How did you become a writer?
I was born that way. No, really. I was writing stories under the covers with my Barnum & Bailey flashlight when I was five. I published a poem when I was seven, and that sealed my fate.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
My dad was an aspiring playwright, and he kept his rejected manuscripts in his bottom dresser drawer. I spent many childhood hours reading the rejection letters clipped to each one, and, being oppositionally defiant by nature, somehow this made me determined to write and to publish. I was profoundly influenced by the first book I loved, Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan, which is why Why We Write is dedicated to her. I didn't have any writing teachers except for the writers I love; I've never studied writing.
When and where do you write?
I used to write all the time--by day, by night. But then publishing, um, changed and the advances weren't enough to sustain my Hendrick's habit anymore, so I got a job at age 60. I have 3-day weekends and I'm learning to write in that more constricted space. I was also beyond overjoyed to have a month at MacDowell in September. My writing psyche must have sensed the urgency of the opportunity; I wrote most of a novel during that month. As to where: reclining, always. In the sun if I can manage it. One reason I moved to LA a year ago and love it here. My writing is solar-powered and the power is here.
What are you working on now?
Bringing the newborn baby, Why We Write, into the world. I'm just back from tour which was incredibly juicy. It's not "my" book; it's the 20 writers' book, too, so I get to do events with Susan Orlean and Terry McMillan, and with James Frey and Kathryn Harrison, and with a whole slew of writers I admire who aren't in the book: Julie Klam, Christina Haag, and Martha Southgate, most recently.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
I have suffered from some shitty-ass first, second, and twelfth drafts, but never from writer's block. I don't believe in it. Although I don't believe in suffering, either, and that still happens.
What’s your advice to new writers?
To paraphrase Jane Smiley from Why We Write: do it if you love it. Don't do it to make your mother love you, or your ex-boyfriend regret leaving you, or to make impressive cocktail party chatter. Goddess knows no one should do it for the money, unless one is David Baldacci--and in our interview, he too says he does it because he loves it. So there.
Meredith Maran (www.meredithmaran.com) is a book critic for People, Salon, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, More Magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle. The author of eleven nonfiction books, Meredith published her first novel, A Theory Of Small Earthquakes in 2012. Her new nonfiction book, Why We Write, is just out from Plume. She’s on Twitter at @meredithmaran.