Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Interview with Miriam Gershow

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your journey towards becoming a published author?

I’ve been writing most of my life, though not seriously until after college, when I moved across the country from Michigan to Oregon. I spent years in community writing groups, trying to figure out what makes a good story and what makes a good sentence. After nearly a decade out of school, I went back for my MFA in 2000. After graduating, I spent several years putting together a short-story collection. While the collection never sold, I did end up finding a great agent in the process, who encouraged me in my novel writing. The Local News took me two years to write. Six days after my agent sent it to publishers, we got an offer. So after 15 years of writing, I had found “overnight” success.

What inspired you to write The Local News?

I’m always inspired by the tiniest of glimpses. I rarely if ever have the entire story in mind at the outset. In the case of The Local News, I had the idea of Lydia going through her neighborhood with Missing Person posters of Danny and getting in a fight with a convenience store clerk who refused to hang it. That was it. From there, I just started to write, and the novel was born.

Do you have a favorite scene or a favorite quote from the novel? What is your favorite bit that you're extra-proud to have written?

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I really love the wintertime party in the park scene. Every time I reread it, it just makes me smile. That scene didn’t exist until the second draft of the book, and I just love the way it captures so many things at once. First, there’s the strange, boozy social scene of high school, which is both repellent and seductive to Lydia. Then there’s the uncertainty and confusion of adolescence as Tip and Lydia grapple with each other on the snowy trails to nowhere. Then there’s the specter of Danny hovering above everything Lydia does, even when she’s barely aware of it.

What do you love about writing? What do you find the easiest? What do you find the hardest?

I love the discovery that comes with the writing process. Like I said, I never usually know what lies ahead in my stories. So I relish those moments when I get a flash of inspiration and things just come together. This happened many times in The Local News, including when I began the second section and had no idea where I was going with the plot. One day, the idea of Denis hit me, and suddenly the story took on new life and headed in a new direction entirely. Those moments make the writing process so enlivening and exciting; they’re like a natural high.

For me, the easiest part of writing is keeping momentum going when I’m in the thick of a project. Once I’m neck-deep in a story, returning to it each day is like a compulsion. On the other hand, creating that momentum when I’m at the start of a project or between projects or stuck in a project having no idea what I’m doing (which is much of the time), can be really hard. I have to force myself back to my desk and just grapple with the blinking cursor on my screen. Those are the days when everything feels more satisfying than writing–washing dishes, vacuuming, organizing my spice rack.

How do you find the time--do you find the time--to keep reading? Do you have any recent favorites?

Reading is essential to me, not just as a writer, but as a lover of books. Not reading would be as hard and unnatural as not writing. However, I’m about to have my first child, so I’m sure it will become more and more of a challenge to make the time and stay awake for it.

I was recently blown away by Jennifer Haigh’s The Condition. I was awed by both the humanity of the characters and the structure of the book. For the most part, she devotes long chapters to individual members of an immediate family, telling their separate stories. It could almost be seen as a collection of short stories, yet it’s unmistakably a novel. And somehow all of these disparate stories come together by the end for one of the most satisfying resolutions I’ve read in years. I ran out and got her other books immediately and was equally impressed by Mrs. Kimble.

If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?

Well, the first thing that struck me was to go to some far-flung exotic locale of the past. But I couldn’t really think of a far-flung exotic locale that really spoke to me. If I’m completely honest, I’d use the time machine to travel maybe 20 years into the future and use the limitless supply of money to charter a high-speed jet to fly all around the world to see how my family, friends and I were faring.

Miriam Gershow’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, June 15th: Everyday I Write the Book Blog – online book club

Monday, June 22nd: Books on the Brain

Wednesday, June 24th: Book Club Classics!

Monday, June 29th: Worducopia

Thursday, July 2nd: Redlady’s Reading Room

Tuesday, July 7th: Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, July 8th: Becky’s Book Reviews

Thursday, July 9th: Caribousmom

Tuesday, July 14th: Stephanie’s Written Word

Wednesday, July 15th: A Lifetime of Books

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

LisaMM said...

I always like the answers to your time machine question in the interviews you do, Becky!!

This was a really good interview. I've just added The Condition to my TBR list. THanks!