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Find The Accidental Art Thief on Amazon.
Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Accidental Art Thief. What was your inspiration for it?
A: A long time ago a friend and I were thinking of starting a literary magazine. Back in those days email programs were not sophisticated enough to figure out who you were addressing based on the first few letters you typed into the “to” box. You had to write the whole email address out each time. When I went to respond to my friend about her ideas for our magazine, I accidentally messed up her email address and my message went to a man in New Orleans. He wrote back to alert me to my mistake but admitted he’d read the email, and since he was a writer too, he thought he might be able to contribute to the magazine. We never did get the magazine off the ground, but the man and I became good friends. While the unintended recipient of the rogue email in my book is not nearly as forthcoming as my friend was, his response has life-changing consequences for my protagonist.
Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.
A: My protagonist’s name is Kathryn, but her family and friends have always called her Zinc. She suffered some major losses in her early twenties, and as a result she retreated from what most would call “the real world” and took a job as a caretaker for an old man on a ranch in New Mexico. The beginning of the first chapter of the book finds her very satisfied with the reclusive life she created for herself all those years ago. But by the end of the chapter, that will all come to an end.
Q: What was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?
A: The Accidental Art Thief is my fifth novel. With all the others I knew where I was headed when I started writing and always had some kind of a loose outline. This novel was different. At the same time I was writing it I was also writing a memoir. The memoir was kind of exhausting to work on, so I needed a relief project for those times when I had to put the memoir aside. Accordingly, I never bothered trying to figure out where I was going with Art Thief ahead a time, and I did not have an outline. It was an exercise in creativity, you might say. At the end of each chapter I tried to surprise myself. This does not mean The Accidental Art Thief is a frivolous novel without any depth. It’s a breezy read, but it has depth too. Think Alice Hoffman, or Sue Monk Kidd. The novel features moments of serendipity and maybe even magic, but it also asks a lot of questions about human nature and the way we treat one another.
Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?
A: Because I worked without a net on this one, I had the freedom to get very creative. At the end of each chapter I said to myself, What is the most surprising thing I can think of to happen next? And then I explored that possiblity.
A: I don’t experience anxiety because I write (and edit) for a living as well as for my own pleasure. Every day I look at my schedule and write whatever I am being paid to write. I’ve been doing that for a long time. I put two kids through college doing that. So, when I have some time off and I can work on my own projects, my good habits fall into place—mostly.
Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: I sit at my desk from eight to about two or three each day. When I finish my client work, I work on my own stuff. I don’t work on anything after three or on weekends.
Q: How do you define success?
A: I’m going to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau and say success is being able to advance confidently in the direction of my dreams, endeavoring to live the life I always imagined.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?
A: It’s a two-way street. We all aspire to do something. The writing partner might aspire to pen a best seller, but the other partner might aspire to be on stage with a microphone, or stand at a podium lecturing about quantum physics. We all have to give one another the space needed so we can all be our best selves.
Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
A: A lot of the early 20th century writers were trying to say something important about society, about oppression and poor working conditions, etc., so yes, in that sense, writers had to tell two stories, one that would be entertaining and one that would be political and move people to action. That can be exhausting. In some sense that is what I tried to do in The Accidental Art Thief. I wanted my story to be a fun, funny story about a bunch of quirky people whose lives collide like steel balls in a pinball machine. But there are serious issues too. I hope I’ve been successful in raising certain issues and that the issues raised never get in the way of the story. Hard to do. Hats off to Orwell.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
A: Please consider buying my book and posting a review on Amazon. I can’t promise you will like it, but I think you will, and I know you will be surprised at times. I was!