NOTE: There are NO Reconstructing Amelia spoilers in this post. We’ll save all spoilers for our discussion on Wednesday. Feel free (and safe) to keep reading even if you are in the middle of the book!
Because sometimes life is that good. When I selected Reconstructing Amelia for Likes to Smile Book Club, I was merely looking forward to reading and discussing a great book. I had no expectations beyond that. I tweeted the author, Kimberly McCreight, to let her know I selected her book. Look what happened next:
(Here’s a clickable link to Kimberly’s website).
Squeal! To say I was ecstatic would be a vast understatement. After quite a few back-and-forths, I want to confirm that Kimberly is even nicer than I imagined after her first tweet. I mentioned this when I announced the interview, but feel it bears repeating: this woman has a heart of gold.
I asked if I could interview her about working in a creative field and she agreed. I’m fascinated by how others create their content and learning their process often leads to me tweaking my own content creation habits. I know a lot of my readers are also content creators and I hoped you would find this inspiring, as well. Without further ado, my interview with Kimberly McCreight:
1. You wrote that you “wanted to be a writer in the first place: because, against all odds, you believe in magic.” Where do you find magic in the every day?
For me, that kind of magic doesn’t exist in the every day. That’s precisely the appeal of writing fiction: it’s a place where you aren’t constrained by the limitations of the real world. That said, the closest I get to that feeling in my day-to-day is watching my children when they are discovering something new. I was also going to say eating ice cream. But I guess that’s more heaven, less magic.
2. What was: (a) your favorite book as a child (b) the last book you read (c) the book you are currently reading and (d) the book you will read next?
The Giving Tree was my favorite book as a child and I still love it. Unfortunately, my children don’t like when I read it to them because I always start to cry. The last book I read was a great galley due out next spring, A Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke. Currently, I’m reading Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore due out next June. It’s a fabulous, modern-day Gatsby-esque tale. On my TBR pile next is The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives by Sarah Weinman. Can’t wait to dive in, I’ve heard wonderful things!
3. You left the law profession to become an author. What advice do you have for others wishing for a similar path?
Get a great critique group. It’s incredibly hard to improve your work in isolation. Actually, I think it’s impossible. A group is ideal because you get the benefit of multiple perspectives. The author’s opinion should always ultimately rule, but when five people out of a six person group all hate the same thing, you do have to ask yourself whether they might not have a point. But make sure the feedback isn’t destructive or unkind. Good feedback always leads with the positive. If it doesn’t, you should find another group. But do keep working. I think the most important part of the writing process is revision. In the early stages–second and third drafts–I don’t even consider it revising. It’s part of the writing process.
4. Reconstructing Amelia is your fifth novel, but first published. How did you find it in yourself not to give up?
I just couldn’t. And sometimes, I wanted to. Believe me, it would have made life a lot easier. I just believed writing was what I was supposed to be doing and worse than failing was the thought of living my life with regrets. Also, the stories kept coming and I felt like I had to tell them. I faced a LOT of rejection along the way, but I was also lucky enough to have some early encouragement from agents and editors who said they saw something in my work. A lot of the time, I held tight to that. And to the notion that if I worked hard enough I would get better.
5. How do you come up with and cultivate ideas for your novels?
Non-fiction periodicals is where a lot of my ideas come from, including newspapers and news magazines. My stories tend to be on the dark side, and, maybe unfortunately, they often come from real life.
(Stacey here: Kimberly talks about the ideas behind Reconstructing Amelia here on her website.)
6. What’s your process for creating the narrative (or “content”) of your book?
I don’t outline in advance. I have a general idea of where I’m going, get something down on paper in the form of a rough first draft. I work out details as I go along, changing my mind sometimes about details or characters, but rarely about where the story is headed generally. The heavy lifting for me, takes place in the second and third drafts where I have to start getting the pieces to really click into place. Often that involves pulling out or changing whole narrative threads.
7. Have you ever faced writer’s block? If so…how do you overcome it?
I just make myself write something every day. It might be awful and will be tossed away in my next pass, but for me it’s better just to keep writing. I try hard to stay out of my head and keep going, accepting that it might “feel” bad along the way.
8. What is a typical “day in your life” like?
I work regular hours every day 8:30-5:30 pm. I try to make the majority of that time writing new material (when I’m working on a new book) and to keep other kinds of writing (like answering interview questions, or blogging) to weekends or evenings. I have a minimum-of-2000-words rule on my main project, though 4000 words is a really great day.
9. How many creative projects do you work on simultaneously?
Right now I have my next novel and a screenplay I’m working on, but I also have a YA trilogy outlined that I’ve set aside for the time-being. I am primarily devoted to the next novel. The screenplay is what I let myself work on if there’s time once I’ve met my word count. It’s also what I’ll turn to in windows when I’m waiting for feedback.
10. What message (or life lesson) would you most like readers to take away from Reconstructing Amelia?
Stacey here: you can find the answer at the bottom of our book club discussion in this post.
I want to thank Kimberly for allowing me to interview her for Likes to Smile Book Club. The offer to conduct this interview was a highlight of my last month and I was ecstatic to share it with all of you. To write the interview questions, I read her entire website. I find her incredibly impressive. If you have time, read her extended biography, I imagine you will find it to be quite inspiring.
From the interview, I really responded to Kimberly’s concept of writing through writer’s block and just forcing herself to put something, anything, down on the page. I think I will do that when I’m stuck for blog topics. Perhaps just starting something will lead to something better.
And you? What did you respond to in the interview? If you are a content creator, did you see any similarities or differences between yourself and Kimberly? Where do you get your ideas from? Will you be joining for the discussion of Reconstructing Amelia on Wednesday?
Until next time!