Sara Gruen on writing

These quotes were gleaned from an interview I did for a story in Mountain Xpress. You can read at article on the launch of Sara Gruen‘s new novel, By the Water’s Edge, here. Gruen is also the author of the bestseller Water for Elephants.

Photo by Tasha Thomas

Photo by Tasha Thomas

• It’s an extremely intense process for me, writing a book. It takes a lot, emotionally and physically. I get almost obsessive about the characters. I can’t sleep at night, [or] I dream about them. Sometimes I wake up and I’ve been working all night on a problem in the book; sometimes I’ll wake up and I’ve solved it.

• One of the things I love about the job is I get to find something that interests me and then spend a couple of years living it, researching it and finding out more.

• If it’s possible, I’ll go and immerse myself completely [in a place]. I like to approach my research sort of like a language immersion class. When I was in the [Scottish] Highlands, after I was finished for the day I’d park in the corner of the pub with my laptop. …I would eavesdrop. I’d pick up phrases. I’d be listening, absorbing the accent and the the turns of phrase because it’s a very distinctive dialect and I really wanted to capture that.

• Obviously I can’t live in WWII, but I did extensive research. The newspaper archives were helpful but equally helpful were the pamphlets that told women how to create new patterns for reusing the material from old dresses, or what to use if you can’t find shampoo. I got copies of the [Ministry of Food] cook books. I knew the rations so [my husband] and I tried to live on rations for a month. I think we lasted two weeks.

• I try not to let anything affect how I’m writing. Then I would be writing to please an audience and if you’re doing that, you’re second-guessing everything.

• I have to lock the door of my office and close the curtains. Everyone in the family knows that unless the house is on fire, don’t knock on the door. It takes me about an hour and half to get through my creative portal. That sounds weird. But to [get to] a point where I actually feel like I’m there, as opposed to here. Then I feel like I’m recording it rather creating it. I feel like I’m not watching a movie, but in a movie. That’s when I know it’s working.AT THE WATER'S EDGE_final jacket

• Starting the book, I have a vague notion of who I want to characters to be and what sort of roles I want my characters to play. Then I write them, and eventually they come to life. And then they take over. Any idea I had for them, they throw away. They change the plot, they turn out to be different people, they have different backgrounds, they fall in love with other people. Invariably I have to go back and throw out the first third of a book. That’s absolutely a given.

• I hate when I have to throw 30,000 bleeding, screaming words on the floor. I have a leftovers file, because if I had to delete things, I would never do it. The theory is I could recycle. I’ve never recycled anything, but it allows me the freedom to get rid of things.

• When I’ve finished a book, I have what I call a springboard book. It’s my second-drawer book. I start working on that book again and eventually, so far, and idea will hit me from the blue. Clearly [the springboard book] doesn’t have the same pull on me, because I’ve never finished it.

“How to Talk to Rockstars” music video / book trailer

So excited to share this! Cameos from Rhett Miller, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Marley Carroll, Langhorne Slim & the Law, stephaniesid, dep, Neil Halstead, Pawtooth, The Felice Brothers, Jonathan Scales, Chelsea Lynn La Bate, Andrew Scotchie & the River Rats, I Draw Slow, The Get Right Band, Even the Animals, Debrissa McKinney, Dulci Ellenberger, Aaron Woody Wood, Malcolm Holcombe and many others.

Video and editing by Jesse Hamm, music by Tim Potts, excerpt from the novel read by me.

“How to Talk to Rockstars” endorsements

rockstars rearMore good news to share! Not only does my forthcoming novel, How to Talk to Rockstars, have a front cover — it has a lovely back cover as well. I’m so excited to share with you these endorsements from my literary and music heroes, Charles Frazier, Wayne Caldwell, Malcolm Holcombe and Joseph Arthur.

First look: cover art!

rockstars front
It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! How to Talk to Rockstars has a cover. The artwork is by Joshua Spiceland, the design is by Susan Yost and the repeated squeals of happy amazement are by me.

The novel will be available in May, and I’m already adding author events to the “Upcoming Events” page, so please check back. And… there’s another wonderful surprise for tomorrow. Stay tuned!