Q+A with Lindsay Starck, author of ‘Noah’s Wife’

Originally published at Mountainx.com

author photo_Starck_credit Victoria McHugh Photography (2)

Lindsay Starck, photo by Victoria McHugh Photography

Chapel Hill-based author Lindsay Starck took on epic subject matter for her debut novel: The biblical story of Noah. But rather than the ark, it’s his spouse who captured Starck’s imagination. In Noah’s Wife, the author reframes the characters of the Hebrew narrative in the modern day, as a couple relocated to a new town. Stack’s Noah is a minister sent to lead a congregation in a place where weird weather patterns have brought nonstop rain for years. Noah’s wife, initially just a supporter of her husband’s work, finds her own purpose in creating community where faith and hope have been abandoned.

Alli Marshall: Noah’s wife doesn’t have a name in the novel — she’s just referred to by her relationship to others. I’m guessing you did this because she isn’t named in the Bible, but was it hard to develop a character without knowing her name?

Lindsay Starck: Oddly enough, thinking of her as “Noah’s wife” helped me to write about her because it gave me a clear idea of how she understood her position in the world and her relationship to other people. She’s a minor character in the biblical story, which puts her in a supporting role. I imagined that she was comfortable in this role, that she understood it, and that her struggle over the course of the novel would be to redefine herself as an individual — and as a protagonist.

The premise of the novel is the idea that a person’s status as a “major” or “minor” character is merely a matter of perspective; everyone has his or her own storyline, even if there isn’t any record of it. My job, as I saw it, was to provide a record for Noah’s wife. As I wrote, I wondered: What does it mean to play a supporting role to someone else? How much of our identities are defined by other people? How do we understand ourselves outside of those relationships?

What were some of the challenges with adapting (at least in part) a biblical tale to a modern setting?

Because the original story is so minimalist, I felt I had a great deal of creative freedom. There are no descriptions of anyone, not a lot of backstory, very little setting, and so I could imagine my characters and their town in any way I pleased. I never intended for the book to be a direct allegory or a straight retelling of the biblical tale… Instead, in Noah’s Wife I engage with many of the themes (faith, doubt, destruction, renewal) and imagery (animals, rain, boats, doves) of the original story in order to create something new. It’s a story about human relationships, not divine ones; it’s about faith, yes, but it’s about faith in other people, faith in community.

Have you adapted or drawn inspiration from any other bible stories or fables?

Although I haven’t written anything else directly adapted from another story, I like to think that books are always inspired by other books. One of the most interesting short story collections I’ve read over the past year is Kate Bernheimer’s XO Orpheus, an anthology of fiction written by authors who are reworking ancient myths. I love this concept because I’m very interested in how works of literature speak with and through one another. The best adaptations reveal something new, something we hadn’t seen before in the original.

NOAH'S WIFE coverfinalWhat was the original idea or event that sparked this book?

When I began writing this novel, I was in my mid-20s, and my friends and colleagues were beginning to pair off. As I watched people navigate the tumultuous waters of romance and friendship, I wondered over the nature of “pairings” more generally. What makes a marriage work? Why do some friendships fall apart, while others last for decades? What qualities make a good mother, a good daughter, a good neighbor?

The idea of “pairs,” along with my conviction that the flood story was darker and more complex than it often appears to be in popular culture, led me to Noah — and from there, to his wife. What sort of woman, I wondered, would be willing to abandon her community and follow her husband into a giant floating zoo? What if she were afraid of reptiles or allergic to feathers? How could she continue to believe in Noah, if she could not see the signs that he saw? If she were given a voice, what would she say?

The rain that continues through the story feels oppressive. What was it like, as a writer, to immerse yourself in the idea of that gray and soggy place for so long?

As Noah’s wife would say (in her optimistic way), there’s “a certain beauty” to the rain—and of course water imagery comes with a long tradition of symbolism, which I enjoyed thinking over and reworking. So it wasn’t as depressing as one might think! Still, one reason I included the “Dr. Yu” sections was because I did need to get out of the rain every couple of chapters (and I thought my readers might also appreciate the reprieve). It was refreshing to take a break to write about sun and shadows and wind without worrying about water rushing through gutters or pounding against windowpanes.

I’ll probably avoid writing about rain in my next novel. I’ve exhausted every possible way I can think of to describe it!

Did you do anything (watch rainy movies, run water while you were writing, visit Seattle) to cultivate the mood?

Ha! Great question. I thought a lot about the novel while swimming laps, actually — so perhaps that helped. Above my desk, I tacked newspaper clippings about the zoo floodings in Calgary (2013) and Minot, North Dakota (2011). Articles like this one from The New York Times (I love that its title references the ark) illustrated the terrible destruction of modern-day floods while also managing to include some lighthearted descriptions of the animals. That’s what I wanted my animals, to do, too: provide some moments of levity in an otherwise dark story.

What brought you to North Carolina, and are you inspired by the literary history and/or community of N.C.?

Graduate school! I’m finishing up a degree in comparative literature at UNC-Chapel Hill. And yes, the renowned literary community in the state was a huge draw for me. I admire the strong tradition of storytelling in the region, and I’ve found fellow writers in North Carolina to be generous, warm, and genuinely invested in each other’s work. Daniel Wallace in particular has provided a great deal of encouragement and support. As Georgann Eubanks (author of Literary Trails in the North Carolina Mountains) points out in this interview with UNC Press, the state offers a wonderful fusion of natural beauty, local community, and a commitment to education and the arts.

My favorite anthology of North Carolina writers is Long Story Short, a collection of flash fiction edited by Marianne Gingher. I’ve also had the fantastic opportunity to work as an editor of The Carolina Quarterly, where I’ve been inspired by the talented new voices we publish as well as my fellow editors’ commitment to contemporary literature—for all of us, it’s a labor of love.

Are you teaching writing in Chapel Hill?

Yes. I teach writing (both composition and creative writing) as well as literature and film—and sometimes Italian, which is a lot of fun. What I like about teaching writing is how much I learn about my students’ experiences and perspectives on the world through their fiction. By reading and by writing, I believe, we become more empathetic. We practice getting into others’ minds and we try to see situations through others’ eyes. For me, that’s the whole point of literature.

What are you currently working on?

I’m finishing up a dissertation on modernist literature, social networks, and gossip. After that, it will be on to the next novel!

Three fiction-writing goals

little-boy-writing-a-letter-1920.jpg!Blog

“Little boy writing a letter” by Norman Rockwell

1. Spend extra time line editing

I’m starting with the most boring goal first because I believe in getting the most-dreaded task out of the way. And, between you and me, I’m not a good typist. I’m creative, and I get the work done, but I use about four fingers to type. I need to learn to type for real — I even started an online course before Christmas. But you know how it goes: Life is busy, we all have to make tough choices, and while proper typing would be a great skill to have, it’s not at the top of my to-do list.

Admission No. 2: I’m not a great speller. I peaked in third grade with “monotonous” during a spelling contest. Because I’m a Francophile, I can usually pull off “hors d’oeuvres.” But in editing my own work, I find TOOs that should be TWOs, and more than once I’ve signed off an email with “Brest” instead of “Best.” I really don’t want to wish any future potential literary agents All My Brest.

2. Spend less time worrying about if it’s done or not.

I was at an Elizabeth Gilbert talk once when someone in the audience asked how she knew a project was finished. Her answer: “When it’s 84 percent done.”(She might have said 79 percent or 92 percent, but you get the picture.) I like that because stories (and novels) can be endlessly tweaked. If you hang onto one long enough, you’ll find all sorts of things that could be changed, honed, improved. This is what I believe: I’ll be a different writer in two years from the writer I am today. Hell, I’ll be a different writer in two weeks. But that doesn’t mean the writer I am today isn’t creating worthwhile work. If I keep waiting for my knowledge and skill to catch up with the ultimate potential of today’s story, I could be working on the same 3,000 words until I’m 95. I hope I’m still writing when I’m  95. I hope I live long enough to be utterly embarrassed by what I wrote in my 40s. But for that to happen, 1) I need to live at least 50 more years and, 2) I need to finish some stuff and move on.

3. Find ideas in the strangest of places

I used to think — as many of us do — that I needed to wait for an idea to hit me over the head. It’s the romantic ideal of writing, that inspiration comes in lightning strikes. Luckily (because who really wants to be struck by lightning? And also, theoretically, it doesn’t strike the same place twice), I realized I could seek out ideas. Eavesdropping, people-watching, morning TV shows, parades, the mall — all of these places/things/bad habits have inspired plots or characters. Family can be a rich source of material. Riding a bus while on vacation in another country is hard to beat. I recently got a story from the gym locker room (that sounds weird, I know). As I type this, I’m listening to my co-worker read from a press release about a food tour in eastern Tennessee during which there’s a stop to sample Dolly Parton’s favorite hamburger. Fiction is often just the truth with the names changed to prevent the guilty from Goggling themselves.

My point is that hunting for stories should be less like standing outside, in a rainstorm, holding a metal rod, and more like going to the weirdest, most colorful jumble sale and seeing what treasures you can score for $20.

Lee Smith on writing

 

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Lee Smith, left, signed my copy of her latest book, Guests on Earth, and then agreed to this photo. I got overly excited and made a crazy face.

If you believe in the regionalism of writing (I’m on the fence — books don’t have accents so can prose really sound Southern versus Northern?) Lee Smith is among the most important contemporary Southern writers. She’s certainly among the most prolific and delightful of living writers. Not that I’ve met all of them, but Smith is effortlessly hilarious, mirthful and smart without losing an ounce of sass. She gave a keynote address and a lecture during the North Carolina Writers’ Network Fall Conference. The following are notes from those presentations.

• I have come to believe, over the years, that I could tell the truth better in fiction.

• When you’re writing fiction, it’s the real stuff, but you up the ante.

• You put everything about your life, up to that point, into your first novel. [Then] you really should wait awhile before you write your second novel. My second novel was terrible. …I’d used up my childhood at that point, I was happily married, and I had nothing to say. I finally made that imaginative leap, which was a real necessity because most of us writers can’t be out there, living like crazy. …We need to stop writing what we know.

• You just can’t make up anything as fascinating as real life. Reality will trump imagination every time.

About her forthcoming memoir, Dimestore:
• As soon as the actual places were gone, I felt this tremendous need to re-create them in words and people them with those of us who were there. …I don’t want to live an unexamined life. I want to make a record of all I’ve loved.

• Read like a writer. Take it apart. If it works for you, see why it works.

• In memoir, you have to develop yourself as a character. You need to develop a little distance from yourself. …To develop character is to up the ante.

• The very act of writing makes me remember more and more. …Writing is self-repair. It doesn’t necessarily have to be writing for publication. There are many reasons to write, and publication may be the last.

NaNoWriMo Q+A with author Deanna Dee

Deanna Dee, photo courtesy of the author

Deanna Dee, photo courtesy of the author

Romance author Deanna Dee celebrates the launch of her latest book, Finish Him, on Tuesday, Nov. 17. But while that project is keeping her busy this year, Deanna is no stranger to National Novel Writing Month. Here, she shares her experiences and some very helpful tips.

When did you last participate in NaNoWriMo and what did you set out to write?

Deanna Dee: I last participated in 2013, and I set out to write the rough draft of my first novel, Critical Hit-On, a college gamer romance.

What sort of word count did you set for yourself, and how much time each day did you dedicate to the project?

I aimed for the full 50,000. In terms of time per day, I didn’t really keep track by hours. More important was word count. I packed heavy writing into the beginning of the month so I’d be ahead of the curve. I’d say it’s best to aim for 2,000 words a day the first week, however long it takes each day.

At the end of the month did you have a completed novel? How did you feel about the work you’d done?

I had a nearly completed novel. It turned out the book needed another 5,000 or so words, but that was easy to finish up. How did I feel? Empowered, awesome, like I’d done something.

Finish+Him+ebookWould you do Nano again?

Probably, if the timing worked out. I’m not doing it this year because I’m releasing my third book this month, and something had to give. For me, Nano is a great way to get motivated. I’m very competitive, and if I’m not where the site says I should be, I have to catch up.

What advice would you offer to someone participating in Nano this year?

Keep writing! Any amount of words is more than zero. Also, if you’ve been staying on target up until now and then suddenly have a day where you can’t write, don’t panic. And don’t try to put in double the words the next day. You’ll intimidate yourself out of writing anything. Recalculate. Figure out how many words you need to write to get back on task and shoot for that. It’s a lot less daunting.

What are you currently working on, and where can we learn more about your writing?

I’m currently working on a Christmas short story to go along with my published series. To find out more about me and what I write, you can check out my website/blog.

Follow Deanna on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads, and find her books online here.

Begin at the beginning

This month, in honor of NaNoWriMo, I’m sharing essays, musings, Q+As and more on crafting fiction.

Mural on Lexington Ave., Asheville, 2011

Mural on Lexington Ave., Asheville, 2011

My first novel was written in five weeks, mostly on my computer at work. I was the assistant to the PR director at a resort hotel at the time. My boss was more of a do-er than a delegator so, when I wasn’t affixing address labels to press releases (this was back when press releases went out by snail mail), I had a lot of free time.

The novel, titled Waiting for the Owl, was terrible. It was hasty and poorly organized — a rambling tale of travel and the search for self by way of trying to recapture some cloudy semblance of a former self — but it had energy and purpose. I can’t criticize it too harshly, even now, because as much as I’ve learned how to write better, I’ve also learned that the way to get anything right is to get it wrong, first.

The part of me that’s still a little bit precious about fiction probably saved a version of that first novel, somewhere. It’s probably a hard copy, yellowing in the back of my filing cabinet. I keep my MFA folders in my suitcase, under my bed, and every time I pack for a trip I have to move them. It reminds me of how far I’ve come (and, in some ways, how far I haven’t come). And also how grateful I am for thumb drives because hard copies are cumbersome links to the past.

I hope no one ever reads my first novel. I did submit it to a handful of agents not understanding that a first draft of a first novel bore little resemblance to an actual finished project worthy of representation. I’ve cringed a bit in subsequent years when I pitched those same agents with more developed manuscripts. But, with the intention that my first novel will never again see the light of day, I offer this pitch to the universe. Because, dammit, why not?

The saying goes, when you hit bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up. But Rosie Kites, recently dumped and discouraged by her dead-end job in a college town, has a different take on that theme. There’s nowhere to go but back — back to a time when things felt exciting, on-the-verge, and downright magical.

Stirred by the return of a childhood vision in which she spotted Gypsy caravans camped on a rural roadside, Rosie embarks on a trip to track down those wanders who sparked her imagination. The trip, she hopes, will help her regain connection to people and places she’s let slip from her life. She also hopes the Gypsies — if they existed at all — can offer her advice on what her next move should be.

Waiting for the Owl hits the road from Georgia to Upstate New York, gathering the sites and sounds of Americana along with old friends, colorful characters, and a poignant lesson about being true to yourself.

Flash fiction: Structural soul

Photo from The Blaze

Photo from The Blaze

It took a long time to understand the men who creaked around particular edifices. One drank coffee outside the Flat Iron building, one cleaned the windows of the former Bon Marché, one cuddled a bottle on the curb under the bridge leading out of town.

None of them were young, but they didn’t age. The white of their beards dulled a bit from time and the elements, but they continued with their tasks. One window at a time, one cup of coffee after another. The man with the coffee sat at a café table in his tweed jacket and trilby, looking ready for a chess match or a heated discussion on European politics. No one engaged him, but he kept sitting, kept waiting.

And the man under the bridge. How long could he sit, in and out of seasons and through the years, nursing a malt liquor tall boy and a black eye? It seemed, on alternating days, sad and angering that he sat there, battered and drunk for all to see. But he was resolute in his duty, a troll at the underpass demanding a toll of spare change to buy the next bottle. Even in his soiled jacket, long since stripped of its royal blue color, there was something honorable in his charge. Who among us never takes a sick day or a vacation, or at the very least leaves our post for a long lunch?

The window washer kept at it, too, though he grumbled while he worked. He also took smoke breaks, further yellowing his stubby fingers and his long white beard with nicotine. He might have looked like Santa Clause once. Though he’d gone bald on top, the rest of his hair was snowy white and fell to his shoulders in soft ripples. His cheeks were round, his nose like a cherry, but summer or winter, rain or shine, he faced the day in a white t-shirt and faded jeans. There was no known Santa iteration who washed windows or wore an undershirt from a plastic-wrapped three-pack.

None of the men were what they appeared. Nor did they even necessarily appear at all — not to most people. They blended in or were completely invisible, bottle and dirty jacket just two more pieces of trash left under the bridge. Tweed trilby the perfect camouflage for Autumn’s decent on an outdoor café. White beard just another puff of smoke, a wisp of low-hanging cloud moving through rain-soaked city streets.

The buildings groaned and settled, more than a hundred years already weighed on their foundations. Old bones sang with ache and quieted again, roots of steel and brick sunk deeper below asphalt and concrete to drink from the mineral-rich middle earth. Rooftops were watered and sun-baked and blanketed by snow to sleep another month or six.

The edifices call their souls back from the sidewalks, back into the depths of boiler rooms and basements, back into the dark places where buildings dream the visions collected by their human spirits. Their consciousnesses and pulses embodied in the forms of men who look, upon closer inspection, like the structures they inhabit.

Even the bridge, open on three sides to the wind, has a deep heart where deck meets truss and shadow is never dimmed by daylight. There, the troll waits out the storm, bottle clutched tight to chest, already home while the outside traffic rushes on forever to get there.

Lisa Wingate on writing

Wingatepubshot2015julybLMRAuthor Lisa Wingate, currently based in Arkansas, has published 25 books in 14 years — a staggering number. Her series include the Texas Hill Country books, the Moses Lake books, the Daily Texas books, the Blue Sky Hill books, the Tending Roses books and the Carolina Heirloom novels and novellas. It’s from the last group that Wingate’s most recent novel comes: The Sea Keeper’s Daughters is part history and part mystery. It follows the stories of three characters: present day restaurant owner Whitney; her grandmother Ruby, who lived in the Excelsior hotel on the Outer Banks; and Ruby’s twin sister Alice, a member of the Depression-era Federal Writer’s Project, stationed in Western North Carolina.

For readers living in or near Asheville, Wingate presents The Sea Keeper’s Daughters at Malaprop’s on Tuesday, Sept. 22. For everyone else, here is some writing wisdom that Wingate shared during a recent interview (read the full story at mountainx.com):

SeaKeepersDaughters_021815I pretty much write linear, from first to last. There are parts that are harder to write, parts where I really have to stop and think, “If this does happen here, what will it create in the future of the book?”

There are days when I quit for the day thinking I know what will happen the next day, in the story. [Then] I may see something, hear something, overhear some conversation in a restaurant and I’ll think, “Oh, that’s the perfect thing. That’s what needs to happen next.” [The writing] may end up the next day being completely different than I thought it would be. Ideas come from everywhere.

So much of it comes from just living life with those characters in the story. That’s what makes it an adventure — really not knowing. What makes it magical, too, is when life intercepts with it. You think, “This real life experience or this person’s story will be perfect for this character.”

I’m very regimented. I set a word count every day and I write seven double-spaced, Times Roman 12 pages per day, and I pretty much don’t shirk on that unless I’m traveling or whatever. There are days when I think, “This is junk. This is going to have to be completely rewritten.” And there are days when it just flows right out. Sometimes I go back to the stuff I thought was junk and it’s not so bad. Sometimes it’s even good. Sometimes those things end up on the cutting room floor. But I know that when I stick to that schedule, I’ll have the rough draft of a novel done in three months, and then the real writing begins.

The rough draft is the hard part because you’re discovering the story — you’re telling the story to yourself. You’ve never heard that story before that point. The first edit is when you begin telling the story to other people, so you look for the threads that didn’t get wrapped up or didn’t go anywhere. Then you do a little more fine-tuning to make it a story that makes sense to the rest of the world.

Fiction and songwriting

Fiction and songwriting

It’s my theory (and probably not mine alone) that whatever you search for, that’s what you’ll find. Teachers are everywhere. Since I’m interested in the craft of fiction, and my day job involves many interviews with musicians, I learn a lot about writing fiction from songwriters.

Creativity is transmutable. (Technique is another issue, but there are probably YouTube videos for that.)

Still, I was surprised by a recent interview between Lord Huron front man Ben Schneider and NPR reporter Melissa Block. Schneider, who got his start as a visual artist and now lives in L.A., approaches his musical project from a very literary point of view. The first Lord Huron album, Lonesome Dreams, is a collection of songs inspired by Schneider’s youth spent near Lake Huron. The characters are all fabled and mist-enshrouded and could have been be culled from folklore.

The new album, Strange Trails — which the singer-songwriter discusses with Block — is a series of post-apocalyptic shorts and ghost stories, each sung from the perspective of the song’s central character. It’s flash fiction at its finest: poignant and palpable, brief yet complete.

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/397364256/397891235

I love this for a couple of reasons. First, many musicians say they don’t want to share their song inspirations for fear of altering the listener’s perception of the song. And that’s valid. I understand the sentiment from the perspective that songs hit on an emotional level as well as an intellectual one (and often the former more than the later). But as a person who loves words and listens to lyrics first, I want to dig into the songwriting process. That Schneider’s is so closely linked to the process of writing fiction is intriguing.

Second, I’ve felt disappointed, in the past, by songwriters who get too invested in creating a fictional world for their songs. Telling a good story: yes. Creating a persona and a fictional voice and a world for those to inhabit: no.

Case in point: Father John Misty. Now, I have friends, whose opinions I respect, who like Father John Misty. I get that the songs, albums and stage shows are the fiction created by Joshua Tillman. But I don’t think the fiction works because the character is pretty much a jerk. And, while he crafts a world of his own, it’s ultimately not one that anyone else can inhabit. It’s a world of flash and catchy hooks, of smug insider jokes and brash dismissals.

But there’s no mystery, no room for the listener to live within the idea, no secret doors left to open or curtains to peer behind.

Lord Huron, on the other hand, is all mystery and doors and curtains.

That’s what I want in the books I read and, apparently, in the songs I listen to.

‘If the work is good enough, eventually somebody will notice’

Ron Rash, photo by Ulf Andersen

Ron Rash, photo by Ulf Andersen

This is my second post this year of quotes from Ron Rash. He’s one of my all-time favorite writers, and that he lives in the Southeast (and claims Western North Carolina as his region) makes me love his work that much more.

Find my story for Mountain Xpress about Rash’s sublime new novel, Above the Waterfall, here. And below, his words of wisdom to writers:

On his schedule:
I write everyday. Sometimes I’ll take Sundays off, but usually at least six days a week I’m at it.

On going to school for writing:
I have a straight master’s in literature. That’s what was best for me. I needed to be reading really good writers.

Ultimately, whether you go through an MFA program or straight MA, it’s what you do afterwords [that matters]. The only way you’re really going to get good is just not giving up, putting the hours in to learn your craft and going though the process where slowly but surely you improve. The other thing is that you continue to read. I don’t know a single good writer who’s not a voracious reader. That’s how you learn and that’s how you challenge yourself. You read the best.

I just read a book by a Norwegian writer, Per Petterson, called I Refuse. It’s one of those very quiet, beautiful books. He’s one of my favorite living writers.

AboveWaterfall hc cRash didn’t publish his first collection of short stories until 1994, when he was in his 40s; his first book of poetry followed two years later, and his first novel came out in 2002.
I’d written two novels and destroyed them because they weren’t good. Story after story, I’d write them and they’d be dead on the page. But I didn’t give up. Sometimes I wondered why I didn’t. But as I got into my 30s I started getting published in some small journals and then some slightly bigger journals.

But I really believe it’s the best thing that could have happened to me as far as my writing, because I was able to concentrate solely on the writing. There were no distraction because no one was interested. I just went slowly and surely about my craft. What interest in my craft has come has been very slowly building. Someone recently said, ‘You’ve really broken through.’ I said, ‘It only took 17 books.’ I’m not an overnight sensation.

Some writers hit their stride quicker than others. Some writers can write their great books in their 20s or 30s. I just wasn’t one of those. You’re not making McDonald’s hamburgers. You’re doing something, if you’re any good, that’s unique. I certainly don’t believe you’ve got to have it done in your 30s — that’s absurd. I do feel like what happens is a lot of people, when they hit their 30s, just give up. And maybe they shouldn’t.

The work itself is what matters. That’s where the focus needs to be, not on self-promotion. You hope — an I do believe this — that if the work is good enough, eventually somebody will notice.

It might take 15 or 20 years to really get it. I know that sounds daunting, but if it’s really important to you, you’re willing to do that. I kind of made a choice in my late 20s. It was a serious choice. I’d been dabbling in it, and I said, “Do I want to live my life wondering if I could have really committed to it, or do I want to risk spending hours and years” — which I did — “and maybe finding out at the end I didn’t have the talent.” I would rather have failed and at least known. There were years when I was in my 30s when I couldn’t get a book published. I had manuscripts and story collections and nobody was interested. But I kept writing.