Lessons from My First Author Interview

I’m honored that my short story, “Sand and Salt,” will be included in the upcoming anthology, Furious Gravity, a collection of stories, essays, and poems by DC women writers, edited by writer Wendy Besel Hahn and American University professor Melissa Scholes-Young. It comes out on May 1. Preorder it here!

One of the cool things about being in this anthology is that it allowed for my first author interview! A student from American reached out to me to have a virtual sit-down about my story, and it turned out to be a great learning experience for me. Here’s a few takeaways:

  1. I have to stop thinking, “No one is going to read this.” I don’t tell myself that in a self-flagellating way, but in a way that gets me out of my head and lets me write. If I think about the fact that someone will read what I am writing, I would never write ever. But at some point, I have to turn from writer, the person who wrote the piece, to author, the person who published it, and to be able to speak intelligently in reflection about the work that I created. At the same time, humility is helpful; I’m still endlessly grateful for those who read my work.
  2. Before the interview, take a brief look at your story again. Of course, I know this story like the back of my hand. I spent 2.5 years writing it, including several back-and-forths of revisions with Wendy. But in the moment when someone was asking me questions about it, I kept thinking, “Wow, I wrote that?” Again, of course I had and I remembered it, but it would have emboldened me just a bit more.
  3. Have a list of themes from the story, top of mind. Again, I know the story because I wrote it, but for a moment, I’d kind of forgotten that this is not just a story about class, it’s also a story about race (because race is a construct built to enforce classism). When the student—who was super smart, btw—asked about how race plays out in the story, I had to think about it. Taking the time to think isn’t a bad thing, obviously, but next time, I’m better prepared to more deeply consider the themes before I talk about them.
  4. It’s always the right move to tell the truth. Confirmation of such! When the student asked where I got the title, “Sand and Salt,” from, I told her the truth: my subconscious was working in my favor that day. I hadn’t intended to use it as a title; it is a phrase I used in the story and I like the way it sounded, the way it brings to mind the beach, where the story takes place. I took more time to think about it in the course of revisions and realized that abrasiveness and, frankly, saltiness, were defining characteristics of my main character and her sister. So, I’d never set out for it to work so well, but, man, does it work. But to my point, I always hated when authors seemed to be making something up on the spot. I appreciate honesty, even if it’s admitting you don’t know something or if something just came about by happenstance.
  5. I am an artist. Although I’ve spent quite a lot of time and energy (and money, for that matter) on honing my craft, I didn’t truly feel like an artist until someone encountered my work, responded to it, then questioned me on it. For me, writing was a hobby for years, from age 12 to age 30, when it became my job. I still slip up and think of it as just something I do for fun, and it is, but it’s also not. It contributes to the zeitgeist, and that is AMAZING.

Preorder your copy of Furious Gravity here!

3 thoughts on “Lessons from My First Author Interview

  1. Pingback: Furious Gravity is here! | Diary of a Writing Life

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