About three years ago, I returned to writing as my medium of expression and art. Since then, I've sought to learn everything there is to know about the craft, the artistry, and the persons that stand out to me in the field. I follow the important blogs about the industry, read the authoritative books on craft, and even participate in workshops and discussions in writing communities, both online and in-person. Thank God for the internet for making all these resources accessible to all of us.
One of the resources I turn to regularly are author interviews. I find them fascinating. I love learning about an author's habits and creative process. It's like being gifted with special insight into what it takes to be successful in this dream I am pursuing. I want to learn most from authors who move me with their compelling stories, characters that speak to me, and places that I can immerse myself in. A keen connection to a character's experience is what makes me a fan.
Today, I have a very unique opportunity to present an interview I conducted with Fran Metzman. Fran is an award-winning author of short stories and a novelist. She teaches writing at several colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area, and is a contributing editor to the Wild River Review. Fran just released her latest offering, a collection of short stories called The Hungry Heart Stories. Join me as I explore how inspiration plays a part in her writing process:
At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to be a writer? What was the impetus for your realization that this was what you wanted to pursue?
I was a sculptor but always wanted to write. I thought there was a similarity as it was all about images whether in clay or written. I started going to workshops and conferences, and reading like mad. Just as in the discipline of art and understanding the principles, I was eager to learn the basic structure of fiction before starting out. I did and never regretted it. It’s the way I teach writing now.
Please share with us how a seed for a story takes hold of you and blossoms into a full-fledged piece?
It’s odd how that happens. I might read of an odd occurrence in a newspaper or magazine and it sparks an idea. Someone might have told me something off-kilter and it resonates in my mind. I usually only extract a small piece and fictionalize around that. For instance, an acquaintance was stalked by an ex-boyfriend who hid in unusual places and invaded her space. It got me going on "The Invisible Wife" which is in The Hungry Heart Stories collection. It is a story about a woman who lived in the attic of a house owned by her ex-husband and his new wife. Then there are the small nuggets of events that happened to me that are also fictionalized way beyond the actual event. It’s only a spark.
Most of your published work is in short form, either as short stories or essays. What is it about the short piece that you like so much? Do you prefer it over the long form?
I do love the short story form although I co-wrote a novel called Ugly Cookies a few years back and have a new manuscript presently with an agent. The short form is great for learning how to maximize each word to forward the story. I don’t necessarily prefer it over the novel length, they both are intriguing.
Is there some source of inspiration that you return to regularly for ideas? What source is that?
I try to listen, read and watch everything around me. What is fascinating is that I thought life would get simpler as I got older and that is totally not true. The behavior of people continues to intrigue me. I see something new almost every day. Everything has become more complex. My desire is to extract ideas from all that input.
Emotions or feelings can be a great source of inspiration for writers. For each of the twelve stories in The Hungry Heart Stories collection, please identify, in one word, the feeling you wish to evoke in the reader:
- My Inheritance - hope
- Myra's Garden - edgy
- Christmas In August - choices
- Hop Down Memory Lane - reinventing
- Redemption - survival
- Getting Closer - acceptance
- The Early Bird Special - inspiration
- The Invisible Wife – betrayal
- The Right Seasoning - denial
- Dinner With The Mob - corruption
- The Girls From Mapleton - secrets
- Reunion - perception
If you had one last story to write, and it was guaranteed to be published, what would that story be?
I have written a novel that I identify with, "Do You Still Cha-Cha?" That would be my choice.
Do you mind if I ask for you to elaborate a little on your "Do You Still Cha-Cha" novel? What is it that you identify most with? Could you could share a little about that story that holds such a prime spot in your publication wishes?
HMMMM. Good question. The basic plot is a women's mystery (somewhat modern cozy), and includes two good friends of the protagonist. It takes place in a Florida retirement community which takes on a personality of its own. The protagonist, a 60 year old woman, comes into her own late in life. A devoted mother and wife, her previous life implodes after her husband dies. She clung to a past lifestyle that she thought made her happy and when she felt discontent she blamed herself for being selfish. After a secret is revealed it destroys her tendency toward denial. She has to reinvent herself.
I most identify with reinventing new lives for ourselves, refusing to cling to the past and not adhering to what is believed to be age appropriate. So, again I'm dealing with relationships -- what makes them tick, why someone is in denial for years and how the exposure of the secret impacts her relationship with her 30 year old daughter. Although it is a tale told for entertainment and there is lots of humor, the undercurrent of the story is about the interaction and psyche of the characters and that is what intrigues me.
I was fortunate to receive an advance reading copy of The Hungry Heart Stories in preparation for this interview. The stories and an essay in the collection are poignant, thought-provoking and relevant to the mature woman. A few of the stories tugged at my heartstrings and moved me through the experiences of the characters she created. I am positive any reader will find one or more of Fran's characters someone he or she can relate to.
The Hungry Heart Stories is published by Wilderness House Press and is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Tomorrow, follow on to my friend, Jennifer M. Eaton's blog, A Reference of Writing Rants for Writers or "Learn from My Mistakes" for more on Fran Metzman and The Hungry Heart Stories.