Sunday, July 27, 2014
Sarah Stonich is the July Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob this month and I asked her some questions about her books, her life and her writing habits. Read on to find out more about this great Minnesota writer.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm a dog lover, a hiker and once upon a time I aspired to be visual artist, which may be why I so often write characters that are - I also give them occupations that interest me, so in that way I'm living vicariously through my books. I'm a closet homebody, sleep nine hours a night and dislike rushing for anything. My guilty pleasure is thrift store shopping. My biggest pet peeve is the archaic tradition of women giving up their names when marrying. When I think of this, or of the conservative far right, I find cooking is very therapeutic. In my dream life I would swim every day.
2. What inspired you to write Vacationland?
I wanted to write a story in which place was a central character, which Naledi very much is. I wanted the challenge of writing how one place would be perceived and reacted to through various perspectives spanning different times. There are fifteen characters in as many stories, with the central character of Meg always at the readers side, ready to introduce you to the next in line.
3. Tell us a little bit about how Vacationland is formatted. Why did you decide to structure Vacationland this way?
Each story has a title that was originally just working titles to reminders me which story was which - but then it turns out that's what the story was about, so they stuck. I loved the idea of building stories around the seasonal rhythms of a resort. And vacations are such book-ended periods of time, they neatly encapsulate memories that for many of us are very distinct.
4. Is Vacationland based on a real resort in Minnesota?
It's based on all of them, yet Naledi is very much it's own place - when I picture it, it's nowhere I've ever been. In some ways, this book is a love letter to all those old Mom and Pop places that are dying out.
5. Can you tell us why or when you decided to become a writer?
It was never a goal or conscious decision, I was steered to it in a very organic way. I had a job where I read a lot of manuscripts - not all of them good. I remember one day thinking, 'Maybe I could write something that I might enjoy reading. So I gave it a shot.
6. Usually an author puts some of her own life experiences in the book. Did you do that?
Some, not much in Vacationland other than where I am from. My memoir 'Shelter' was very difficult to write because I was the character. Best for the writer to get out of their own way and realize that just because something happens to them, it doesn't make it interesting. And of those experiences that are, they would probably need to be so spun away from reality as to be unrecognizable in order to work or be believable. The writers I admire most are observers
7. Do you have anything in common with your characters?
Interests, mostly - we often share views of the world - I can certainly empathize with many of them. And since I'm spending a year or two with them, they need to be interesting enough to hold my attention, even those I don't necessarily like.
8. Tell us a little bit about the other books you have written.
My one and only bestseller, 'These Granite Islands' was translated into seven languages - it tells the story of a 99 year old milliner telling her son the 'real' story of the summer of 1936, when her life in rural MN was upended with the arrival of a woman who opened a portal to the rest of the world, books, fashion, excitement, and misery. My next novel, 'The Ice Chorus', was a better book, but had horrid cover, so sales tanked - thankfully that book’s been re-issued wearing a better jacket. My memoir 'Shelter' was inspired after becoming a newly single mother and dragging my urban, tech-addicted thirteen year old to an off-the-grid wilderness to build a cabin smaller than Thoreau’s. I also write under two aliases: my chick lit persona is AVAV FINCH and I've just begun writing as a MAN (!) crime novelist LEN LEHANA.
I read mostly authors from Commonwealth countries - I love the Irish for their love of language; Canadian stories for their earnestness; Brits and Scots for their biting intelligence. I review books, and for the most part they are foreign titles. I get heat for not reading much American fiction, but what I love most about reading is being transported, and for me, the farther away the better.
10. How do you carve time out of your busy day to write? Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job?
Writing is my primary occupation, though to pay the bills I work as a part time editor and write advertising copy. It's a cobbled together life. I make time for writing by making it a priority - other parts of my life might suffer, like a fitness routine or much leisure. In case you are thinking of becoming a writer - a warning - there are no weekends off.
11. Tell readers in one sentence why they should read Vacationland.
The way the stories are woven together make them interactive for the reader - you discover the connections between characters and connect history to present until the stories all click for you as a whole - plus, who doesn't want to spend a week at a resort?
If you would like to win a copy of Vacationland enter here: Vacationland Giveaway