though. For me, it feels as if ideas, thoughts, concepts, need a time of incubation. When they’re ready to come out, they do. I think it has to do with one’s personality, at least in my case. I process things very slowly. Pretty much everything. And I’ve learned to accept it – I’m not sure I do it as graciously as you seem to – and try to trust the process more, and not fret so much about getting things done right now. It helps that I usually work on several projects at once. When I reach a plateau with one story, I just put it away and get another one out.