An Interview with Susan DeFreitas, author of Hot Season
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
Great question! Like many writers I know, I have more than one of these manuscripts. The book I worked on for most of my twenties was abandoned, mid-draft, when I realized that I just didn’t have the skills to finish the sort of complex story I’d chosen–in other words, I realized that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. At that point, I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree in writing, which is where I wrote the stories that would become Hot Season. That original novel of mine has indeed been relegated to an obscure folder on my hard drive, but I hope to return to it someday.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
There are writers who struggle for ideas, and there are writers who struggle to keep up with their ideas; I’m one of the latter. That said, it does take a whole lot of refinement, feedback, and fine tuning to really produce a book of lasting quality, so I suppose my aim, at this point, is to refine the work I’ve already produced while also drafting new work in small increments. I’d love to pump out a novel a year, but it may wind up being more like one every two years. =)
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
I can write most anywhere, but I am particular about my mediums–I prefer to draft new work by hand and to revise it on a screen. As far as drafting goes, I’m a big believer in doing it away from the computer and all the deliciously devious distractions it provides.
I also like to make use of notebook margins to include alternate pathways in logic and association–phrases, sentences, and even whole paragraphs I may wind up using later and may not. You can’t do that in Word, and I think word processing in general is best for refining and perfecting rather than generating new work.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
I’m lucky enough to have a stellar weekly critique group, and we all run our books through the group before submitting them for consideration by agents and editors. As for hiring an editor, my book is traditionally published, but I did work with an editor from my own firm, Indigo Editing & Publications here in Portland, Oregon. Even editors need editors!
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
Yes! Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland is a bit of a literary mecca, and with good reason; the store takes up an entire city block and caters to every interest under the sun. I love spending time there, and I’m always amazed at the quality of their staff picks. But I will admit, I see the charm of e-books as well; I recently downloaded something like 20 books published by Small Beer Press–a fantastic small press publisher of speculative fiction–through Humble Book Bundle for a ridiculously cheap price, and now I can rest assured that I always have a great book available when I go on vacation and don’t want to lug around a bunch of books.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind?
I love both literary fiction and speculative fiction, and many of my favorite books straddle the line between these genres.
I was OBSESSED with a tricksy mystery novel called The Westing Game when I was a kid. Must have read it 10 times!
The Invisible Man really knocked my socks off, as did Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.
I cannot deny the influence that both Ed Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang and John Nichol’s The Magic Journey had on me–living in the American Southwest, these books just spoke to my experiences in such a powerful way.
I’m a huge fan of Ursula K. Le Guin. Absolutely everything she writes is amazing.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What are your feelings?
I actually enjoy participating in social media, Facebook especially, as it’s been a great way to keep in touch with people from many different points in my life, and to network with local writers as well–I also use Twitter and Instagram, in a somewhat more haphazard fashion. I’ve found the former good for keeping track of publishing industry news and that latter a nice outlet for my closet visual artist. But I agree that social media sucks up a whole lot of time–especially around the time you have a book coming out! I’m looking forward to getting back to writing and editing soon.
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
Never! Interviews are fun, and I love meeting new people and talking about books, delicious books. =)