While putting together this week, I asked Lee to answer a few questions. You will notice a change in my questions from time to time to fit around the specific author and their book--I hope you enjoyed the change as much as I enjoyed making it! :)
What scene do you think was the hardest to write?
The hardest scenes to write were the sex scenes. Ohmigod! I kept thinking my mother would read this and declare it smut. But I had to do it. Closing the bedroom door (or the car door) when the sex begins is a cop out. I believe the reader wants to know what happens behind that closed door.
When I write I find I infuse large pieces of myself into my characters, can you identify easily with David?
I think the protagonists in most books are partly the author. While writing, as we try to imagine what our characters think and feel, we necessarily draw on our own experiences. David Dahlgren is partly me – though I came out in a much different era than David. Most events in the book are invented. I did not stab red lipstick against my lips in a moment of dark realization as David does. I did attempt Herculean measures to make myself straight before coming out.
How long did it take you to complete the book?
13 years. For much of this time, the book languished in a metal file cabinet because I believed it to be fatally flawed. And yet the characters called out to me – Lee, Lee, don’t leave us to die here. So, I had to go back, finish the book, and release them into the world of fiction.
How long did it take from the start of the book and getting it published?
15 years. After buying the book, my editor sent me a three page single-spaced letter suggesting revisions. Two more years passed by the time I had made all theses changes and the book went through the lengthy publication process.
Did you listen to music when writing this book?
Music is life. I am propelled by it. Music brings out the emotion in my writing. I listen to .everything from Sondheim, Diana Krall and Nina Simone to Ne-Yo and Gnarls Barkley while I write. But when I am reading, it must be absolutely silent.
Do you have any writing advice for aspiring writers?
7. Make sure every sentence sets the scene, reveals character or advances the plot.
6. Find the humor. Everyone wants to laugh – even in a tragic story.
5. Be diligent. Writing something good is lots of work. Push yourself.
4. Have garlic and sausage pizza on hand at all times.
3. Create scenes. Write dialogue. Don’t tell us what happened. Show us.
2. Revise, revise, revise. Get feedback. Then pick yourself up off the floor and revise some more.
1. Find your voice. All it takes is being real. Even when that means writing about the most personal things, the thoughts and feelings you think only you have had. You’ll be amazed how many people you touch.
What is some advice for teens struggling with their sexual identities?
Follow your heart. If that leads you to same sex partners, embrace them. Massage them. Send them love poems. Don’t be afraid to be your authentic self. That is all you’ve got in this world. That is all you’ve got.
What is your next project and when will it be in our hands?
I am currently working on The Memoirs of Odell P. Livingston, Grade 6. It is the story of a biracial boy in the age of Obama. It will be in your hands within, oh say, 13 years. Ha-ha! I’m actually shooting for early 2011.