February 19, 2008
Author Interview - Patricia Wood
Paperback due out on June 3rd!
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Patricia Wood about her debut novel, Lottery. Not only did Lottery make my Top Ten list for 2007, but it was my favorite work of fiction for the entire year. I have enjoyed getting to know Pat through her blog and website, and after exchanging numerous emails during the past few months, I've learned a great deal about Pat as a writer and Pat as a friend. No, I didn't get to fly out to Hawaii for the interview, but maybe we can work something out when her second book is published. Just need to convince my husband that it's a business trip. ;)
LS: I remember my high school composition teacher telling the class to "write what you know." You bring quite a bit of personal knowledge to Lottery: Your father won the Washington State Lottery in 1993 ($6 million), your former brother-in-law has Down syndrome, and you live aboard your 48-foot ketch. How much additional research was involved in writing Lottery?
PW: I talked to lawyers who specialized in guardianship and who knew about powers of attorney and discussed with them how best to rip someone off -- especially a person who was considered developmentally disabled. That was quite interesting. Although I am a competent sailor, I had my cruiser friends look over my manuscript. I traveled to Everett and checked out where my "imaginary" marina could be located. It is always annoying to me when someone writes a book and doesn't check details like this. I even had to check to make sure that Keith could legally date Cherry.
LS: Were there any surprises along the way to publication?
PW: Just getting published was a huge surprise! This whole thing has happened so fast and furious and has felt so "meant to be."
I guess one thing is -- I hadn't known how important book sellers were to the whole process. I thought that if a book was good the audience/readers would find it -- but often times how a book is received and marketed can be so serendipitous. Sometimes good books just get lost.
LS: What do you know now that you wish you had known then?
PW: Nothing! If I had known half the things about how difficult it was to be published I never would have tried! I'm glad I was ignorant.
LS: Do you have a favorite character? Scene?
PW: Besides Perry, I simply LOVE Keith. He's just so wonderful. I love to think that Cherry would have been the making of him. My favorite scene was him and Cherry dancing in the moonlight, obviously in love, and Perry looking down and realizing that Cherry loves Keith and not him. It was so bittersweet.
LS: Which was the most difficult scene to write? Which was the easiest?
PW: I think the hardest were all the scenes with the family. Showing the reader what was going on but keeping Perry in the dark. I had to figure out a literary strategy that could make that happen. I really struggled with that. I also wanted to show the family in not such a stereotypical way - however, I was stymied by the fact that Perry would SEE them that way. He saw things in black and white and often times made assumptions. Policemen are good. Bad guys are creepy. Businessmen are honest.
LS: What do you hope readers gain from reading Lottery?
PW: I really hope they consider what it is like to be marginalized by our society. I hope they slow down and look around and see people for who they are and not make assumptions. I hope they consider that those who have cognitive challenges are capable of so much more than many think. I certainly hope that if they are asked to vote in favor of a group home in their neighborhood they will do so. I hope people will donate to Goodwill - an organization that does a tremendous amount for those with developmental disabilities.
LS: If Perry owned an iPod, what would be on his playlist?
PW: Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach (Gramps' music), Patsy Cline and Chet Atkins (Gram's music), The Smashing Pumpkins and Train (Cherry's music), The Beatles (Gary's music). Remember, Perry said he likes all kinds of music.
LS: There are four versions of cover art for Lottery (North America, United Kingdom, Dutch and Swedish). Do you have a favorite?
PW: I really like the Swedish cover. The man looks so free and happy.
LS: If the movie rights are optioned, who would you like to see play Perry? Keith? Gram?
PW: Unknowns would not be bad. I feel Jake Gyllenhaal would be great for Perry, but then I think Steve Carrel would also be good. I would love to have Jeff Bridges play Keith and I wish Jessica Tandy were alive to play Gram...
LS: What is your favorite thing about writing? Least favorite?
PW: My favorite thing would be the creativity: making up stories. I don't really have a least favorite, as I enjoy revisions and editing in different ways. I do wish I could run away to a perfectly quiet retreat where meals were left on my doorstep and my room was miraculously cleaned by someone else every day and then I could just write! I will say it is easier for men as they have wives who think about dinner and laundry and housework. Actually...I need a wife!
LS: I'm already someone else's wife, but I'll come cook for you! I've even had recent experience cooking in a galley.
LS: What are you currently working on?
PW: My new project is about achieving the impossible.
It has a boy with a dream.
A mechanic with a secret.
An aunt with regrets.
And a horse.
LS: Sounds intriguing! I can hardly wait!
LS: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
PW: I have always written. I didn't know it was possible for me to be an author until I turned 50.
LS: Which authors have most influenced your work?
PW: John Irving. Nancy Mitford. Dorothy Sayers. Walter Farley. (I hate this question, as I always leave out somebody obvious!) I have read voraciously throughout my entire life and will read anything. Oh and I LOVE The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham.
LS: Do you find time to read for pleasure every day?
PW: No. I read every day but not necessarily for pleasure.
LS: What books are currently on your nightstand?
PW: The screenplay of Little Miss Sunshine. The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Out Stealing Horses by a wonderful Norwegian author whom I can't for the life of me remember and I am too lazy to go back to my aft cabin and look. [Editor's note: That would be Per Petterson.]
LS: What were some of your favorite books as a child?
PW: Everything by Marguerite Henry. Justin Morgan Had a Horse. The Godolphin Arabian (Eugene Sue). I loved Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, Pippi Longstocking and The Black Stallion, My Friend Flicka, The Red Pony. Anything with animals, especially horses. I also read Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice and history books about World War II.
LS: Does the success and popularity of your first novel make you more or less anxious - or excited, if you will - when it comes to the release of your second novel?
PW: No. If anything it has calmed me down and made me more deliberate. I do not want to let my readers down. I want them to read my next book and be satisfied that they have found an author whom they enjoy reading and have them look forward to my third book.
LS: As I mentioned earlier, you and your husband live aboard your boat in Hawaii. I can't tell you how envious that makes my husband (and me -- sort of!). My 75-year-old father and stepmother just moved ashore after 15 years on their 48-foot Richardson on Lake Union, Washington. Do you see yourself moving ashore anytime soon?
PW: Probably not. I am living where I love to live. Doing what I love to do -- but the minute that is not the case, I will change.
LS: Thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule to chat with me. Wish I could've done the interview in person!
PW: So do I!! Aloha.
I'd also like to thank Becky for giving me permission to borrow some of her interview questions!