For the next two weeks, I’m taking a little break from blogging and lots of social media so that I can get refocused on writing for the new year. But I hope you will enjoy revisiting – or reading for the first time – my ten most popular posts of 2013, including this interview with N.D. Wilson.
Ed Cyzewski, one of the most generous and thoughtful writers I know, connected me with N.D. Wilson, and I’m so very grateful. I love a writer who is able to balance confidence with humility and who knows that our work as writers is about writing . . . that the rest will follow. So today, enjoy N.D. Wilson in our latest Writers Write interview.
1. Tell me about your latest project.
Death by Living. The book is a combination of memoir, meditation, and narrative gratitude. The focus is on our own mortality and how gratitude for the past, and an accurate perspective of ourselves living in our divinely appointed moments, can help us live more fully and more faithfully as we create more of that past with our own choices and actions.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
I would say that they played as great a role as, say, meals. I ate every day. I don’t remember most of those meals (though I do remember some), but they still fed, nourished and shaped me. My parents were reading stories to us all the time. They were telling us stories all the time. My grandparents were telling us stories all the time. And we fed on those stories…because they really were meals–nourishing and shaping our imaginations, sensibilities, and loyalties. I can’t possibly begin to imagine my childhood without books and stories.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
It varies depending on the stage of the project, but I’m currently on a kick of trying not to work nights (after years and years of writing at night). We’ll see how long I last! Even if I am doomed to fail, I’m attempting to write in the day and then do my reading and pondering and mulling at night. So far, so lovely. But when a deadline looms or a story grabs me by the back of the neck and demands that I finish it, I suspect that I will once again find myself sitting at a desk by moonlight, wondering if I will still be there at dawn.
4. Who are you reading now?
At the moment: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear, Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe, Dark Lies the Island by Kevin Barry, Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax, and (my thriller airplane read) Siege by somebody or other.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
That Hideous Strength (my favorite novel in large part because of its effortless and awesome myth-weaving), Orthodoxy (
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
For me, it’s all the same thing. I haven’t really set out to build a platform, but I have tried to maintain a consistent voice/brand. I can focus on making my stuff as good as I can make it, trying to cook meals that taste great and smell wonderful from blocks away. If I’m doing that, I’m happy. I think many authors spend too much time ‘platforming’ and too little time seeking and soliciting tough criticism, refining craft, expanding insight, etc. There are some authors who go about their art like they are building bee traps instead of books. Nothing immoral about that, it’s just not who I want to be. I am on twitter (only because a publicist said I could set up an account or she would start one and begin tweeting for me–my handle became @ndwilsonmutters in snickering protest). I do enjoy twitter, despite its distractions. I forgot my linkedin password, and I have never plugged into Facebook (nor will I). To me, my inbox is a rustling pile of leaves. I crunch through it, missing the majority of what’s there regardless of import, and rely on others to tell me when to pay any attention to it. I love the business of creating, and the business of tasting the creation. The peddling my wares bit, well, let’s just call it a weak spot and leave it at that…
7.What is a typical day like for you?
Man, I need to get me some of those. What is this ‘typical day’ of which you speak?
I built an attic loft above the covered porch that’s off the master bedroom in our very tall DIY home. I’ve now written at least…five books up there, and it still treats me well. Gorgeous view through rustling tree-tops, mini-fridge, bookshelves. I hope to add a spiral stair that directly accesses the loft from the bedroom. But before that, I wrote in the kids’ playroom, and that was awesome too (although it required headphones).
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
I want to be quick to receive criticism (any accurate criticism is my friend and will only improve my future work). But if something is clearly wrong (or just irrelevant), I blow it off quickly and move on. Recently, my horrified wife forwarded me an email in which someone wanted to toss something truly gnarly on me. I won’t even bother to repeat it here. My wife was upset by it, but it really didn’t bother me…because it wasn’t true. My texted reply (to my wife) consisted entirely of: Silly.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Focus on controlling what you can control, and don’t fret about the rest. Make your stuff as good as you possibly can make it, steward your gifts, refine your craft, and realize that you live in a world in which cream rises. He who is excellent in his work will stand before kings. Every truly great writer has a different story about how they rose up to cultural influence, but they all have one thing in common–they were truly great. Be faithful with what you have been given and God will bless it. Faithfulness and diligence please Him. No other critic matters. No other critic can remove that endorsement
N. D. Wilson is the best-selling author of the 100 Cupboards
trilogy (now in more than 20 languages) and the acclaimed Ashtown Burialsseries (both from Random House). Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl was adapted into the widely distributed “bookumentary” film of the same name.
He has adventured on camera for the National Geographic Channel and is currently involved in producing C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce for the screen (which he adapted himself). His writing has been featured on media outlets ranging from NBC’s Today show to NPR’s All Things Considered.
He was born and raised in Moscow, Idaho, where he currently lives with his wife and their five young kids (along with two tortoises and a snake). He is a Fellow of Literature at New Saint Andrews College, where he teaches freshmen how to play with words.