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  • An Exclusive Interview with Andrea Rothman
An Exclusive Interview with Andrea Rothman
Written by
She Writes
February 2020
Written by
She Writes
February 2020

This month, Andrea Rothman releases the paperback version of her novel The DNA of You and Me and She Writes got the chance to sit down and talk with her about her routine, her new release and her journey as a writer. 

Share your writing routine.

I write every morning, after driving my kids to school, usually between 8:30 am and 11:00 am and sometimes later again in the afternoon. I try not to leave my desk until I’ve written at least six pages, which can take me anywhere between two to three hours, depending on my level of focus and inspiration, and also on where I’m at in a project. For the first draft of a novel, not knowing yet where the story is headed, I usually write longhand because it feels freeing and less daunting than staring at a blank screen, and also because the act of holding something in my hand is physically assuring. It makes me feel like a painter making his or her first brush stroke on canvas. At this early stage in the work—before I move on to my laptop—I use a marble notebook and a fine ballpoint pen. Though I sometimes write in the library, I prefer to write at home, where it’s quiet and there are fewer distractions. While I’m writing, I keep my phone hidden from view, inside my handbag, and will not answer a call unless it’s from one of my kids or my husband or my mother. I find that if I don’t adhere to this kind of discipline, I risk losing momentum in the writing, but that’s just me. The creative process is different for every writer.

What’s the first/worst job you ever had?

I was a waitress in Covent Garden, London, when I was 18. It was my first paid job and I took it very seriously. It was exhausting work. I remember it was summer, and there were tables set outside, under a very large tent, and the ground was stone. My feet always hurt at the end of the day and I couldn’t wait to get back home and lie down in bed with a book.

Describe your writing style in three words.

My writing style tends to be succinct and unpretentious. I can be lyrical in my writing but that lyricism is usually lucid and brief rather than contrived or long-winded. My writing style can also change depending on the topic I’m writing about and the character(s) I’m trying to portray.

What is the first thing you can remember writing?

The burial of a young boy told in the voice of his older sister. It was a sad story but not overly sentimental. I wrote it at age 15 for an English placement test in Kent, England. I was new to the school, to the Country, and nervous. The teacher who graded it must have liked the story because I was placed in an advanced class where we read George Orwell’s 1984. Since then I never stopped reading.

When did you start to feel like a writer?

When my first story was accepted for publication and I received a check a few days later in the mail for $20. This happened not so long ago, actually, in 2009. I remember it was a weekend when I got the news, in an email. My husband was home. I yelled out his name and he came running into the bedroom, worried that something bad had happened to me. I was actually screaming for joy. I never cashed that check by the way. It was the first pay I ever received for my fiction and I kept it.

Was there something about the publishing experience that surprised you?

There were many stages to publishing my first novel, and many surprises along the way, both good and bad. That period of my life was so overwrought with emotion and anxiety—mainly due to my inexperience in the publishing world as a first-time author—that it’s difficult to describe or to even remember in detail any particular event. What does stand out as memorable, aside from the launch of my book on pub day, is meeting my editor for the first time, the woman who read and loved my novel, and acquired it. We had lunch in a small Italian restaurant in downtown Manhattan where we discussed books and writing and the novel itself. It was perfect, and few things have matched that experience.

As a first-time novelist with unhindered optimism, you’re prone to believe your first book will be an instant success. I know this is a dream most writers have, and as good as the book is, this usually doesn’t happen with the first. Process is everything in writing. After you’ve published your first book, you gain an understanding of the kind of writer that you are, and where your work stands in the world of publishing. I think this is when the creative output truly begins for a writer.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Have faith in your inner voice, which means quite simply: never look away from what you most desire. Great writing usually comes from that hot red center we all carry, which we often deem either trivial or too painful to consider. Also, be patient and be curious, and never ever stop reading. Most importantly, don’t be afraid of failure. Just believe in yourself and try to enjoy the sheer act of writing.

What do you do to help develop your craft?

I reread books to which I feel strongly connected, each time paying close attention to different aspects of the writing: diction, sentence structure, character development, voice, theme and plot. I also read instructional books on writing fiction and scene structure, as well as poetry. I try to listen to music every day, old and new songs. Music has always had a profound impact on my writing. Most importantly, I try to write at least five days a week and to learn new words and different ways of saying the same thing. Language can never be boring. The possibilities are infinite.

Why is it important for women to share their stories?

When we share our stories, we let other women know that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings, and we also allow men a glimpse into our inner world. Women have a tendency—more than men—to underestimate the importance of their lives and uniqueness of their experiences. In writing workshops, we tend to be less prone than men to voice our opinion, more self-conscious. In short, less self-assured. We are also less likely than men are to give ourselves permission to write about difficult topics and be blunt on the page. I don’t know why that is, but it’s something I’ve observed that I think is starting to change.

What’s your favorite way to support other women writers?

My favorite way of supporting other women writers is to share my knowledge and experience in writing and publishing. I have read many works in progress by aspiring authors and advised them how to write a first strong chapter, how to find an agent, and how to avoid making the same mistakes I made. Many of my friends, like me, are new authors. I find that the best way to support them is to go out and buy their book and read it and review it in multiple channels.

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