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Lisa Selin Davis - Author Interview

In 1999 freelance writer Lisa Selin Davis started writing "seriously". The result? A continuous flow of article and prose publications. It seems only natural that the next step for this Brooklyn, New York writer would be commercial publication with Little, Brown & Company. In 2005 her novel, Belly, was released and a year later continues to garner subtle attention. I hope you enjoy getting to know this mysterious new writer.

Moe: Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer?

Lisa Selin Davis: I notice a lot of writers talk about getting a good grade or some other kind of attention for writing, and that's what got them started. I do remember getting an A-plus on an assignment in English class--the idea was to emulate the voice of a writer we'd read, which sent me on a lifelong digression, since I was aping Salinger.

A babysitter told me once, if I felt scared, I should write about it, and that did seem to help. I must have been scared a lot, since I've written so many pages.

Moe: What inspires you?

Lisa Selin Davis: Every time I look at my cat it's like I've never seen him before. Wait, is that inspiration? Mostly, I get my inspiration from talking to other people, from having people help me adjust my attitude or perspective in some minute way that changes everything. And a really good meal. And a really great movie. And when I'm shown how wrong I was about something.

Moe: Every writer has a method that works for them. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Lisa Selin Davis: I try to write for an hour in the morning, working on my own stuff. After that, I do my paid writing work--articles and such. Most of the time, I have to wrestle with myself to keep my fingers typing.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Lisa Selin Davis: I'm in the middle of my second book, and both times, I started by writing many short stories about the characters, so when it came time for the novel, I knew a lot about them.

My method is, well, chaos. I spit everything out in chunks. Then I have to figure out how it all works together, suture, go back in, rip it apart and do more surgery. I'm learning to trust the chaos, and not panic.

Moe: When you have your idea and sit down to write is any thought given to the genre, plot or type of readers you'll have?

Lisa Selin Davis: Nope. And I hope I never think about that stuff. The voices of doubt are already so loud. I figure out the plot after. Not sure I'd recommend this to others, though.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Lisa Selin Davis: I'm usually drawn to a subject by visiting it--I gather up information, let it sit for a while, process it, and spit it back out. Along the way, I do a lot of looking things up, or calling my mom, the reference librarian, and asking her to look it up.

Moe: How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? Where do your characters come from? Where do you draw the line?

Lisa Selin Davis: I don't think I consciously pilfer from people's lives, but, yes, little things make there way in. Both my projects have sprung up when I've gone to visit people--had a glimpse into their lives, felt a spark and filled in the rest.

Moe: Writers often go on about writer's block. Do you ever suffer from it and what measures do you take to get past it?

Lisa Selin Davis: I've not had writer's block, but I've had times where I've detested what I've written. I just keep writing.

Moe: When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?

Lisa Selin Davis: I hope they understand what I've set out to do, and that's it, I guess. Oh, yeah, and I hope they think I'm a good writer. I don't know why that's important, but apparently it is.

Moe: Can you share three things you've learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Lisa Selin Davis: Being published doesn't mean you'll be successful--it doesn't mean you can make a living as a writer. But it does open up a lot of doors. Mostly, I've made a lot of friends, which is such a wonderful outcome.

Moe: How do you handle fan mail? What kinds of things do fans write to you about?

Lisa Selin Davis: Fan mail? There have only been six letters, and one was a solicitation for a Boggle date. One person told me he thought I'd written the story of his father's life. That was the best.

Moe: What's your latest book about? Where did you get the idea and how did you let the idea evolve?

Lisa Selin Davis: My latest book is about four estranged members of a family reuniting in Phoenix. It's about architecture and the homogenization of the American landscape, a little incest, born again Christianity and ex-hippies.

Moe: What kind of books do you like to read?

Lisa Selin Davis: I love narrative non-fiction and I love books by women with A names--Alice Munro, Anne Tyler.

Moe: When you're not writing what do you do for fun?

Lisa Selin Davis: Did I mention the magic of cinema?

Moe: New writers are always trying to gleam advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Lisa Selin Davis: When I went to school, I thought they were going to tell me the secret of how to be a good writer. Finally I learned it: work very hard all the time. And try to be honest.

Moe: If you weren't a writer what would you be?

Lisa Selin Davis: I'd be very sad if I weren't a writer, because the only other thing I'd want to be is an artist, and that's even harder.

Belly, a novel is available from Amazon.com.
Belly, a novel is available from Amazon.ca.


M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario, Canada. If you are going to find this eclectic reader and writer anywhere it is probably at her computer. For more information visit her official website.

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