Fredrica Wagman is the author of six previous novels. She has four grown children and lives with her husband in New York City.
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Tell us a bit about your current project.
I’ve written fiction all my life but I have currently begun a memoir. Its not that different from fiction really except you have to tell the dead truth, no exaggeration. No messing with the truth. It ought to be interesting to do as it’s very close to the kind of fiction I write which is semi-autobiographical. Fingers crossed.
We are all about journeys… unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.
I’ve been writing all my life and at one point, with my first novel I showed it to a friend, who at the time was the head of the English department at the University of Pennsylvania. He in turn suggested I send the manuscript to Philip Roth who was teaching at Penn at the time. Intimidated by Roth’s reputation, I said I would but I didn’t. Then one morning, very early, a cab pulls up to my house, the doorbell rings and there’s Roth with his hand out, waiting for my manuscript. I gave it to him. He liked it and gave it to his publisher: the book was published and we became fast friends.
Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven had-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.
I always doubt the worth of what I write and can never re-read my former work. I think that’s a natural phenomenon and as for overcoming writers block, I think that’s mainly about anger. Who you’re angry at and who, by not writing, you are trying to spite. Its usually some remote figure you can’t have a frank conversation with, but the trick is to understand who it is and then go to work anyhow.
What mistakes have you made while seeking publication ?
I have never sought publication — it seemed to have sought me so I can’t answer that question honestly.
What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?
It seems there are a lot of ideas always floating around in my head, however, what inspires me to start writing is reading good books.
With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if you were beginning this writing journey today?
Write what you know about. Write what matters to you Don’t make things up. Stick to the real stuff that has made a difference either for good or for bad in your life.
What event/person has most changed you as a writer – How?
Philip Roth. In the first place, I have always admired his courage in daring to tackle new and bold subject, both personally and politically. And also, it was he who insisted I publish my first novel which I probably would have kept in a desk drawer forever if not for him.
What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?
This current novel The Lie that is my most daring. I try to write about unspoken things, things people are ashamed of or terrified to speak about and I tried to do this in The Lie and feel that it is truly a contribution to understanding It addresses the devastation of early childhood abuse in all its terrible aspects.
Do you have a pet peeve in this biz?
I really don’t.
What gives you the greatest writer buzz, make the trip worth the hassles?
That people don’t feel quite so alone with their humanity as a result of reading my work.
Describe your favorite writing spot.
I have always written in my bedroom. It seems to be the most natural place for some unknown reason.
What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to conquer and how did you overcome it?
I would say beginning a new book and the only way to overcome it is to dare to just do it. Blindly. Without guarantee.
What is the first ting you do when you begin a new book?
I feel enormous gratitude for the ability to begin a new book. For me it’s the hardest part and the most challenging, so when I get a new first page wth the right voice and the right beginning foundation and I know it, I am extremely grateful, so usually I say a little prayer of gratitude It’s not that I’m at all religious, but somehow in touch with a source, some creative source that I thank.
Plot, seat of pants or combination?
Hopefully it will have a life of its own that will take over, almost a mind of its own, if you follow it instead of forcing anything.
Have you received a particularly memorable reader, response or peer honor?
Yes, my first novel especially was nominated for very exciting prizes, and two others were nominated for lesser prizes and even though I have never won a prize for any of them, the nominations have been every bit as important and appreciated
Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you’d share with us.
Yes, as early as you can, hire an outside PR person if you’re a beginning writer. When you’re established it isn’t as important but when you’re beginning, its essential.
Parting words. Anything you wish we could have asked because you’ve go the perfect answer.
Only that its a hard uphill battle but on a good day, more than worth it. Its not really about the success of the book but the success of writing, you with yourself and the truth. Good luck.