When did you start writing? What were your first stories like?
I started writing as soon as I learned how. I have always been a writer. My first stories? Well, since you asked, I went to my file cabinet and pulled out a folder with my writings from as early as junior high. There were very few actual stories. Looking through the folder, I tended to write poetry or strange short plays. Here's an excerpt from something I wrote at the age of 14.
BARNABY BULL: Dear Sunset, the other day I missed you. I had kept myself awake one night. Too long. As the new morning approached, I was deep in slumber, too lazy to greet the blazing sun....Ah, Sunset, it was golden rivers than I drank from...but oh would I have rather had no drink at all, and watch you rise and set and fall.
SIR ISSAC: I, dear Sunset, I saw your dripping colors melt behind the mountains. I kissed your brazen pastel shades of pink as swimming rainbows danced by my windows. I, dear Sunset, would never drop to sleep. How careful I am when it comes to you.
Molly, despite my great desire to edit that NOW so that it actually makes sense, I kept it exactly as it was written by 14-year-old me. My mother, a poet, would often read my work and say, "This is crap. But it's good crap. It takes talent to write this." And other times, she just told me she really liked what I had done. I think this might be "good crap." I can't recall.
You have experience writing or working closely with poetry, plays, and films in addition to books. How have those other forms influenced or inspired your novels?
Very interesting question, Molly. I'd love to give a more highbrow answer to this, but the truth is that my years of watching soaps were the best teacher. There are many reasons for that. One, when you watch a soap, you know the characters the way you know your friends and family. So, when a soap character deviates from the person you know them to be, it ruins the story for many viewers. That's not to say that a character can't do something "out of character," as people do that all the time, but I am saying that writers have to be true to the characters they create.
Soap fans always know when a murder mystery is about to happen. It's not very difficult. There's one horrible person in town who just about everyone hates, threatens to kill, and on and on. I spent years analyzing the plots trying to figure out "whodunit." The first thing I would look for were the lines or actions that didn't seem to fit what was going on. Here I learned that every line should advance the character or the plot. When lines appear to have no meaning, they may have the most meaning of all.
And lastly, watching soaps, which have multiple storylines going on all the time, with characters going in and out of each one, probably gave me my love for writing multilayered plot lines.
You know, I never really thought about all of this until you asked the question.
What genre or subject matter would you like to try writing about someday?
I have a passion for psychological thrillers, in both books and film. So I think that would be high on my list.
What genre or subject are you unlikely ever to write about?
I will never write a romance novel. I'll write books with romance in the plots, but I won't write in that genre. I am extraordinarily unlikely to ever write science fiction, fantasy, erotica, steampunk, or westerns.
Tell us what you are working on now.
I'm writing a YA paranormal (no vampires or werewolves!) that takes place in a southern California desert town.
Do people ever assume that, because you're a published writer, you must be rich now?
Oh, yes. I think most writers will agree that those not in the know do not understand how tough it is. People don't necessarily think I'm rich, but most certainly assume I'm earning a whole lot more than I am.
How do you choose settings? Do you ever choose a setting before figuring out the story?
Like most writers, I choose settings that I am familiar with. My first three novels take place in Philadelphia, New York, and an unnamed area of the East Coast. And for the record, the latter would be my YA novel Squalor, New Mexico, which has absolutely nothing to do with New Mexico at all.
If I write about small towns outside big cities, I always make up the names. Why? I don't want people from any small town thinking that I'm pointing fingers or writing about them. And I'm not. Like most writers, what I write is a hybrid of many things.
Which writer, living or dead, would you most like to have lunch with?
How do you choose your book titles? Do you frequently end up changing them?
I'm very funny about book titles. I can't stand to write a book if I don't know the title. It's unnerving. Come to think of it, I didn't know the title of Crooked Moon when I started it, but it came to me by Chapter 4, which is when it is also revealed to the reader. For Squalor, New Mexico, it's the only title that made sense, and for Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!, I wanted something lighthearted and fun. Titles are important, and I don't like choosing ones that other books have.
If you could bring one of your characters to life and meet him or her, who would you choose?
This is a difficult question. As you and I have discussed, Molly, I might like to meet Paulie from Crooked Moon. Many readers would like to meet Paulie. And for very different reasons, I'd like to meet Randy from Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!
Would you ever write a nonfiction book, and if so, what would it be about?
Absolutely. It's a boring answer to say that I don't know what it would be about, but I'd love to do it if I found a subject that really interested me.
What elements do you think will always be present in your writing (e.g., humor, relationship issues, family)?
No matter how serious the subject matter, I can't imagine I'll ever write a book without some aspect of humor in it. I remember years ago hearing playwright Neil Simon speak, and he said that tragedy and humor are often very similar. I agree with that. I will also never write a book that does not have strong relationship issues. They may or may not be family-related, but c'mon, people have to have issues, right?
Do you have any writing habits, such as a certain desk you prefer, or background music, or a particular beverage or snack?
I don't like writing with any music at all. The quieter it is, the better. There have been times when I needed to write, and there was a lot of noise coming from outside. In those cases, I put on classical music to drown it out, but silence is golden when writing.
Like many writers, I get into the zone by rereading the previous day's work and doing a bit of editing. Knowing where I was helps me know where I want to go.
What is some of the most meaningful feedback you've gotten from strangers who have read your books?
It means the most to me when people get the characters as they were written. No writer can ever reach everyone, but it is thrilling when I do.
What was the most fun bit of marketing for your books you've ever done?
I'm sorry, Molly; I don't think I heard you correctly. I thought you mentioned marketing and fun in the same sentence. :)
For eight months, I blogged at www.mollyhacker.com as my character. The blogs themselves were great fun, and they're still up there for people to read. But doing that intense kind of promotion took way too much time and effort, and I'll never do it again.
What music do you turn to when you need your mood boosted?
This is actually a very interesting question. I thought about it a lot. I realize that I never play music to boost my mood, but I'll play certain music if I'm already in a good mood. I do play music to calm me, and my number one choice is almost always Marvin Gaye.
Where would you live if money were no object?
For one, I'd probably be bicoastal. I do like being here in Los Angeles, but I love New York (lived there for 10 years) and would love to have a great apartment there. If I had residences in both of these cities, I would always take getaways to many other places all over the world and within the U.S.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have a dog and a cat. Both were rescues from the shelter. They get along well, and I love them madly.
What was the best vacation you ever took?
It was probably the trip my friend and I took where we went to Paris, the south of France, Milan, Zermatt, Prague, Dresden, Berlin, Munich, Brussels, Amsterdam, and back to Paris. There were a lot of interesting moments on that trip: standing alone in the bedroom that Anne Frank shared with her sister, Margot; visiting the Checkpoint Charlie museum in Berlin; and riding in the same train car with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft from Nice to Milan, to name a few.
What's an unusual hobby or skill of yours?
I like to read prose the way Dylan Thomas read it. And I can recite a good deal of Under Milkwood.
Do you have any odd phobias?
Yes. I'm very wary of other people with odd phobias. :)
Who, or what, makes you laugh?
My animals make me laugh every day. I love watching them play together; they always make me smile.
What would you invent to make the world a better place (if science and technology obstacles were no object)?
I would invent a way to make haters spend real time with those that they hate. I think so much of the hate and prejudice in this world is based on ignorance. Nothing is foolproof; even if we get to know people, we may not like them. At the very least, I would like to eradicate hatred based on false assumptions and stereotypes.
What languages do you speak, and which would you like to learn?
I speak a little French, not much. I understand a little Spanish and a little Italian. (And no, I'm not talking about Danny DeVito.) I would like to really learn these languages well.
If you could wave a magic wand and make any improvement to your current home, what would you remodel?
You've heard of self-cleaning ovens; I'd like a self-cleaning home. If I were going to wave a magic wand, I'd have a bigger place with a dream office. Believe me, I've pictured it many times. :)
Thanks again for having me as your guest, Molly. I've had a great time.
And thank you for the delightful answers, Lisette! Readers can find Lisette Brodey at:
Lisette Brodey's page
Lisette on Twitter
Lisette on Facebook
Lisette's books on Goodreads
Lisette's books at Amazon
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As a postscript on the topic of author interviews, I was sad to learn that author and LJ friend Jennifer Schwabach passed away recently after a long battle with cancer. She was featured in this interview in 2010, and was always a cheerful and bright person to chat with. Fans of sci-fi and fantasy can still find her books at Amazon, and her short stories in various anthologies. I'm glad her words will live on, and am sending my fond thoughts to her family--who, it would seem, are all as sweet as she was.