It’s been awhile since I have done an author interview. I don’t know why I really stopped, but I’d like to do more and make it a goal this year to get more people on here to talk about their work and their love of reading: authors, book bloggers, other editors, etc. So I’m going to put the call out. If I have read your book (and liked it), if I talk to you on twitter, if you are a book blogger that loves me ;), email me and I will get you set up for an interview ASAP. If I have not read your book, I am not interested.
Tina Boscha is the author of River in the Sea, which I read a little while back. It was a great, great book and I was really impressed with it. My review is here, and I gave it 4 stars. Here is the summary of the book:
At fifteen, Leen De Graaf likes everything she shouldn’t: smoking cigarettes, wearing red lipstick, driving illegally, and working in the fields. It seems the only thing she shares with her fellow Dutchmen is a fear of the German soldiers stationed nearby and a frantic wish for the war to end. When a soldier’s dog runs in front of Leen’s truck, her split decision sets off a storm of events that pitches her family against the German forces when they are most desperate – and fierce. Leen tries to hold her family together, but despite her efforts, bit by bit everything falls apart, and just when Leen experiences a horrific loss, she must make a decision that could forever brand her a traitor, yet finally allow her to live as her heart desires.
Inspired by the life of the author’s mother, River in the Sea is a powerful and moving account of one girl reaching adulthood when everything she believes about family, friendship, and loyalty is questioned by war.
And now, here’s Tina. And me, asking the questions.
What is your writing process like? Outlines? Music? Time of day? Where do you write? That type of thing.
I’m not sure exactly what it is about the process question, but I love to hear about what other writers do. I think it might be because I fear that my process is peculiar and it’s reassuring to hear that other writers have quirks too. So it’s fun to write about my own!
In the end, I think my process is mostly ordinary. I definitely use outlines, although they end up pretty loose and bear the disclaimer “subject to change.” For me, an outline means a brainstorm on paper. I’m not sure my thoughts ever feel real in any way until I write them down. I like to journal and make lists (and I have separate notebooks for each) and funnily enough, my outlines look like lists. They inevitably change during writing, but I find that the essential structure stays the same. Without thinking through the plot first, I feel very unsettled which quickly turns into paralysis.
Time of day varies for me; I like to get my chores out of the way first. This can be a method of procrastination, though. If I don’t have to work outside the home that day, I like to write in the early afternoon. Otherwise, I find that 7 pm works well for me, especially during the academic year (I teach college writing). The weird thing is that I used to write on a laptop; I hated sitting at a desk and preferred a couch-and-cushion setup. This last year I switched to preferring a desk; having a new computer with a huge screen was probably the factor that made me change. One thing that doesn’t change is the impact grading has on my writing; on those days I write first or else it’ll never happen.
As far as music, I always listen to music. I have used the same playlist for years – and I mean YEARS – that I add to every now and then. I call it “Moody Music” and it has everything from Nina Simone to Pearl Jam on it. For whatever reason, it helps me concentrate. The best writing sessions are those where I don’t even remember listening to half the songs.
Where did you get the ideas for your characters and setting?
Setting is easier for me; I tend to pick places I’m very familiar with. My first novel, River in the Sea, takes place in my parents’ homeland, Friesland (a province in the Netherlands). I’ve been there several times and in general am pretty comfortable with Frisian/Dutch culture. My current novel takes place in the same town I live in right now, although I’ll end up changing the name and some particulars. I tend to find inspiration in places and people right around me; I really am drawn to the extraordinary in the ordinary. That surrounds us every day.
As far as characters, my answer is both the same as what I just wrote, and completely different. I definitely draw on those familiar to me (clearly, as my protagonist in River in the Sea is based on my mother as a teenage girl). Yet I also like to work with characters who are unfamiliar, who are nothing like me or those I know. I think with characters I feel the most free to explore and experiment; plot and setting usually are rooted in some spark I got from an anecdote overheard or some piece of “real” life. But with characters, I find that you must have a mix of personalities and emotional “presets” for lack of a better word. Often you need to create a character to prompt another character to act in a certain way.
Maybe the best answer is through alchemy.
Did you go to college? What did you major in?
I am ridiculously overeducated! I went to Calvin College in Michigan and majored in Sociology. I love the discipline, and I think I do because it is another way to study people, how they act, their motivations, and how they work within a larger framework. In other words, it’s what I studied when I was too afraid to dive into Creative Writing. I didn’t take my first official creative writing course until my senior year of college. I was scared out of my mind – what if I turned out to be terrible at the very thing I have always wanted to be good at? Luckily the whole experience was very positive, and I learned a lot – mostly that I wanted to keep writing. But I still didn’t believe I should pursue it from an education perspective, and after I graduated with my bachelor’s, I then received a Master’s degree in Sociology and worked in the private sector. At the age of 27, I threw caution to the wind and moved from Wisconsin to Oregon for my MFA degree in Creative Writing. I graduated in 2002 and have been teaching composition (and other forms of writing) ever since.
At what age did you figure out you wanted to be a writer? Is there anything else you want to do besides write?
Birth. Seriously, I don’t know when this itch first began. I honestly do not remember a time I didn’t want to write. At the age of six I answered the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up by saying, “An author and an artist.” I bought a typewriter at age nine and wrote a crazy novel with pages of unattributed dialogue and even sent it off to an editor! As far as art, I am pretty crafty and OCD in what I like to do. But writing has never faltered. That’s always been first for me.
Ideally I want what most writers want – to write and publish full time, and earn a living that way. Yet I love teaching. I think it’d be weird for me not to teach at all. I’d love to conduct seminars on writing and maybe self-publishing, and work with teens and young people who want to write but are unsure of how to start or of trusting themselves.
Which classics are your favorites, if any? Why?
I love, love, love Edith Wharton. Ethan Frome, The House of Mirth… Her novels really touch on a person’s struggle to live within a strict framework but who ultimately can’t – or won’t. I also loved Tess of the D’urbervilles when I read it as sophomore in high school. But I’ll be honest – I’m not that well-read when it comes to the classics. Is the Laura Ingalls series considered a classic? Because if so, then add those books to the list.
Favorite book? Favorite band?
Ursula Hegi’s Stones From the River. I LOVE that book. I love the writing, the emotion, the protagonist. It was the book that showed me I could write the story I wanted to write.
Favorite band – oh, that is hard! I am a child of the 80s so I have a strong affinity for Prince and Journey (shut up). As for contemporary music, no one holds a candle to Elbow. Guy Garvey’s voice is magic.
Finally, talk about your book. Obviously. What was difficult about writing it? Easy? Can you talk about your next project?
My most favorite question! River in the Seais my baby. My firstborn. It’s not my first novel, but it’s the first novel that I felt ought to be in the world, rejections be damned. This was not an easy book to write at all, for many reasons. First, it’s historical and based on true events. I had never written anything remotely like this, and I became completely mired in painting everything as accurately as possible. Which does not a good novel make. I also really struggled with how to present the setting and history in an organic way. What’s the right balance of exposition to scene? I tried the second chapter data dump, a technique that does NOT work, ever. I tried a prologue. Nope. What helped me considerably was reading sci-fi, believe it or not; good sci-fi must build a believable world while avoiding clunky explanations.
Writing this novel was also difficult because it is based on my mother’s early years. How do you imagine your own mother as a teenager? And how do you make the character your own? I really had to divorce myself from the idea that Leen in the book is Leen in real life, and realize that Leen must be a character fully real to me, and that was the only way she was going to be real to readers.
Finally, I wrestled enormously with self-doubt and getting in my own way. It doesn’t help that despite winning some awards and fellowships (yay) I was rejected by publishers (boo). When I finally decided to take matters in my own hands and give in to that nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away, this feeling that told me the book should not be shelved, I didn’t look back. I’m starting to reach more readers and am excited about River in the Sea’s future.
My next project finally has a title. The Sleeping Fields is a YA novel that on the surface will be familiar to many; it’s a paranormal romance of sorts. I call it a good old-fashioned ghost story, but yet, I really want to turn the ideas of a love triangle in which the young woman must choose and “love triumphs all” – even death – on their respective heads. I’m a little over halfway through the first draft and Thea, my main character, is starting to behave very, very badly. It’s pretty nerve-wracking to write (but also good fun!). I’m hoping to release it by the end of 2012.
Yes, I do the same interview every time. And I haven’t been let down with the answers yet. I love hearing about the writing process, likes and dislikes, and the next project. I ask questions I want to know the answers to. I am also really looking forward to The Sleeping Fields. If it is as great as River in the Sea was, I am sure I will love it.
Up for grabs I have 1 paperback copy of River in the Sea (United States entrants only), and one e-book copy(all formats, International).
Giveaway ends a week and a half from now on January 26th. Winners will be notified by email.