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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Q & A with Author Amy Koppelman

 
 
Hi, Amy. Thanks for joining me today! What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?
I know my writing is hard—isn’t a “good time” per se but I think it’s part of a larger dialogue women are having about what it means to be a good mother, a good partner, an honorable woman. I want my characters to have a chance to be part of that conversation. I can’t make people love them the way I love them or care about them or empathize with them the way I do. I understand that. So for me, my goal is to find a way to give my characters a voice, give them a chance to be heard.  Every time I’m able to do that feels like a victory because a lot of mainstream editors and critics seem to turn away. Sure, my characters aren’t always good people. Often they hurt the people they love.  But who hasn’t been hurt or been hurt by love? So thank you for giving me the chance to speak about them and about books and writing in general. I really appreciate it!
 
No problem! Which writers inspire you?
There are so many writers that inspire me. I guess the writers that inspire me the most are the honest writers, the ones who don’t/who aren’t scared to show the worst parts of themselves in their work. Anna, my teenage daughter, really inspires me. She writes with abandon – with a ferocity – a determination to seek and articulate her truth…When I catch a glimpse of her sitting on her bed, laptop on her lap, clinking away at the keys mining her thoughts and feelings I remember why it is I became a writer in the first place. The purity of her intention makes me feel like I’ve become calculating in my work –that I have started to think about what will resonate and that’s not what it’s about — certainly not what it should be about. The good news is every so often she will ask me what so and so will think of something she’s written or if this essay is as good as the last one and I think-well, see, she does care about other peoples’ opinions which makes me feel slightly less jaded!  
As far as professional writers/novelists go well some of my favorite are:  Carver, Yates, Bowles, Wharton, Petterson, Salinger, Roth, Karr, Canin, Paley, Percy, and Styron. I have been trying to learn a little about poetry. Right now I’m reading a book of poems by Zbigniew Herbert that are blowing my mind.
And of course, there are the playwrights: Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’neil -- doesn’t get better than that.
 
I saw on your website that you are an advocate for women’s mental health. Does that impact your writing?
Not consciously.  I don’t write with a message in mind.  After (sometimes many years after), I see that my subconscious knew what I wanted to say all along but I’m never aware of it as I’m writing. Certainly not as I’m writing a first draft.
 
Can you talk a little bit about the process of adapting a book to screen?
Sure. I think the challenge of adaptation, particularly in my writing, is figuring out how to show a character’s internal thought. Voice over is one way to do that, but I haven’t had much luck implementing voice over into my scripts (always reads a bit cheesy) so I try to create scenes (or flush out existing scenes) to show what my character is thinking, feeling. I adapted I Smile Back with my friend Paige Dylan and working with her was really helpful because I was able to talk through things with her. I think that’s vital when adapting your own work.
 
Give us an insight into how you create your main characters. 
I don’t really have an answer to this question. I just write and write (sometimes for over a year) without any clear idea as to what it is I’m writing about or who I’m writing about -- but with faith that the characters will reveal themselves to me. And they always do. The characters in Hesitation Wounds are the closest to my heart. I miss them. I know it sounds strange but I really do. And yet, like all memories, they are with me.
 
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on a multi-generational novel but that’s how I always start. I’ll probably spend the next 7-9 years writing hundred’s of thousands or words about this family and end up with a novella about a woman going through menopause.
 
What is the hardest thing about writing?
It’s funny that you should ask this because just the other day I renewed my membership at the library.  It’s time, I thought, to buckle down and get back to work.  I’ve spent the last several months pimping Hesitation Wounds which feels really lousy and in addition I’m not very good at! (I think I would do a better job selling an adult porta-potty!) Anyway, as I walked into the library I thought geeze – you know the hardest thing about writing is actually having to sit down and write. There’s no intonation on the computer but if you could see me right now I’m smiling. Yes, with all the theories, talk of process, characters, plot, and so forth the hardest part about writing – at least for me – is actually having to write.
 
That's too funny! What book/s are you reading at present?
When I write I don’t read fiction because I don’t want to accidentally copy it so right now I’m reading a lot of twitter. I love this site called Brainpickings.org. And I’m trying to learn about poetry. At its best it’s the most distilled and pure form of written emotion.
 
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I have a website: www.amykoppelman.com. I have some podcasts there and I think an essay or two. You can buy Hesitation Wounds here.