|typical Texas girl|
TPP: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
NSMW: I grew up in Texas—mostly Houston, but also Austin, San Antonio and from age 7 to 9, the little coastal town of Freeport. It was exciting and fun to live near the beach and the experience left me so full of sense memories that I set my first novel there.
I come from a family of writers. The walls of our house were lined in bookcases. I have fiction, poetry and memoirs written by my grandparents and my father; my mother has hundreds of journals that she's kept. We all write something. So I figure that writing is in my genes—as are, presumably, the toxic chemicals produced by the Dow Chemical Company in Freeport, Texas back in the days before we'd ever heard the word "pollution." My dad used to say that it was the smell of money. But don't let the sparkly photo of me fool you. We didn't have much of it. The fabulous lavender and gold costume was made by my mom for our dance recital with teacher, Almeda Lobella. But that's another story.
TPP: Who were your three favorite writers when you were young? Who are three favorites now?
NSWM: As a little girl, Carolyn Keene—the pen name for the writers of the Nancy Drew mysteries. Ray Bradbury when I was a teen. Anne McCaffrey, as a young adult. Now? That's a hard question. I just discovered Ruth Ozeki. I've only read one of her books, but loved it (A Tale for the Time Being). I think Connie Willis is wonderful. Finally, Elizabeth Moon—a fellow Texan.
TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
NSWM: You can find me wasting time on the Internet, checking Facebook, Twitter, writing forums or my favourite fashion blog, Tom and Lorenzo, Fabulous & Opinionated. But wait! It's an addiction I'm actively attempting to modify. I love to do art, digital or otherwise. I quilt, play the piano a little. I love to cook and garden—when my body lets me—and read, of course. And, I fully intend to go back to websites and blogging someday. After years of doing my own creativity site and other blogs, I ran out of steam for that and had to let it go for a while.
TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
NSWM: I'm drawn more to variety* than habits or rituals. But, I've recently re-instituted a dedicated two-hour writing time (usually from 12 to 2)—with a strict "No Internet" rule. I put on my headphones and stay focussed. At the end of those two hours I can let it go and do something else for the rest of the day—or choose to keep writing if it's flowing.
But it's ridiculously easy for me to get into non-productive ruts, so I try to mix it up. If I am into a negative period I [eventually remember to] use short meditative practices to get that censorious, left-brained thinking out of my way or do timed writing sprints. I write Morning Pages (see Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way) to release mental logjams. I also use a treadmill desk; walking while writing can change things up and if nothing else, get the blood circulating—hopefully all the way to my brain.
TPP: What's your favorite beverage while writing? While not writing?
NSWM: I drink two cups of strong coffee with lots of milk in the morning and a cup of green tea in the afternoon. Did I say I'm not one for routine?* I don't really like green tea, but they tell me it will allow me to live forever, so I'm up with that. After hours, I enjoy white wine.
TPP: If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be?
NSWM: Living in Canada with most of my family far away, I would prefer my superpower to be: Being in Two Places at the Same Time.
My name: Echo? Doppelgänger? Duplo. Yeah.
TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
NSWM: So Many Things. I'm half-way through the first draft of a superhero story involving bees. I am focussed on short fiction right now because my goal is to get stories published in pro magazines. We shall see whether that's a short or long term goal. The odds are terrible! I do love to write novels, but since I might have Dow Chemicals lingering in my body and because that green tea may not work as effectively as I've been promised by the Internet, short fiction seems wise until someone's beating down my door for something meatier...or until I change my mind.*
TPP: Bonus: Is there a question you've always wanted to answer as a writer? Pose it and then write your answer. :)
Q: What's your best analogy for story writing?
A: I thought you'd never ask. I think of stories as puzzles. But, of course, not a ready-made puzzle that comes in a box with a picture and a known number of pieces. It's a puzzle that I have to find the right (and right number of) pieces to and then fit them together in the proper way so that the final result is perfect. Sometimes I provide too many pieces so the result falls off the edges of the coffee table. Or maybe the first draft looks more like a pre-school puzzle because it needs more pieces. Often there are ragged borders or holes in the middle. Thinking of it this way helps because a puzzle is a game. And games, while sometimes frustrating —"They forgot to put all the pieces in this box!"—are more often fun, and ultimately do have a solution. With this in mind, I can stop taking it all so seriously, remember that there should be a whole and satisfying "picture" at the end, and know that any problems I'm having can be fixed, because it's all under my control.
Talk about super-powers!