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This blog was featured on 12/29/2018
Best Author Interviews and Advice of 2018: Part 2
Written by
She Writes
December 2018
Written by
She Writes
December 2018

Wow! What a year. We rounded up some of the best advice from authors, but couldn’t fit them all in one post. So here in Part 2, we continue with some of the best words of wisdom from new and established authors alike.

Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is best known for writing Hunger and Not That Bad – but she’s also revered for supporting her fellow authors, providing invaluable tips on things she’s learned over time.

On the Secret to Getting Published

“Writers are always looking for the secret,’ she says. “And sometimes someone knows someone or whatever but mostly you just need to write. And it may be scary to face that the biggest thing you can do to make it as a writer is to write.”

On Taking Advice

There’s a bounty of advice for writers, as Roxane points out – but not all advice works for all writers. Here she speaks to the importance of trusting our instincts and doing what we have to do to get the job done.

“Finally, there came a time when I decided to ignore all the advice I had read and do the only thing I know how to do, which is write. I wrote what I felt like writing, when I felt like writing, how I felt like writing. I jumped all over the place. None of my chapters had numbers. I didn’t take notes, or create a timeline, or plot anything out.”

“Like most writers, I was able to write a novel without explicit instruction, and that’s probably for the best. There are some things we should figure out for ourselves. You will figure this out for yourself and the choices you make will be the right choices. This is your novel and only you know how to write it.”

Jesmyn Ward

The author of the National Book Award winner Sing, Unburied, Sing is not only an inspiration to writers everywhere, she’s also a supporter of aspiring writers and openly shares advice.

On Crafting Your Voice

Earlier this year, Jesmyn was an instructor for She Writes University, during which she shared what she wished she’d learned earlier in her career.

“Voice doesn't come to you in one fell swoop,” she said. “Voice is something you develop and refine over years. It takes patience and dedication. For those of us who are not precocious writing geniuses, this is how it works.”

On Perseverance

The need for writers to be diligent is as powerful now as it has been at any other time in publishing. Here, she reminds us that we have to keep moving forward.

“I worked with several writers at the University of Michigan: Nicholas Delbanco, Peter Ho Davies, Eileen Pollack, Laura Kasischke, and Thomas Lynch, who told me the same thing over and over again: Persist. Read, write, and improve: tell your stories. Accept rejection until you find acceptance, but don’t become disheartened, stop writing, and remove yourself from the conversation.”

Read more from Jesmyn Ward here.

R.O. Kwan

On Following Your Calling

July 31st marks the release of R.O. Kwon’s debut novel The Incendiaries, a story that took her 10 years to tell.

“I always loved reading and I knew I wanted to be a writer starting around high school. Then when I went to college, I took writing classes and I absolutely loved them, but I’m an immigrant and my parents are immigrants and it didn’t seem clear to me that being a writer was an available path — I just thought that I might need health insurance and things like that. So I worked for a consulting firm in New York and was miserable, in part because the job was terrible, but also because I wasn’t writing. I remember looking out the window on a flight that I was taking for work. The view was beautiful, and I was thinking to myself, if I give up writing I’ll have no reason to try to describe it to myself, and that made me feel just so sad. It made me feel like there was no point to the beauty, in a way, if I wasn’t trying to describe it in words. So that was a pivotal moment for me: realizing how I much I needed that and how much that gave purpose to my life.”

Read more from R.O. Kwan here.

Candace Breen

Reverend Candace Breen recently released her latest book, After the Darkness. Here she breaks down her writing routine, her first memories of writing, and advice for aspiring authors. 

On Learinging from Others

"I read work by other people in my niche area. I also listen to a lot of podcasts about my niche area which helps me to learn what's on the minds of my potential readers. I also talk to locals who have read my work and allow them to freely talk about their thoughts regarding my work. It helps to keep me focused on my audience."

On Writing

"A friend of mine once told me, 'Keep writing no matter what!' and I live by those words. Never stop writing and always believe in yourself."

Read more from Candace Breen here.

Jodi Picoult

The critically acclaimed author of dozens of novels, Jodi Picoult, has plenty of experience in the world of writing.

On Structure

“Carve out a bit of time every day to write, and make sure you do it - and nothing but that - even when you don't feel very motivated. Read a ton. Take a workshop course so you learn to give and get criticism. When you're stuck, and sure you've written absolutely garbage, force yourself to finish and THEN decide to fix or scrap it - or you will never know if you can.”

On Writer’s Block

“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it—when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

Read more from Jodi Picoult here.

Rachel Khong

Rachel Khong released Goodbye, Vitamin, last year in what was called one of the best books of 2017.

On Reading

Like most successful authors, Rachel is an avid reader and credits reading for shaping her own writing.

“Read more than you write. This is always the advice I give to writers, and it seems so straightforward, because it is. It’s not an easy or quick answer, or a surefire way to publication; it’s not at all glamorous. But to me it’s a relief. It’s wonderful news, because most likely you got into writing because you read. Reading shapes your thinking, improves your writing. In order to improve your own writing, all you have to do is this thing you already love to do.”

On Telling Your Story

“Books are supposed to open up our worlds, not only show us one kind of world. It would be boring to read about only one kind of experience, and irresponsible to only highlight a narrow range of voices. So it’s not only important that women and writers of color tell their stories, it’s important we read them. It’s important that we recognize those who are writing well—to publish diverse books and teach them in our schools and recognize their authors with awards. We can shape this industry as readers by buying diverse books, and supporting diverse authors.”

Read more from Rachel Khong here.

Lillian Li

Debut novelist, Lillian Li took a short story and turned it into her first book Number One Chinese Restaurant.

On the Importance of Language

In The Number One Chinese Restaurant, Li seamlessly moves between thoughts and dialogue, keeping the readers entranced on every page.

“Language was a top priority for me, something I really wanted to get right. I think that it’s a real challenge to think about how to communicate to the reader that the character is communicating in multiple languages when you can only write in English. At the end of the spectrum, the most effortless thing is your own thoughts. I really wanted to communicate that spectrum of effort to let people know how language works, and to have more overlap with people who not only speak English and Chinese but other languages too. I wanted to show a way of making the experience of language feel relatable.”

Read more from Lillian Li here.

Debbie Macomber

From her humble beginnings and working through dyslexia in order to become a full-time writer, Debbie Macomber, the #1 New York Times bestselling romance author knows a thing or two about what it takes to publish a successful book.

On Finding Fresh Ideas

“I think it’s really important to always be looking ahead. If you look for trends and see trends in publishing, it’s too late. By the time you have your book published, that bird has flown over. So the thing is to keep your eye and your focus on the future. And the way to do that is to look at different things in society – the writer has to keep their focus on the writing and their vision on the world."

On Handling Rejection

Rejection is a word most writers hate, but Debbie has found a way to accept the fact that not all of her work will be accepted by publishers.

“I stopped counting my rejections. Back in the ‘80s, there were a lot more publishers for the kind of books I was writing. Nowadays, there are just a few major traditional publishers left–HarperCollins, Random House, St. Martin’s, Simon & Schuster, Hachette. An emerging writer gets rejected by the literary agents she contacts to represent her work, and she gets rejected by editors who work for the publishers. I sent my work out dozens and dozens of times, and received both form and personal rejection letters. It was hard in the sense that I had to keep working at my craft and I had to keep sending out my work. It was NOT hard because I knew I had set an ambitious goal for myself, but it was something I wanted. And how hard is it to go for something you want?”

Read more from Debbie Macomber here.

Diane Shute

Diane Shute recently released her novel Midnight Crossing, the second in her Midgnight trilogy.

On Trusting Yourself

“Don't be afraid of mistakes,” she says. “Just start writing. It doesn’t have to be pretty—and worry about editing later. Read everything you can find…you can’t write without reading. Read authors in your favorite genre for inspiration and read different genres to feed your imagination. There are also a ton of resources online with writing games and word prompts. Writing is a craft.Seek out a mentor and build support by joining writing groups.”

On Staying Sharp

“I read and write daily. Reviewing books is a great way to support my fellow authors and helps me focus on my own work. I belong to multiple online writing groups, and subscribe to craft periodicals. She Writes University has offered some very nice webinars—but probably the most important aspect of developing my skill, is to write.”

Read more from Diane Shute here.

Leila Slimani

Leila Slimani’s shocking domestic thriller, The Perfect Nanny, was listed among the New York Times top ten books of 2018 list. She Writes' own Brooke Warner interviewed her earlier this year and the two discussed the following.

On Handling Bad Reviews

Here Leila covers why it’s not her concern nor is it in her control what people interpret about her writing.

“When you’re a writer you just write a book and if people understand it they understand it and if they don’t they don’t. I don’t own my book readers do.

What I wanted to say doesn’t matter it’s about what you read in the book. We have to accept that some people don’t understand what we have to say.”

On the Importance of Telling Your Story

“I do think it’s extraordinary and important for women to write and to tell, and to testify what it is to be a woman in this world. What it is to watch this world as a woman or as a mother.

For many years and centuries women couldn’t write, and couldn’t get published. So it was very difficult for women to tell their stories. If they tried they would have to use a masculine pen name.

So when I go to write I think of all those women from those centuries who wanted to tell their stories and someone, their father or their husband or someone else, told them it’s not possible. And I think of them and I want to write for them. So many women yesterday, but even today in my country of Morocco, it’s hard for women to think about being a writer.

It’s very difficult for many women in many countries to tell the truth or her truth, to break their silence and use words as tools. It’s very difficult. So I feel a kind of duty to tell them it’s hard, but it’s also extraordinary.”

Read more from Brooke's interview with Leila Slimani here.

Go back and read Best Author Interviews & Advice of 2018: Part 1 >

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