Monday, May 7, 2012

An Interview with Helen Chantal Pike

Is there any special method to your writing? I keep a journal that's equal parts musings, interviews, scrap booking (tkt stubs, for example) and lists; I only write on the right-hand page, leaving the left for notes/observations when I go back to review and harvest from those pages. It's a trick from my days as a travel writer when I composed the first draft of an assignment on the airplane home.

How many hours a day do you spend reading/writing? It varies, but usually I try to spend an hour reading and always try to read something in the morning to feed my imagination. Uninterrupted writing can occupy anywhere from one to four hours (in one-hour clips). Then there are the 10-minute quickies when other work disrupts the flow and so I try to "steal" a concentrated 10 minutes to stay with an idea. Sometimes it's only 5 minutes.

What inspires you to continue being a writer? Inspiration to keep writing has varied, but lately it's been about making deeper emotional connections with readers and dialing down the amount of facts I've unearthed.

If you could have been the author of any novel, which title would it be and why? "Praxis" by Fay Weldon or "The Women's Room" by Marilyn French or "Walking to Gatlinburg" by Howard Frank Mosher. The first 2 because they really spoke to where I was in the 1980s; Mosher's magical realism take on morality and war is truly an inspired piece of Americana.

Do you think you will ever change audiences? I think I'm about to change audiences somewhat with this new book project, a memoir about my late father. It's going to be less unearthed facts and forgotten history and more an examination of the cultural, emotional, and economic issues that shaped each of us at different times in the 20th century. My previous books, with the exception of the co-written "The Spirited Ladies of Liberty Street" were straight-ahead history.

What advice would you give anyone who wants to become a published author? Write, even when you think you're empty. Read to fill yourself up. Experience life: Be the adventurer who drives a convertible with the top down, not caring that bugs get caught in your teeth.

And do you have a list of favorite books/authors? The Northeast Kingdom's Mosher; Edie Clark of Yankee magazine; Marc Mappen of New Jersey, Cara Black because of her mysteries set in Paris which is where my mother was from and I lived for a while as a student at the Sorbonne.