Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Writers in their own words-GCC

Okay, so I know I haven't been much of a poster lately. I wish I could say it's because I've been jet-setting to exotic places. Or writing up a storm.

But that wouldn't be quite accurate. I have been busy . . . and out of town a bit. But, mostly, my days have been filled with the mundane--grocery store trips, running to the gym, errands, appointments. You know, those everyday things that make up our lives.

I do have a new post up over on Erma where I pledge to slow down and enjoy the hot flashes. Good times.

I also have a bit of escape reading to share with you, courtesy of Nadine Dajani's Cutting Loose, where you'll meet three women who are as different as could be—at least that’s what they think—and the men who’ve turned their lives upside down as their paths collide in sizzling, sexy Miami. . . .Ranya, Zahra, and Rio . . . .In this city of fast cars, sleek clubs, and unapologetic superficiality, Ranya, Zahra, and Rio wrestle with the ties that bind them to their difficult pasts, each wondering if she will ever manage to cut loose . . . .

Let's hear from Nadine in her own words:

1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven by plot or by character?

Definitely character. Cutting Loose is a very loosely-based spin-off of my first novel, Fashionably Late, in that Ranya, who was originally a very minor character does something totally wacky at the end of the novel. She runs off to London when she discovers her husband of one month is gay. Not a terribly original departure point, but it’s in how I tried putting together an original story around this character that I had the chance to exercise me creative muscles. Inspiration came from my obsession with Latina magazines and Ugly Betty at the time (Ranya gets her first job working at Sueltate magazine – I used the real life magazine Latina as inspiration for Sueltate) and from a desire to turn certain stereotypes on their heads. For example, I often think about how so many Arabs (Lebanese Arabs especially) living in the US are Christian, not Muslim, and so how do they feel when the “terrorist” label extends to them? I’m Muslim myself, but I would imagine I’d be even more ticked off than I usually am at the American media’s discrimination against Arabs if I were Christian. The Palestinian issue gets some air time in Cutting Loose as well but from an angle you don’t see too often in the States – Zahra’s home town is Bethlehem, as in Bethlehem, Palestinian Occupied Territories, which means she’s descended from some of the oldest Christian families in the world. But that’s not a nuance you’d get from watching cable news…

2.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

I adored writing the character of Rio. She’s tough as nails and the perfect foil for meek Ranya. I could really see Rio in the eye of my mind, and for some reason, her dialogue came very naturally to me: snarky, unapologetic, critical, and smart. Or smart-mouthed… not too sure on that one!

3.) What's your writing process/writing environment like?

It’s an extremely erratic process – isn’t that terrible? For any writers starting out – please do not take this as license to be erratic… it is NOT the best way to work. Unfortunately, I find that if I don’t get in a ton of “thinking time” up front and don’t work out the characters’ issues from the get go, it’s difficult for me to start. But once I have a few “Ah Ha!” moments under my belt, I get started and zip through the first draft. If I start earlier than I feel comfortable starting, I end up throwing out most of what I’ve written at the beginning. So to answer your question – a whole lot of daydreaming for many months, then a few hours a night to get the broad strokes down, and then cramming as I would for an exam – getting 4 or 5 thousand words out in one sitting, wherever I can squeeze in the time, usually right after work and many hours in a row! It’s a harrowing schedule, but so far it’s worked for me.

4.) What's your favorite part of writing?

I love stumbling on that “perfect” scene that just seems like it’s writing itself. I had a few moments like that with Cutting Loose, especially those scenes written in Rio’s POV. When I got to Rio’s turning point scene, I wrote it quickly, with erratic jabs at the keyboard, and when it was done, it was really hard not to smile to myself like a mad woman for the rest of the day. The scene worked on every level, and it’s moments like that that make all the other scenes you had to chain yourself to the desk to write seem worthwhile!

5.) What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?

Anything Anne Lamott has written in her fantastic Bird by Bird qualifies as the best writing advice out there – let yourself write shitty first drafts, be absolutely honest in what you put on paper (which is so much harder that it seems), and be true to your voice, not someone else’s.

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