Katie Pierson is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob for the maddening month of March. She is giving away 5 copies of her awesome book '89 Walls, which takes place in, you guessed it, 1989. Read on to find out all about Katie and her writing life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My day job is public affairs consulting for local non-profits, using my background in public policy and grassroots organizing to overthrow the patriarchy one introverted step at a time. When I’m not writing fiction, I return library books, make soup, and try to be cooler than I really am by hip-hopping at the YMCA. I live with my husband and two daughters in a suburb of Minneapolis.
When did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon. I had a wonderfully encouraging seventh grade English teacher. I staffed the high school yearbook and wrote a column for my college newspaper. In my office jobs, I contrived to write whether or not it was in my job description as a fundraiser for the Nebraska Humanities Council or lobbyist for Planned Parenthood. I’ve written a bunch of political commentaries for the Minneapolis StarTribune and have an actual fan base for my annual holiday letter. But I didn’t claim writing as my vocation until I was in my thirties. Taking a memoir class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis motivated me to finally put “writer” on my business card.
Have you ever been discouraged in regard to your writing ability and if so, how did you get past it and move forward?
Absolutely. I feel like a fraud most of the time. When I’m stuck, I force myself to do one writing prompt a day. My favorites are from 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers' Grotto and A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves. I also take classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.
What's your favorite thing about writing?
It’s my happy place. It’s the only thing in the world (besides food poisoning) that can make me forget to eat a meal. The best part about writing for a living is the schedule. I write for two hours. I put my youngest on the school bus. I work out at the YMCA at 9:00. I write for another two hours. I read a section of the Sunday New York Times while eating lunch. (It takes me a week to read the whole paper). Then I write for another two hours before ramping up for after-school craziness and the dinner hour. Is it me or does literally everyone call my house at 4:00? I work in my yoga pants and t-shirts, usually with my hair sticking up. I feel lucky to be able to do daily this thing I love.
What is your writing style? Do you like to outline or just write as you go?
I start out just writing. If it seems like it’s turning into something, I outline the whole thing. I have a quote by Ernest Hemingway taped to my desk that says, “The first draft is always shit.” It’s so true. But Anne LaMott says go ahead and write that “shitty first draft.” So that’s what I do. My first drafts are painfully earnest and rambling. Revising is way more fun.
Do you have a favorite spot where you like to write?
I do all of my writing in my office. My dog sits on the red sofa behind me all day and stares at my back.
What is something you've written that will never see the light of day?
My journals. I also wrote a lot of memoir in my thirties: great therapy but not for public consumption.
What is your writer food?
I’m kind of a hippie health nut but under stress, my go-to junk is Lay’s potato chips and Chocolove cherry-almond chocolate bars.
The isolation. I’m an introvert and love my solitude but it’s easy to get lost in my own crazy head. Once in a while my husband will joke, “You’re not going to pull a Sylvia Plath on me are you?” Going to the gym every day is crucial: my YMCA friends serve as my social life, colleagues, and therapy. And my daughters definitely ground me in daily reality.
What inspires you to write?
Real life, current events, random conversations. Like most writers, I start out trying to make myself understood and discover that I’m actually writing to understand.
How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
’89 Walls is my first book. I'm toying with a memoir of my family's sabbatical year in London during the final year of the Bush administration. The working title is Acting Canadian. I loved writing '89 Walls and read as much YA as I do adult fiction. I would love for another idea for a YA novel to drop in my lap.
What are some of your favorite books?
I love every single one of Alice Munro’s short stories. Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety is like comfort food. Persuasion by Jane Austen is my favorite book of all time. Cheryl Mendelson is as close as it comes to a modern-day Jane Austen. Anything for Jane is my favorite of her books.
What authors do you like to read?
Gwendolyn Brooks, Sarah Waters, M.T. Anderson, Laurie Halse Anderson, Elizabeth Wein, and Selden Edwards are my favorite authors of historical fiction. My favorite YA authors are Chris Crutcher, John Green, Kathryn Erskine, E. Lockhart, Norma Klein and Paula Danziger. John Green is also my famous author boyfriend although he is not aware of this having never met me.
What inspired you to write ’89 Walls?
Author Will Weaver says that Full Service was the book he had to write about the summer that changed everything. ’89 Walls is my Full Service—1989 was the summer that changed everything for me. That said, almost nothing in the novel actually happened. In 1989, I was a college junior home from the University of Pennsylvania and helping take care of my dying father. This book was a chance for me to imagine the adult conversations with him that would have helped me make sense of the huge shifts in the political landscape in the late Eighties.
Would you say you relate to any of your characters? If so, which one and why?
I relate to Quinn’s character. Her relationship with her father is 100% emotionally true for me although almost none of the events in the book actually happened. I did switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party after the Supreme Court’s Webster decision restricted abortion rights. Plus, I listened to Madonna in 1989, enjoy gardening, and grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Thank you Katie for this informative interview on your writing life.
Thank you so much for having me, Laura!
If you would like to win a copy of Katie's book "89 Walls, please enter here: "89 Walls Giveaway