Writers Who Read: Devi Lockwood

callioperoadThe Writers Who Read series continues this week with Devi Lockwood. Welcome, Devi!

Who are you?
Devi K. Lockwood. I’m a poet / touring cyclist / storyteller from Boston, currently traveling around the world by bicycle to collect 1001 stories from people I meet about water and/or climate change. As I write this I’m in Wooloweyah, NSW, Australia, taking a break from the bicycle to learn how to surf and skateboard.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
I first fell in love with a poem––”Zinnias” by Valerie Worth.


Zinnias, stout and stiff,
Stand no nonsense: their colors
Stare, their leaves
Grow straight out, their petals
Jut like clipped cardboard,
Round, in neat flat rings.

Even cut and bunched
Arranged to please us
In the house, in the water, they
Will hardly wilt––I know
Someone like zinnias: I wish
I were like zinnias.


I must have found the poem on my teacher’s bookshelf in the third grade. I remember thinking to myself wow, words can do that?! And then, I want to write like that.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
The only Netflix show I watch is Orange is the New Black, which makes it super-easy to resist that particular addiction! There is some great storytelling in television, but to be honest I don’t like sitting still for the length of an entire movie or episode. Plus, books are about a million more times practical for my lifestyle than TV shows. I like that I can leave off and pick up a story at any time, regardless of whether or not there’s Wifi. Reading, for me, is relaxing. I read most nights before I get to bed. When I’m stealth camping in the bush alone, there’s nothing like opening up a good book to make me feel relaxed and centered before sleep.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
Mary Oliver’s poetry speaks a kind of truth that I can come back to again and again and always get something different. Adrienne Rich is more academic in her writing––I love to read her poems aloud and dream. Neil Gaiman writes stunning stories that stick to the inside of my ribs. Sharon Creech’s narratives wove through my childhood as an early reader and stick with me still. I love her mode of storytelling and would read anything she writes.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
I like stories that deal with both an external and an internal landscape in a non-glossy way. I fall and get back up. I like characters who do the same. Travel is a plus. Quest narratives with female leads are my kryptonite.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
Snuggled in my down sleeping bag having just boiled water for a mug of tea, readying myself for a night of sleeping outside in my tent.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
Only sometimes. I like to wait a long time before rereading a story so that I have forgotten.

I recently reread Garth Nix’s The Old Kingdom Series that I loved when I was younger. The same goes for Sharon Creech’s Bloomability. I could read that book 100 times, but I have only read it three times. There is so much good writing out there that I want to make sure I am constantly widening the scope of voices that make it into my life.

Poems are the exception. I find that the more times I read a collection, the more I get out of it. Poems are magic like that — they morph to show their many truths depending on what I bring to the table each time I open the slim volume. At the moment I’m rereading Jorie Graham’s Sea Change.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Maggie Nelson’s Bluets.
Adrienne Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language.
Anna Deavere Smith’s Letters to a Young Artist.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
I studied Folklore & Mythology at university. I am fascinated by the intersection between poetry and storytelling. When a writer’s words and sentences flow together and make something bigger than themselves––when the writing matters, somehow––I am satisfied. I like writing that guides me but also lets me bring my own story to the table.

What are you reading right now?
I just finished My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman––what a beautiful story! Right now I’m in the middle of The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison.

Devi K. Lockwood is a poet / touring cyclist / storyteller from Boston, currently traveling the world by bicycle to collect 1001 stories from people she meets about water and/or climate change. You can keep up to date with her travels at http://www.onebikeoneyear.wordpress.com, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Writing by Rom-Com: Old Fashioned

Resurrecting the writing series I started last winter, I’ve begun watching more romance films

Photo via IMDB.

Photo via IMDB.

with an eye to seeing what they can teach me about writing a good love story.

Recently I saw Old Fashioned, a sweet inspirational tale about a quiet guy who doesn’t believe in dating or even kissing before marriage and a carefree woman who thinks that’s kind of crazy. But she winds up settling in his small town and renting the apartment above his antique shop, and–well, you know how these things go.

What did it teach me about how to write (or not) a compelling romance? Three things:

Lesson One: Build a world. Yes, even if it’s not a fantasy.
Even in a story without speculative elements, world-building is so important. Old Fashioned does a great job of showing this. Set in a small town, its setting mirrors the attitudes of the hero Clay (Rik Swartzwelder). When Amber (Elizabeth Roberts) rents his apartment, she finds a rotary phone and a big, old-timey fridge. She listens to the radio, as do others in town. The theme of old-fashioned ideals and courtship is enriched and made cohesive by these elements, which reminds me to make my own stories richly woven with setting and theme, in large and small ways.

Lesson Two: Use foils to emphasize character traits.
Clay’s friend in the film is radio shock jock Brad (Tyler Hollinger), who calls women stupid and asks their weight on the air. Without him in the movie, we might’ve been tempted to see Clay’s beliefs and behavior as weird and off-putting, but against Brad’s over-the-top behavior, we see the appeal of a quieter, steadier guy. (Though many women might’ve opted to look behind Door C.) Foil characters like this serve to highlight differences, and this is good to remember in fiction, particularly when writing a character with an extreme personality or beliefs. In Old Fashioned, it was a way of pointing out the benefits of a man like Clay.

Lesson Three: Make the ultimate pairing the steamiest. Even when it’s clean.
Here’s where Old Fashioned struggled for me. Near the climax of the story, after the two leads fight, they are both faced with the temptations of other romantic partners. But during these scenes, we see Clay in particular in an intense, physical closeness with a woman that’s not Amber. Even though these scenes are meant to be shown as unhealthy, this physical intensity somewhat overshadows the sweetness of the Amber/Clay scenes, and as a result left me a little cold at the end. I’ve seen this before, too: movies that show sexy scenes of ill-advised ex hookups or bad boyfriends, but without the final couple having an equal or steamier moment. Writing scenes with old lovers and potential partners can show character development, but these scenes shouldn’t undermine the intensity of the ultimate love connection.

Watch this space, because I’ll be sharing more Writing by Rom-Com reviews soon from a wide-range of films!




Writers Who Read: Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae


Midsummer CoverThe Writers Who Read series continues this week with writing team Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae.

Who are you?
We are Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae, and we’re a cowriting team of awesome. Together, we write the gay romance series Love in Los Angeles (Torquere Press), set in the film and television industry, and Love’s Labours (Dreamspinner Press), set in the theater world.  We have stories out in several anthologies, and are currently working on a number of projects featuring everything from spies to faeries to royals to demons.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
Erin: For me it was the Little House books. I made my mom reread them to me until the covers fell off, and then once I was old enough to read myself, I took over and basically destroyed what was left of them. I loved the immersion into another life and another world. Also, I really wanted a sunbonnet.

Racheline: My primary school had a massive book fair every year, where we had to buy the many many books on our summer reading lists that we had tests on during the first week of school, but there were also fun things to buy. I was a precocious reader but wasn’t really into reading until I was 12 and a friend dared me to read The Vampire Lestat because we found it on the table for the older students and she knew I was afraid of vampires. That was the first time I read something that lingered with me, that made me feel like I was someone other than who I was, like the book knew the truth about me that no one else did.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
Erin: Basically travel. Most of my reading these days, I do at the airport or on a train. I love TV as a storytelling medium, and usually watch an episode or two a day of something with my partner, usually over dinner. But carving out time for reading is harder. I wish I did more, but there’s always one more thing I want to write first — or a nap I need to have!

Racheline: In a lot of ways, TV can be my medium of choice, but reading feels so much more private and intimate. I also can be easily overwhelmed by sensory input, so for me reading is always about needing to be soothed, and needing to take the rest of the world away. TV can be multitasked, books can’t.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
Erin: Neal Stephenson. I don’t even read the blurbs of his stories before I start reading them — I know I’m in for a solid ride, and I love going into his worlds cold and watching them unfold.

Racheline: Steve Erickson. Lucie Brock-Broido. Elizabeth Hand. Ellen Kushner (which is probably cheating to answer with because we’re actually working on a project together right now, but it’s been true for years prior to this opportunity).

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading? (Ex. Other writers have mentioned things like being drawn to reading about dead bodies in ponds or erstwhile rivals teaming up.)
Erin: It’s funny that “dead bodies in ponds” was an example kryptonite given. I grew up in a house in the swamp where Arthur Shawcross, the Genesee River Killer, dumped the bodies of his victims. True story. That said, I am a huge sucker for behind the scenes stories. Whether it’s something like The West Wing, which is backstage to the machinery of American politics, or Noises Off which is a hilarious farce that takes place, literally, backstage to a play, I love stories about everything happening behind the formal façade.

Racheline: Backstage stories are the thing that brings Erin and I together.  I’m also always desperately interested in narratives about class differences and about passing, just because of my own experiences.  I’m also really driven by newness of experience for the characters in a story — obviously, tons of romance hits that button, but tons of other things do too.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
I feel like I should say “On the couch, curled up with a mug of tea and a cat while it rains outside.” But I think the answer actually is, in the little moments: on the train, in between meetings, waiting for the light to change. I savor stories more in those little stolen moments than I do when I get a whole afternoon to devote to a book.

Racheline: I don’t think I get to have ideal reading moments.  For me, it’s always in transit. I travel a lot internationally, so often my TBR pile is only addressed before I’m about to do another 6 – 8 hours east or west for work. There was a three month period in my life a few years ago where I was on another international flight every three days for two months. That was good for reading; I’d also really prefer never to do that again.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
Erin: Voracious re-reader here. I love the experience of stories — not just finding out what happens, but sinking into a world I love and staying there. I keep a tally in my most re-read books (Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter among them) to keep track.

Racheline: Books are talismans for me. I’ve reread some things until they’ve split into fragments and been held together with rubber bands.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Erin: Lucy Maude Montgomery’s stories. Not so much in style, and I rarely write as sweetly, but her Anne books put people and relationships — friendships as well as romantic entanglements — front and center, and really taught me how people’s everyday lives and struggles make very good stories indeed.

Racheline: I really, really love the work of Annie Ernaux, who is a French author of personal essay. I’ve read some of it in the original language, but my French isn’t good enough to claim influence from anything but the English translations.  It’s very poetic and her work understands the power of generalizations — it’s like the difference between “My mother never loved me” and “Sometimes, I think my mother never loved me.” Ernaux makes her choices on which to use when very clearly, and I’ve found it helpful. Her work is also profoundly driven by cadence.  I’m always writing to sound.  So that’s key for me.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
Racheline: The characters for me. Again, my life comes back to airplanes.  Is there someone in a book that I wish could hold my hand when the plane takes off?

Erin: Depends on the genre. If it’s non-fiction, or history, I want a narrative to make sense of the world, even if it’s not one I agree with. If it’s fiction, I want complex relationships and character development.

What are you reading right now?
Racheline: Graveyard Sparrow by Kayla Bashe.  It’s a lesbian YA steampunk mystery.

Erin: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, by Karen Abbott. It’s about four women undercover during the American Civil War.


Erin McRae is a queer writer and blogger based in Washington, D.C. She has a master’s degree in International Affairs from American University, and delights in applying her knowledge of international relations theory to her fiction and screen-based projects, because conflict drives narrative.

Racheline Maltese lives a big life from a small space. She flies planes, sails boats, and rides horses, but as a native New Yorker has no idea how to drive a car. A long-time entertainment and media industry professional, she lives in Brooklyn with her partner and their two cats.

Together, they are co-authors of the gay romance series Love in Los Angeles, set in the film and television industry — Starling (September 10, 2014), Doves (January 21, 2015), and Phoenix (June 10, 2015) — from Torquere Press. Their gay romance novella series Love’s Labours, set in the theater world — Midsummer (May 2015), and Twelfth Night (Fall 2015), is from Dreamspinner Press. They also have a story in Best Gay Romance 2015 from Cleis Press and edited by Felice Picano. You can find them on the web at http://www.Avian30.com.

Joint Blog
Joint Facebook Page
Erin’s Twitter
Racheline’s Twitter
Erin’s Goodreads
Racheline’s Goodreads
Erin’s Amazon Author Page
Racheline’s Amazon Author Page

Writers Who Read: Eddy Webb

grainy_eddy_smallThe Writers Who Read series is back! Joining us for the new interview is Eddy Webb.

Who are you?
My name is Eddy Webb, and my job description is… complicated. These days I’m a freelance writer and game designer working in fiction, non-fiction, role-playing games, and video games, sometimes all in the same day! I’ve written everything from short stories about uplifted dogs trying to survive on a deserted world, to a book of slightly unhinged rants about people’s misperceptions of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, to the sales text on the back of game boxes. But throughout my life I always go back to stories, whether it’s writing them, writing about them, or helping other people tell them.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
The Sherlock Holmes stories, without a doubt. My grandfather gave me a beat-up volume of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and right away I was hooked on them. While I love stories of a variety of lengths, short fiction has always had an urgency that I’ve been drawn to.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
I love to read when I want to be drawn into a story. I’ve watched a lot of Netflix, but it’s nearly always on in the background as I work or do something else in the living room. But a book can’t really be multi-tasked: you need to focus, and that adds a level of immersion and personal investment in the story.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
Most of my favorite authors have long since passed away, but Chuck Wendig is one of my favorite authors right now, period. For a while I thought I was biased, since he’s a friend of mine and I’ve previously worked with him on some projects, but over the years I’ve found that his voice and style of storytelling really draws me in. I actually have a half-dozen of his books that I’ve just bought because they have his name, but I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet! Also, Jim Butcher. I’ve been reading his Dresden Files series for over a decade now, and it’s the only book series that I read from year to year religiously.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
Complexity of character. If I think I know what the characters are all about and where they’re going, I get bored quickly. But if there’s something about the character that makes me wonder, or if they do something surprising that turns out to make perfect sense, I’m hooked. I want to know more about that character.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
These days my wife and I read in bed with our iPads — it’s usually the only time I have to read for fun anymore! But once in a while I’m able to snatch a lazy Sunday afternoon where I can sit on the couch with a mug of tea and get lost for an hour or so. That’s wonderful.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
For years I actually felt guilty about re-reading. There are so many other books in the world to read! Why read something I’ve read before? But I’ve found that not only is there a comfort in reading something that I know I love, but also I can find new elements and aspects of the story that I missed last time. I must have read the Sherlock Holmes stories a dozen times in my life. But as a general rule, I do prefer new books over old ones, and a lot of times I’ll pass books I’ve read on to friends and family that I think will like them, instead of keeping them in case I read them again.

Watson is Not an IdiotWhich books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Surprisingly, it’s only been the past few years that Victorian fiction has influenced my own style. Before that, books like The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler were very influential. The economy of prose and multiple layers of dialogue and description are still wonderful to me.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
It’s a tricky balance of knowing where things are going and being surprised by the result. If I’m lost, or if everything is too obvious, I lose interest. But if the characters are compelling, and if things look inevitable but turn out to be different than anticipated, I’m very satisfied by the result.

What are you reading right now?
Right now I’m reading a book on video game narrative for review, but before that I was reading some old Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. I came to Howard late in my life, but elements of his writing style remind me of Chandler, and I’m finding it fascinating to read fantasy stories before readers and writers developed this very rigid definition of what “fantasy” means.


Eddy Webb (with a “y,” thank you) is a freelance writer, designer, producer, and consultant for video games and RPGs. He has worked on over a hundred products, including providing creative vision for properties such as Vampire: The Masquerade and the interactive audio drama Codename Cygnus. His work spans over a decade and across dozens of respected companies, and he’s even won a few awards along the way. Today he lives a sitcom life in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, his roommate, and an affably stupid pug. More information and mad ramblings about Sherlock Holmes can be found at eddyfate.com.

Book links:
Watson Is Not An Idiot: An Opinionated Tour of the Sherlock Holmes Canon
Sojourn, Volume 2 (featuring my story “The Winter of Man”)

I don’t know how many books I’ve read. I blame comics.

Comics BackdropI’ve been keeping track of all the books I’ve read for the past five years on a Google spreadsheet. It’s allowed me to record what I’ve read, when, and what I thought about it, not to mention other categories that aren’t tracked on reading sites like Goodreads: whether a story is self-published for instance, or if I read it for book club. Beyond those practical uses, I’ve always been drawn to analyzing my habits, reading and otherwise. I love a good pie chart as much as pie itself.

I started the spreadsheet in 2010, which seems about right: 2009 would’ve been too early, 2011 twelve months too late. My spreadsheet has columns and rows, a box for mini-reviews, and a way to color-code those books I’m currently reading. It’s organized. I can see how many books I’ve read in a given year, and how many of those were fantasy novels, self-published, or penned by women.

I’d set a goal to completely read 50 books this year, and I was trucking along.


But in the past year my spreadsheet has failed me. Or I’ve failed it. Or reading and stories have been changing and these sorts of things are no longer accurate or useful.

Especially since I started reading a lot of romance, I noticed I was reading shorter books and novellas. And that was fine. Novellas are nearly book-sized. But then I started reading comics. I read the first three volumes of Saga in an entire weekend, which I tracked as all one book in my spreadsheet. But then came the single issue of Howard the Duck I thumbed through. Since it took half an hour to read, should I count it on the chart? I started beta-reading more short stories too, and I’d often group them together in threes on my chart, because together maybe they were at least novella-sized. But then others were one-offs I charted alone. They counted as separate entries on my Goodreads book challenge, which helped me at least move towards my goal.

Now, in summer 2015, I’ve either read 55 books or 28 or maybe 25.44, depending on how you count. Does it matter? Not really. But I like to chart my books, and I like to set challenges–to assure I’m reading, for pleasure and my own writing growth.

Maybe I should set a new goal: 50 different authors a year. That seems doable, and definitely more chartable.

Anna Schumacher’s YA Book Giveaway

I’m happy to announce that Anna Schumacher, one of the recent Writers Who Read, is currently holding a giveaway on Goodreads for signed hardcover copies of both her books, END TIMES and CHILDREN OF THE EARTH. The giveaway ends July 22nd, so if this is your bag, enter soon!

Want to know more about CHILDREN OF THE EARTH? Check out the video trailer.

Enter the giveaway here!

Anna Schumacher received an MFA in fiction writing from the New School. Born and raised in the tiny town of Guilford, VT (no traffic lights, no post office, one store), she now lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and two cats. She is also the author of END TIMES. Follow her on Twitter @SchumacherYA or at http://schumacherya.tumblr.com/.

The 10 Best Fall Entertainment Releases

We’re not even through July yet, I know, but as someone who believes in anticipation being a key part of happiness, I’ve been noting on my calendar the books, shows, and movies releasing that I’m most looking forward to as the summer wanes and the school year begins (and beyond). Here are ten, in the order of release date:

You're never weird1. Felicia Day’s memoir You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) (Aug. 11th). I sampled Day’s book about her rise to become “queen of the geeks,” and found it hilarious and warm and completely loveable, much like the woman herself.

2. Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (Sept. 22nd). I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, but what I love even more is hearing Elizabeth Gilbert talk about creativity. She’s wise and inspiring, the perfect thing for a writer like me to listen to–or anybody, really.

3. The Muppets television premiere (September 22nd). The Muppets! This one needs no explanation.

4. The release of first three episodes of web series Con Man (Sept. 30th). This web series, created by Alan Tudyk, was crowdfunded and features much of the former cast of Firefly, a lot of comic convention scenes, and many, many delicious cameos. Check out the trailer for yourself.

5. Rainbow Rowell’s novel Carry On (Oct. 6th). I love Rowell’s witty, romantic writing, and especially her Fangirl. This book, a spinoff of that story, is about Simon Snow, the “Chosen One” in a Harry Potter-esque world, and his vampire nemesis Baz. It’s a gothic tale described as “a ghost story, a love story and a mystery,” and any one of those three might’ve meant an auto-buy for me.

6. The film Crimson Peak (Oct. 16th). This Guillermo del Toro movie looks gorgeous and passionate, beautiful and terrifying all at once. Plus, it’s got Tom Hiddleston. I’ve been anticipating this one since, oh, February.Crimson  Peak

7. Jem and the Holograms on the big screen (Oct. 23rd). Molly Ringwald, nostalgia, Juliette Lewis, Molly Ringwald…I really, really hope this is good.

8. The Supergirl television premiere (Oct. 26th). My husband is a huge comics fan, so it’s a no-brainer which Tv station we’ll be on come late October.

9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dec. 18th). I’ve already planned to see this twice–once opening night, and another with my oldest son–and am mulling over cosplay ideas. Chance of me crying when I hear the John Williams music is 98%.

10. The release of Sisters (Dec. 25th). This movie has Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and 80s references. So that means even if it’s terrible, it’ll still be better than most everything.

What am I missing?

SOMEWHERE WARM Available for Preorder!

I’m excited to announce that my story SOMEWHERE WARM is now available for preorder at all major booksellers.Somewhere Warm FINAL JPG

SOMEWHERE WARM is the first in my STUCK WITH YOU series, a group of standalone novellas where two people come face-to-face with extreme weather that forces them together…and creates just the right atmosphere to fall in love.

The story will release August 1st, to be followed by the next in the series this fall.

What’s it about? Read on, or click here to read an exclusive excerpt.

~ ~ ~

What if you fell for your best friend’s ex—the one that had made her life a living hell?

All Zoe had to do was pick up a box of her best friend Haley’s things from her awful ex-husband, Evan.

She didn’t expect her car to get hit by a snowplow. She didn’t expect for the Maine snowstorm to start early. She didn’t expect to be stuck inside Evan’s cabin—alone with him—on New Year’s Eve.

And, most of all, she didn’t expect to come undone by the heat in Evan’s eyes.

Out August 1st! Preorder now for $0.99:
Barnes & Noble


Writers Who Read Anniversary!

Reading Writing BackdropNext week marks the one-year anniversary of the Writers Who Read interview series!

Since I’m taking a break from the series for July, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the writers who’ve participated in the series thus far, as well as others who’ve read and supported it. The series has been very rewarding for me. I’ve had the chance to connect with other authors, support them, and peek in their bookshelves–even though I’m now in serious danger of being crushed by my ever-larger To Be Read pile.

I’ve had 43 writers complete the interview: a dozen, if not more, nonfiction writers, literary fiction authors, and poets, and a handful of YA, mystery and suspense, and science fiction and fantasy authors. Plus many, many writers wearing multiple hats. There were only a few screenwriters and comedians, and despite my being a romance writer, very few fellow romance authors! However, the lineup in the fall and winter leans more heavily toward genre fiction, particularly romance and fantasy, so these numbers will likely even out, which warms my genre-loving heart.

The writers who’ve interviewed have listed a plethora of authors as favorites or influential, but a handful have shown up multiple times: Agatha Christie, Barbara Kingsolver, C.S. Lewis, Hilary Mantel, Jane Austen, Rainbow Rowell, Stephen King, and Toni Morrison. A Wrinkle in Time and Charlotte’s Web were two books that have been listed as beloved multiple times.

Watch this space once August rolls around, because I’ve got writers lined up until early 2016, a slightly-tweaked new interview, and fun ways to share the series. In the meantime, happy reading!

Writers Who Read: Anna Schumacher

This will be the last Writers Who Read interview until August! Here to send us off into the temporary sunset is YA author Anna Schumacher.author_photo

Who are you?
Hi! I’m Anna Schumacher. I write a YA series called END TIMES: it’s a doomsday thriller set in an oil boomtown in Wyoming. The first book came out last year and its sequel, CHILDREN OF THE EARTH, is out in June.

When I’m not writing YA I make a living as an advertising copywriter, throw a dance party called Vitamin B, play with fire and hula hoops, poke around Brooklyn with my husband and our motley group of friends – and, of course, read!

What are three beloved books you first read before the age of 12?
The first chapter book I ever read was called Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfield. It’s about three orphans in the UK who become ballet dancers. I was deep into ballet at the time and looooved this book. The author wrote a whole series of books with the word “shoes” in the title – Circus Shoes, Theater Shoes, etc. – but Ballet Shoes was by far my favorite.

I also very much loved a middle-grade novel called The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson, about a snarky, fiery foster child, and both The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Writing it out now, I’m realizing that all of these books are about orphans or foster children (sorry Mom!), although I was very fortunate in that I had two parents who loved me very much and raised me without television, so I always had a book in my hand.

What is one book you are always recommending?
As a first-time author, I tend to recommend my own book frequently and loudly. But aside from that, I like to tailor book recommendations based on what people are looking for, kind of like a literary sommelier.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique elements in a book, beyond just great writing and three-dimensional characters, that make you unable to resist reading?
Three elements that always grab me:

End-of-the-world scenarios

I also can’t resist flowery, descriptive writing. Bring on the metaphors!

What is your ideal time and place to read?
Ideal? Late afternoon on a sunny day, in a hammock, after going for a swim. In reality, I do most of my reading on an iPhone, pressed between strangers’ sweaty armpits on the F train.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Anything by Stephen King, particularly The Stand  – I love the way he writes in multiple points of view and each voice is so unique. I tried to emulate this in End Times and its sequel, Children of the Earth, but he’s really the master.

How do you balance reading and writing in your life?
Easy: I never have enough time for either!

Choose your preferred book form: ebook, physical book, or audio book?
I love my e-reader. Being able to bring my entire library with me everywhere I go is the best thing that ever happened to me – and not having to worry about where in my NYC-sized apartment all my new books will go frees me up to buy as many as I want. I’ll go on e-book-shopping binges and pick up 6 or 7 at a time…something I absolutely couldn’t do when I was confined to physical objects.

Do you consciously plan your future reading–i.e., set book goals, keep a TBR list, participate in book challenges or book clubs? Why or why not?
Absolutely not. I like complete freedom when it comes to what I read: to be able to read multiple books at once, to put down one book and pick up another, to not read for a week, to do nothing BUT read for a week. I plan most aspects of my life pretty meticulously, but reading definitely isn’t one of them!

What are you reading now?
I’m in the middle of The Diviners, by Libba Bray. It’s incredibly good!


Anna Schumacher received an MFA in fiction writing from the New School. Born and raised in the tiny town of Guilford, VT (no traffic lights, no post office, one store), she now lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and two cats. She is also the author of END TIMES. Follow her on Twitter @SchumacherYA or at http://schumacherya.tumblr.com/.

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