Pipe Dreams is a dystopian novel set in the near future. I like to think that if gene splicing could merge Margaret Atwood and Suzanne Collins, the resulting author might write this book. The story centers around an event to which all the characters must respond. While each pursues a dream of his or her own, they inadvertently create a societal change. Incorporating current events, conspiracy theories, and breakthroughs in behavioral genetics, Pipe Dreams is a fast and gripping read with several twists and turns.
Tell us something about yourself.
I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico with my husband and dogs. I’ve spent my entire adult life as a sculptor and achieved recognition and success in that field. An injury to my back caused me to revisit my writing from previous years and prompted the release of Shaping Destiny last year. As the injury continues to impede my studio time, I am delving more deeply into my first creative love. It is a joy and, in many ways, a coming home.
What inspired you to write this book?
I don’t think I was inspired, It was more like channeling. I had started working on a non-fiction follow up to Shaping Destiny, but one morning my protagonist’s voice came though my fingers and before I knew it, I was engrossed. The first draft took a little less than a month. I was as shocked as everyone else, though in retrospect, perhaps I shouldn’t have been. The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Brave New World and others in the genre are among my favorite books.
How did you choose the title?
Pipe Dreams is an apt title. Each of the characters is chasing one. The odds of any of their dreams becoming reality is probably a little less than winning the lottery. Nevertheless, it is there pursuit of dreams that alters the collective whole. Without our dreams, we’re nothing. Plus, several of the characters spend some time in sewer pipes, so it was a good double entendre.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
The hardest thing about writing Pipe Dreams was switching abandoning my non-fiction approach. I had to learn so much about passive voice, world building, and dialogue. In my non-fiction writing, I’m cutting away what’s already there to reveal the essence of an idea or experience. When writing fiction, I have to create everything and then distill it into a manageable, entertaining, and dynamic form. Twitter and Google became my best friends. As I met and learned from other authors, my voice became concrete and my novel became a satisfying whole.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I have wanted to be a writer all my life. My first poems were published when I was nine and I can’t really remember any time I did not write. In my twenties, I got stuck. I couldn’t find anything authentic to say. The weight of what had already been written was a shackle around my neck. In frustration, I turned to my children’s non hardening clay, created a figure, and went careening down an entirely different and unknown path. The journey taught me much about creative process, the importance of discipline, and how to coax my voice. Now, returning to writing, I have experience from which to pull, confidence, and a willingness to make mistakes I did not have then.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I write every morning no matter what. I require myself to complete 500 cohesive words before I can stop. Sometimes, that feels impossible, but by the time I’m done, I’m flowing again. Usually I’ll write 5,000 words a day. I also plow through without worrying too much whether it’s good or not. I enjoy the editing process almost as much as I enjoy writing and I know I can always fix things later. That way, I don’t get caught up in self-doubt. Get it down. Get it done. Then go back.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Usually they just pop into my head. Names describe personalities and once I have the personality in mind, the name comes easily.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
The book has given me a deeper appreciation for beta readers and editors, as well as forcing me to research things generally outside my realm. The other thing and perhaps the most important thing, is that even when I’m trying to do something just for fun, meaning manages to surface almost in spite of myself. As it turns out, the book ties closely to the concepts behind phenomenology – essentially, truth is relative to perspective. What I see and experience in response to an event may be completely different from what you see and experience. Consequently, our understanding of truth as related to that experience is different. Only by expressing all the different perspectives to we get an understanding of the whole. I thrilled to the unintended theme and then exploited it.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. Everything I’ve done leads me to where I am and determines where I’ll go.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I read everything. I’m a book gourmand. My favorite authors are those who can move from book to book without ever repeating themselves. Though I enjoy a good formula mystery, I prefer novels that immerse me in other lives. Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and Michael Ondaajte are a few of my favorites.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I am. I’m 35,000 words into the sequel to Pipe Dreams. Without giving anything away, Pipe Dreams is just the beginning. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be out of editing and into writing again and I am as compelled as I was the first time.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Know yourself, don’t try to do everything, and know that only you can determine if your work is good enough. If you think is, don’t give up. Set a discipline and stick to it, no matter what. You have to get something finished in order to publish it, so that comes first. Then, don’t rush. Take the time to edit, edit, and edit again. When you can’t go any further by yourself, hire a professional editor, even if you don’t plan on self-publishing.
When you’re ready, and the book is as polished as it can get, put it into the world. Know that it will take time to find its audience. Regardless of how you choose to publish, books need to find their audience. Finally, marketing is important, but only if you’re being yourself. You won’t sell books if all you ever do is tell people to buy your work. Let them discover who you are, be a real person, and they will want to read what you write. Then, they will spread the word and you can go back in your dungeon and start drafting whatever comes next.
The important thing is to keep writing and to keep finishing new work. Be a pro, not an idealistic dreamer, and know that your work is your baby until it’s grown and steps out into the world. Then it’s a product, like it or not, that will hopefully inspire, entertain, and change a life. Even if it is not the next, great American novel, finish it and move on. Your voice and skills will only improve if you keep writing and finishing new works. Last, but not least, respect and cherish your readers. They deserve that.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?