A Quick Visit with Author Mindy Klasky

March 30, 2010

Today I present a quick visit with my friend and fellow SFNovelists blogger Mindy Klasky, who has a new book out called When Good Wishes Go Bad.  Please check out Mindy’s web site and, of course, enjoy the Q and A.

Describe a typical day for you. How you do get yourself to sit still long enough to complete an idea/story?

In theory, I wake up, send my husband off to work, attend a fitness class at the community center, eat a breakfast of oatmeal and fresh fruit, make a pot of tea, then sit down and draft 2500 words each day. I break for lunch, then run household errands and spend the afternoon reading materials related to my current or next project before making a healthful, well-balanced dinner.

In practice, I’m usually running behind on deadlines for a variety of reasons, some of which are my own fault, and many of which are not. When I’m running behind, my days are a lot more harried: I wake up, send hubby to work, rush through some fitness activity (walking, an exercise DVD), skip breakfast, drink too much tea, write 5000 words, gulp lunch, edit 5000 words, then frantically make dinner from my carefully cultivated stash of “ready in 20 minute” recipes.

Having contract deadlines hanging over my head is a great way to concentrate on completing ideas and stories. I have never missed a contractual deadline, and I’m determined not to do so – even when I’d rather be outside in the fresh air, or lazing around reading a book for fun. My first publishing break came about because an author missed his publishing slot, and I’m not willing to give up mine!

What fascinating piece of research did you find while writing WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD?

WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD is the story of Becca Morris, a dramaturg for a theater company in New York. When I started writing the novel, I had a vague idea of what dramaturgs do, based on the essays that I’d read in a variety of theater programs over the years. In order to get a better idea of Becca’s day-to-day life, I contacted three prominent dramaturgs at local theaters and invited them over for dinner, so that I could ask them detailed questions about their jobs.

The dramaturgs who helped me were incredibly generous with their time, and they shared numerous tales, many of which made it into Becca’s story. One of the key things that surprised me as we all chatted around the dinner table, was how many ethical issues a dramaturg must resolve, particularly when working on a new, never-before-staged play. Of course, I gave Becca every ethical dilemma that I could!

What do you do to keep inspiration flowing? What is an activity almost guaranteed to help your Muse speak to you ? What’s the oddest thing that ever sparked a story idea?

Contract deadlines are tremendous inspirations ::grin::

When I do come up against a barrier to worldbuilding or character development, I try to take a break from sitting at my computer desk. I find that I solve a lot of book problems when I’m doing something totally unrelated to writing – taking a shower, or walking for exercise. (I suspect that the “sense-memory” of completing those actions frees my brain to work on book problems.)

WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD has several different “sparks” from unusual-for-me sources. The guerilla gardening sections were inspired by a post on Boing Boing about people who plant flowers in public spaces without permission. The hero’s Peace Corps work and his familiarity with the plight of African women was inspired by a long profile of one Burkinabe woman in The Washington Post.

What’s the most annoying or most stressful part about being a writer?

In many ways, writing is a job, just like every other job I’ve ever held. Like every job, there are good things and bad things to deal with.

When I was a lawyer, I constantly needed to juggle deadlines, completing my work in a timely fashion so that I could satisfy the expectations of multiple bosses. Similarly, as a writer, I need to turn in my manuscripts (and complete my edits, and review my copyedits, and finalize galley proofs) on a schedule not of my own making. I need to balance the needs of different editors, or of the same editor on multiple projects.

Many things are out of my control as a writer. Once I’ve written the very best book that I can write, the project passes out of my hands. I can’t control the cover, or the price, or the shipment of books to readers. I can’t control whether books are available in electronic formats, or when those formats are released. I can’t control when books go out of print. That lack of control is extremely frustrating, especially when readers write vitriolic complaints.

No matter how annoyed or stressed I become, though, I try to remember that I’m solving whatever problems arise while sitting in comfortable clothes, in a comfortable chair, in the privacy of my own home office. I’ll take a writer’s problems over a lawyer’s problems anyday!

How do you balance writing with other aspects of your life?

As a full-time writer, I find it relatively easy to balance writing with other aspects of my life. I do make sure that I take care of some disliked daily tasks (like making a salad for lunch or starting one of the ever-present loads of laundry) before I settle in for a day of writing work.

I make a point to stop writing at the end of my husband’s workday (or, more accurately, at the end of his commute!) I figure that after ten hours of consistent work, I need a break, just as I did when I held a traditional office job.

Balance presented a greater challenge when I was a full-time litigator at a major law firm, and when I was the director of a law firm library, supervising staff in seven different offices. Then, I attempted to get some writing done on a regular basis (trying to carve out half an hour each morning, before the day got away from me), and I dedicated almost all of my vacation time to writing. I regretted “losing” that vacation time, which always gave me an extra incentive to be productive at the keyboard.

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