If the novel Standard Deviation is not already on your to-read list, please put it on there! I read it a few weeks ago and it was magnificent, good-natured, easy to read.
I am very lucky that the author Katherine Heiney, agreed to take some questions from me. Here they are, with her answers.
1 Can you tell us more about yourself? (If you don’t mind). Where do you live (approximately), married? Kids?
I live just outside Washington DC with my husband and two sons and three dogs. If you count human years, dog years, and reverse dog years, I live with five teenage boys. And yes, that’s a lot of teenagers but I like it. Someone is saying “That’s what she said,” pretty much all the time
2 Where did the idea for Standard Deviation come from? It seems to be such a venn diagram of ideas – the origami, the infidelity, the marriage, the Aspergers… you’ve crammed about six different books into one! Did it start out that way?
A long time ago—seriously, like twenty years ago—a friend of mine went to a wedding where she knew nothing about the bride other than the fact that bride gets very wet during sex. Much later, I began writing about that wedding, or how I imagined that wedding, and I developed a character who has no filter, who would not only know such a detail but have no problem revealing it. And then I wondered what it would be like to be married to such a person. The rest of the novel grew from that idea. My older son was going through a period of intense infatuation with origami, so a lot of that found its way into the book.
3 I talk to writers often about “The Wall” – i.e. the seemingly unshiftable blockage that occurs about 1/2 way, 3/4 of the way through a novel – or really any creative project. Did you experience that? how did you break through it? Do you write on, just blamming words down on the page hoping to write your way through the chaos, or leave it and come back to it – Feng Shui it? Crystals?
We just had our garage converted into an apartment and the contractor told me that about half-way through, he lost faith in the project but he just kept going and it all worked out. I got super excited and told him writing was the same way and described what happened to me in the middle of writing anything.
I’m sure he was like, Um, great, I‘m going to have lunch now. But I was really interested that he used the phrase “lost faith” because I think having faith is the only way to move past The Wall. You have to believe you’ll find a way to make it all come together. It’s not necessarily faith in your own ability, more like faith in something presenting itself—something you’ll be able to use.
4 When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
When I’m writing, I can only read familiar, beloved books — I need the comfort of old friends. So when I’m not writing, I try to read current books, things that will make me feel excited and inspired and jealous. Every time I get caught up in a book, I feel this intense moment of gratitude to theauthor: thank you making me feel this way again. I’m always afraid that someday books will lose their power over me and then where will I be?
5 How much of a praise junkie are you? Does it really spur you on? Or is it nice to have but not necessary?
I think all writers write for two reasons 1) it makes them unhappy not to write, and 2) love from strangers. But it’s not necessary by any means — at the end of the day, writing is just you sitting at your desk. You have to block out everything else.
6 What is a recent clothing item purchase that you are very excited about wearing?
I bought a black jumpsuit from the thrift store and I just love it. Also I recently did a reading where the stage was three feet high with no stairs or railing and the first five minutes of the event was me struggling to climb up there. I was glad it was a jumpsuit and not a skirt.
7 What are you having for dinner tonight?
I’m addicted to the baked sweet omelet from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything. If I don’t have it for breakfast, then I definitely have it for dinner.
8 Complete this sentence: Tomorrow, I am most looking forward to… Rollerblading. Writing. Drinks with my husband. Gossip. Teen Mom. A Krispy Kreme donut. You know, the finer things in life.
Thank you both – this was very entertaining and inspiring and I’m excited about reading the book x
Cindy Fried says
What a refreshing change from author interviews in the Sunday papers, usually of the ‘re-reading Henry James’ persuasion. Great questions – and as a result of this I am going to lash out on the hardback, even though it will mean lugging it around in my bag.
More author interviews soon please, Esther!
Cindy I will do my best! xxxxx
Will get this book. I really enjoyed ‘Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine’ which you recommended..