Friday, July 18, 2014

11 Questions with Pauline Knaeble Williams

One of the things I enjoy most about this journey is meeting other authors. It is always a comfort to speak to someone who understands the experience of being a writer; worrying about the craft, the joy of acceptance, the  heartache of rejection. The fear and doubt that goes hand in hand with the excitement of creating a new world or finding that right nuance that makes your piece come alive.

What a joy it was to meet the author I introduce to you today.  Pauline Knaeble Williams is a local writer  introduced to me by a common family friend.  She has this pragmatic approach to writing that I find so refreshing.  I just have to tell you, as I was going over her responses, I could actually hear speaking. It was as if we were sitting at the local coffee shop, chatting about our writing.

Pauline's debut novel, Finding Hollis is published by Forty Press and is available as a trade paperback and e-book format on Amazon and Barnes and

How early in life did you realize that you were a writer?  At what point did you decide to pursue publication? What brought you to that decision? 
I realized during college that writing was an essential act for getting through life. To not write would have been a crime against the person I was supposed to become. It was the writing itself that I needed, not the showing it to anyone else. Then many years later I heard a quote by Anais Nin, “The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom” so I began sending out my work. There were many rejections, interspersed with a few hopeful comments, but I tried to keep all of that as separate as possible from the writing itself, from the joy of writing itself. Yet, it is amazing how validating it is to have a publisher offer up a contract but even more amazing to have readers explain how my work made sense to them, made them see the world a little better. 

Your published work is in the historical fiction genre.  Have you ever written in other genres?  What is it about this genre that calls you? 
I started as a poet but feel even now the fiction I write has a sense of poetry within it. I like my sentences to flow like a song inside my head or move like wind in trees. And I love history. I search for a time and place and then weave a story from it. Writing allows me to travel into an array of other lives. Modern, daily life is not enough. I need to explore what has gone on before in order to make the current world more full, round. In addition, the topic of race and how it impacts on society at different points in history is of keen interest to me. I imagine my stories will always be an attempt to better understand this profound and layered issue.

Is there a specific topic, whether within your genre or outside of it, that you feel you cannot write about?  Would you explain to us why? 
I could never write about something that I don’t find fascinating, that couldn’t be imagined while listening to a Nina Simone song or be suggested within the heat of a summer night.  If I can’t feel it, I can’t write about it. That said, almost anything can be interesting if looked at from an unusual perspective, except things like cell phones or retirement plans.
Could you describe for us the birth process of your stories?  Are all your stories born or developed the same way? 
Finding Hollis grew from a family story about a tragic event on a streetcar. The opening paragraphs materialized in my head while I was on morning walks. I like to begin with a captivating scene and then let the rest of the story go where it takes me. I do not like to plan too much. I like to begin with a seed and see what grows.

Where do you typically find inspiration for your stories and the characters you create?  Is there a particular source that you return to regularly?  
 Often I find inspiration from music, open windows, overcast days, small and large people I love. My writing is a continuation of how I imagined the world was going to be when I grew up and got out in it. My real life experiences never quite matched how exciting and magical I figured the big world was as I watched my older siblings leave out the front door on Friday nights or when I let the needle repeat on the turntable of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together Album. Writing is a completely creative endeavor that is meant to convince me that I am still alive, that we as humans have so much more to offer than we typically seek from each other. My stories and characters are a composite of all that has gone on before in my life and who knows who else’s lives. I just try to trust it and let it come through.

Can you describe for us a typical writing day?  Do you write every day? Do you dedicate regular hours to writing?  What would be the optimum conditions for a “perfect” writing session? 
I have never experienced a typical writing day. If I find the house has gone quiet, and it doesn’t happen that often since I’ve had kids, I sit down and write. I try not to associate writing with any time requirements. It is not something I want to measure by clock or calendar. I often envision the contentment of a sloth. The more balanced I am, the more I tend to write so it’s really a matter of letting all that is superfluous fall away and keeping what is essential at heart. After a while the story gets told.

After a writing session, how quickly can you step out of your story to tend to real life? 
I’m always happy when I’ve been writing so whatever task I need to move on to, I am usually extra good at it or at least sing while I am doing it. I do not think much about my stories when I’m not writing. To dwell on them sucks out the mystery and then I feel more stagnant when I want to write.

How does real life affect your writing life?  Is it a hindrance? A refuge? A refueling point? 
The daily tasks of real life keep me from writing as much as I would like but on the other hand, there is so much to notice. I just try to stay in a creative frame of mind through out my daily life, then when I sit down whatever I’ve absorbed can be used on a subconscious level.

Have you ever found the inkwell dry?  How do you refill it? 
Not really and maybe this is because I don’t hold myself to any schedule so if I haven’t written for a while it’s because I’m not in the creative position to do so. I follow my urge to write and then it comes out, otherwise I clean the bathroom again or bake something.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? Like the least?  Why? 
I enjoy when the magic happens. When a beautiful sentence shows up or when my own characters make me weep. I like to learn something from what I’ve written no matter how many times I’ve read it, continuing to discover what I must have been trying to say when the words first came out. I don’t even want to decide what I like least.

This is a question that was posed on the blog of one of my favorite authors, and answering it helped me identify my priorities in terms of what I want to focus on as a writer.   So, I’ll ask you:  “If you had just one story left in you, and it was guaranteed to be published, what would that story be?” 
When I write I like to let the story choose its own path. I do not like to plan the plot or develop the characters outside of what ends up happening to them within the context of the story. Thus, the thought of having to choose what my one last story would be feels limiting. But what jumped to mind was an opening scene of a boy by a pond and he hears the dogs getting closer and the thunder move low in the distance…

Pauline Knaeble Williams grew up in North Minneapolis, the eleventh child of twelve, where her family owned a funeral home for three generations. She attended Macalester College, studying Sociology and History. An excerpt entitled When He Was New was published in A Cup of Comfort, 2007. FINDING HOLLIS is her first novel. She currently lives in Voorhees, New Jersey with her husband and two children, in a house with 38 windows.

Pauline's other interests include being more, doing less. Pauline's debut novel, Finding Hollis is published by Forty Press and is available as a trade paperback and e-book format on Amazon and Barnes and

Follow Pauline on her blog, Facebook and on Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for your kind comments.