Blog hop: Writers on writing!

I’ve been known to write about writing from time to time (okay, more frequently than that…) so I’m excited to be participating in this blog hop!  Many thanks to TiffanyEms Pitts for including me, and for Camela Thompson for handing off the baton!  Now, onto the Q&A!

Where do you like to write?

I prefer to write in coffee shops, because one, it gets me out of the house and away from all the distractions, and two, coffee!  When we lived in Evanston, IL, there was a coffee shop across the street from our apartment called the Brothers K.  It is a wonderful, friendly place with wonderful, friendly people and wonderful, friendly coffee.  Their baristas have actually won awards for their coffee making prowess and their artistic talent in the foam-and-espresso medium.  I’m an iced coffee person, but I would still periodically order a cappuccino just because they were so heavenly.  I still visit every time I’m in the Chicago area, and they still recognize me.

Now that we live in Tuscaloosa, AL, my coffee shop has become the town’s one free-standing Starbucks (there’s one in the Target and one in the Barnes and Noble).  The people here are very nice as well, and know my usual (iced coffee, breve with hazelnut) so well that they often have it ready for me by the time I get to the register.  I take my coffee, snag a table, and camp out for a couple hours, until it’s 2pm and time to pick my kids up from school.

Which part of researching your current novel was most interesting?

Tara Martin, one of my main characters, is an undergraduate neurobiology major.  I wanted to have her taking a psychology course, so I looked at a course listing for Yale, my alma mater, and decided on a social psych course that focused on group decision making, particularly the phenomenon of “groupthink.”  I wanted to show a lecture, so I researched groupthink, and was particularly drawn to the investigation into the circumstances that led up to the Challenger disaster.  I was in second grade when the Challenger exploded, and fascinated with space exploration, so the disaster hit me hard.  Revisiting it, reading the particulars of the explosion itself and discovering the pathological decision making that led up to it, was a powerful experience.  I wound up writing a whole chapter about a class that focused on that exact subject.  I will doubtless wind up cutting it, since the specifics of that particular instance aren’t necessary, but I will still use the general ideas in what winds up happening with my characters.

How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose them?

I don’t pay much attention to them, actually.  Mostly I just have to make sure I don’t reuse the same names in every single one of my stories — I’m very fond of Sarah and Tracy for some reason!  I think the only time I’ve paid any attention to the names was when I was writing a semi-autobiographical piece about something my husband and I went through.  I wanted to gender-swap the characters, but I kept the initials.  Eileen became Edward, and Peter became Patricia.

Do you read your reviews? How do you respond to the bad reviews (if you get them)?

I do, although I’m not sure I should.  I’m a lot better at dealing with criticism and rejection than I was when I started out, but getting a bad review still makes me want to go to bed, pull the covers over my head, and never, ever come out.  Once the urge to be melodramatic passes, I usually manage to look at the bad review pragmatically.  If the reviewer has a valid point for some way my writing could be better, I try to take the advice. 

What are your favorite books to give as gifts?

Just one book: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.  I have lent my own copies out five times and never gotten them back, so now I just give the book as a gift to anyone who hasn’t read it yet.  I think everyone deserves to have that bit of hilarious genius in their lives!

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