In the Linus’s Blanket version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose which questions and how many questions they want to answer. Luanne Rice, whose novel The Silver Boat: A Novel is out today, played along and answered thirteen questions. Here is what Luanne had to say about reading, writing and being a hermit.
Hi Luanne. Would you give us a bit of introduction to let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and the kind of books you like to write?
Writing called to me from an early age, and I’ve been doing it ever since. My first publication was a poem when I was 11; my mother submitted it to our local paper, and there it was in print. That gave me the sense that all I had to do was write something—and voila—there it would be for all to read. As I grew up and began submitting short stories to magazines, I entered the real world of the rejection slip, and understood that publication came to those who worked hard, remained inspired in spite of many rejections.
Family, love, and nature inspire me now, and always have. I love to write about sisters, especially three-sister families. The way sisters interact, the secret language they share, the way one sister can read the another’s emotions just by glancing at her face: no matter how many novels I write, I’ll never get to the bottom of that mystery. The Silver Boat is about three sisters gathering together for the first time since their mother’s death. They have to decide what to do with their beloved family home on Martha’s Vineyard, and that’s where the story begins.
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?
Taking walks is my favorite way to escape. Although I live in New York City, I gravitate toward nature. During spring migration I go to the wildest part of Central Park to look for warblers. The Hudson River is just a block from my apartment, and I love to walk south, toward the harbor, and watch waterbirds fishing around piling of ruined piers.
A few years ago I began taking guitar lessons and have become a little obsessed. I love to write songs about life, love, crazy doings, my current novel, and the characters who populate it. I have a little baby Collings acoustic, and I strum it between chapters.
People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time? What impact did telling this story have on your life? Did you find that it had changed you?
Writing The Silver Boat took me back to my own three-sister days, when we were young and so close, and when everything seemed possible, including staying together forever.
What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors? Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?
I’m reading an ARC of The World As We Know It, by Joseph Monninger, to be published in Fall 2011. It is tender, brilliant, and wrenchingly beautiful. Joe and I co-wrote The Letters (a novel, in letters, between a married couple; he was ‘Sam,’ and I was ‘Hadley’; we’ve been friends since we were young writers, and it’s been a great gift to grow up together. He’s my literary touchstone. I read all his books, and feel illuminated and uplifted by them.
Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working on a novel?
It can be hard to read fiction while writing a novel. Often I read poems, especially ones by W. S. Merwin, Mary Oliver, and Elizabeth Bishop. Also works of non-fiction, including books by Gretel Ehrlich.
What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book but ultimately decided not to include it?
I uncovered a secret about my father and decided not to write about it.
What types of books would some of your characters have if they were readers? Given their issues what book(s) would you suggest for them to read?
Dar McCarthy, the main character in The Silver Boat, is a graphic novelist. She would read books by Amelia Onorato—my niece who is also a graphic novelist, and who greatly helped me research Dar’s work methods.
In the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people. What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule?
I am a hermit, so things are pretty simple. I wake up early, feed and play with the cats, drink lots of coffee, write all day, play guitar, play with the cats some more, take a walk, write.
If you could make everyone read five books, which ones would they be?
Whichever books a person is drawn to…as long as she reads, I’m happy!
Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be? How involved were in choosing the name of the book?
The Silver Boat came to me in a dream.
Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began?
I do occasionally look back upon my early work, and feel proud of that young writer who kept going no matter what.
How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?
I write one novel at a time; once I start, I never turn back or consider discarding. I just listen to the character and go from there.
My next novel starts with a crime, continues with an unexpected visitor, and contains threads of estrangement, lost love, and the kind of deep love a person can have for someone she’s never even met.
About Luanne: Born in New Britain, Connecticut, Luanne Rice is the eldest of three daughters of an Irish Catholic family. Her mother taught English in middle school and her father was a typewriter salesman. Rice divides her time between New York City and Old Lyme, Connecticut in the house where she spent all her childhood summers. She travels with her three cats, each of whom has a mysterious, enchanting story of their own. Her latest novel The Silver Boat is in stores now.