SH: What‘s the most important thing for you to get out of the writing? Why do you do it?
SM: Originally, I wrote because I was compelled. I mean, it wasn‘t even like a choice. Once I started, it was just... I had to do it. It was similar to the way, when you start a book that‘s really good or extremely suspenseful, you can‘t put it down. At the dinner table, you have it under your leg—and you‘re peeking down there, so your husband won‘t catch you reading while you‘re eating dinner. It‘s like until you know what happens, you‘ll have no peace.
And there was a great deal of joy in that—although it wasn‘t a calm kind of joy. [Laughs] There was also some frenzy.
I wrote the rest of the books because I was so in love with the characters in the story that it was a happy place to be. But by then, I had to become a little bit more calculated about the writing process. I spent more time figuring out the best ways to proceed... like how outlines work for me, or is it better to write out of order, or in order? I‘m still working on my ways. But it‘s still for the joy, when I actually sit down and write.
You know, there‘s a lot of other stuff you have to do as a writer—with editing and touring and answering a million e-mails a day... all of that stuff that‘s a grind and feels like work. But when I get away from that, and when I‘m just writing again—and I have to forget everything else in the world—then it‘s for the joy of it again.
SH: And, you know, it‘s funny, because I totally agree. But you meet some writers who are not yet published—and they‘re so anxious and earnest and need to have that first publication come. What I want to say to them is: Don‘t hurry it.
SM: Yeah. You miss being able to write in a vacuum—where it‘s just you and the story, and there‘s
no one that‘s ever going to say anything about it. SH: The reason you‘re a writer is because you‘re telling stories. And everything that
comes after publication has nothing to do with why you‘re a writer. The business stuff, like you said, and the anxiety of how the book is doing and the publicity—and, you know, dealing with negative reviews or negative fan reactions—all that stuff is not really what you‘re yearning for. What you‘re yearning for is the story. And the best thing to do is just enjoy that process and that journey.
SM: And you miss it when it‘s gone. You miss being able to write in a vacuum—where it‘s just you and the story, and there‘s no one that‘s ever going to say anything about it. I find that I can‘t write unless I put myself in that vacuum.
SH: But the characters have to almost come in on their own....
SM: I know. You have that experience of a character talking in your head, where you don‘t feel like you‘re giving them the words. You‘re hearing what they‘re saying, and it sounds like it‘s the first time you‘re hearing it, and you‘re just writing it down. Unless you have that experience, you can‘t understand that this is actually a rational way to be. [Laughs]
SH: I know, I know. Not that anybody who chooses to write books for a living is actually rational.