Thursday, July 24, 2008

What are they up to, now? A chat with Patricia Wood

Photo borrowed from this article, in which Pat is referred to as "the next Mark Haddon". Personally, I prefer to avoid comparisons and think Patricia Wood's writing is too original to be held up to anyone else's. But, that's me.

I was going to toss together all three authors I mentioned chatting with, earlier this week, but then my brain went splat . . . the neurons all lined up in a row and someone knocked the end-domino neuron over, causing a tragic chain reaction.

So, one at a time. My longest chat was with Patricia Wood, aka "Pat", so let's go with Pat, first. Pat wrote the book Lottery, which I read last year and reviewed for Estella's Revenge. It was one of my top reads for 2007 (I laughed, I cried, I could not put that sucker down), so I was all goofy-excited when Pat dropped by to leave a comment about my review. And, I was thrilled for Pat when Lottery was short-listed for the Orange Broadband Prize. I've also become totally addicted to Pat's blog because she's hilarious.

When I wrote to ask her what she's up to and when we can expect a second book from her, Pat replied promptly. What's she up to? Well, writing, of course. Originally, she expected to finish her next manuscript in the spring, but the whole uber-cool Orange shortlisting business threw a kink in her plans and led to a lovely trip to London for the awards ceremony. And, of course, I gave her an excuse for distraction (although, she was also considering an ice cream because it's been just as miserable in Hawaii . . . but I'm betting she won't get a whole lot of sympathy on that score -- you know, dream life on a fabulous boat docked in Oahu?).

Pat doesn't like to talk in detail about her works-in-progress and I loved her reasoning:

I have made the mistake of letting beta readers take a quick peek at the first few chapters and then I get into this big discussion about where the plot is going and that's not helpful. Everything has to come from inside me- with passion - it can't be analyzed . . .

I think part of it is that before you are published you can get to that quiet place- that place that is you the artist -- much more easily -- afterwards I think that a new author has to learn to ignore the readers and media and publishing gurus and just be solitary. Then the story can come. I'm fortunate I have several other manuscripts in various stages of completion otherwise I might feel more pressure.

She had so many interesting things to say that I'm quoting directly from Pat's emails. I didn't ask for permission before I started cobbling this post together; if it disappears for a short time to be reworked, that's why. Just a warning for those of you who subscribe to a feed and might want to comment. More about life between releases:

I think the other thing that happens 'between books' is a lot of reading. I tend to read more after I've finished a first draft rather than during as I'm so engrossed in my own story.

I would like to say one thing. With several high profile writers it seems that putting out a book (or 2 or 4!) a year is the norm. New writers & authors may make the assumption that being able to create a book only months apart is an expectation--I have not found this is so in my case. Both my editors and agent are patient. I have several other manuscripts that 'could' be next but to me are not 'right' yet. My work has to sit and I have to see it with new eyes.

I also am aware of the 'elephant in the room' -- the reader-- It wasn't there before. I have to kick him out and sneak back to my computer so I can write without someone looking over my shoulder.

Pat mentioned that it's difficult not to take negative reviews personally, since they're written in such a personal way, and that her friend and mentor, Paul Theroux, doesn't read his reviews at all. I didn't tell her I think I'd totally lose my voice (and possibly the strength in my knees) in the presence of Paul Theroux. But, it's true. Chances are pretty good that the same thing will happen if I ever manage to get back to Hawaii and meet up with her.

On that note, Pat also reminded me that I was within walking distance when my husband and I visited Oahu in December:

I have wireless on my boat and you could have WALKED from the [very nice hotel] and posted from my there! That will teach you to not let me know you are in Hawaii lol!!

This is a bruise that keeps getting itself poked, every time I speak to Pat or read her blog. I could have met her! Walking distance, people! And, you know, I was out there snapping pictures of every flying, walking, blooming, breathing thing and it would have been nothing to walk a bit further . . . but, I digress . . .

On Pat's agenda:

The Maui Writers Retreat and Conference (this year in Oahu) in August
Some events in Seattle, mid-September
A visit to Books & Books in Miami, Saturday, October 11

What kind of miserable scenery does Pat have to look at, nearby?

Goodness. The real question should be, "How do you get any writing accomplished at all, living in a boat docked at an island paradise?" I'll ask her that, next time.


  1. *kicks foot into sand*
    Turns off internet router and gets back to writing...

  2. Is that a good "gosh", Pat? Okay, sorry, distracting you, again. Get back to work!!

  3. Thank you for the update, Nancy! I haven't yet read Lottery, but it's on my wish list.

    I love Pat's statement about the "elephant in the room". I can see how that can be a problem for authors. Do you cater to the reader or write strictly from inside yourself? Or is it best to find a balance? I imagine it is not always easy.

    Ooo! You have me wishing September was here now so I could be in Hawaii instead of at home.

  4. Wendy,

    You're going to Hawaii??? I hope you have a fabulous time. We had a blast.

    It's really great to hear an author's viewpoint on the writing process and how different it is writing for publication. That "elephant in the room" may be a part of why we sometimes end up dissatisfied with authors -- they're trying to hard to please the reader instead of writing from the heart. Interesting thought!
    I know I'm always extremely anxious awaiting more books by an author I enjoy, but I'll try really hard to keep my jumping-up-and-down vibes out of Pat's way. :)

    Lottery is excellent. It's very rare for me to have trouble putting a book down. Usually, I balance 3 or 4 at a time, then I'll focus on finishing a particular book when I get close to the end. Anything that compels me to stop everything else and read till my eyes water is special. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it!

  5. Anonymous7:49 PM

    Poor Pat. That view must be so very hard to have to see, day after day. I feel for her.

    I can imagine how an author would feel reading a review! It can't help but be personal if you wrote the darn thing but when I review books (in my own inarticulate fashion) I pretty much pretend the book produced itself.

    She's right, a book shouldn't be written by commmittee.

  6. Carrie,

    I know. Imagine the pain. LOL

    You have always have such a terrific way of putting things:

    " . . . a book shouldn't be written by a committee."

    It's official: I'm a Carrie fan. I should start collecting for a book of pithy quotes by Carrie.

    One of the worst things about reviewing, for me, is that I can't separate myself from the fact that there's an author at the other end. If I hate a book, I hurt for them. I want to love their books! It's not easy writing! But, we can't love everything (or everyone -- I'm always reminded of that when I'm on the highway).

  7. I really enjoyed this post of yours! Lottery is on my TBR and your "chat" makes me want to read it sooner.

  8. Teddy Rose,

    Thank you! Pat is a sweetheart. I hope you read Lottery very soon! It is soooo good. I'd love to hear your thoughts. :)

  9. Thanks for the update! I'm anxiously awaiting another book by Pat and may have to resort to re-reading Lottery just for a Perry fix.

    Wouldn't it be fun to plan a blogger retreat in Hawaii? We could all fly out and get Pat's second book signed in person. Something to consider!!

  10. Oh wow...I'm so excited to go read your review now. I bought this book about a month ago. Total impulse buy. Had never heard of it before (or since until now, that is)...but it sounded so positively wonderful from the blurb on the back that I couldn't resist.

  11. Les,

    The good news is that Perry is worth revisiting. Otherwise, I guess we have no choice but to be patient!

    Oh, yeah. I wouldn't object to a blogger gathering in Hawaii. LOL We could hang out with Pat, go snorkeling, get books autographed and take a million photos. We should start planning!


    That was an exellent impulse on your part!! Lottery is an amazing book. You should just sit down and read it right now. It's one of those rare books that sticks with you for a long time. Then, of course, you can join the antsy readers who are dying for a second book by Pat! :)


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