In honor of the paperback release of Sarah Addison Allen’s THE PEACH KEEPER (a New York Times bestseller, don’t ya know) I’m thrilled to have Sarah on Women’s Fiction Writers. Many times I start reading a book simply because someone said, “Read this.” Rarely do I not put down said book until I’m finished reading. Such was the case with THE PEACH KEEPER. Though intricately woven and delicately played, Sarah doesn’t shy away from hard issues facing her characters in this book — and the same goes her advice to all of us below!
Please welcome Sarah Addison Allen to Women’s Fiction Writers! Here’s wishing Sarah success and good health for 2012!
Author Sarah Addison Allen Shares A Little Of Her Magic With Women’s Fiction Writers
SAA: Despite a lifelong love of writing, I didn’t always want to be a writer. When I was a toddler, my most fervent hope was to become a trash man when I grew up. I would daydream about it.
But I gave up on my dream of waste management and decided to pursue writing as a career when I graduated from college. I wrote for about 12 years, sold a few small things, but then I went through a very long dry spell during which I wrote like a fiend, trying to follow what was hot in the market, and couldn’t sell a thing. That’s when I decided to write the story I wanted to write, not the story I thought would mostly likely get published. I followed my voice, not the market. I wrote Garden Spells. And that’s when my big break occurred.
Occasionally, though, I still daydream about how fun it would be to ride on the back of a garbage truck.
ASN: How do things differ for THE PEACH KEEPER than they did for GARDEN SPELLS, your first novel published almost five years ago?
SAA: I wrote Garden Spells in my own time, with no expectation that someone was out there waiting to read it. Every book I’ve written since has had an outside expectation attached to it. So I think the biggest difference boils down to a deadline, which has both its pros and its cons:
The pro — someone is waiting for what you write.
The con — someone is waiting for what you write.
ASN: Speaking of writing — do you plot (making you a plotter) or do you write by the seat of your pants (making you a pantser)?
SAA: I wish I was a plotter, but I’m not. I am a pantser. It’s like having straight hair when you wish you had curly. I think writers are naturally one or the other.
ASN: Which comes first — the magic or the characters? Or do they arrive together as you’re writing — or before?
SAA: My writing process is very organic. I start with an idea. I have the general story arc and the cast. But then I sit down to write and things change. New characters appear, some disappear. And the big elements of magic never make themselves apparent until I’m well into the book. I’m always surprised by them. Making it up as I go along is one of the best parts of writing. But it’s also one of the most frustrating parts. It’s an insecure feeling, not knowing what’s going to happen. But I’ve learned to trust my process.
ASN: I picked up THE PEACH KEEPER not knowing what it was about and then did not put it down until I was finished reading (the luxury of having teenagers who can cook for themselves). What are some key elements you keep in mind when writing to insure your readers are always compelled to turn the page?
SAA: I usually don’t know what’s coming…and even when I think I do, it ends up changing anyway. For me, the element of my not knowing the story as it unfolds translates well into the reader not knowing. Or that is my lame pantser excuse. Plotters out there are probably hyperventilating.
ASN: What is your definition of women’s fiction?
SAA: I’ve never really thought of it as a definition. It’s more like a feeling. The feel of a book that is more feminine than masculine. I like to think of it as how, in the French language, some words are masculine and some are feminine, oft times for no discernible reason. Books are like that for me.
ASN: What is your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
SAA: Trying to get published, trying to make a living from writing, from something you love to do and know you were meant to do, can be frustrating and disheartening. Believe me, I know. But don’t give up because of the dark days. Succeed in spite of them. The dark days will make the bright days seem even brighter. So bright you can hardly stand it.
Sarah Addison Allen is the author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Garden Spells, and The Sugar Queen. She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina.