This July, I am very excited to be interviewing author Janci Patterson about the creative process behind her new novel, Everything’s Fine, and the drive to keep on inking!
1. Everything’s Fine is in part based on your own real-life experiences. How does this affect your process of inspiration? Did this make writing the novel more or less difficult than Chasing the Skip?
To be clear, here are the things in Everything’s Fine that are based on my life:
1) My little sister played softball. She really did have a blue tape square (though it was on the garage, not the fence) to represent a strike zone for pitching practice. To me, softball sounds like a ball hitting a wooden garage door at high speeds over and over and over.
2) I had depression in high school. Some of Haylee’s behavior is based on that, but not much.
3) I also had best friends, and we were at once awful and awesome to each other, as happens when you’re that age.
4) Mr. Craig is based on my favorite high school teacher, whose first name is Craig.
5) Some of Kira’s observations about the funeral are based on stories my husband told me about his brother who died at nineteen. I stole outright the story of the rewritten poem at the grave--that really happened sometime around his brother’s death.
That’s it. So I wouldn’t say that this book was based on my life. More that I pull details from life, and make up the narrative. That’s what makes it fiction. There are certainly more true life details in EVERYTHING’S FINE than there were in CHASING THE SKIP. I think that’s mostly a factor of me actually having been in high school, but never having been on the road with a bounty hunter. I also drafted the first version of EVERYTHING’S FINE much earlier in my writing career, when I still had some stories of my own to use, and didn’t have to make everything up.
2. Who is a writer that inspires you and why?
I’ve recently been reading and re-reading Stephanie Perkins’ ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS and LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR. She’s a master of getting emotion on the page.
3. How do you overcome fallow spells in creativity and regain the courage to create?
I’m extremely pragmatic about creativity. I have a job. I show up to work. I don’t let myself off the hook for not showing up to work. If all I have in me that day is crap, I write the crap, but I don’t just skip it. That’s about all there is to it. I’ve gotten better and better at this over the years. These days I have a hard time even taking Sundays off (which I do for religious reasons), because the habit is so ingrained.
Everyone told me that writing would be so much harder after I had my first child, but I actually write much more now, because having a toddler who will happily soak up all my time and attention is a constant reminder that it would be very easy for me to simply not make time to write, and soon not be a producing writer any more. I let the fear of that drive me to make writing a priority every day. If I’m only going to do one thing in the day, it’s take care of the basic needs of my family. But if I’m going to do ANYTHING else, that thing is write. (Spoiler: I actually have time for a lot more than that. But writing is always number two.)
As far as courage: I don’t always believe that what I’m doing is any good. But I don’t let that stop me. I just accept that I’m going to write words, be they good words or bad words, selling words or not selling words, keeper words or words to be rewritten. Fish swim, birds fly, I write books. And if the bird can fly without having a crisis about whether or not the flight will get them anywhere earth-shattering, then I am perfectly capable of writing words even if they aren’t brilliant. And if I don’t write them, how will I ever know?
*You can get the latest from Janci at:
Janci Patterson (@jancipatterson).