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This blog was featured on 12/21/2018
Best Author Interviews and Advice of 2018: Part One
Written by
She Writes
December 2018
Written by
She Writes
December 2018

This year we have learned from some of the very best literature has to offer. From exclusive She Writes interviews to scouring media for the best advice for authors, we have found that one of the best ways to learn about this profession is hearing how others are making it work in today's publishing landscape. We rounded up some of the best quotes of the year for you here so you can finish your 2018 writing journey strong.

Oyinkan Braithwaite

Debut author Oyinkan Braithwaite took the book world by storm this fall with her novel My Sister, the Serial Killer.

On Submitting for Review

Here she shared her best tips for submitting your work.

“I try not to send work out that would cause the reader to question if I completed primary school,” she says. “Many writers don’t like to edit their work…this is not a good thing. Tidy up your work; a writer who doesn’t understand basic grammar cannot inspire confidence.” Beyond that, she says, “Write hard. Challenge yourself. Don’t become comfortable. Try different points of view, different ways of expressing dialogue, work on your description and then write without description, participate in workshops, and attempt prompts. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, the worst you will hear is ‘no’.

Read more from Oyinkan Braithwaite here.

Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer released Archenemies, her second novel to YA fans this year. On her blog, she’s incredibly generous about sharing resources and advice for writers.

On Allowing Yourself Grace… and Patience

Every writer experiences frustration and questions her abilities to succeed. It’s normal, and it happens to everyone, she says. Think of your favorite writer, she urges – the one who constantly blows you away with clever plot twists, marvelous characterization, the way they make the words glow on the page. And then imagine what that writer’s very first story was like. Or, heck, their first 10 stories. Maybe even their first 50 stories.

“If you are imagining works of genius,” she says, “I can tell you that writer would laugh very, very hard.”

“No one starts out a brilliant writer, or even a decent writer, and I think few writers ever reach a point where we’re like, 'By golly, I am amazing.' We are always learning. We are always striving to be better. We can always point out our own weaknesses and flaws, but we’re storytellers, so we keep writing and improving as much as we can."

“Be patient. There are writers who were published when they were 17 years old, but there are also writers who weren’t published until they were 70. There are writers who hit the jackpot with their first manuscript, and there are some who have 20 rejected novels sitting on their computer. Getting published involves diligence, hard work, determination, and – yes – luck. The whims of the market cannot be ignored. There are a lot of factors outside of your control.”

But what IS in your control? It’s the work itself, she reminds us. So here’s where the patience thing comes in. Take the time YOU need to write YOUR best book.  

“Use critique partners and listen closely to their feedback,” she suggests. “Do not rush through your revisions and edits just because you want to be published nooooooooowwww. Rather, take the time you need to bring your work to a quality that will set it apart from all the other writers in an agent or editor’s inbox. That might be a few extra months, or it might be a few extra years, but it will not be wasted time.”

Read more from Marissa Meyer here.

Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty, the woman behind Big Little Lies and several other bestselling books, released her latest novel Nine Perfect Strangers this fall.

On Finishing Your First Novel

“I think writing your first novel is like being on a diet. That’s why programs like Weight Watchers are so successful, you’ve got to have something that keeps you going. Anybody can write their first chapter, but it’s a really long task to finish it. Either join a writers’ group or get a friend to become a writing partner, set up a contract with somebody, say, ‘I promise I’ll get you a chapter by such and such a date.’ That sort of thing. You’ve got to trick yourself into writing the first novel.”

On Word Count

Here, Liane talks about writing goals.

“Every time I sit down to write I need to commit to a word count goal, otherwise I waste too much time editing and re-editing my previous work, staring dreamily off into space, pretending that I’m thinking profound, poetic thoughts when really I’m just thinking, “Look at me being a writer! I’m so happy I’m a writer!’ My real thinking and planning gets done when I’m doing something else like driving or walking or taking the shower. When I’m at the computer, I need to write.”

Read more from Liane Moriarty here.

Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is the New York Times-bestselling author of seven novels and 11 works of nonfiction. She’s also a regular public speaker, writing instructor, activist, and Sunday school teacher.

On Finding Time

“Turn off Twitter,” she says. “And don’t clean the house. That’s what it takes to create the rich life you deserve.”

“I sometimes teach classes on writing, during which I tell my students every single thing I know about the craft and habit," says Lamott. “This takes approximately 45 minutes. I begin with my core belief – and the foundation of almost all wisdom traditions – that there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.”

Read more from Anne Lamott here.

Kathryn Abdul-Baki

Kathryn Abdul-Baki is the author of A Marriage in Four Seasons.  

On Setting as a Character

Here she offers some wisdom about thinking of setting as a character.

“Above all, the setting must be fascinating enough that it becomes a character in the novel.  Not to overshadow the actual human characters, a vibrant setting will enrich the main characters, make the reader feel more deeply their predicaments and states of mind.”

“I often begin a story with a setting, relying and embellishing on my memories, creating a strong sense of place in my mind’s eye.  My characters, on the other hand, along with the plot, must be made up and need much more abstract planning, such as delving into the depths of a character’s emotional or psychological state. Once I have an idea of my setting, I immediately turn to the characters, the engine that drives the story forward.”

On Imagery

“Imagery comes into play by thinking of unconventional ways to describe something. Comparing a house or street to something live can give the sense of movement to an inanimate object. An intricate mosaic ceiling of a mosque or church can swirl like a multi-colored constellation of stars, a ceiling fan in a hot hotel room can blow down air in soothing angels’ puffs, a natty chair can cast an angry snarl.  These made-up details, however, must logically fit into the reality of a particular setting to make it stronger and to retain the reader’s trust.”

“In short, to make foreignness familiar and believable, the reader must feel empathy for the character’s reactions, even if they are different from the reader’s own, so that the faraway setting feels, at least temporarily, like home.”

Read the full post here.

Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas’s no. 1 New York Times bestselling YA novel, The Hate U Give, tackles the issue of police brutality with grace, empathy and thoughtfulness.

On Advice for New Authors

To new or struggling authors, her advice is to not worry about all the advice. Here’s what she suggests:

“Don’t overwhelm yourself with 'writer’s advice.' There are lots of tips out there, lots of so-called 'guidelines' but at the end of the day, do what works for you.”

“Write for yourself. Don’t write for trends, awards, accolades, film adaptations, any of that. Write the book that you’d like to see on a bookstore shelf that you haven’t seen yet.”

Read more from Angie Thomas here.

Tahereh Mafi

Tahereh Mafi is best known for her incredible contributions to the YA genre. However, Mafi’s latest release, A Very Large Expanse of Sea, tackled controversy over Muslim-American relations.

On Writing Sequels

Here she speaks about her own experiences with reading that have shaped her writing:

“At the end of the day, I think I identify much more as a reader than I do a writer. Because I spent the majority of my life reading books, not writing them. So I understand so well what it's like to be impassioned by a novel. What it's like to finish a book and be so angry you just want to chuck the book across the room and send that author a very lengthy letter full of very unkind things. I've been there. I understand it. I also know what it's like to finish a novel and want to weep from the beauty of it. It's incredibly rewarding that to imagine that I've been able to re-create that in somebody else. The anger or the happy passion. I like it. I really do. But at the same time, I'm a little scared. I don't really know how people are going to react to the third book. I definitely take their feelings into consideration. Because I know what it's like to feel betrayed by an author when you follow a story."

On Why She Writes YA

“A lot of people ask why are so many people reading young adult fiction today  -- I really think it has everything to do with that experience of firsts. Nothing is quite as potent as experiencing life as a teenager. Everything is either the worst thing that's ever happened to you or the best thing that's ever happened to you. You're on a high. You're exhilarated constantly. You're either so sad you've never been so sad in your life, or so excited and happy you don't even know how to describe it. Your first kiss, first any kind of romantic encounter, your first driving experience, your first vacation, your first betrayal, your first everything. ... Every person, no matter how old you are, remembers what it's like to be 16. No one forgets that. You never forget what your first kiss was. You never forget your first big experiences in life.”

Read more from Tahereh Mafi here.

Alice Walker

Poet, activist and award-winning author, Alice Walker, is best known for The Color Purple (1982).

On Sincerity

When asked about what makes a great novel, a short story, a poem, Walker says, sincerity:

“It is sincerity. Because if something is false, it’s useless. If you try to write something and you start then you start again and start again and it still doesn’t come to life, it’s better probably to retire it because it will probably not ever be the medicine. Good writing is medicine for you and that’s why you should always remember to read good books because, you know, it can not be medicine if you don’t take care.”

On Supporting Other Writers

A common thread in Walker's works is bringing a voice to vulnerable and providing support where it's needed. And just as she brings those great gifts to her socio-political efforts, she spreads it to her writerly community.

“The best thing you can do for any writer or artist that you love is buy their work and promote it,” says Walker. “Talk about it, discuss it, have circles where that’s what you do. We all need that kind of attention especially when we’re younger. We need people to recognize that we are coming along and that we have something to say that will help the entire culture.”

Read more from Alice Walker here.

Reyna Grande

On Digging Deep, Even When It’s Painful

Reyna Grande is an award-winning novelist and memoirist, most widely known for her critically acclaimed memoir, The Distance Between Us. Her latest book, and a sequel is A Dream Called Home, released this year.

Writing has proved therapeutic for Grande, and the exploration of her characters – her own family members – was an exercise that resulted in deep healing and understanding.

“One of the biggest revelations while writing the book was that it forced me to look at my parents through different eyes – the eyes of a writer,” she continues. “For all my life, I had seen them through the eyes of the daughter they had left behind, and there was a lot of lingering anger, resentment, and pain that I still felt. So, my interactions with them were always tainted by those emotions. When they became characters in my book, I had to look at them through a writer’s lens, and I admit I was more compassionate and understanding of them. As a writer, I work very hard to get to know my characters, so I had to learn everything I could about my parents – their childhoods; the time and place in which they grew up; the people they were raised by; their fears, joys, and sorrows. I was able to understand them much better and this discovery brought me closer to forgiveness.”

On the Writing Process: Novels vs. Memoir

“Writing the memoir made me feel extremely vulnerable. I was exposing my deepest secrets and yearnings, baring my soul and heart for all to see and to judge. It was scary but also very healing. I was hiding from my truth by writing fiction. It worked for a bit but eventually I needed to confront my own demons.”

Read more from Reyna Grande here.

Sharlene Teo

On Writing Routines

Sharlene Teo released Ponti in the US this year, which explores the representation of Singaporean and Malaysian women.

When asked about her writing routine, she laments the “shaming culture” that dictates “all these didactic rules” one must follow to be considered a writer – like having to write every day.

“Everybody has their own process. You’re not a machine,” she says. “I feel like as long as you’re reading, you’re fine. If you’re a writer and you stop reading things that don’t relate directly to your work, for pleasure, then you’re fucked. What are you even doing? How can you expect people to read your stuff for pleasure if you’re not?”

Read more from Sharlene Teo here.

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