Monday, October 13, 2008
FEATURED AUTHOR: Lisa Gabriele
Lisa Gabriele is a Canadian native currently residing in Toronto, and has also lived in New York and Washington, DC. Her experiences on both sides of the border provide a fresh, authentic voice. I am wondering if you have any plans to review the book or interest in speaking with the author. She is available to discuss the Canadian view of the “American Dream”, the challenges of writing from the perspective of a mother without being one herself, and the powerful bond of sisterhood that shapes her writing.
THE ALMOST ARCHER SISTERS
Georgia “Peachy” Archer Laliberte and her sister Beth, couldn’t be more different from each other. While Peachy has settled down on a farm in Canada with her husband and their two sons, Beth has established a glamorous life in New York City as a television star. Peachy doesn’t begrudge her sister’s success—she always makes time to act as Beth’s personal therapist and cheerleader. But after she is betrayed by her own sister Peachy skips town for Manhattan, leaving Beth to deal with family responsibilities while she tries on her sister’s extravagant lifestyle. Forced to live in each other’s shoes for a few days, the Archer sisters see each other in a new light, and come to a greater understanding of each other as they mend old wounds and repair their relationship.
What would you like your readers to take away from your book?
The Almost Archer Sisters is about choices women make; to stay in the small town or leave for the big city, to get married, to stay single, to have children, to delay motherhood or to walk away from it altogether—all choices facing Beth and Peachy. It’s also about forgiveness. I hope readers find some kind of connection with my characters as they negotiate these choices, thereby getting some clarity on their own. Or maybe I hope they find a respite; time spent pondering the fictional problems of the fabulous Archer sisters is less time spent stewing over real ones.
What did you learn while writing this book?
This book took a long time to write, perhaps because the first few drafts were written from Beth’s perspective, the single, screw-up who lives in New York. When I jumped ship and wrote the final draft entirely from Peachy’s perspective, I took a crash course in motherhood from my single-mom sister, and first reader. I loved being the “mom” narrator, and --forgive me real moms who wake up at 2, 3, 4 in the morning to clean up a baby’s sick-- but writers and mothers are not very different. While writing a book, a writer’s characters are never far from top of mind. We’re always thinking of them, worrying about them, wondering where they are, what they’re thinking, wearing, doing. Like a mother, a writer structures their day around the needs of the book, lovingly shaping the characters and stories, paying attention and respecting the book’s needs. But after a mother raises the kid and launches him or her into the world—the mother continues to fret, stew, worry, and fear. The writer does too, but, admittedly, about far less important things, such as an Amazon rank, or whether people will roll their eyes at the acknowledgements. So, I guess that’s where moms and writers differ.
What is the hardest part about the writing business?
Getting the attention you feel your book deserves—not for you but for your book. The dream of every writer is for their book to find its readers. Connecting is a natural human need. Writing is connecting and since most writers suck at connecting in normal ways, we try our best to chip away at any blocks standing between us and readers who might love our books. But it’s a monolithic, difficult job, removing those blocks—the hardest part of the business.
What’s one thing about writing you wish other non-writers would understand?
Carrying around an imaginary world and juggling made-up people and their fake concerns in your overstuffed head for months and years at a time, is not a normal way to live. Nor is it something you can force yourself to want to do. You are either bent in such a way that that seems like an appealing, if not necessary, way to spend free time, or it’s not. And if it’s not, good. If you are bent that way, then make getting that stuff out onto paper your number one priority for a few months. If you find that enjoyable, great. You’ve got yourself a beloved hobby at the very least. At the very most, it’s an entirely satisfying way to make a decent living.
Our theme this month is THE BUSINESS OF WRITING. Most new writers don’t know about the business side of writing, what advice can you offer on this important part of writing?
The business side of writing is changing dramatically, not unlike the music industry. So anything I say about that will probably be obsolete in a few days, so I’ll just say this: get an honest agent. My agent never tells me what I want to hear and she doesn’t raise my expectations. She works hard to get my books in the right hands and then she tells me the truth about what’ll happen next—usually, “I don’t know.”
But, seriously, my advice, don’t sweat the big advances. It sounds great to get a low-six-figure advance for your first book but if it doesn’t pay out (and chances are it won’t) publishing houses won’t be lining up to publish your next book or books. Think about your literary growth and longevity. Unless it’s in the HIGH six-figures. Then cash that check.
What are three things you wish you'd known before you reached where you are now?
1) Autobiographical writing is a dead end. Push yourself to inhabit the life of someone else, always.
2) You family won’t care that you’re a published author. You still have to visit your nana at the old age home. You still have to remember your niece’s birthday. You still don’t phone often enough.
3) Being a young (ish), single, female author doesn’t do as much for your love life as being a young (ish), single, male author.
Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?
No. I mean, I’ve thought that I might be out of ideas, but I haven’t imagined quitting. Besides, few would care except my accountant, who would quietly clap under his desk.
Do you have any advice for the aspiring writer?
I’d rather get advice from an aspiring writer than give it—he or she could remind me, again, why I still do this.
What is the best lesson you have learnt from another writer?
Be totally and ridiculously enthusiastic about your own work.
Five questions about books:
One book you’ve read more than once.
Anagrams by Lorrie Moore. I’ve possibly read it five times in total and refer to it a few times a year.
One book you couldn’t put down until you finished.
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Thrilling, sad, funny, arch, and beautiful. Lost a whole weekend to it years ago.
Which book made you laugh:
Home Land by Sam Lipsyte, one of those books where if you don’t laugh, too, we may not hang out much.
Which book made you cry:
Ants on a Melon by Virginia Hamilton Adair. Her husband inexplicably committed suicide. These poems are about her bafflement and anger.
Which book do you wish you’d written.
A tie between Liar’s Club by Mary Carr and Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. If you’re going to be a writer raised by epically self-centered, abusive, hilarious, eccentrically insane--but lovingly wise-- alcoholic parents, then producing these books should be your karmic reward. Those two or To Kill a Mockingbird---not because of its artistry and vision---but because Harper Lee felt sated, done at one book. And what a book!
Lisa can be reached through her website: http://www.lisagabriele.com/
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