Writing Quirks of Best-Selling Authors

Courtney Sullivan types with one finger… only one.

At An Evening With Authors 2011, Courtney Sullivan confessed that she types with just one finger—left pointer. Amidst gasps from the audience she went on to explain that she never learned how to type. This story then spilled over into the next morning’s small gathering before the authors left RI and I thought that this would be a fun topic for a column. I emailed some of my favorites and asked about their own writing quirks. First up, my inspiration for this piece!
As I type away with all ten fingers, Courtney Sullivan is busily typing with one. I am hopeful that this doesn’t slow her down as I am so excited about this yet unnamed novel, which is about four marriages over the course of the last century and the diamond industry in America. Sullivan shares, “So far, I am typing it with one finger, but if any of your readers can recommend a good online typing program, I’d be much obliged.” Don’t miss Courtney’s first two novels –Commencement and Maine. * The Engagements-the novel Courtney was working at the time has been out and about and is also a favorite of mine.*

Also answering the call for writer’s quirks is Jill Kargman, author of Arm Candy and Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut: Essays and Observations. She says that her new thing is working in random places like hotel lobbies, bars, and clubs, anywhere! Kargman does have her limits, she says: Not Starbucks! “I used to need the silence of my home but my kids are louder than a concert so I bail,” she says. The Rockstar in Seat 3A comes out in June and was Jill’s first book written entirely out of her house.

Candles and shrines: Adriana Trigiani

The Queen of women’s fiction is apparently also the Queen of Clean! Adriana Trigiani—Big Stone Gap, Very Valentine, Lucia Lucia lets me in on a quirk that is time-consuming. Trigiani spills, “I have to make sure the house is clean before I can sit down and write.” In addition, she shares that once the house is clean, “I burn a candle as I work and on display are objects that inspire me and are relevant to the story.” Lucky for her readers, Adriana is in the final edit of The Shoemaker’s Wife, which will be out in spring of 2012 and is described as a lush historical novel inspired by her grandparents love story. Objects that were front and center in this latest novel are “old photographs, a bottle of Arpege perfume from the 50’s, and a shoe!”
The author of The First Husband and The Divorce Party, Laura Dave listens to the same music while working on a given book. Laura is early into working on a new novel and has been listening to a small playlist. She says “at the top of it are John Mayer’s Comfortable, Bruce Sringsteen’s If I Should Fall Behind (the concert version), Wilco’s Jesus Etc. and Bob Dylan’s Shooting Star.” One of those songs will likely rise to the top soon and be Laura’s one and only!

Yona McDonough’s husband built her a very elaborate and beautiful dollhouse which was kept in the basement of their home, where her office was. “When I would reach an impasse in my writing,” McDonough says, “I’d get up and rearrange the furniture in the house for a while, adjusting this, fussing with that.” Though the office has moved elsewhere in the house, Yona still scoots downstairs to “play” with the house for a while if stuck and she says it still works! The author of In Dahlia’s Wake and Breaking The Bank has a chapter book called The Cats in the Doll Shop coming out next month and an adult novel called A Wedding in Great Neck.

Precious author Sandy Novack says that every morning she lays out a tarot card spread just to find out about her writing day. Unlike Laura Dave, Sandy says, “I need total silence when I write, and can’t be in a room with any noise or anyone else in it.” She goes on, “I always read first, just a few pages, then write long-hand for a while before opening up a Word file.” All of her work has been written on legal pads, lots and lots of legal pads. The quality of the pen is essential, or she gets “really cranky.”

After Novack’s father accidentally drowned in the spring of 2011, she started writing non-fiction, about the changing shape of sibling dynamics after the death of a loved one. The memoir also covers the family’s reconnection with her sister, Carole, after a thirty-one year absence.

Masked by her Posh and Slicker pseudonym of “Lucy Jackson”, Marion Thurm’s cover was blown in 2010 and now she is sharing her writing quirk with me! Thurm tells me those years ago, when she started writing the first short stories that she sold to the New Yorker, “I would only use what I called ‘my lucky pen’- a Bic ballpoint that, at the time, came with a 39-cent price tag.” If she was working on a story and the pen ran out of ink, she would stop what she was doing and run to a stationery store to buy the same exact pen, believing, superstitiously, that only the lucky pen would do the trick! When I asked what she is working on now she says, “I’m actually a little superstitious about even mentioning the novel I finished, and the new one I’m working on!” At least she’s consistent!

I’ll end with another of the gracious authors who joined us for An Evening With Authors, debut novelist Camille Noe Pagan. Pagan had not shared a writing quirk while here so I wrote and told her about this piece and asked if she had one to share. She says, “I write the last scene of the last chapter before anything else, even the detailed synopsis.” She goes on, “When I write it, I know almost right away if I’m working on the right things, and it gives me a sense of where the book is going.” Camille tells me that this makes it possible for her to keep writing through the difficult part. She adds that she did this with her “work in progress” and she’s pretty sure it’s her next book. I hope so!

What are your writing or reading quirks?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s