Monday, November 22, 2010

Rachel Howzell Interview

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write? Even though I love to sleep in late (which I never get to do now with a six-year old and a job), I am most productive early in the morning. On the weekdays, I will get to my day job around 6:20 and write until 7:00. It’s not a lot of time, but since I know I am limited, it becomes an intense 40 minutes. If the sun’s high in the sky, then I’m tapped out – my brain stops braining and the words just fold in on themselves. Especially since my day job is writing as well.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer? I am old-fashioned – pens (Uniball micropoint blue or black) and legal pads (white). I also use sticky notes, the backs of school newsletters, anything blank enough to capture an idea. I also have a little moleskin notepad in my purse – my daughter has co-opted it, so now I sometimes have to scribble around pictures of fairies and flowers. After writing the first draft on paper, I go back and type it in, editing as I go. I’ve tried writing directly into Word but I freeze. Pads give me a chance to scribble in the margins, to see my errors. And I’m an office-supply junkie so there’s that...

3: What do you draw inspiration from? From the world in general. Many of my stories come from newspapers, situations that make you say, “No freakin’ way.” Some inspiration comes from friends and families, the lives they lead, the lives they wanted to lead. That’s why I carry that notepad in my purse – to capture those strange moments, that strange lady in the grocery store, the way the sky looked that night. Some things you can’t make up.

4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count? No, I don’t. For me, it’s most important that I get the story down. I can always go back – and I do – to see what needs fleshing out, what needs to be cut. As long as I’m writing, it’s all good. That’s my goal.

5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art? I am both. My first novel, A Quiet Storm, was published by Simon & Schuster. The marketing department came up with the cover work for that novel. My second novel, The View from Here, is self-published. I’m lucky to have a husband who’s a designer – he created the cover for The View. It’s perfect, I think. Captures the mood and theme of the novel perfectly.

6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer? I love stories and I came to be a writer because I’m an avid reader. Words, words, words – I love them and as a child, I admired the people that turned them into magic. For a long time, I thought it was this mystic thing, being a writer, and I never thought I’d actually be one. I wrote but that wasn’t writing-writing – or so I thought. Even in college, writing was akin to climbing Everest. It wasn’t until I started working at PEN (a writer’s organization) and met working writers that I became convinced that I could do what they did – that I could be a writer. And I did – a novelist. And then, I decided that I wanted to write as a career, and so I’m also a science writer at City of Hope, a cancer research and treatment center here in Southern California.

7: Do you own an ebook reading device? Not yet, but I hear Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat… as the song goes.

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now? My favorite authors are Stephen King and Dennis Lehane. I’ve dreamed of being the female equivalent. Right now, I’m reading a novel, Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan. Also on my nightstand with bookmarks in them are Clockers by Richard Price and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson. I’m a buffet-type of reader. If it sounds good, then I’m in.

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any? I think they’re cool – don’t know how effective they are. Don’t plan to do any although I am intrigued.

10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book? The main character, Nicole, is experiencing grief – the loss of her husband. Life has changed, and all that she thought she believed has been shaken. She’s seeing impossible things, experiencing the unimaginable. In all this, she feels alone, feels as though no one can understand what she’s going through. “The View from Here,” I believe captures her new existence. The cover really drives it home – the rained out view, the word ‘help’ written in the condensation…

11: What are you working on now that you can talk about? Right now, I’m fleshing out an idea about the lies we tell, about the false worlds we create and how that can lead to murder.

Thank you so much for letting me share my process with you. It’s cool talking to other writers about what makes them tick.

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