In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Lynda Rutledges’s novel, [[[Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale]]], tells the story of what happens when the richest woman in Texas decides to have a garage when God asks her too. Interesting. Here is what Lynda had to say about reading, writing, and where she feels most creative.
Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?
I’m a longtime freelance journalist/professional writer, but one with a bad case of “literary pretensions” from earning two literature degrees. All that reading went straight to my head, and then my heart. As a freelance writer, I dodged hurricanes, petted baby rhinos, swam with endangered turtles and interviewed the famous and not-so-famous, having a great extroverted nonfiction time, but I just could not shake those literary dreams. And wonderfully, it finally happened.
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?
Does jumping up and down on an exercise trampoline count? Or standing up to write? Or driving around alone on country roads in my little beat-up convertible? (Have the terms “hyper” or “ADD” popped to mind yet?) I’m a nervous writer. Once I’m into it or once I’ve nailed a problem with all that jumping and standing and driving, just hand me a bag of apples and a six-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper and I can write for hours. But until that moment, while things are percolating or refusing to percolate, I’m one of those creative types who has to be distracted. I may gripe about having to get up and down 20 times a day to let the dog in, then out, then in again, but the truth is it’s now a part of my writing process, I think. But don’t tell my pup!
Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.
QUESTION: “Why are you so gorgeous?”
ANSWER: “All writers are gorgeous, and would you repeat the question?”
People live in stories. We are surrounded by them. What was it about this 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?
I think you said it well. We do live in stories; every day is a story. Drama is everywhere, so is comedy. And I’ve tried to capture that on the page: My tale is about a 70 year old rich lady who, on Millennium New Year’s Eve, hears the voice of God tell her to have a garage sale of all her incredibly expensive antiques. And she does it because she believes it to be the last day of her life. Did I want to write about a garage sale? Not really. Did I want to write about her garage sale? Oh yeah. Her sale is about some of life’s most important questions, such as: Do our possessions possess us? Is it ever too late for second chances? And who are without our memories? It’s also about the chaotic fun and craziness involved at any sale, much less one where antiques are going for a dollar. The idea just would not let me go. So I realized I needed to write it for me, whether anyone else ever saw it or not. That’s a good place to be for a writer. Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write to discover what I know.” I’m just ecstatic that you and your readers might care about attending the sale to find out what I discovered and see if it resonates for you, too (as well as having a lot of fun, I hope.)
What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?
Did you know that the first garage sale was held in 1839 in Louise May Alcott’s front yard? Naah, I made that up. But wouldn’t that have been a great sale?
What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?
When I wasn’t trying to break my little tomboy neck, I was reading, but I never quite grasped that the books were written by people. They just “were,” waiting there in my small town’s library for me to inhale. So beyond the occasional grade school poem written in purple ink, I’m not one of those writers who say they knew from the womb they wanted to write. There was a big world out there to explore and conquer: In grade school, I wanted to be the first girl shortstop for the New York Yankees. In high school, I wanted to play tennis at Wimbledon. By college, I wanted to be an artist. But I found I was better at being a failed artist. The one thing I had done through it all was read. That’s when it hit me that every book I was reading for the college literature courses I kept taking–in fact, every book I’d read my entire life–was written by a real person, not a literary god of some sort. So I took a creative writing course and was hooked. Over the years, as I made a living working with words and seeing the world, I kept playing with them, creating worlds as well. There’s more than one way to be an artist; writers paint with words, don’t we?
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 only have one at a time; the idea has to woo me then keep me. If it doesn’t, I drop it like a bad date. But just like in life, you have to date a few before you find the true one. You have to get some practice in first, right? A recent bestselling nonfiction book that stated it took 10 years to master a skill. It’s true. And what do you do until you’ve mastered your chosen skill? “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” And what do you do with all that practice writing? You hope it doesn’t stink so bad you are embarrassed by it when you are published. Because the truth is, you know your own spark, what potential you have. And sometimes the spark is really the only thing good in a piece of writing. That’s what you are blinded by, even as your family and friends go running in the opposite direction when you hold up a new practice manuscript because you don’t quite know it’s still a “practice” one. The truth is you never know what to scrap…until you know. It’s wonderful until it isn’t. Remember when you were learning to say, ride a bike, as a kid, you’d yell: “Look Ma, No Hands!” It’s the same urge, but most writers, at least those who don’t quit too soon, learn the encouragement must come from within, from that spark, after awhile (at least if you want to keep your friends). The trick is keeping the spark alive while you mature and practice so you’re ready when the right idea comes along.
Did you have to do much research when working on your books, and do you tend to write first or research first?
As a freelance journalist, I do love the research, and researching the antiques I used as characters themselves in my novel, was important and fun, but there’s a moment I just can’t help myself: I have to write. And then, well, I go back to research. It’s a dance, but it’s a dance that works, even if we’d never make it to “Dancing with the Stars.”
Where do you most love to write? Are there places where it comes to you easier than others?
The real question, I think, is where do I feel most creative? You’re going to laugh, but I feel most creative while moving. Put me on a train or a boat or even a jet, and I start getting all sorts of ideas; I even feel it on moving sidewalks, get that. I can almost feel the electricity in my head firing up. When I lived in Chicago suburbs, I used to ride the trains just to get my juices flowing. Yes, I am crazy; all writers are crazy.
Fame and fortune, of course, because isn’t that what happens with all garage sale novels? Seriously, if all your good readers choose to attend Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale, I might have a chance to do another novel, so thanks in advance for considering doing your part to keep one more novelist off the streets. I hope my little existential garage sale’s mix of drama and humor warms your heart while tickling your funny bone. And I’d love to hear from you.