Sunday, June 13, 2010
Interview with WinR Bonnie Schroeder
I’ve heard speakers dismiss writing groups as a waste of time. You belong to several as well as a book club. What would you say are the benefits offered by both types of groups?
Each has its own advantages. From my writing groups I get support, encouragement and specific suggestions on how to improve my craft. Seeing my fellow writers struggle with language, plot, characterization, internal logic, etc., is priceless reassurance that I’m not alone on this weird journey.
And I’m very blessed to have found some amazing, insightful, sensitive writers whose work I admire and who have mastered the art of the critique: first tell the writer what worked, so he or she doesn’t want to give up and knows what strengths to build on. Then move on to what didn’t work, without rewriting the story from the ground up.
There are not that many writing groups around who can pull this off. But don’t give up until you find one, or build one yourself. Trust me: it’s worth the struggle.
My book club also contains several writers – fortunately none are in direct competition! The club introduces me to work by writers I might otherwise have overlooked and suggests new directions for my own fiction. The members are all intelligent, perceptive people with strong and specific opinions on the books we read. Their comments and reactions give me a ton of insight into what appeals to readers, and what turns them off.
You read a wide range of subjects. Can you tell us what your favorite type of fiction is?
I have a lot of faves. I like well done suspense thrillers like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, and then again I’m a sucker for anything by Alice Hoffman or Anne Tyler, those sweetly incisive, literary, relationship-type novels.
I also enjoy well-written fiction that involves animals, such as Spencer Quinn’s “Chet and Bernie” mystery series, or The Art of Racing in the Rain – a two-hankie novel if ever there was one!!!
I’m a huge fan of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) with all its violence and gore. I know, go figure. . .
Actually, my favorite book is one that doesn’t cheat the reader, that delivers on its initial promise. I can tolerate a few technical errors if the book meets that mark.
I know how to plot a murder mystery, but how do you plot a literary novel or women’s fiction? Do you start with a character? An inciting incident? A character goal?
It’s weird, because they come to me in different ways. Sometimes it’s a “situation”: for example in my novel Remember to Breathe, it started out as an idea involving a woman whose husband had left her for another man. What if. . . . what if she learned he was dying? How would she feel? What would she do? What kind of woman would she be? And the story evolved from that.
My latest project is mostly character-driven. I started by seeing the two main characters and am in the process of following them around and trying to figure out who they are and what they want. I know the beginning and the very end, but everything in between is still a mystery to me.
Can you tell us anything about your current project?
I’m kind of superstitious in that I think telling the story dissipates its energy. . . and other such whoo-whoo beliefs. But it’s (I hope) a literary/commercial novel about a woman who marries an artist. Starts in 1966 and ends in 2000-something. Famous artists romp through the pages, along with pot-smoking hippies, corporate pirates, and a folksinger/rock star. All of which is subject to change, of course.
My main challenge is that I was actually married to an artist in the swinging 60’s, and although the story is purely the product of my imagination, I worry people will think, “Oh, that’s all about her and John.” Take my word for it: it’s not. If only my life had been that interesting!