Tag Archives: interview

Simon Sanchez

Some Q, Some A: Trauma Comics founder Simon Sanchez

One of our favorite Crossroaders, Rachel Helie, recently started writing a column for The Comics Cube called ‘Double Helix’ and she’s agreed to share some of that goodness with us. In this installment, she interviews Simon Sanchez, the founder and force behind Trauma Comics. Sanchez is also the writer of Trauma’s grindhouse revival comic ‘Nazi Werewolves from Outer Space.’
Catch the rest of their conversation (including the story behind this photo) on Double Helix at the Comics Cube!

Simon Sanchez aka “Trauma Comics”

by Rachel Helie, Double Helix

 

Rachel: When did you first think “Hey, I can write a comic”? What was your inspiration? Are you a fan and if so what specific kinds of comic books do you prefer?

Simon: A few of my friends and I were kicking around ideas one day at lunch and we started talking about werewolves and then one thing led to another. Before I knew it I was talking about ‘Nazi Werewolves from Outer Space.’ I contacted Don Marquez through an Ebay cover auction and told him my idea. He sent back his sketch. I sat down and wrote 8 pages of text and the rest, as they say, is history. That Marquez painting became the cover art for issue #1.

I’ve been a fan since I was a boy. That was a while back and I loved horror movies too. My dad took me to see ‘The Excorcist’ when I was seven and it scared the hell outta me but I loved it and grew to love it more as I became an adult. Some of the best times I can remember being a kid was getting my comics and hiding in my room for half an hour, totally disappearing into those stories. It was the hey-day of the Kirby and Lee collaboration. Neither of those guys, in my opinion, have had the kind of raw story-telling power since Kirby left Marvel to join DC. I’m a HUGE fan of EC Comics, which was founded by William Gaines with Al Feldstein doing the art. Feldstein is still around and producing pieces. I had him paint a cover for me and it was just beautiful. So yeah, I’m definitely a fan!

 

R: A lot of people would hesitate to jump out on their own and invest in an idea the way that you have. What do you think inspired your courage to make your ideas a reality?

S: I didn’t want to look back on my life and say to myself, “Well, why didn’t I ever write a comic book?” I only get one life and loving something as much as I love comic books…it would be a shame to not try. The way I see it, it’s better to try and fail than not try at all. I don’t want to live with that regret. Everyone needs a passion and I love doing this. It gives me a reason to keep moving along every day.

 

Bernice-stay-true_web

“Everything happens for a reason”: interview with Bernice McFadden

LEARN MORE FROM BERNICE MCFADDEN AT THE CROSSROADS WRITERS CONFERENCE

“Everything Happens for A Reason”: an interview with author Bernice McFadden by  Sherry L. Moore-Williamson

Sherry: I have to be honest, I have yet to read one of your novels however, sooo many people rave about them. Knowing this, what book should I read first?

Author Bernice McFadden is as real as they come, as our own Sherry Moore-Williamson found out first-hand. (photo by Eric Payne)

Bernice:  I believe in always starting at the beginning. I would read “Sugar” first.

S: That’s funny you suggest “Sugar.”  I read and heard that it was one of Alicia Key’s favorite books and she had mentioned it in an interview now on Youtube.

B: Yes, a girlfriend told me about the interview and what Alicia said. I didn’t even know.

S: I also listened to Academy Award-nominated actress Alfre Woodard, who is one of my faves, read an excerpt from Glorious, another novel you wrote. She commented on why she too loved this book.  “It’s so full that I immediately wanted to pick it back up and rifle through the pages again… They are historical people…who seem alive and real to you….”

B: I received a lot of literary awards for “Glorious.”

S: And “Glorious” was mentioned in O Magazine, May of 2011.  What affects did that have?

B: Well, it was good for publicity since it was compared to “The Help,” which was out at the same time. It took “Sugar” about nine years to finally get published by a commercial publisher.  It was a good ride until I got dropped after my sixth novel. I was told I was a “done as a writer.”

S: Wow! How did that feel and how did you feel when the rejection letters came for “Sugar?”

B: “Sugar” received 74 rejections—

S: —before it was finally picked up?

B: You gotta stay true to who you are and what you write. My new publisher allows this freedom. I learn from every experience I have had. I keep it positive.

We started talking about many other things.  To wrap up our chat, I wanted to talk about the mechanics of how she writes, what inspires her, and her Macon connection.

Sherry: Where do you write and when are you inspired to write?

Bernice: I used to write at night and in my home office. What I have found is I don’t write in the summer.  The days are longer and I want to get out and do things. When the days are shorter, I hibernate.  This time gives birth. You know, you get full and have to release.  The best time for inspiration is when I’m experiencing emotional turmoil.  Stories aren’t told, they unfold.

S: Nicely put. What is your feeling on self-publishing vs. commercial publishing?

B: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! There are also smaller publishing companies out there. Not just self-publishing or commercial.  They are smaller publishers who are more positive and want you to stay true to your genre of writing. They don’t want you to be something you’re not.

S: Okay, we gotta end this.  It was only supposed to be a 10 minute interview. Two more questions: What is your biggest pet peeve?

B: Tardiness! It drives me crazy!

S: I’m a Screenwriter therefore I have to ask if you envision one or more of your books made into movies? And which one first?

B: Sugar is optioned as a feature and Glorious would make a good mini-series but I was told, “nobody would watch it. It wouldn’t have an audience.”

S: From what I hear about the theme of the novel and not being biased, there are some successful mini-series already made similar to it which had huge audiences.

B: Uh-huh.

S: Middle Georgia residents may or may not know about your ties to Macon. What or who is it? And have you ever visited?

B: My great-great grandfather was the founder and preacher at First Baptist Church of Macon; and yes, I have visited Macon before and have relatives who live there now.

Of course, we did not end the call there but for the sake of space and not wanting to reveal too much about Ms. McFadden, which she will share when she’s here, I will stop now. Her Historical fiction novels “breathe life back into memory” and might I add breathe life back in to history.

When she comes to the conference please, take the time to get to know her.  She is as “real,” encouraging and inspiring as anyone I have ever spoken.  This successful author has not let her 13-plus, published works cause her to forget who she is and her novels continue to reveal her ancestry and ethnic history with a touch of embellishment. One of her last comments was:

“ I like me and I have no regrets because I know everything happens for a reason.”

SusannahB

Don’t Be Boring: the Susannah Breslin interview

When we at Crossroads HQ asked Makenna Johnston to interview writer Susannah Breslin, it wasn’t just because they’re both so damn tall. They share another important factor. Mak is not, as us Southerners are sometimes wont to say, “from here,” but this big-minded outsider has made a home here and at the same time, made it a safer place for cool ideas to flourish. Like giving Macon its own licensed TED Talk conference this past spring.

As a writer, Susannah Breslin has made her name working on the outskirts, showing us the other side of people who dwell on the fringe. And from the same pen also flows career advice for Forbes.com and INC.com. She is an expert on the “Gig Economy”—the cultural shift from steady jobs to off-shift and temporary positions, freelance, etc—and the lessons she offers extend beyond the nuts and bolts about how a writer can function in this era.

WANT TO LEARN MORE FROM SUSANNAH? IN-PERSON? REGISTER FOR THE FREELANCERS SUMMIT.

Yes, for freelancers, Susannah is a gold vein of heady knowledge, but take a step back and you’ll see that a lot of her advice is just as valuable for writers of fiction, screenplays, memoirs, comics and poems as it is for bloggers and magazine writers. When you finish reading this interview with Susannah, check out her website and explore her work.

Without further ado…

Makenna: Freelancing is a tough gig, we all know this.  Your piece “Why You Shouldn’t be A Writer” is brilliant. But, if you could give a prospective freelancer a single piece of advice (other than, ‘don’t do it’) what would it be?

Susannah: Don’t be boring. This is more challenging than you’d think. Most people think they’re interesting. Therefore, they think their pitches are interesting, their writing is interesting, their stories are interesting. Most of the time, it isn’t. Think about it. The editor you’re pitching is getting hundreds of stories daily, weekly. They’re looking for a reason to delete you. How do you stand out? How high is your bar? Are you reinventing a genre, breaking news, doing something that really hasn’t been done before? And if you’re not, why bother?

M: You talk a lot about ‘the hustle’ specifically that being a good marketer, traffic pusher, and editor of your own writing is increasingly important in the freelancing world.  Any specific tips and/or suggestions on how to become a kick ass and take names hustler and/or improve one’s hustling skills?

S: Your article isn’t going to read itself. You published something online, and nobody’s reading it. That’s probably because you thought writing it was enough. It isn’t. Send out the link to your piece to anybody of influence who may be interested in it. That’s networking on behalf of your prose. It’s not enough to write. You must also work to be read.

Start a blog or Tumblr if you haven’t already and update it at least once a day, five days a week. Tweet links to your work. Ask your friends to share links to your work on Facebook. Read people who are good at stirring it up online like Penelope Trunk and James Altucher.  Read Romensko and Media Jobs Daily. Get PR tips from Cassie Boorn’s Ask a PR Girl. Ask someone to do something for you every day and offer them something in return.

M: Being a freelancer often comes with a ton of ‘up in the air, oh crap where is my next job coming from’ moments. How do you handle that with grace and dignity and without looking like a crazy person?

S: Well, I think, counter-intuitively, I act like a crazy person. Some of my most popular work involves me acting crazy: They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They?, The Business About My Breasts. I’ve written about my suicidal tendencies, my cancer, my PTSD. TMI is good for you because it asks you to be brave. Others respect bravery. That gets you work.

M: You have an incredibly audacious style and voice that is rather unique to you.  Do you think that has been crucial to your success as a freelancer?  Has it at times not worked so well in your favor?

S: I’ve been pondering this lately. I don’t think my style or voice has hurt me; they’ve helped me. But I do sometimes wish that I hadn’t burned so many bridges. I wish I’d spent a couple years working as a beat reporter at a newspaper. I wish I’d been an editor at a glossy. I’ve always been very interested in staying outside the circle, but I suppose that choice has limited me, as well.

As for being outspoken, that has never been anything but good for me professionally. You do, though, get criticized. Someone once called me a boil on a neck or some such thing. But, you know, the peanut gallery always has something to say.

NaNoWriMo founder and author Chris Baty

The Chris Baty Interview, pt. 1

Writer Makenna Johnston interviews NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty

One sunny November 1st in New York City, I started my first attempt at NaNoWriMo, steamy coffee mug in hand. I thought to myself ‘why not write a novel in a month?’. The answer? It wasn’t as easy as I had though. When November 31st rolled around, I hadn’t completed a novel, but I had spent a month writing daily, drank some 100 cups of coffee, and successfully sat in 20 different coffee shops late at night. I’d call it a success. What I did learn, other than that writing a novel in a month is arduous, is that being a writer wasn’t as novel or romantic as I thought it would be (pun intended). And I certainly didn’t need a fedora or a tweed coat to do it.

So what sort of guy convinces thousands of people year after year to sit down and write a novel in a month? The inimitable Chris Baty.

And guess who’s coming Crossroads this year?! The Chis Baty. The main inspiration and mad man behind NaNoWriMo, I’m not excited, I swear. Ok so maybe I am really excited. I asked a number of our Facebook followers what they wanted me to ask him. I hope I did your bidding appropriately good Crossroad-ers. Without further adieu:

Makenna: So Chris, what was the impetus for you to write a novel in one month?

Chris: Oh man. Such a good question. I think there were several things afoot that lead to the birth of NaNoWriMo. The most important one was just my life-long obsession with novels. I’m an only child, and books were my siblings when I was growing up. They provided an escape from boring adult conversations, helped me survive interminable summer road trips, and taught me that murderous clowns lurk beneath sewer grates (thank you, Stephen King.)

I’d always seen novels as these magical things, but I never dreamed I would write one. Then, in 1999, I found myself working as an editor at a website for business travelers. I was spending my days researching power-lunch spots in Houston and writing up blurbs on the best company to rent a limo in Los Angeles. Spending eight hours a day doing something that I wasn’t really connected to left me feeling pretty drifty. I wanted to tackle a big, personal project that might make life feel exciting again.

That lead me to novel-writing.

M: How did you get 20 other crazy folks to join you?

C: I’m a coward who has trouble finishing projects, and I always feel better (and end up doing more) when I have a group of friends tackling the same project alongside me. Happily, when I sent out an email to my friends inviting them to take part in the escapade (http://blog.lettersandlight.org/post/13563014781), almost all of them signed on.

M: What type of folks were these first vagabonds? Were they writers already or mixed background?

C: There were definitely a couple writers in the mix, but most of the participants that first year didn’t have any literary ambitions—they just liked the idea of a fun, group challenge. (One of the winners that first year was my friend Tim, who adamantly insists he hates writing and has gone on to win NaNoWriMo eight times. It kind gets in your blood.)

M: How many of them are still involved with NaNoWriMo today?

C: I’m the only NaNoWriMo participant who has taken part in the challenge every year since 1999, but a bunch of those original six winners been doing it off and on over the years.

M: What is your favorite part of NaNoWriMo?

Chris Baty founder of NaNoWriMo in his Berkeley apartment.

C: Favorite parts…hmmm…There’s a moment towards the end of the month where you scroll back through all you’ve written and just shake your head in amazement. The quality is very rough, but the potential is huge. And it’s just so crazy that none of these characters or places or conversations existed a few weeks earlier. To me, it’s a real lesson in the power of deadlines to help us achieve huge things.

I also really love the anticipation leading up to November. I’ve learned a ton from every NaNoWriMo novel I’ve written, but I tend to exit November knowing I won’t revise that year’s manuscript. Still, I’ve stumbled into three or four stories that I’ve really loved and never would have discovered without NaNoWriMo. There’s this great Christmas Eve feeling on October 31, where you go to bed knowing that the next day you’ll tear into this mysterious package and find out what’s inside. Sometimes it’s a pair of socks. But sometimes it’s a pair of unicorns who can magically dispense espresso out of their horns. Every year, you hope for the barista unicorns. And sometimes you get them.

Stay tuned for Part 2…

 Chris Baty will be the lunch keynote speaker at the 4th annual Crossroads Writers Conference. If you haven’t already registered, do so while you still have time! 

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Chuck Wendig: Mutter Draft

interview with a Terrible Mind, Chuck Wendig by Rachel Helie

Rachel: Thanks for taking time out to answer these questions. With the success of Blackbirds and your blog and…okay, it’s a mystery to me where you find time for it all to be honest! So let’s get to it!

Question 1: Many authors say that it is important to “write as one speaks.” I’m not suggesting that you walk around muttering the things you write (leave that to your fans!) but would you say that your work is representative of your internal monologue?

THE Chuck Wendig

Chuck: I do walk around muttering all the things I write. The first draft of every thing I do is called “the mutter draft.” I hire a small, unobtrusive person to follow me around and record it as I go.

Or not.

I don’t think my writing is really all that representative of an internal monologue – my internal monologues are probably pretty incomprehensible to any who would actually witness them in some psychic way. That said, I do think the work is representative of my voice, both internal and external. Edited, sharpened, tightened, but my voice just the same.

R: In your career as the freelance “penmonkey” you have made a living providing advice and inspiring fellow writers with your ability to do prolific work, all while meeting the challenges of family life. What are some things that you have found work in your juggling of career and domesticity?

The scary thing is: He knows another 500 too.

C: Technically, I don’t make a living doing the advice and inspiration thing – I sell some e-books (more now than I used to, which is good), but the actual “living” part of my work comes from all the other writing I do.

As for the juggling thing—well, first, I found it’s a terrible idea to actually try to juggle a toddler and any technological device. You’re bound to favor the toddler and that just means you break your keyboard or iPad or whatever. Turns out, “juggling” is metaphorical. Stupid metaphors.

Said-metaphorical-juggling is no easy feat and gives way to chaos very easily. The best thing I can tell people, and I hear this a lot from folks, is that you don’t just “have time.” Everybody says that phrase—“I don’t have time.” Well, everybody has the same hours in their day, it’s all about the partitioning of those hours. We devote hours to sleep and child raising and reading and eating and whatever.

You have to find a way to take time for the things you want to do. It won’t happen for you. One must be active! Reach! Grab! Steal the minutes and hours back from the mouth of the Time Beast. Even a little time reclaimed will let you do that thing you want to do. Maybe not at full-blast, but something is better than nothing.

R: Do fans and critics seem to have different expectations of your work, which is sometimes sordid, now that you are a family man and father? Do you feel that it alters your perspective and time investment in the work?

C: No, I haven’t found any altered expectations. The nice thing about having a daily blog is that I continue to urge my voice into the world daily, which not only practices my writing but also continues to assert who I am as a writer.

Having a kid has altered my perspective, though, sure. It’s given me new reason to do what I do. Both to put food in his mouth and to one day put books in his hands. And, best of all, ideas in his mind.

R: When you began your blog, Terrible Minds, did you have a very specific idea of what it was going to be or did it (and does it) undergo gradual evolution?

C: I once thought it would be a website for a community of writers—I used to run a BBS and ran a thing there called WAR, Writers Against Reality. I envisioned doing so again except… ennh, that seemed like a lot of work so I made the website for ME, ME, ME, instead. Moo hoo ha ha.

It has kind of evolved into a place for writers, though. Over the last 10+ years.

R: In Blackbirds your protagonist, Miriam, is an often callous, violent woman but still has pathos. What method do you utilize when researching your characters? What inspires you in their creation and how do you walk that tightrope, supporting characters who possess such deep personal flaws?

“Blackbirds” is Chuck Wendig’s newest… until its sequel, “Mockingbirds,” comes out in late August

C: I don’t really “research” my characters, exactly. I research situations, events, settings, ideas, but not so much characters. The characters are in my head and it’s mostly a case of letting them tumble around for a while, breaking off all the jagged bits and figuring out what lurks beneath their crusty exterior.

There exists this idea that characters must be “likable,” which is, to me, a bit batty. All the people in my life that are likable make excellent friends and family but would not necessarily make excellent characters in a book. We don’t need to like a character so much as we need to like being with them and watching them for 300+ pages. The best thing I can say is, don’t make them boring. Interesting characters will – wait for it, wait for it – always be interesting.

R: You have advocated the character driven plot (particularly in film). Would you recommend that characters drive the plot and that a writer should commit themselves to character development early in the process? How do you feel about building stories around thematic elements?

C: Characters do drive the plot. They must. Consider how things happen in real life, how humanity exists and suffers and thrives—it happens under the direction and duress of human beings. Of their choices and behaviors. We’re all making our own plot. External events happen but we react to them as who we are and it is our decision that shapes our own course. Why shouldn’t it be the same way in fiction? It also helps to ensure that a story is more inventive, original, unpredictable – plots tend to follow a pattern. Characters follow no such pattern. So put them in the driver seat, let them find the road.

And I do think theme lies at the heart of those characters and actions, though. The theme is a delicious throughline that connects us (the reader and writer) to the character within the story.

R: In your projects developing scripts for television and film you worked with a writing partner, Lance Weiler. How would you recommend starting a creative collaboration with a partner, ensuring that you are both represented fairly and to maximum efficiency while preserving the relationship over the long haul?

C: I have no idea. My collaboration with Lance has been one of a few I’ve tried and the only one that’s been successful—I think collaboration is difficult with the wrong people and easy with the right ones, so the key is to find the right people. With the right partners and teammates in place, it all just kinda… works.

 

For More Chuck Stuff:

Chuck’s page at CrossroadsWriters.org

Review of Chuck Wendig’s “Bad Blood”

Delilah S. Dawson Interview by Chuck Wendig

reese lazarus gray

Pulp Fiction Revivalist

Barry Reese is a man with a prodigious habit for writing. A librarian by day, he churns out thousands of words a night, bringing to life pulp characters like The Rook and Lazarus Gray. He got his big break writing for “the Official Handbook for Marvel Universe,” then began creating his own stories. For his pulp short stories and gory, monster horror novel “Rabbit Heart,” Barry was awarded the 2011 Pulp Ark Award for Best Author. This year, he took home the Pulp Ark Award for Best Short Story and received his first–but certainly not last–nomination for Georgia Author of the Year. He’s also a co-creator on the “Pulped!” podcast and the Ubergeeks podcast.

In this interview with Barry Reese, which originally appeared in the pages of The 11th Hour magazine, writer Rachel Helie digs a little deeper into the pulp tradition and its revival.

 

Rachel: In working in pulp, which is considered a cult genre, what did you find distinguishes it from traditional literary models?

Barry: Well, on the New Pulp website, they have a definition of pulp that says it’s “…fast-paced, plot-oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrase and other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.” That’s a pretty good way of describing it. Pulp is about momentum and excitement – the stories barrel along at a brisk pace and feature larger than life heroes, villains and settings. That’s very different in many other literary genres.

R: Is there a formula to the creation of pulp characters and plots that does not apply to the traditional modes of character development?

B: Well, Lester Dent (the creator of Doc Savage) actually did have a formula – you can Google it and find his detailed instructions on how to write a pulp story. But few authors use that model – just as with any other field, we want to feel like we’re doing something unique rather than use a true formula. But for most pulp characters and plots, you want to create something that gets your blood pumping. Indiana Jones, Dirk Pitt, Jason Bourne… those are contemporary creations that spring from the well of pulp. Larger than life, action-oriented characters

R: Is there an atypical process to the creation of pulp characters and plots that distinguishes it from your comic writing?

B: Not really. In both mediums, I work the same way in terms of creation. Obviously, comics will ultimately be a visual medium so you kind of think that way, ensuring that you’ll end up with scenes and characters that are exciting to look at.

R: What do you think are the key points in creating a believable three-dimensional character in pulp and comic writing?

B: You have to be able to get into the heads of your characters and understand what makes them tick. Just like real people, they have their good and bad sides, too, so you have to be able to relate that on to a reader. I’ve created lots of different types of characters over the years and the most popular are the ones who have many sides to them. I always try to figure out what strengths they have and where their weaknesses lie.

R: What would you say was your best work, or where you feel that you most expressed your creative ideal as a writer in each genre?

B: From a comics side of things, I have an 8-page Rook short that will run in November’s “All-Star Pulp Comics # 1″ and I think it turned out really well. In prose, I’d say that “The Damned Thing,” “The Adventures of Lazarus Gray” and “The Rook Volume Six” were my best.

Rachel Helie is a freelance writer and journalist, aspiring novelist, sometimes ghostwriter, and regular contributor to The 11th Hour. At eight years of age she stepped into the wardrobe and never quite made it back out.

crossroads_2010_74

Talkin’ Business With the Queen: an interview with Lauretta Hannon

Talkin’ Business with The Queen

by Beth Ward

 

I have had the pleasure of keeping Lauretta Hannon’s company exactly two times, and both of those times she was sporting fire-engine red lipstick, with leopard print sunglasses perched on top of her head. Nothing about this look was contrived; in fact, she was The Cracker Queen personified – right down to a laugh that bellowed out of her in loud, unapologetic waves, causing her head to tilt back as if to make room for its sound. It is a rare thing to be in the company of someone so utterly authentic. Fans of her memoir have responded not only to its brash, down-home humor, but also to its warmth and honesty. For many of us adoring fans, it is not a stretch to place ourselves right within its pages, living out scenes of our own lives.

Perhaps it is these things that can be credited for “The Cracker Queen”’s success; perhaps it is Ms. Lauretta herself. Either way, we have all fallen in love with her and her joyful, jagged life.

I had the opportunity to pick The Queen’s brain a bit in lieu of her Crossroad’s appearance this year, and as always, she left me laughing and aching to write.

BW: To begin, when did you know writing was what you wanted to do?

LH: I’ve always had a hungering to write, but I didn’t always know that I was “good enough” to do it well.

 

BW: I think that’s the main problem emerging writers struggle with – just getting over that fear, because there’s always someone in your ear telling you that you can’t make a living that way. How did you handle the people around you that thought, “don’t quit your day job?”

LH: Like I always treat such folks: I ignored them and listened to my gut. I realized that I’d have to choose risk over security if my book was to have any chance of success. The book market is like a blood sport, and I knew I’d have to hustle to keep The Cracker Queen alive. Actually, I think dog fighting is more humane than publishing.

 

BW: So to say you need a thick skin and selective hearing would probably be a bit of an understatement then. But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of writing, what is your process like? How do you tackle the blank screen and the big messy desk?

LH: My process is a hot junky mess. I’m not one to rise at 5am everyday and write 500 words. Instead, I’ll go on marathon writing jags on a weekend after not doing anything for days. I like to write at Waffle House in the morning, but it has to be the right Waffle House, know what I mean? And I find that I’m productive when traveling–in hotels, airplanes, and such. Too much structure in my writing routine makes it seem like drudgery, so I have to toss things up. That said, I keep in mind how much I need to accomplish and see to it that it gets done. I set goals and deadlines, but I don’t have any rules about how I get there. Caveat: there are times when I have to be that 5am writer, such as when I was on deadline to finish The Cracker Queen. Sometimes the situation demands that kind of process, and I obey it when that’s the case.

 

BW: I’ve had many nights holed up at Waffle House myself actually, haha. It’s funny how personal the process is for everyone. It’s the beauty of a creative life. But what about those mornings at WaHo where the words just don’t come and the fear sets in? How do you get through bouts of writer’s block?

LH: I used to freak out when I couldn’t write! I’d become convinced that I had no future as a writer, and this would plunge me into great dramatic moments of despair, curtain-clutching, and consumption of Ruffles with sour cream and onion dip. After many years I’ve finally learned that the so-called blocks aren’t blocks at all; they are a necessary and vital part of the writing process. Accept them instead of fighting them. Your brain needs them.

 

BW: What about your reading life? What types of things do you read when you’re waiting in line at the DMV or the doctor’s office?

LH: I typically use that time to jot down ideas or notes about whatever I’m working on or thinking about doing next.

 

BW: Let’s talk a little about your illustrious memoir for a second. At last year’s conference you talked about “The Cracker Queen”’s beginnings some 20 years ago. The story sat on your chest for so long and when you finally wrote it down, it was in a tiny shed in your back yard. Since then, it’s been critically hailed as a manifesto for strong, southern women, with it’s own almost cult-like following. What has “The Cracker Queen” meant to you as you’ve seen its success grow?

LH: EVERY DAMN THING. Next question

 

BW: Do you think you’ll stick to writing non-fiction?

LH: My next book is non-fiction, but a novel is definitely on the horizon. It’s inevitable that I’ll write fiction in the future; it’s just too much fun to play in the land of unfettered imagination! I like the notion of making up a story in order to tell the truth.

 

BW: As an aspiring non-fiction writer, that notion has always intimidated me. But it’s one of the most beautiful things about reading and writing. Now, I heard the unfortunate news that you won’t be able to hang out with us at Crossroads this year. I can almost hear the collective sighs of sadness. Had you been able to go though, what would you have liked to cover?

LH: First of all, I’m mad that my schedule won’t let me be at Crossroads. I relish the chance to return to my Middle Georgia stompin’ grounds and hang out with fellow writers. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about writing as a spiritual practice, so I would have liked to cover that this year. I’m also surprised by how few writers understand platform, so I might talk about that next year.

 

BW: I’ll be adding that session to my schedule for sure. It’s a bit of a hot point among published authors though, whether or not writing groups and conferences are really as beneficial as the money you pay to attend them. What do you think the benefits are to attending conferences for beginning and seasoned authors?

LH: I don’t care if you’re a neophyte or a bestselling author, you benefit from being in the company of kindred spirits and from keeping writing front-and-center in your mind. Writing is complicated business, and others have a lot to teach us–regardless of our level of experience or acclaim.

 

BW: Now that is something I can personally attest to. There is a creative and spiritual energy unlike anything else when you are in the company of people sharing your passion. For me, that alone makes the trip worth it. A couple more questions though. I’m sure throughout your career you’ve gotten your share of wise words and advice from people who claim to know it all in terms of making yours a writing life. How would you sum up the best writing advice you ever got in one sentence?

LH: Copy the masters.

Pick a literary masterpiece, and spend 15 minutes a day copying it, either in longhand or at the keyboard. I was doubtful about this exercise when Terry Kay advised me to do it, but you’ll learn more about craft than you could get from years of classes or conferences. I hand-copied The Grapes of Wrath. Anna Karenina will be next.

 

BW: And finally… What has writing meant to you and your life?

LH: EVERY DAMN THING. Next question

 

Well. I’d say that just about sums it up.