Today, it’s my pleasure to share with you the words and words of novelist Lillian Ann Slugocki. Also, I love any book cover that reminds me of Doctor Who (see right.)
1.Tell us about your book.
In How to Travel with Your Demons, Leda waits for a car service to bring her to the airport. It is snowing. She’s travelling home to Chicago to identify the body of a family member. At its simplest, we follow the protagonist from point A to point B. There is also a strong mythological subtext to the story– like Odysseus she encounters many obstacles along the way, as well as guides, both good and evil. But, all roads lead, ultimately, to the morgue, and a surprising transformation. The journey of the hero, and her subsequent transformation is also very much a personal experience of constant becoming– an overlapping of the past and the present.
I wrote this after I’d read somewhere that if you release the demons inside of you, they become angels who help you, but if you don’t– the demons will destroy you. I became obsessed with this notion of what or what my demons were, and how I’ve traveled with them, released them, or how they may have destroyed or illuminated parts of my psyche. To a certain extent it’s very much like that Jungian notion of getting to know your shadow self. I hope my readers enjoy Leda’s journey, and are inspired to become acquainted with their own demons or shadow.
2. What do you do when you’re not writing
When I’m not writing, I’m doing social media. I’m updating my website, posting on Facebook and twitter, and trying to be a good literary citizen. I promote the writers I like, I edit and confer with my other writer friends about their work. I teach college students. I walk my dog, do yoga, and I watch Netflix!
3. What made you believe you could write a book? How did you dispel doubt as you wrote?
I believed I could write a book because I knew I had a good story and a strong arc for it. I didn’t really dispel my doubts, I just ignored them. It’s a leap of faith for sure. I have written four or five other books that never saw the light of day– even though I finished them, because I’m stubborn, I knew they’d fallen apart and would never be published. As a writer, I think, you have to make your bones with that fact– meaning you might have to write a few books before you write one that’s worthy of being published
4. Describe the first 2-3 steps of your process in writing your book.
I begin work on this book on a writer’s platform called Fictionaut.com It’s a really great place for writers to workshop new pieces, get feedback, and be in a generally very supportive community. When a writer posts a piece, it is not visible or accessible for the rest of the online world to see– unless he/she posts a link. Only the members of the community can read it. There are some really great writers here. So I began with an idea, an image, of a woman sitting at her living room window, the snow falling down. I wrote about 300 words and posted it, and people loved it. So I asked myself, what is the story here? And is this a voice I could sustain for 90 pages? I decided to keep the story very simple, the protagonist travels from point A to point B. Once I had established such a simple story arc, I was ready to start writing.
5. How do you balance what will sell with what you want to say?
I don’t try to balance that at all. I only write what I want to say. I can’t concern myself with what will sell. As a writer I have my own voice, and my own stories to tell. I want an audience of course, but I’m not going to write a three book series about vampires or a YA dystopia (not that there’s anything wrong with that) because I know a book like that would sell. I can’t write books like that. I can’t work like that. I’m a purist in that sense, and maybe elitist. I don’t know. I do hope that I find the magical formula for a book I love writing, will find a huge commercial audience, but if it doesn’t, I’ll just write another. And so it goes.
6. Which is more difficult – drafting or revising? Why?
Drafting is the hardest. I try to suspend judgement, silence the inner critic, and just get words on paper. It’s almost like putting myself into a trance. It’s like running a marathon. I make a rule of not re-reading any section until I have the story written. I allow it to be sloppy and messy. I allow myself to experiment. But still it’s hard maintaining that intense focus. Generally I have to be in a good place in my life because I have to disappear for awhile to get the work done.
7. What is your favorite part about being a writer?
I love being a writer because I love language. I’m in love with words. I love the rhythm, the color and the cadence. There is different “me” that emerges when I write, and I love that person. She is articulate and smart and somewhat odd. She has a point of view and story to tell. I love that no one can interrupt me. I love my voice.
8. What is your least favorite part about being a writer?
I don’t necessarily like the business of being a writer. It’s so much work, and much of it is out of my wheelhouse. I don’t like having to market myself. Writers are by nature solitary creatures. I would love to hire someone to do this for me. I’ve spent hours upon hours on my website, Twitter, Facebook– and sometimes that’s fun, but I also wonder how much more I might’ve actually written had I not been so engrossed with the marketing of myself as a writer.
9. What are a few of your favorite books of all time?
I loved the White Hotel by D.M. Thomas. That book really had me in its grip. I remember sitting in a coffee shop, where I was supposed to be studying for a French exam, and the anxiety of reading the book instead because I couldn’t put it down. As a child, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Gone with the Wind really changed my life. Both had powerful female protagonists, which every girl needs in her life, or at least, I did. Also, in graduate school, I read The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, and her voice knocked me out. Again and again, she rewrites classical fairy tales oozing sexuality, depravity, redemption, and pure female energy.
10. How did you learn to write?
When I was 11 years old my grandmother gave me dairy, and that really started it. It was thrilling to record the minutiae of my life, but also I began to get a sense of how I could create a narrative out of my own life, that I could bend and shape the facts to suit the story I wanted to tell. After a very short while, the “I” in the diary became my very first persona. I also learned to write by reading prodigiously all of my life and falling in love with sentences, with verbs, with nouns and even punctuation.
Lillian Ann Slugocki has been published in Seal Press, Cleis Press, Spuyten Duyvil Press, Salon, HerKind/Vida, The Nervous Breakdown, The Dr. T. J. Eckleburg Review, Bloom, and Beatrice. Her latest book is How to Travel with Your Demons, Spuyten Duyvil Press. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and tumblr.