"Q&A With Steven Rowley"
Book: The Editor
Author: Steven Rowley
"Steven Rowley is the bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor. His work has been published in nineteen languages. He has worked as a freelance writer, newspaper columnist, and screenwriter. Originally from Portland, Maine, he is a graduate of Emerson College. He currently resides in Los Angeles. (Source: www.stevenrowley.com)"
1. ’The Editor’ is a very unique story that is quite relatable. What inspired this story? And what do you hope readers get from it?
THE EDITOR was inspired by my having written a deeply personal autobiographical novel (LILY AND THE OCTOPUS) and having it debut with a bigger splash than I had ever imagined. What I thought would be a small book became a national bestseller and was translated in nineteen languages for readers around the globe. While I changed the names of the people in the book, some identities are difficult to disguise. "Mom" comes to mind.
I know my mother wasn't thrilled with the way she was portrayed in LILY, even though I thought it was quite beautiful. Fortunately, we came to an understanding, and she is ultimately my biggest fan.
I was motivated to explore the accompanying emotions through another story – this time highly fictional – about a young writer whose small family novel suddenly becomes a big deal and balloons out of his control. For that, I needed a catalyst. Years ago I had started another project, a play, about Jacqueline Onassis’s time in publishing, but I could never quite find the proper narrative for it.
But it got me thinking if Jackie Onassis was your editor, wouldn’t that suddenly make your book a good deal? And that’s when I decided to merge the two projects. And it became a lovely canvas to explore the consequences of speaking the truth about ourselves and the ones we love.
2. In your opinion, what made Jackie a great editor and what can editors learn from her teachings?
Jackie was a great editor because she was a great listener and never stopped wanting to learn -- about her subjects and the people she worked with. Her interest in her authors went beyond the page, several have shared that she had an uncanny intuition to push those around her to get to know something about themselves they didn't even know they needed to learn.
I had a great partner for this book in my own editor, Sally Kim. She pushed me to get Jackie just right, to give her real narrative purpose and make it clear why she was the titular editor in the book and not anyone else.
3. How did your writing process change from Lily and the Octopus to this book?
Lily and the Octopus was an incredibly personal story, and one that I had (for the most part) lived. A first draft came easy. The Editor was research intensive. I took the responsibility of writing Jackie very seriously.
That meant reading biographies of her time in publishing, hearing from her co-workers and writers who worked with her, and even reading the other books she edited at the time the story takes place in an attempt to recreate her desk, learn about the subjects that interested her.
The first draft took over a year to write and a number of drafts followed to get the characters and the story just right.
4. Although this book has some serious moments, you keep it light-hearted and funny, how easy or how hard was it for you to keep this tone?
I always look for humor, even in life's darker moments. It's a way of coping, I suppose but it's also a reflection of life. We're emotionally complex, capable of multiple feelings at once. I think of myself as a comedic writer, even though I'm somehow known for tearjerkers and emotional stories. But laughter is a release, same as tears, and I love writing scenes that push readers to both extremes.
5. Do you recommend selling to an editor/publisher or self-publishing...?
Self-publishing can be a wonderful tool for a writer to get their work out into the world. But self-publishing runs the gamut -- there are very professional works and others that contain spelling and grammatical mistakes that feel more amateur. You don't need to sell your work to a traditional publisher, in fact, many get wider distribution by taking things in their own hands. But I would always recommend working with a freelance editor to help make your work as polished as possible.
Even if you want to pursue a more traditional publishing route, it's hard to get read and you only get one chance at a first impression. Working with a freelance editor can help ensure your work is submission ready and will show publishers you take your work seriously.
6. You talk about the struggles of a writer in the writing process, do you have a community of writers that these ‘struggles’ stem from...?
Oh, they're all my struggles. The hardest part of the job is showing up. Writers are notorious procrastinators, but there's no way around it: you have to sit down and write. But. Speaking of community, I do belong to a writers group and it helps to surround yourselves with others who understand the struggle. We all do very different things in terms of what we write. But we're all versed in the highs and the lows and can be there to cheer each other on.
7. What’s the best book you have read in 2019 thus far?
8. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
For me it's exercise. Writing is a very sedentary occupation; I have to get up and move. It's amazing what blood flow can do! Especially if I'm listening to music or a podcast, focus my brain on something else entirely. It's surprising how often answers can come.
9. What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?
Forgive yourself often.
10. Who has been an important mentor in your life and what did they teach you about success and happiness?
I've had a number of great teachers and mentors. It all starts with a great teacher; some of the best and most memorable weren't even in my favorite subjects but rather inspired interest in their subject through their own passion for it. The common denominator in their teachings? Find your voice. In writing, in life. And use it.
11. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
I do! I have just completed a third novel that I hope will be published in 2020. Stay tuned for more details!
Places to Find More From this Author:
Facebook: Steven Rowley
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