Here is the text of an interview with me on Writing.com concerning the upcoming National Novel Writing Month.
Welcome to A NaNoWriMist in the Spotlight, a series of interviews introducing a selection of group members. This week we have a great interview from Maggie Duncan, a full-time writer of fiction and published author.
Hi, Maggie, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed! This year will be your fourth NaNoWriMo – what are you writing?
This year I’m going a little off my usual genre, which is Suspense/Thriller. I’m going to try a piece on a dystopian America in the not-so-far future after a domestic terrorist act, so I’d call it Speculative Fiction. The plot centers around people in a small town trying to survive after a domestic terrorist group destroys the Federal government. I’ve located it in the small city in the Shenandoah Valley where I now live, and the villains are a right-wing, ultra-conservative movement we’ll all recognize.
It’s clear who has inspired your antagonists – what about the protagonists?
The protagonists will be O.D. James, Mallory James, (brother and sister), John-Patrick Yardman, (these three are based on my grandkids), and Anne Donnachy, a retired government worker who writes thriller novels and who is based on me.
So you used to work for the government? How did that fit with your writing?
I’m a former government tech writer and have written stories since I was old enough to write. I retired two years ago to focus on my fiction full-time and just had a short story published. I first tried NaNoWriMo in 2008, while I was still working full time. Because of work travel requirements, I only had seventeen days out of the thirty to produce those 50,000 words. I had chosen to write a semi-autobiographical piece about my life and the recent breakup of a long-term relationship, so when I did have the time to write, the words were all there. It was very cathartic. I decided not to pursue publishing it–mainly because I’d like what’s left of my family to continue to speak to me–but I pick it up on occasion (I got a proof copy from CreateSpace.) to further that healing. After that, I was hooked on NaNoWriMo.
You’re obviously a fan of NaNoWriMo – what do you love about it?
I love the work NaNoWriMo does with kids to get them to use writing as expression or, as it was for me, an escape from a harsh reality. It’s also the best thing around to get me to write something completely new at least once a year. I have literary fiction friends who recoil in horror when I mention NaNoWriMo, but I tell them what they’re missing–a creative exercise that focuses on that one aspect that makes us writers: creativity.
From what I hear, you don’t lack for creativity! Tell us your favourite writing memory.
When I was eight or nine, someone gave me a set of alphabet rubber stamps. I would listen to my mother and her friends gossiping around the kitchen table, then I’d “produce” a newspaper with the rubber stamps with their gossip items as front page stories. I stayed up all night making a dozen or so copies (one letter at a time) and distributed them the next morning–when the you-know-what hit the fan. Needless to say, my rubber stamps got confiscated, and that was the end of my fledgling career in journalism. It was pretty devastating at the time to a nine-year old, but I look back at the memory and laugh at how indignant my mother and her friends were about my writing the truth.
What hints and tips do you have for the rest of the group this November?
Because I was a non-fiction editor before I retired, I tend to get too focused on getting it “right.” I find that if I let go and just let words flow, I’ll increase my daily word count dramatically. If you’ve got people in your household, you have to be adamant about your writing time being sacrosanct. I usually promise my friends and family something chocolate if they just pretend I don’t exist during my writing hours. They’ll do almost anything for chocolate.
I think I would too! Or for hot chocolate. What’s your writing beverage of choice?
If I’m writing in the morning, it’s my second cup of green tea. Afternoons mean Sobe Life Water, and nighttime is Diet Coke. I have been known to give in to my Irish side and sip Jameson’s in the evenings.
Where do you do your writing and tea drinking?
My favorite place is my office/writing room. It’s in the back of my house, and I have an incredible view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, when that is distracting, I go to a second writing space in my bedroom–away from the window–so I can focus 100% on writing.
What books or authors inspire you?
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood; anything by Jane Austen; The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver; anything by Sharyn McCrumb; and The Stand by Stephen King (plus his non-fiction work On Writing). Several authors inspire me, but I’d have to say the predominant one is Margaret Atwood because she can tell such a good story and surround it with a political viewpoint that I can relate to. If I had the talent she has in her little finger, I’d be a happy camper.
How will you celebrate finishing NaNoWriMo?
With a self-congratulatory pat on the back, followed by a post on Facebook and a Tweet to let my friends know I’m still alive.
Well, best of luck! Thanks again to Maggie for a great interview.
Friday rolls around every week–imagine that. When I worked 60 or 70 hours a week at a “real” job, Friday always seemed unreachable, there but just beyond my grasp. Now, in retirement, it can’t wait to get here and leave me totally uninspired for Friday Fictioneers.
The caption for this picture reads, “This is an artifact marble, once used as a game-piece by early Native Americans who inhabited this area of the Ozarks, known as the Bluff-Dwellers.” Totally fascinating and way beyond my expertise so I’ll just go with the first thing that came into my head when I first woke up this morning–obviously I went to sleep last night with Friday Fictioneers on my mind.
I think I’ll call this one, “Never Judge a Rock.”
“Hey, Honey, come look at this.”
I was a late-comer to Apple. I was a PC fan and scoffed at the faintly elitist Apple nerds, but I eventually got tired of constant virus infestations on my PC, despite the fact I had the best virus protection money could buy. I also got tired of carrying a cell phone, a PDA, an MP3 player, and a camera in the same purse. Still, I wasn’t sure about going completely Apple.
Like an addiction it started with something small–the red iPod Nano (center of the picture above). I justified its purchase as being part of the Bono Red project, but never had it been so easy to download music. However, that didn’t eliminate anything from the purse, just swapped the iPod for the MP3 player.
The Nano was soon full to its 8gb capacity, so I upgraded to the iPod Touch, not pictured because I gave it to a friend when I bought the iPhone3 (to the right of the Nano above). Finally, the expiration of a cell phone contract coincided with the release of a new iPhone, and in 2009 I now had merged all my electronic devices into a single device. That wasn’t a leap of faith by Steve Jobs in my mind. Merely, it was the brainchild of a Trekkie like me who couldn’t wait for the day to hold Capt. Kirk’s communicator. To me, it was just natural.
After the 2008 virus-induced crash of my last PC and somewhere between the Nano and the iPhone3, I purchased a MacBook Pro (the laptop on the right of the picture) and gave away all my PC–towers and laptops. I was in love with computers again. When the iPhone4 (far right of the Nano above) came out I was almost first in line. For Christmas of 2010 I gave myself an iMac (background in the picture above), followed a few months later by the iPad1 (not pictured). The iPad1 went to my goddaughter when I bought the iPad2 (on the left of the desk in the picture above). The MacBook Air is on this year’s Christmas list.
As innovative as Windows was in the day, Apple succeeded because of Jobs’ concept of minimalism. Even the first MacIntosh was sleek and futuristic compared to the PCs of the day. The Apple OS was easier to use, more intuitive than Windows’ innumerable iterations. Jobs took an idea for his own personal user needs and made it accessible to the rest of us. You didn’t have to verge on being a programmer to operate Apple products.
Yes, I’m now an Apple geek, thanks to Steve Jobs. So, thank you, Steve Jobs, for making our Star Trek dreams come true, and thank you for the face of courage against that horrid enemy, cancer. Rest in peace, though I’d like to think of you as just plugged into cyperspace forever.
Some people have said they miss my political commentary. Well, you get what you ask for.
If you’re a fan of the mainstream media (and I used to be), you’ll be surprised to find out that a group of people (upwards of several thousand) have been “occupying” Wall Street (well, Liberty Park). They are now into their third week. You didn’t know that? Not surprising. The MSM (and, yes, I have been tempted to call it the “lamestream” media, but I don’t want the association) have been noticeable in their absence of coverage. Oh, when the arrests started they were quick to point out that the police were handling the “disruptive protesters.” Only Democracy Now!, Free Speech TV, and Current TV have devoted any time to what is motivating this true grassroots movement, as opposed to the various Tea Parties who have been bankrolled by the Koch Brothers.
So, what is motivating the people who call themselves “Occupy Wall Street?”
For one thing, the Wall Street Robber Barons came close to tanking the economy by taking advantage of an almost regulation-free financial environment and got bailed out and not one of them has spent a single minute being held accountable for that.
For another thing, the top one to two percent of this country have decided that they need to keep their wealth–not spend it on job creation, what an effing myth that is–so they can live higher on the hog, and the middle class, which they disdain and have decimated, and the poor–who got that way through all fault of their own–can wallow in the gutter of American Exceptionalism.
For yet another thing…no, I think those two things about cover it.
The minute I saw an NYPD white shirt named Anthony Bologna pepper-spray women who were committing the crime of standing on a sidewalk, I wanted to grab my kaffiyeh and head up there. When I saw a twelve year old girl in handcuffs, I wanted to set fire to the barricades and shut the effing place down. When I watched the police trick demonstrators onto the causeway of the Brooklyn Bridge then arrest 700 of them for blocking traffic, I was ready to tear the place down.
Fortunately, with age, I’ve been able to temper those urges. Forty years ago, I marched in some of the greatest demonstrations in the history of this country, and we turned the opinion of the country on a war, and we brought down a lying, corrupt president. Then, we moved on. We got jobs and houses and mortgages, swelled the middle class, and we let others–though not many of them–do the demonstrating thing.
Now, we find our place in that great middle class has come under attack from people with scads of money who have decided we need to pay for everything–their tax cuts, their wars, their third or fourth house, their new yacht–and we also need to give up our benefits and our rights to collectively bargain because they don’t like those concepts. They want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare because people should pay for their own retirement and health care–that’s what they’d have you believe. The truth is they don’t like letting anyone who really works for a living into the upper class. Only they get to live the high life and how dare we mere peons aspire to emulate them and live comfortably?
I agree that in some ways we need a revolution, but it has to be a revolution of the ninety-nine percent, not that envisioned by the Tea Baggers, who, in their ignorance, believe that the Koch Brothers aren’t using them for their own political ends. We have lost our compassion in this country. We blame the poor and the dwindling middle class for the woes rampant, unregulated capitalism has created. We hate anyone who is not rich, white, male, Christian, and born here. This is the America the Koch Brothers, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, et. al., have made and want to enshrine.
Support Occupy Wall Street by joining them in person or virtually. Wake up and smell the revolution or be crushed by the top one percent’s Humvee.