Daily Archives: October 31, 2008

Author Interview: Kristin Cashore

I am super-excited to present my recent interview with Kristin Cashore, the author of Graceling.

If you haven’t read Graceling yet, I ask you, “What are you waiting for?” Obviously, you haven’t read my review yet. Enjoy this, folks. Just get a load of Kristin’s answer to the first question. Wow.

What inspires you (situations / works of art / places / foods / people)?

So many things inspire me—photographs, sculptures, landscapes, buildings, things people say—and when it happens, it’s always a small and indescribable moment.  You look at something and it’s beautiful and strange—or maybe it’s horrible and strange—so much so that you can see and feel what’s beyond it.  You catch your breath; your imagination stirs and growls and starts to grow new arms and legs and kidneys.

I have some photos of an icy, mountainous wasteland torn from an old National Geographic; I think these inspired some of the landscapes in Graceling.  During the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the TV coverage showed Greek monasteries sitting atop impossible, unreachable pillars of rock.  That probably inspired Ror City, and some of the other Lienid landscapes.

An oak tree in my neighborhood inspired parts of my second book (Fire, out next fall), as did the colors of the sky and the river at dusk.  With the book I’m writing now, tentatively titled Bitterblue, sculptures I saw years ago are crowding into my mind—in particular, Bernini’s Daphne and Apollo, which is a sculpture of a woman turning painfully into a tree.

I think anything that stops you and makes you aware can be inspiring.

Is your writing space a place of loveliness? Describe where you work.

I just got up and did about 30 minutes of cleaning, because your question properly shamed me. Now I can say that my writing space is a place of loveliness.

I write longhand in a green armchair in a (usually) sunny window. (I live in northeast Florida). A dragon kite hangs from the ceiling above me. Across from me is a low bookshelf, with books (naturally), pictures of my parents and sisters, a statue of a striped cat with a long neck, a pair of Groucho Marx glasses, and a road atlas, a world atlas, and the Star Wars Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy so that I always know where I am. There’s an inflatable globe on the floor that I kick around a lot; there’s a side table to my left covered with books, letters, post-it notes, and my cup of tea. There are college-age young men trying to kill themselves on skateboards outside the window to my right. On my walls: a picture of Sydney, Australia; hangings from Cameroon and Ecuador (gifts—I’ve never been); and, two alphabet posters—one the Finnish alphabet and one the Alternative Alphabet Poster for Little and Big People (C is for Compost; V is for Vote; you get the idea).

I write in a place of great comfort. The light turns yellow in the afternoon and shines through the trees onto my walls. When it rains in Florida, it really rains, and I sit in my armchair and watch palm tree fronds float down the street. I’m from the north, where palm tree fronds do not float down the street, so it never fails to feel strange and wonderful to me.

(Poster can be found for purchase here).

Based on things you’ve written in your blog, it sounds like you actually enjoy the writing process (gasp), and that you don’t find the writing life especially torturous. So what’s your secret to enjoying both the writing process and the result?

I do enjoy it, except for when I hate it, and I don’t find it torturous, except for when I feel like I’m being eaten from the inside by my cannibalistic brains.  :)

I think that every book comes with its own heaven and hell, and the secret to loving the process changes each time to suit the book. With Graceling, the secret was a mix of sheer determination and finding the fun in it. With Fire, I never found the secret—that book kicked my ass from beginning to end. With my current project, Bitterblue, I’m in danger of being overwhelmed by too many details, and the secret seems to be backing up, finding perspective, and hanging on to my faith that I can do what my ambition wants me to do.

Some of my practical tools these days for keeping perspective: some brief morning yoga; some brief nighttime meditation; walks along the water; and spending as little time as possible in my office, which is where I keep my computer. The Internet is a wonderful invention but it’s also a black hole—especially when you’re a writer whose first book has just entered the world.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

This is less a piece of writing advice than a feeling I’ve gained in my time of working with my editor. In response to my occasional freak outs, in response to my moments of panic over this or that part of this or that book, she has said, over and over, “I trust you.” And you know what? That’s an amazing thing to be told. The other day, she e-mailed me this: “The process might feel like crap sometimes, but your heart and your brain will carry you through every time. I promise.”

It is awesome to be believed in.

For me, right now, writing, at its base, is about having the faith of a mustard seed: doing something, and doing it with all my heart, even on the days when 99% of me doesn’t believe I can do it¬—because 1% is enough. The best writing “advice” I’ve ever received is the trust of my editor, which has made it so much easier for me to have faith in myself.

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