Ask the Author: Audrey Kalman

“If you have read "Tiny Shoes Dancing and Other Stories," I'd love to hear what was your favorite story.” Audrey Kalman

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Audrey Kalman Great question. As far as literary influences, it's a sum of all the authors I've loved reading through my life. Early (literary) favorites of mine were William Faulkner, Vladimir Nabokov, John Cheever, Joan Didion, and Philip Roth. More contemporary authors I enjoy are Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, T.C. Boyle, Jumpa Lahiri, and Chris Bojalian.

The trick as an author, I find, is to soak up the style and approach of a favorite author but then let it go during the writing process so the other author's voice doesn't drown out my own.
Audrey Kalman Since there are 217 books on my Goodreads "want to read" list, I don't think I'll get to all of them this summer. So I'll make a commitment here to read five:

Donna Tart's "The Goldfinch"
David Mitchell's "The Bone Clocks"
Ann Patchett's "Truth and Beauty"
Amy Ellis Nutt's "Becoming Nicole"
Mary Karr's "The Art of Memoir"

There: public commitment. That means I've got to read at least one or risk ridicule!
Audrey Kalman The idea for "What Remains Unsaid" arose from a chance encounter I had at a Lake Tahoe resort about eight years ago. I met a woman who, like me, was passing the time in the lodge while her son was snowboarding. She seemed quite ordinary. But the story* she told me over the course of the morning was anything but ordinary. It gave me the idea to explore, through fiction, what we choose to hide or reveal and how the stories we tell shape what others believe about us—and what we believe about ourselves.
Audrey Kalman As of April 2017, I have an almost-finished novel (currently categorized as a dystopian literary thriller) and a mass of notes that is forming itself into the beginnings of another novel (too early to categorize). I continue to write short fiction. And of course I'm devoting time to getting the word out about "What Remains Unsaid."
Audrey Kalman Write, write, write. Then write some more. Find a writing or critique group. Get feedback on your work. Take it seriously (but not TOO seriously). Stay true to your vision. Develop a thick skin. Edit, edit, edit. Oh, and did I mention WRITE, WRITE, and WRITE?

Apart from that, these days you'll have to learn about the business of writing. Find some trustworthy online sources (Jane Friedman and Joel Friedlander (The Book Designer) are two that come to mind.

Then write some more. And be very patient. I wrote for 30 years before I got published.
Audrey Kalman What other job lets you make stuff up--and get rewarded for doing it? I love getting to experience, through stories, things that otherwise I might never experience. Another aspect of this is dreaming myself into a state where I feel as if I'm embodying my characters. If I can do that effectively, then I have some hope of creating a believable world that moves my readers.
Audrey Kalman I find the best antidote to writer's block is to write every day. I don't require myself to write something good every day, or even something I'll share. I try to write first thing in the morning, for 20-40 minutes. Often I'll use a prompt. I find my prompts in all kinds of places--it may be a fragment of a poem, a line from a book I'm reading, or even a random sequence of words from the cookbooks on my shelf. Giving myself permission to PLAY and have fun really helps prevent block.

Of course, block does rear its ugly head when I'm trying to finish something and feel stuck. In that case, taking time away from what I'm stuck on, whether to work on something else or to take a walk, brush the cats, or call a friend, often lets my subconscious go to work on the problem in a way that my conscious mind can't.
Audrey Kalman Inspiration often arrives like a prompt from my unconscious in the form of an image, a phrase, a title, or a scrap of dialogue. I'll use that as a jumping off point to get me into a story, which can lead in completely unanticipated directions. A short story I wrote last year, for example, took off from the title: "Before There Was a Benjamin." I didn't know when I jotted the title down that it would end up being about a mother struggling with raising an autistic son.

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