Writing is a passion. Publishing is a business.


Interview with Garth Stein

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Seattle, Garth's ancestry is diverse: his mother, a native of Alaska, is of Tlingit Indian and Irish descent; his father, a Brooklyn native, is the child of Jewish emigrants from Austria. After spending his childhood in Seattle and then living in New York City for 18 years, Garth returned to Seattle, where he currently lives with his wife, three sons, and their dog, Comet.

What are you reading right now?

Mostly I read for endorsements these days. I'm about to start Bill Dietrich's new book, THE BARBED CROWN, which will be out in May 2013, and I'm looking forward to it as I love his writing. The last book I read for pleasure was Jon Ronson's THE PSYCHOPATH TEST, which I really liked, with a few reservations.

What first sparked your interest in writing?

I suppose it was my mother. She used to write children's stories, so when I was growing up, I would always see her at her typewriter. I've always written stories, so this is sort of a chicken-and-egg question, but I did do a decade-long detour into documentary filmmaking when I was younger. The medium may change, but storytelling is storytelling.

What do you love the most about writing? The least?<

There's something to love about writing? I thought it was some kind of terrible punishment inflicted upon those of us who are otherwise unemployable. Seriously, writing can be very difficult--long hours alone; pages, chapters, entire books thrown away because they just aren't good enough. But I supposed when you get that feeling--you know, of being in the zone and everything is right - that makes it all worth it.

Tell us a little about your writing process.

I write in the afternoons and evenings mostly. Part of my method is fatigue, I think. Fighting through the fatigue. Because when the body begins to shut down, so does the conscious mind, and that's when un-, sub- or supernatural forces take over and, in all probability, creation begins (that's a Tom Stoppard reference, if you didn't catch it). I do a lot of plot work before I delve into a novel, but I'm always willing to change my story outline to suit the story. I think good stories and characters are discovered, not invented, so the work is really a collaboration between some psychic source or place of creation, and a writer. Therefore, as writers, we have an obligation to be true to our stories and characters and not contrive for them to act contrary to their natures.

What are your passions?

Gee, I don't know. Is this one of those FIFTY SHADES OF GREY questions? I think handcuffs are clunky and can damage furniture; I'm more a fan of soft restraints.....Oh, wait. You mean, like, literary passions? I love a well-constructed, transformative story. These don't come along very often, but when they do, they can change the way one sees things. And that can be very profound, indeed.

What inspires you?

See above. (The part about the transformative nature of literature, not the part about the handcuffs.)

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Yes, actually. Take acting classes. Actors are really good with motivation and intention. You should be, too. If you are true to your characters, they will not betray you. And most of all, know your characters so well that when one comes knocking on your door decades down the line, you can show him your novel and he will read it and say, "You've taught me something about myself - why I am who I am, and why I've done what I've done." Because that's why we write fiction, isn't it? Not just to tell a story, but to make sense of a story....