Terrie Leigh Relf: What types and forms of writing do you do? If you’re also an editor, what is your niche?
Patricia Esposito: The short story form is my favorite, though I also struggle through long fiction (it takes me years to complete a novel). I always have a variety of poems in the works. They are like puzzles, and I can’t let them go. Most of my writing would fall into the literary and speculative genres, with dabblings in the literary erotic. I’m also a long-time freelance copy editor for textbook and mainstream publishers, working at home for twenty years.
TLR: What is your area(s) of subject matter expertise? How did you discover this niche? What intrigues you about it?
PE: Research always opens wonderful new avenues. I don’t think I have an area of expertise in creative writing. I love exploring something new for each story, from how polymers work in blood cells to the construction of the Great Mosque at Cordoba to the kinds of crops grown in 1970s Brazil. Often a bit of research ends up guiding a scene in ways I didn’t imagine.
TLR: How do you balance your creative and work time?
PE: I both seize the moment and prioritize. I’m extremely conscious of time and how much can be accomplished in two minutes. At times, my day jobs require twelve-hour days, so I don’t stick to the idea that we have to write every day, but I do seize any free half hour to at least research something or edit a work in progress or do a little promotion. I find it frustrating, as I think all writers do, when we are truly involved in the initial writing of something and have to stop. When you’re on a roll, if at all possible, keep going. Don’t look back. Let chores go. Eat leftovers. Life waits. But try to remember, when life gets in the way, writing will wait for you too.
TLR: What tips do you have for other writers?
PE: For starters, I’d say simply put pen to page or fingers to keyboard and let a character see and speak. The brain does something chemical that becomes addicting. Long-term, I think we have to embrace the whole process if we really want to be writers. We don’t have to be happy all the time. Writing is difficult. Finding the proper structure, forming the perfect sentence, reaching the right tension is difficult. Rejection is disappointing. Revision can get frustrating. But then, oh, when it all falls into place, it’s a great feeling. Job accomplished.
TLR: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular? Where do your ideas come from? What inspires and intrigues you?
PE: I write to discover. “The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty,” the poet Yoshida Kenko said. But uncertainty is also unnerving, so how is it precious? Writing is most thrilling to me when my characters surprise me, when they take me where I hadn’t expected (the uncertainty), or when I find that the table and chair I’ve been staring at have become symbolic, or the startling person who walked by opens a door to my subconscious. Uncertainty perhaps prompts creativity?
Writing to discover doesn’t make for the most efficient writing process, but I’ve found if I outline first and already know the outcome, I lose interest. I prefer uncertainty in the initial writing. I believe writers who outline also work from uncertainty; they simply explore the mysteries in their head before putting them to outline. Both ways work, and writers choose what’s best for them.
For me, inspiration sometimes comes unexpectedly from something I see or hear or read, but often it comes by letting my mind go quiet, quite simply by staring. Focusing on the immediate, the life happening before us, seems to raise that mystery we then need to capture in art.
TLR: Where have you been published? Upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?
My novel Beside the Darker Shore was published a few years ago, and I hope one day to follow it with another. I have numerous works published in anthologies, such as Main Street Rag’s Crossing Lines, Cohesion Press’s Blurring the Line, AnnaPurna’s Clarify, Timbre’s Stories of Music, and Undertow’s Apparitions, and in magazines, including Not One of Us, Hungur, Sounds of the Night, Scarlet Literary Magazine, Rose and Thorn, Wicked Hollow, and Midnight Street. I have received honorable mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections and am a Pushcart Prize nominee.
TLR: What are you working on now? I’ve been working on two novels for the past six years. The one that is more complete is the one I’m less interested in, sadly. The one that keeps changing and that I can’t pin down is the one I’m in love with. I’m always working on short stories and poems. Always. I have files filled with stories begun, poems in need of editing, rejected stories in need of revising, frustrated poems that can’t find their way. There is never nothing to do!
TLR: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project? How have you met these challenges, and what did you learn from them? In what way have they made you a better writer?
PE: I mentioned my problem novel above, titled Apolonio’s Light. It’s the one thing I need to accomplish, yet it evades me. I’ve added characters, removed characters, restructured it, revised its plot, changed vampires to gods and back again, and still, I’m not finding the right voice or the best structure. . .or something else! I often want to abandon it and then remember it’s what I love most.
I’ve faced similar struggles with short stories. Do you ever have a story you submit again and again only to get rejections? And then you revise and revise, and still get rejections? Yet you can’t let it go; something calls you, something is buried in it. Then one day, after the eleventh rejection, you dig in. You make a copy and let yourself tear apart the original. You tell your character, forget about me; do what you need to do. And suddenly, the story is complete. And you submit it, and it is accepted. Yes, that happens quite a bit.
PE: One afternoon, months into writing my novel Beside the Darker Shore, Arturo de Rosa walked in. I didn’t know who he was or where he came from, but he took over the novel, caused other characters to drop out, and altered the plot and the theme. The novel is what it is because of his vivid, arrogant, passionate, flamboyant insistence. And the only character who can bring Arturo to his knees is Apolonio, an immaculately beautiful young man, whose pure heart can’t be denied. Apolonio is the character I hope guides my problem novel to completion.
TLR: Are you currently, or have you ever been, in a writing group? Your thoughts?
PE: I’d found the perfect writing group about twenty years ago at our local college. Members knew how to be critical without criticizing. Exchanging work can be very helpful, but I do think people need to be careful about what advice they take, to distinguish good criticism from matters of taste. After a number of years, I realized that I was spending too much time reviewing group members’ works and not enough time writing my own. Writing groups are valuable, yes, but depending on the seriousness of a person’s writing career, possibly a limited engagement.
TLR: I know our readers would love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences – including tips.
PE: Articles abound on methods to get our work noticed through blog tours and contests and promotions using Facebook and Twitter. But lately, I’m noticing more articles on the growing frustration of writers promoting their own work: the time it takes away from writing; the few rewards after hours and hours of effort; and the friends who are getting sick of hearing us say, Look what I wrote now! I’m now looking instead to be more active in writing and reading communities or in associations relating to our genres. Providing a service to writers and readers, whether through practical advice or through creative offerings, gains us an audience of loyal followers. And mostly, I believe, writing more and publishing more is the best way to get noticed and gain fans. I recommend not pinning everything on promotion of a single new book, but venturing out in other venues, such as magazines, anthologies, newsletters, forums, and blogs relating to your field, to give people a taste that leaves them wanting more. I think a shift is happening from promoting more to writing more.
TLR: Anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked? For example, what would you like to see more of in your specific genre? In the publishing field?
PE: I’m enjoying the blurring of genres. I’d like to see literary fiction blend more with speculative fiction and erotica and romance. I’d like to see the publishing world adopt new methods of reading and seeking literature as the music industry has been forced to do. Spotify for literature?
TLR: Than you so much for creating time for this interview, Patricia. Be sure to visit her blog and read her work!
Patricia J. Esposito is the author of Beside the Darker Shore and has numerous works published in anthologies, such as Main Street Rag’s Crossing Lines, Cohesion Press’s Blurring the Line, AnnaPurna’s Clarify, Timbre’s Stories of Music, and Undertow’s Apparitions, and in magazines, including Not One of Us, Hungur, Sounds of the Night, Scarlet Literary Magazine, Rose and Thorn, Wicked Hollow, and Midnight Street. She has received honorable mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections and is a Pushcart Prize nominee.