By Melissa Patafio
**Giveaway is now closed**
Sarah Stonich has been an artist-in-residence at numerous programs here in the U.S. and abroad. Her second novel “The Ice Chorus” was started while she was at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. Sarah has been inspired by her Irish contemporaries and credits Irish literature for having a major impact on her and her writing. She currently resides in Minnesota with her husband.
Read on to learn more about Sarah, her writing, and what she enjoys doing in her free time! And when you're done, enter for a chance to win one of two copies of "The Ice Chorus."
What is your usual writing routine?
I write in the mornings as soon as I get up, often while still eating breakfast. If I don’t start then before my mind is polluted by the day, it’s tough to get going. By noon I'm written out.
You currently live in Minnesota, do you plan to stay there for good?
I’m actually on my way to British Columbia this very moment, for a long-awaited vacation, during which I hope to seduce my husband into thinking it will be HIS idea to retire there. Living on the ocean is on my bucket list. In a Minnesota January, your nose hairs freeze, so no, I'd rather not stay here for good.
What, if any, challenges did you face while writing your second novel “The Ice Chorus”?
Time, more than anything. Having a deadline and only two years to write a novel, and frankly I'm not that swift. But Minnesotans have reputations for being two things, nice and prompt. I’m prompt.
How do you like to spend your time when you are not writing?
Hiking, kayaking - I’ll be doing my first big ocean kayaking over the next two weeks, and hiking on the Pacific coast, and in Cathedral Grove - a massive stand of old growth forest. I love to cook, mostly because my husband consumes whatever I make him as if it were a gift. I’ve taken up stone building, of all things. It’s what we have most of in northern Minnesota, stone - and it provides weight bearing exercize, and since I'm getting to the age where I'm supposed to be concerned about bone density and muscle mass it might be more effective than say, scrapbooking...
You started writing in your 30’s and your first novel “These Granite Islands” was extremely successful. What was the journey to publishing like for you?
It was remarkably easy. I had a writer friend who hooked me up with an agent who was relentless. The challenge comes after two books, I’ve discovered. Third and fourth books hold much less interest to editors, and even though my newer books are better, they remain unpublished. I no longer have that first-time-author cachet, which is preferable to publishers than old horses like me. In the realm of nurturing authors' careers over the long haul, the larger publishers have grown increasingly short-sighted. If they had their way, every book would be a first book and every author a first-time author. Like puppy mills. Do I sound bitter?
You have been awarded a number of fellowships from places around the U.S. and abroad, can you tell us a bit about what exactly these fellowships entail?
Mostly they allow for time to write, and can be very validating - knowing someone believes in what you’re doing - so much so that they feed and house you and provide a space - is incredible. And, they are often in beautiful settings and places most writers could never afford to go to. They provide the rare chance to meet other writers. Women on fellowship seem to appreciate them more, I think, for all the reasons any mother can imagine (someone changing your sheets?!) I'm about to apply to one in Iceland. If I apply to ten, I might get one, so I'm usually up to my knees in applications, and it's a gamble, but it's worth it
Do you have any plans to return to Ireland in the future?
Not currently, but Scotland is on my list. I read a wild book from a Scottish writer, Michael Faber, “Under the Skin” and am now on a kick of reading Scottish authors. I'm rereading all of Kate Atrkinson right now. She's amazing.
I read that you always thought you would be a painter, do you still paint?
I gave up painting long before I realized I could engage my imagination better with words. There was always some hitch between my mind and the paint brush so that nothing ever came out exactly as I intended. Words were just better.
Did you celebrate when your first novel was published? Not formally, but I do have a picture taken shortly after my agent called with the news: I’m in my kitchen wearing yellow rubber gloves and my son has just placed a cheap tiara on my head. Quite apt, really: you sell a book and think the work is over, when it’s only just begun. That first journey into publishing was almost a fairy tale, and for a minute I did feel like a princess. Alas, no more tiaras.
What was your inspiration in writing “The Ice Chorus”?
I was in Ireland, and that was enough to make me want to set the book there. And I adored the people and their use of language and the fact that the average taxi driver was better-read by far than most Americans, and more politically astute about OUR politics, was humbling and embarrassing. George Bush had just been elected so everyone wanted to know just what were you people (wankers) thinking? Also, I'd just come out of a marriage much like Liselle’s, so there was that.
Some more pieces of information from Sarah:
*My memoir, "Shelter," will be out in March of 2011 from Borealis Books.
*My new unpublished novels are a departure from The Ice Chorus and These Granite Islands in that they are faster paced, more humorous and the protagonists are definitely less patient. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for those titles, Vacationland, and Fishing With RayAnne. Hopefully, readers will find them on shelves in 2012.
Special thanks to Sarah for doing this interview with me and for sending the books for the giveaway.
How to win "The Ice Chorus":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)
For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: Have you ever studied abroad? If so, where?
2. Please tell us: What place (city, state, country, etc.) or culture inspires you the most?
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5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
US/Canada residents only. Giveaway ends Monday, October 4th, at 6 pm EST.