Joan Schweighardt is a former indie publisher who now works as a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and editor. The Accidental Art Thief is her fifth novel.
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Find The Accidental Art Thief on Amazon.
Q: What’s inside the mind of a fiction author?
A: I don’t usually get an idea for a whole book all at one time. I may get a single idea, a baby idea, that I can build on. It’s sort of like accretion in astrophysics. As the baby idea becomes more massive, it exerts a gravitational pull and other ideas adhere to it. By the end of a book project, everything I come across—objects, bits of conversations, news items—is either something that needs to go into the book or something I can dismiss.
Q: Why do you write?
A: Writing is fun. When I first started writing I think I wrote, as Susan Songtag once said, to figure out what I was thinking. Now I write because I’ve become passionate about the ideas that engender my projects. Maybe that’s the same thing.
Q: How picky are you with language?
A: When I was a younger writer, I wanted each of my sentences to be a thing of beauty. It didn’t matter to me that what I thought of then as a beautiful sentence could slow down the plot or that some of my beauties could be somewhat over the top. My first editor begged me to make changes to some of the sentences in my first book, and I conceded some, but not as much as I should have. When a reviewer said of my first novel that it was “concertedly poetic” I was aghast. That was several books (and many years) ago. Now I go for precision, which has its own kind of beauty.
Q: Do you get the feeling you’re playing God when you write fiction?
A: No. It’s just writing, just like painting is just painting and gardening is just gardening and raising kids is just raising kids. Sometimes these pursuits can feel inspired. And inspiration can, in my humble opinion, come from outside of us, but it doesn’t make me feel more Godlike than anyone else participating in any other activity and trying to do a good job.
Q: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
A: No, I can’t say I feel manipulated. But I’m very grateful for the insights and flashes of inspiration when they come.
Q: What is your worst time as a writer?
Q: Your best?
A: The best is when the gravitational pull is in full swing, and the ideas are coming so fast I can hardly keep up with them, and I’m seeing the whole picture, the whole planetary thing, unfolding before my eyes.
Q: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
A: Dementia, maybe.
Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
A: Nothing can compare to the first time you get a call from a publisher saying, “Welcome on board.” Permanent Press is run by a husband and wife team, Judith and Martin Shepard. Judith called me one day after I’d sent in my submission and said, “I like the way you think. I’m halfway through your manuscript and I want to make sure it’s still available.” I was a wreck waiting to hear back from her, thinking, What if she hates the second half? What if she hates the ending? But then I got the call from Marty Shepard a week later saying they wanted the book. I was very happy. They published my first three novels.
Q: Is writing an obsession to you?
A: I guess you could call it that. It’s what I like to do.
Q: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
A: Some are more connected with me than others. Two of my books, Gudrun’s Tapestry and a new one that hasn’t been published yet, are historical novels, so they have very little to do with me. Going back to the astrophysical analogy regarding the others, the main idea might not have had anything to do with me, but sure, some of the stuff that gets pulled into it does.
Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
A: Stay drunk on something, whether it’s writing or painting or glass blowing. Following your passion is one way to explore your reality.