What inspired you to write your book?
My professor once called me, “The Edith Wharton of the O.C.” He said, “You should write a House of Mirth for Newport Beach.” I became consumed by the idea. I studied House of Mirth, re-reading it many times. I read biographies of Edith Wharton—her autobiography. I read everything by Edith Wharton and Henry James. Edith Wharton’s prose is so adept and sharp—so bitingly humorous and sad. I wanted to have that same leveling grasp. I wrote the novel over a four-year period.
What is it about?
This Vacant Paradise is literary fiction. The novel is about a beautiful woman named Esther Wilson who has been raised to land a rich husband. Her greatest asset is her beauty, but she’s getting older, and she wants to be with a man because she loves him. She gets in all kinds of trouble when she acts upon her principles.
Was there a character you struggled with?
I struggled with all of them! They all frustrated me. And even now that they’re in a book, they continue to frustrate me.
How many unpublished books do you have lurking under your bed?
I have two unpublished novels lurking in my closet. I don’t throw them away because I might extract little piece from them—I’m sort of cannibalistic that way. Same with my journals. There are nuggets in there—in the midst of all the blather.
How did you find your publisher?
When Jack Shoemaker at Counterpoint Press took my novel, I was incredibly happy and relieved. Not just because I’d sold the novel, but because I’d be a part of a press that had such an esteemed literary reputation and history. Jack works with writers for the long haul, not just dependant on sales figures. He might be the last one.
What’s the best/worst part of being a writer?
The best part is being in the thick of writing. The worst part is not being in the thick of writing. And vice versa as well.
What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
I write in the mornings, even though I’m not a morning person. Having children trained me to become a morning person, because that’s when they’re at school. Ideally, I write as soon as I’ve dropped them off at school until it’s time to pick them up in the afternoon.
Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer
I’m a combination writer—both longhand and computer. I have a routine. I begin by journaling, usually for close to an hour. Then I move to the computer. But I take lots of notes in notebooks. So I usually have a bunch of notebooks filled up by the time I tackle a novel or a short story, and while I’m in the process of writing, I continue to fill up notebooks. There are stacks and stacks of journals and notebooks in my home.
What/who do you draw inspiration from?
I’m reading constantly, so writers constantly inspire me. But it’s unexpected where images and ideas, etc. come from. I wouldn’t be able to pin point it.
Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
I don’t have a specific word count, but I’m disciplined. I try to write every day, no matter what. Even when my kids were very young and I was completely exhausted, I’d make sure to get ten-fifteen minutes in, so that I could tell myself that at least I’d written that day.
What are you working on now that you can talk about?
I’m working on short stories again!
How do/did you deal with rejection letters?
I save my rejection letters. I think of them as badges.
Do you have a critique partner?
I belong to a writers group with three women writers that I admire and respect. When I’m ready to share my work, they’re ready to critique it.