A Voice for America: Sam Graham-Felsen Speaks Candidly On Reflecting the Turbulence of American Culture Through the Eyes of Middle Schoolers

Hardcover, 301 pages
Published January 2nd 2018 by Random House
If you haven’t heard Sam Graham-Felsen’s name around everywhere yet, you definitely will soon. With the release of his debut fiction novel, Green, Graham-Felsen has hit the literary scene as a new and thought-provoking voice for 2018 — a forceful voice that commands attention. But, he’s used to commanding attention, isn’t he? In this interview, the former Chief Blogger for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign candidly speaks out about the effects of racism and discrimination on our society, humanizing black characters, and the inspiration he found in working for President Barack Obama.


Question # 1

Your debut novel, Green, has been well received since its release early this year. What was the jumping off point for your idea for this novel, and what was your writing process while juggling other career obligations?

I started envisioning this novel while I was working for Barack Obama on his 2008 campaign. I was the chief blogger on the campaign, and I wrote a lot about the grassroots movement forming around Obama, Obama’s policies, etc — but one thing I couldn’t really touch was the issue of race. Whenever Obama got attacked for being “too black” or “not black enough,” the campaign did its best to minimize the attacks and move on. But then Obama gave this amazing, very candid speech about race in Philadelphia — right in the midst of being attacked for the church he attended, which was led by pastor Jeremiah Wright. A lot of his advisors told him not to give the speech at all. But he spoke, in very specific detail, about the state of race relations in this country, and didn’t gloss over the ugly history of slavery, Jim Crow, and continuing discrimination against blacks. And it worked. Instead of running away from race, he directly addressed the topic — and spoke about it with great care and nuance. That inspired me. I knew I had a fairly unique experience as a white kid growing up in a mostly black school. I decided that I wanted to write a novel based on those experiences — that by diving as deep as I could into my own memories I might be able to better understand not only the city I grew up in, but the country I live in. After the campaign, I worked as political consultant, and I traveled the world giving lectures about my work on the Obama campaign. It was hard to get any writing done being on the road for so long. So eventually, I decided (in sort of an early mid-life crisis) to quit my life in politics, go get an MFA, and attempt to really write this novel that had been brewing inside of me for so long.


Question #2

Which of your characters in Green was the most difficult to write, and which character did you enjoy writing the most? Why?

It’s a toss-up between Dave’s dad (Lou) and Mar. Lou was hard to write because I took some details and aspects of my own father, not all of which were 100% flattering, when I created that character. I love and deeply admire my own dad, and I didn’t want him to feel hurt by the portrayal of Lou. The dad in the book can be parsimonious and tough-love at times, but he’s also a caring and courageous guy who is comfortable in his own skin (and dorky clothes) and teaches Dave about what it’s like to break free from self-consciousness and stand up for what one believes in. My dad read the book and ultimately felt moved by it, which was a relief to me.

The Mar character was also tough to write, because Mar is a secretive, very sensitive kid, who keeps a lot hidden from Dave. The trick was how to hint to the reader that hard things were happening in Mar’s life, without explicitly stating a lot of it. Part of what I was trying to show is how clueless Dave was — in part as a consequence of his youthful inexperience, but also as a result of his white privilege — in seeing what Mar was going through, and how unfairly society treats Mar.

And I felt anxious at times, about whether I, as a white guy, could create a black character — whether I had that right, and whether my own blind spots as a white person would make it impossible to create a fully fleshed-out black character. So much of our literature is littered with stereotypes of black characters — and often, these characters are either utterly demonized villains, or are magical, ethically immaculate characters who exist, essentially, to help white heroes and teach them lessons. All I can say is that I tried my best to make Mar a human being. He, like Dave, is a complex mix of ideals, aversions and desires; he’s highly intelligent and incredibly kind to Dave’s emotionally troubled younger brother, Benno. He’s more emotionally developed and mature than Dave, but he’s not superhuman. He can be stubborn, he tells lies — some small, some big — and even takes something of Dave’s (I could elaborate on this, but I don’t want to spoil the ending for those who haven’t yet read the book). In other words, he’s a kid.


Question #3

What was the most challenging part of portraying ‘The Force,’ your main character’s term for “racism,” in Dave and Marlon’s lives, and what did you want to be particularly sure to get right in conveying and describing these experiences from a sixth-grade perspective?

This book is told from a twelve-year old’s perspective — and not just any twelve-year old, but a white kid who is coming of age in a mostly black school environment and who loves hip-hop. So a lot of Dave’s language has a kind of hip-hop inflection. A lot of the time, he’ll use a word like “crib” instead of “house” — but he’ll also make up words to describe objects and ideas in his universe. For example, his small, honorable mention sports trophies — he calls these “chumpstumps.” A lot of the fun, for me, in writing this book, was inventing Dave’s idiosyncratic, hip-hop-inflected but nerdy language.

“The force” is the term Dave comes up with to describe racism — both on an individual and institutional level — but it also goes a bit beyond overt racism. It’s sort of how Dave sees the very idea of “race” intruding into everyday life: the various small and big racial tensions that exist in Dave and Mar’s world, the way that all kinds of racial rules seem to be written by society, the way that certain behaviors are deemed “black” or “white” by Dave’s peers. For example, whether you are a fan of the basketball player Larry Bird. Dave’s white friends Kev and Simon, who really don’t like being white, refuse to root for Larry Bird, because they think that’s a “white” thing to do. And to a large degree, “the force” bleeds into gender dynamics as well. Dave and Mar are constantly feeling pressure to act “hard” — i.e. aggressively male — and avoid “soft,” supposedly feminine behaviors, such as showing emotions or acting kindly. Black, white, soft, hard — these are binaries created by “the force” and they make it very difficult for Dave and Mar to just be themselves.

Why “the force” of all terms? For one, every kid growing up in the 1990s was familiar with Star Wars. So I liked playing with this big pop culture reference about a secret energy that exerts power over people. That’s sort of how Dave sees the concept of race — as an invisible energy that tugs people into dark places. I also liked playing with the idea of “force” in verb form. To “force” something is to move it against its will, and that’s kind of how Dave sees race — as an energy that exerts pressure on us all and makes something that should be as natural and easy as Dave and Mar’s friendship into this complicated and difficult thing to maintain.

Just to be clear: I, as a 36-year-old, personally have a different and more nuanced understanding about how race works in America than Dave does. To Dave, “the force” is something that afflicts people of all races, not just whites. For example, the black kid who mugs Dave, was, in Dave’s mind, driven by “the force.” But Dave is twelve, and hasn’t read much U.S. history, and doesn’t have a very deep understanding of the roots of the thing he calls “the force” — which, of course, is white supremacy. Dave doesn’t yet grasp that the very concept of “race” — the categorizing and hierarchizing of people based on something as arbitrary as skin color — is an invention of white supremacy, and the justification for slavery, Jim Crow, and continuing discrimination. All he’s really conscious of is that racial tension is in the air, coming from all quarters, especially in the wake of the explosive L.A. riots. I don’t think he fully realizes — yet — that “the force” can only be undone when white supremacy is undone.


Question #4

The end of Green leaves Marlon and Dave in a new and surprising phase of their friendship. What did you want to convey to your readers with the final scene in Marlon’s apartment?

The most important thing to me was that this book could not have a Disney ending. Why? Because this book is about race in America, and America has not had a happy ending when it comes to race. Even after the end of legal segregation, schools remain profoundly segregated in this country — even more so than they were before Brown v Board of Education. To a certain degree, I wanted Dave and Mar’s friendship to be symbolic of where the country is at, racially. We’re still deeply segregated and divided. We’re not even close to living post-racially, happily ever after.

Yes, we’ve made lots of progress; we elected Barack Obama — twice. But our justice system is still disproportionately jailing and killing black people, there’s still an enormous wealth gap between the races, there are still giant racial disparities in home ownership and employment. “The force” is alive and well.

But I’m not in total despair about America, even under Trump’s hateful, divisive rule. Amazing grassroots movements are springing up, from Black Lives Matter to #MeToo, demanding a fairer and more just society. And lots of people are waking up — really, for the first significant time in my lifetime — to the insidious effects of white privilege.

I wanted the ending of my book to be ambiguous — to offer a glimmer of hope that Dave and Mar’s friendship can heal — because I hope America can heal. We’re never going to have a happily ever after story, but we can, and must, become a more decent and more equal society.


Question #5

In writing Green, what were some of the sections, passages or themes that you or your editors opted to remove from the final drafts of the manuscripts, and why? How does this part of the editorial process shape your writing as a whole?

There were so many scenes that got removed, it’s hard to keep track — but mostly they were smaller things. Lines here or there that just weren’t packing a punch, jokes that weren’t landing. I wrote the first draft of this book quickly, but the revision process took almost two years. It was frustrating, and even painful at times, to have my agent or editor return yet another draft to me full of critiques and suggestions, but it was worth it to do all the revision. It helped me focus, laser-like, on the relationship between Dave and Mar, to deepen their story and cut out a lot of fat. It helped me deepen the symbolic structure of the book as well — all that stuff about softness and hardness, and the force, came in later drafts of the book.

One scene that was cut in the revision process was the scene where the grandfather lectures the class and tells his immigration story — which, admittedly, is a bit of diversion from the narrative of Dave and Mar. But I missed that scene, and so I put it back in the book.


Question #6

You’ve been published in phenomenal publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Nation, just to name a few. What has been your favorite piece you’ve ever had published, and why?

I got to travel to Taiwan to write about one of my favorite baseball players of all time, Manny Ramirez, who had joined a Taiwanese baseball team. It was really cool to go to baseball games in Taiwan — to hear the chants, see the mascots and signs, eat the ballpark food (Taiwanese food is amazing). And I even got to interview Manny — who seemed a bit puzzled that I’d traveled all the way to Taiwan just to see him. But what I enjoyed even more than the reporting was the writing. Manny is an incredibly enigmatic guy, and I did my best to understand his quirks and brilliance at the plate. But I also got into the racial history of Boston — which was helpful as I was thinking about Green — the way fans in my city often treated players of color unfairly. Manny, I felt, in spite of his amazing accomplishments — including helping the Sox win their first World Series in over 75 years — never got the respect he deserved.


Question #7

Your role as the chief blogger for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is quite an interesting job title and must have been a life-changing experience! How did you come into this role, and what has been the impact on your life since then?

I was writing about campus politics for The Nation, and I did an article about how college students were using this new platform called “Facebook” to organize in support of Obama and urge him to run for president. When he finally declared his candidacy — in part because of the urging of young people — I wrote to the campaign and told them I would work for him in a heartbeat. I didn’t have any relevant skills beyond writing, so I was hired as his blogger. It was very cool — I got to travel around the country with him and meet hundreds of people from all walks of life who supported his campaign.


Question #8

What is the strangest experience you ever encountered as the chief blogger for Barack Obama’s campaign?

I did some video stuff in addition to blogging, and right before the Jeremiah Wright controversy blew up, the campaign sent me to Trinity Church, to make a documentary about how Obama’s church was basically a friendly and welcoming place, and not the scary radical place the right-wing media was making it out to be. One of the people I interviewed was a white woman who attended the church — she and her husband may have been the only white people at the church. She wasn’t a hippie or radical or anything, just a very friendly, plainly dressed woman with a Midwestern accent. So that was a sort of funny thing to me, looking back: making a video about the white lady who went to Trinity Church. I’m not sure if we ever posted that online.


Question #9

Tell us one awkward/embarrassing/unique fact about yourself.

Like Dave, I barely read at all as a kid. The only books I can remember reading for fun — as opposed to for school — were Dennis Rodman’s autobiography and Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.


Question #10

Tell us one thing you wish you could change permanently about the American way or our society.

I just read Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, and it blew me away. I am now convinced that arguably more pressing than any other issue relating to inequality in America is the issue of affordable housing. Too many people in this country — disproportionately people of color who were excluded from FHA loans — pay exorbitant amounts of rent for substandard housing. When you’re putting 80% of your monthly income into rent, you barely have anything left over for food, clothing, and other essentials. It makes it nearly impossible to save, plan for the future, and get ahead.

But to get widespread affordable housing, we need a culture of empathy. Trump has stoked fear, finger-pointing, and fragility — the forces that sap us of empathy. So we need to get him out and get someone in like Elizabeth Warren, who tells a different story, not one of blame and division but of communal responsibility.



Where the Tables Turn: Feel free to ask me any question you’d like for me to answer for my readers, and/or pose a question to your readers or the general public!


I hear you are working on a novel. If you feel comfortable, can you share the first line?

If that question is too private — I know some people like to keep their drafts on the ultra-DL — here’s another one. What’s your writing routine like? Morning, night? Do you type or write by hand? Where?


Wow, Sam, your questions really blew me away—they’re really good ones! So, I’ll answer both of them. 😊

You’re right; I’d never thought of it, but the first line of your work is somehow a deeply personal display. It feels like a vulnerable action to tell someone or let someone see that (aside from my awesome friends who have functioned as my beta readers!) while it’s still in draft form, unagented, and I’m glad to have this moment of vulnerability with my readers.

The first line of my novel is: Of the fabled seven cardinal sins, greed and vanity had always been the real family Achilles’ heel, at least for as far back as she could remember being with them.

It is a novel about the precariousness of family and racial ties when class lines and social prejudices only complicate the matter.

About my writing routine, I wish I could develop more of a routine! In my “everyday” life, I work as a writer for a major brand/corporation, which can be hectic. I also write book reviews and interview many of the authors of them – which I love and wish I could do fulltime! So, I write in those moments when I’m not doing one of those things. Now, the book is done, and I’m doing a final edit before preparing *gulp* to find an agent who would care for this novel the way that I do, and editing holds a different pleasure for me than actually writing it (not better, just different). It’s as if I get to relive these characters’ lives while editing it rather than building their lives; I suppose that’s the “different” feeling I feel.

You would not want to see me write by hand—I don’t know who let me out of elementary school with my terrible handwriting, but they did! But, thanks to a pretty good public school education and a mom who nagged and nagged me about my typing form (thanks, Mom) I am an excellent typist and do all of my writing in a Word doc. For me, typing it all out allows ideas to flow freely from my fingertips, uninterrupted and unstifled. There are times when I start writing and what is the result is not at all what I thought it’d be, something that’s better than I thought it’d be, because I just let it all come out on its own. Then, I go back and edit, with a glass of wine. 😊


Francesca Hornak Muses on her Journey to Seven Days of Us

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 17th 2017 by Berkley Books

Hey Navi Review Friends & Followers! Seven Days of Us hits the bookstores TODAY, and Francesca Hornak has stopped by to tell us more about her journey to writing and completing her debut novel, Seven Days of Us! This witty author has crossed over from article writing to offering us her first full-length novel, and this exclusive interview celebrates her journey from intern to fashion writer, contributor for The Sunday Times to debut fiction author! From parenting to wardrobe mishaps abroad, Francesca Hornak bares it all with us!


Question # 1

The number and caliber of publications you’ve written for is impressive! Could you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a columnist and sought-after magazine writer? How have your personal experiences affected your desire to pursue that field, if they did?

Thank you! I’ve just always adored magazines, and still find them completely compulsive. My parents didn’t really buy them, so they held this exotic allure for me. I vividly remember, aged seven, reading a copy of Vogue that a guest had left in our house and becoming obsessed with supermodels, especially Cindy Crawford. In all the photos from that summer I’m pouting and flicking my hair around. I know this is exactly why people disapprove of the media – I’m afraid I was a textbook case!

As for how I got into writing for magazines, I wrote to all my favourite titles asking for work experience and got a few internships during my university holidays. That led to a junior job at In Style when I graduated in 2005 (it was all a bit easier then, when there was still money in print journalism!). I loved the glamour and urgency of the offices – after three years of academia that was a massive relief.

Question #2

You’ve written a slew of articles for The Sunday Times and other publications. One of my favorites was your 2016 article “The Pointlessness of Parenting Guides” that appeared in Red, where you made some very convincing arguments about “ditching” the trend of parenting guides! What was the final straw in parenting that made you so compelled to write that article?

I think the final straw was a chart in a chapter on weaning, in a book called Coping With Two (yes, I was still reading these books after my second baby…) It had one column for messy foods, and one for less messy alternatives – supposedly to help you keep your house under control. It literally went ‘grated cheese’ vs ‘sliced cheese’, ‘full cup of milk’ vs ‘half full cup of water’ etc. I know the brain numbs a bit after a baby, but still!

Question #3

Your debut fiction novel, Seven Days of Us, hits the shelves in the U.S. in mid-October! What was the most difficult aspect of switching over from article writing to being a novelist? What about that process did you find more satisfying than column writing?

The hardest thing is not being able to hold every paragraph in my head, like I can with a 500 word article. The most satisfying thing for me is pacing the story – deciding to keep the reader in suspense, shocking them with a twist, giving them something funny after a sad episode and so on. With journalism, it’s just about conveying information or opinions as smoothly and entertainingly as possible.

Question #4

Where were you when the idea for Seven Days of Us came to you, and what compelled you to really sit down and bang it out at your computer?

I was staying with my parents-in-law’s house, in the week before Christmas. My best friend, who was treating Ebola in Sierra Leone, emailed me to say she was going to have to spend 30 days in quarantine at home when she got home in January. I wrote back to say it sounded like a budget modern play where the actors just sit in one room, and then I suddenly thought that a quarantine could be a neat fictional device to intensify the standard family Christmas set up.

The thing that compelled me to get it down on paper was a positive pregnancy test. I’d already had one baby, so I knew from experience that when I had another there would be no time to write. That 9 month deadline was the best incentive I’ve ever had to stop procrastinating. Unless I want a huge family I’m going to have to find something else in future, though.

Question #5

Who was the most difficult character for you to write in Seven Days of Us? Who was the most fun to write, and why?

The hardest was probably Olivia, because I don’t have much in common with her character – she’s quite reserved, and very earnest. The most fun was Andrew, because everything irritates him, so his parts were a chance to rant.

Question #6

From my time living in England, I know that there are so many stereotypes of American mores and behavior, one of which you very hilariously pointed out in Seven Days of Us:

“Guns? Guess he is American,” she said, as if it was an embarrassing medical condition.”

What has been your most memorable experience with someone from a different cultural background or nationality from yours, and how do experiences like that help you as a writer (and on a personal level)?

When I was 18 I did a teaching programme at a primary school rural Belize, and stayed with a host family. At first I followed the advice we’d been given about dressing very modestly, but after a couple of months when it became really hot I slacked off a bit and started wearing shorts and t-shirts when I wasn’t teaching. I’d noticed that other girls in the village wore the same, and I didn’t consider that as a teacher it wasn’t appropriate – or that, as a foreigner, different standards might apply to me. One day, an older woman in the village told my host mother that I dressed like a prostitute, and that I wasn’t fit to be a teacher. I came home to find my host mother at the kitchen table in tears, saying she was ashamed to have me in the house. It was absolutely mortifying, and I really realized how naïve I’d been. I wish I could say it had helped me personally, but I’m not sure it did as it was such a confidence knock! But it did teach me (the hard way) that you shouldn’t second guess at the rules when you’re away from home, and that just because people are smiling and waving doesn’t mean they actually like you! On the plus side, those kind of excruciating life experiences are helpful when you’re writing. You don’t need to be writing about the same incident – I think I had some of that pain and alienation in mind when I wrote about Jesse shaming himself as the guest, and foreigner, in Seven Days Of Us.

Question #7

In Seven Days of Us, the father, Andrew, is a writer as well. He has several witty interactions with his editors throughout the novel that give readers a glimpse of the tug of war writers can sometimes have with their editorial teams! What is the most memorable “tug of war” you’ve ever had with one of your editors, and why was that issue so important to you?

So many! I used to be really precious, unnecessarily precious, about tiny changes. I must have been so annoying to work with (I got ridiculously stressed once because a sub-editor insisted on changing ‘his bicep’ to ‘his biceps’, which is technically correct but sounds stupid because nobody ever says ‘biceps’. I do stand by this, but my rage was disproportionate).

It wasn’t actually a style issue, but my favourite altercation with a sub editor was when I was a 25 year old fashion writer for a newspaper, and had a tiny section, literally one newsprint column wide, called ShopSpy. One day I wrote: “This week I’m loving this gigantic cocktail ring by new designer xxxx….’. But the sub-editor hyphenated ‘cocktail’, so that it in the newspaper it read like this:


This week I’m

loving this

gigantic cock-

tail ring

Haha.  It was a very awkward middle aged male sub – he went bright red when I came up to point it out to him. 

Question #8

With all of the great hype and reviews of Seven Days of Us, your readers are surely looking forward to your next works, too! Can you tell us what upcoming projects or articles you’re interested in working on?

Thanks! I’m writing a novel set around a communal garden in London. If Seven Days Of Us was about family, this is about community. 

Question #9

What is the strangest compliment you’ve ever received regarding your writing?

It’s not a strange compliment in itself, but I’m always surprised to hear people call it ‘warm’ or ‘heartfelt’ or ‘moving’ because to me my take on the world is quite critical. But I do cry easily, so maybe I’m soppier than I realise.

Question #10

Tell us one awkward/embarrassing/unique fact about yourself!

I love anything miniature. I had an amazing dollshouse when I was a child, but an adult playing with a dollshouse is creepy so I have to make do with sample toiletries and those teeny jams you get with hotel breakfasts.


Where the Tables Turn: Feel free to ask me any question you’d like for me to answer for my readers, and/or pose a question to your readers or the general public!

Question for you and your readers:

What one thing makes you fall for a book?


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Sarah Schmidt Pulls the Curtain Back on her Debut Novel, See What I Have Done

Hardcover, 328 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published March 28th 2017)
Hey Navi Review Followers! See What I Have Done hit the shelves a couple months back to rave reviews and more than a little press! Everywhere I looked, I saw this book–and its very talented, very candid author, Sarah Schmidt. After reading and reviewing the novel, I just HAD to know more about her and this book! Her zany tweets never fail to amuse and neither does she herself. In this exclusive Navi Review interview with her, we get up close and personal with the author of this celebrated novel about that infamous day in 1892–the Australian phenom herself, Sarah Schmidt.
Question # 1
It is so cool that you work around books all day at a public library—what a great place for a reader/writer! Could you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a published author? How did your work in libraries affect that journey, if it did?


I began working in public libraries around 4 years ago, so I was well and truly deep into writing See What I Have Done by that stage. But the catalyst to work in this area was the impending birth of my daughter. I remember sitting at my desk writing the novel and all of a sudden I had this overwhelming feeling of impending doom that to this day I still can’t completely describe. That’s when I started thinking about what was important to me and working in a community service organisation was up there. That feeling of urgency also helped push me to get the manuscript to a place I was happy with and do something with it. It took a few more years but it was the push I needed.

Question #2

See What I Have Done is told from multiple POVs in a 19th century setting. Was it difficult to write from so many perspectives and in such a setting? What was the most difficult and the most fun part about that?

In the beginning all I had was Lizzie and I knew immediately that she was never going to give me a complete story. She was always going to hide things, even from herself. I also couldn’t bear to be in her head for long periods of time. That’s when I started dragging other characters in and hoped that somehow these separate narrators would give as a ‘whole’ story in some form. I knew that if I could find empathy for each of them, even Benjamin, then I could find a way to write that point of view. Once I gave in to their wants and needs I really started having fun. Benjamin and Lizzie are the worst people and they would do and say things that I’d never dream of doing. Pushing your characters to do more and more is very satisfying!

Which brings me to the problematic nature of finding balance between your natural writing style and voice versus the voice of the character. I found this the most difficult aspect and although not perfect, I think I was able to find a balance. I know readers have said that they found Lizzie and Emma to be very similar. And I agree. That was a deliberate choice: I wanted them to be so similar because of their parasitic relationship and close proximity.

In the beginning I ‘forgot’ that this book was set in the 19th century and wrote it as if it was happening now. Obviously you bring in the social context of the time to fill the world you’re creating and to give your characters plausibility but I found the more I tried to remind myself this was 1892 the harder it became to write. I added details like clothing, transport etc at the very end of the process.

Question #3

Who was your favorite character to write in See What I Have Done? Who was the most difficult?

At different stages I had a favourite and for years I was addicted to Lizzie. She preoccupied my thoughts at all times and even now I consider writing new scenes for her because I’ve become so used to her being a shadow.

But my favourite character to write was probably Bridget, not least because she knows that family is utterly dysfunctional and had total motivation to leave that house.

Question #4

As a working woman and writer, how do you manage to keep your life balanced? Do you have any tips for other writers on how to manage it all in today’s busy world?

I’ll be honest: I’m not sure I have found a balance. Before I had my daughter it was a bit easier to work and write. I had structure. But things will always change and you need to adapt for where you are at that stage of your life, especially if you decide you’d like to have children.

The only thing I know for sure is that if you really want something you’ll figure out a way to get it done. For a long time after I had the kid, the only way I was able to write See What I Have Done was to get up at 5 am and write for an hour before work.  Often that was all the time I had so I used it wisely. It’s slow going but that’s ok. The other thing I’ve learnt is that you need to take care of yourself. If writing is that thing that makes you happy, makes you feel your complete self, do that and never feel guilty. Because men don’t.

Question #5

Do you think the mystery will ever truly be solved on whodunit?

I don’t think it will and I’m okay with that! I think the mystery is what fascinates and if we were to find out, I think a lot of people would be disappointed. I still maintain that the logical explanation to this case is the simplest: someone in that house is responsible.

Question #6

With all of the great hype and reviews of See What I Have Done, your readers are surely looking forward to your next works, too! Your online blog offers this info on your next project: 

“1. that it’s a dual narrative family portrait spanning 30-40 ish years.

  1. It is about a woman who takes a car trip with her child. Nothing is what it seems.

The working title is Blue Mountain. (You got 3. I’m generous like that!)”

Has blogging through this process been helpful to writing your next novel? If so, how?

It’s been helpful to blog in some ways because it’s forced me to think more logically about how I’ll approach this second novel. The first time around I went purely on gut instinct. That was fine except it took eleven years! This time around I’m still using my gut but encouraging it to be more focussed in some ways.

The other thing that’s been helpful blogging about the creative process is that it reminds me that the beginning of things can be hard and messy. You become very used to working on something that is draft ten, draft twelve. When you start something it’s horrifically beautiful. Your immediate thought is ‘This is shit. I can’t write. This won’t be anything good,’ but at some stage draft one begins to become draft two, draft three, and edges closer to being the manuscript you want it to be.

Question #7

What is the most interesting/funny/strange experience you’ve ever had working in the public library?

Where to begin! Public libraries are weird places. Most of my experiences have been relatively neutral but my work colleagues have told me some incredible stories…like the time they had to step over a sleeping man to get into the building. Only it turned out he was dead.

Question #8

What is the strangest compliment you’ve ever received regarding your writing?

Someone once told me a story about how they died five times. They said something like ‘I’m telling you this because you seem like the type of person who just gets it.’

Question #9

What is your favorite quote from SWIHD, the one that really made you feel one with the story?

Oooh, that’s a tough one. I don’t think there’s one singular moment (although the repetition of ‘the clock on the mantle ticked ticked’ really anchored a particular mood for the novel very early on in the writing process) however when I wrote Benjamin’s line, ‘I used to be butter – the way I’d disappear at the sign of heat’ I knew instantly who he was and what he was going to become. I also knew thematically what I could do with that line for other parts of the novel. Up until that moment I didn’t really connect with him. I have no idea where it came from but I’m glad it arrived when it did.

Question #10

Tell us one awkward/embarrassing/unique fact about yourself!

I feel my whole life could be summed up as one embarrassing, awkward moment after another!

There is however one moment that haunts me to this day and I can’t believe I’m about to make this public. The setting: high school, geography class. I got my period while standing at the front of the class giving a presentation. I had no idea it was happening and no one told me…until much later. I was mortified but the only thing I could do was just push on through the day and act as if it didn’t happen. I think that’s how I survived much of my teenage years.


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