Deanne Stillman

How did you become a writer?

I've been writing since I was a little girl. My father and I would sit in his office and he'd read his favorite books out loud. We marvelled at the writing, and we'd make up characters and write short stories and plays together. Soon I found myself writing on my own and submitting things to Mad Magazine. I sent in pieces under the name "Dean Stillman" because I noticed that only boys were writing for them. They didn't publish my work, but I had an early experience with letters that said "not right for us." My father continued to encourage me and I kept writing and when my parents got divorced, I continued to write - by then it was a refuge and a calling. It all went from there.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

I have many...Melville, Mary Austin, Jim Harrison, Wallace Stegner, Rick Bass, Barry Lopez, Edward Abbey, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Mailer; Capote, Peter Matthiessen, Cormac McCarthy, scripture, Native American myths, John Coltrane/Alice Coltrane, Guns and Roses, Janis Joplin, drums...

When and where do you write?

Usually in the morning as soon as I wake up...sometimes in a baseball stadium, even with all of the noise. The crack of the bat is centering, sort of like a shofar's call...watching baseball on TV has the same effect; I always love announcers calling the game...

What are you working on now?

It's a secret.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? helps me move through it; some of the positions are literally about going as far as you're comfortable going and then pushing a bit more. Talking to Joshua trees - or listening to them - is always beneficial, not just for writer's block, but in general. When all else fails, I'll have a glass of champagne.That has nothing to do with writer's block but why not?  

What’s your advice to new writers?

Listen to your own voice and don't take polls.

Deanne Stillman's latest book is Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History. Rolling Stone calls it "a must-read for the summer" and it has received excellent reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and the Denver Post. She also wrote Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West, an LA Times "best book 08" and winner of the California Book Award silver medal for nonfiction, and Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave, an LA Times "best book 01" and praised by Hunter Thompson as "a strange and brilliant story by an important American writer." It was recently published in a new, updated edition.