I know you’re going to love today’s interview with Lindsey Palmer, who brings up something very important: if your book bores you while you’re writing it, STOP! Because then it’s likely to bore someone else. I will add that once you’ve reviewed, revised, edited, and read your book twenty times, it’s okay to be bored and then you’re likely not the best arbiter of what’s boring and what’s not — but when a book is new and being written — follow Lindsey’s advice and write about what interests you most. What pulls you through three hundred pages is likely to also pull along the right reader!
Please welcome Lindsey Palmer to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Author Lindsey Palmer Says To Write About A Passion, Or Better Yet, An Obsession
Lindsey: The best part is hearing from readers that a certain character or conflict or plot point really connects with them–it’s wonderful to learn that the things that preoccupy and interest me resonate with other people, too. That’s a dream come true.
A more difficult part has been a new sense of pressure. I always considered myself a writer, but before I published a novel, it was something I did in my own little quiet corner of a cafe, a personal project that only a few people close to me knew about. Now, although it’s a thrill to have others think of me as a writer, it’s still a shock when someone casually asks, “What are you writing now?” I bumble a bit, one, because I don’t think I’m especially good at talking about works-in-progress, and two, because something that used to feel private has become more public. I do realize this is a pretty nice problem to have.
Amy: Did you have a favorite scene in the book while you were writing—and can you tell us about it without any spoilers? I also know that some of my favorite scenes when I’m writing are the most difficult to write. Did you have a scene that “gave you trouble?”
Lindsey: One of my favorite parts to write was the chapter narrated from the intern’s point of view. An office intern has such a unique perspective because she’s at the company but not of the company–she’s got more than a visitor’s pass, but she’s temporary, too, trying out this career to see if it fits. She may be naive about a lot of the inner workings of the office, but the fact that she’s less entrenched affords her a totally fresh viewpoint, which from a writer’s perspective was fun to inhabit after taking on the points-of-view of so many longtime staffers. Also, one might say that the intern in Pretty in Ink has more of a heart than the other characters, and yet she also commits what is arguably the least ethical act of the novel. For these reasons, she was an interesting character to develop.
One scene that gave me trouble was when the managing editor goes out to drinks with the new editor-in-chief, Mimi. Mimi has been cast as a villain up until this point, but I wanted to find a way to make her empathetic, to complicate her character a bit. I started thinking about how, despite her position of power, a new boss would face her own difficulties, in Mimi’s case insecurity and loneliness. What better way to get them out in the open than to get the character a little drunk? It was a challenge to write, but a fun one.
Amy: How do you feel about the term ‘women’s fiction’ and having your novel categorized as one that would appeal mostly to women?
Lindsey: Well, since Pretty in Ink is about a cast of primarily women and an exploration of issues and struggles that are often unique to women, it makes perfect sense to me that the book would be categorized as “women’s fiction.” Does that necessarily mean that a man wouldn’t read it and find a character or situation that resonates or interests? I would hope not. Categorization can be helpful when it comes to connecting with readers who know they like a certain genre–I’m all for that. Categorization only becomes problematic when it’s seen as exclusionary, as in, This book is X type so it would only appeal to Y readers. But really, I’m like most writers in that the main goal is to get eyeballs in front of my work, so whatever means can help make that happen is okay by me.
Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
Lindsey: First, read a lot–you have to keep filling your brain with writing that sings in order to be able to craft your own powerful prose. Second, write about a passion or, even better, an obsession. Especially if your goal is to write a novel, you’re going to be living with those characters and that set of conflicts and issues for quite some time, and at least for me, the best way to keep motivated and interested is to be writing about something that presents endless enthrallment. If you get bored, your reader certainly will too. If you’re still fascinated by the end of the process, then hopefully readers will be too.
Lindsey J. Palmer worked as a professional writer and editor in the magazine industry for seven years, most recently as Features Editor at Self, and previously at Redbook and Glamour. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she earned a Master of Arts in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and currently teaches 12th grade English, A.P. Literature, and Creative Writing at NEST+m in Manhattan. Lindsey lives in Brooklyn. Visit her at http://www.lindseyjpalmer.com, http://facebook.com/lindseyjpalmerauthor, and @lindseyjpalmer.