Women Writers Wednesday 1/21/15

For this week’s Women Writers Wednesday, we have an interview between Rita Arens (the interviewer) and Margaret Dilloway (the interviewee).

photo of Margaret Dilloway by Saflower Photography
photo of Margaret Dilloway by Saflower Photography


1) How has your writing process changed (or not changed) since your first book?
I had no idea what I was doing with my first book and kind of felt my way through it. Now I’m more aware of key elements that need to go in as far as plot and character development, pacing, etc. But every time I write a book, there’s still a long stretch of time where I feel like the thoughts are trickling down through solid stone and I’m staring glassy-eyed out the window. Writing is kind of like having a baby — you cry and eat a lot and feel sick and you don’t sleep and then you hold your book and forget all the bad things that ever happened. And then you do it again, on purpose.
2) How long does it take you to write a book?
That depends on the book. I wrote THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS in about six weeks, and it was pretty solid. SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW took a couple of years to get right. I worked on my middle grade book (tentatively titled XANDER MIYAMOTO AND THE LOST ISLAND OF MONSTERS) for two years or so, off and on.
3) Do you discuss your ideas with your agent before writing? 
Yes. I like to bounce ideas off him.
4) Which of your books is your favorite?
Why don’t you ask me which of my children is my favorite?! Gosh, Rita! Um, um, um. Okay. My most current one, SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, is actually my favorite. I feel like all the skills I’ve learned from writing came together in one giant blaze of awesome. I think it’s fun and interesting and, if I don’t say so myself, kind of deep. It’s the most entertaining, for sure. There are sharks and swords and hot librarians and deeply difficult relatives and failure and family secrets. It’s pretty much everything you could want for your reading pleasure.
5) How is children’s publishing different from adult publishing?
I think children’s publishing is actually much harder to break into. Not only do you have to impress the kids and write the awesome story they want to read (as opposed to some moral story you think they OUGHT to be reading), you have to impress all the gatekeepers: the parents and the teachers and the librarians, the folks who actually buy the books. The publishers are very mindful of this.
6) How involved are you with book marketing?
I do the social media thing and I contribute ideas to marketing and publicity, and when I have independent opportunities to promote I take ’em — but for the most part the publisher has one of the most awesome teams in the business.
7) How many books do you work on at once?
Two. I like to write one, let it sit, and work on the other as a sort of palate cleanser. That way I get some mental distance from my work and can look at it more objectively.
8) Plotter or pantser?
Kind of both. I do a not-detailed outline and then follow it and fill in the gaps. Sometimes you need to write the whole first draft to figure out what the story’s about and who the characters are.
Rita Arens is the author of contemporary young adult novel The Obvious Game (InkSpell, 2013); the co-editor of Roots: Where Food Comes From and Where It Takes Us (Open Road, 2013); and the editor of Sleep Is for the Weak (Chicago Review Press, 2013). She is also the deputy editor for www.blogher.com. Connect with Rita on Twitter @ritaarens or check out her website: www.ritaarens.com.
Margaret Dilloway’s upcoming books include Sisters of Heart and Snow (due out April 2015 from Putnam Books) and Momotaro (due out June 2016 from Disney-Hyperion Books for Children). She is the author of The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns and How to Be an American Housewife (both from Putnam Books), and her awards include Winner of the American Library Literary Tastes Award for Best Women’s Fiction (2013), Winner of the Bonus Book of the Year, Pulpwood Queens International Book Clubs (2013), and a Finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Award (2011). Check out her website at www.margaretdilloway.com.

To see more kinds of reviews like the ones in this series, check out these blogs by Melanie Page and Lynn Kanter. And of course go to the Sappho’s Torque Books page here to see other reviews by me and by other contributors to the Women Writers Wednesday series.

The Women Writers Wednesday series seeks to highlight the contributions of women in literature by featuring excellent literature written by women authors via reviews/responses written by other women authors. If you’d like to be a contributor, wonderful! Leave a comment below or send me an email, tweet, or Facebook message with your idea.

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