Sunday, September 9, 2012

Interview with Abby Stewart

Joining me today to talk about her journey as a writer and her latest work, Menthol Kisses , is the very talented Abby StewartAbby is a published poet and award-winning writer. She currently resides in Seoul, South Korea where she teaches ESL at a private academy. Menthol Kisses is her first self-published novella. She has also released a poetry collection entitled Unsent Letters which reflect on her travels.

Michelle: Welcome Abby, great to chat with you today.  Tell me a little bit about your latest book?
Abby:My latest book, Menthol Kisses, was inspired by some experiences while living in small town Texas (not all of them my own). Logan Day is a high school girl, growing up the aforementioned small town, whose life is generally uneventful until her sister leaves for college. Feeling trapped and abandoned, Logan is stuck between trying to live her life and simultaneously run from it. Her need to fade from a soul-crushing reality overshadows everything else after a secret abortion and the loss of a close friend. As Logan struggles with drugs, sex, and relationships, she only further digs her heels into the distasteful small town life she so badly wants to escape from.
M: How did you come up with the title?
A:Logan habitually smokes menthol cigarettes.
M: Do you have a specific writing style?
A: Yes, I think my writing is fairly masculine. I recently went online and put a chunk of my novel into a gender analysis program for writing. I scored overwhelmingly 76% male in one category, and 52% male in the other. Obviously I am not a male, but I gravitate toward reading male writers and I think that influences my style. 
M: Do you have a writing schedule?
A:No, I wake up sometimes at 2 AM to write down ideas. I also write at 7 AM before I start my workouts. It’s sporadic, but that keeps it fresh!
M: Do you plan your work or just go with it and start with the initial idea?
A: I used to think plotting and planning was the most essential part of being a writer. However, as I have actually started doing some serious writing, I’ve found that to not be the case. I start with a general idea, no outcome in mind, and let the characters take me on a journey.
M: How do you deal with writer’s block?
A: A cup of tea and an episode of The Office.
M: What inspires you to write? 
A: Where do you find your influences? It sounds aggressively cliche to say I write what I know, but that’s the truth. Everyday life experiences influence my writing. Menthol Kisses was situated around this one idea of two girls having a tea party in the rubbish of a burned out house I had seen in the newspaper, and initially I wrote that scene into the book. In the end, I cut it out, but that’s what started the whole story.
M: Are there any downsides to being a writer?
A: The necessitation of the dreaded day job, and everyone constantly reminding you: “Don’t quit your day job!” If I had a nickel.
M: Are the names of your characters important?
A: In Menthol Kisses, Logan’s name is very important. Her father wanted a boy, and thought she was going to be a boy. When she turned out to be a girl, they didn’t bother changing it. It’s somewhat of a burden in her youth. 
M: If you could choose one writer to be your mentor, who would it be?
A:  May I choose two?
M: Yeah, why not!
A: Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones -- she’s a female author who doesn’t mind getting dark and gritty. Chuck Palahniuk would be my other choice. I once wrote a letter to Chuck and he sent me back a lovely care package filled with fake severed fingers and a Beanie Baby quail -- which he informed me was my power animal. His early books are pure, messed up genius that I can only aspire toward presently.
M: Favourite book?
A: Of all time -- The Great Gatsby, I’ve read it almost 15 times now. From this year -- The Life of Pi or Into the Wild. I’m so indecisive.
M: Favourite book to movie?
A: My favorite book to movie was Never Let Me Go. Gone with the Wind is a close second.
M: Why did you decide to self publish?
A: For years I’ve been dog paddling through the writer’s market, always too young, too inexperienced, too whatever. I have some decent credentials, but I still kept hearing no. So when I finished my novella, I had it professionally edited, and I decided -- what the hell! I will put it out there myself. Even if I don’t make any money, the greatest feeling is that people are reading my work (and some of them like it). I would say self-publishing works best for those who are technically and artistically inclined because you can avoid paying people for formatting and cover art. It also works well for people who are perhaps just a little impatient. So far, I love it.  


A big thank you to Abby for her interview.  For those of you who haven't already done so, please make sure you follow the above links and grab yourself a copy of Menthol Kisses.

Thanks Abby.

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