Friday, April 9, 2010

Fresh Voices: Interview with Caitlin Whitaker

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the sixth edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the engaging voice of Caitlin Whitaker.
1. What is your ultimate writing goal?

My ultimate goal is to get published, make billions, and have all my movies made into blockbuster movies with Colin Farrell as the romantic lead. I'd also like to buy an island in the South Pacific and hire a team of nannies and maids to do everything for me so I can take really long naps on 500,000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.

You know something funny? I've never really thought about an ultimate goal; it's always just been one step at a time. The first step was to write a chapter. And another. I finished a book, finished it again (and again), and then started another one. My goal right now is to find representation with a good agent and then go from there.

2. Why do you write?

I write because I love to. It's the most obvious answer but it's the purest, simplest way to say it. I was this wildly imaginative kid who made everything into an adventure, which probably drove my parents up the wall. My little brother and I used to lay in the back of the family's rusty Ford Pinto (sad but true) and pretend we were in a submarine studying deep sea creatures (other cars). Honestly, we're lucky to be alive. Big old 18-wheelers were sharks and we'd pretend to shoot at them with harpoon guns. Amazingly, we were never run off the road by disgruntled truckers.

Putting all my crazy ideas on paper not only keeps me sane but feeds my soul. I love the sound of typing and the way the screen looks when it's filled with words. It's all very OCD, really. As cool as it would be to sell a million copies of each book and end up on the NYT Bestseller List, those things aren't motivating factors for me. My life is spectacular and writing is something I'll do forever, even if it never amounts to anything but a bunch of used up memory on my hard drive.

3. Your writing reminds me of a happy cowgirl - enough sass to be fun but she still has her boots on in case someone needs a whuppin'. Have you worked to achieve that voice or is it just a natural style for you?

I have no idea what that means. Honestly. In fact, I'm kind of freaked out by the whole whuppin' idea. As far as my voice goes, it's pretty darn natural for me. In WILL & MAGGIE, a love story about a 17 year old girl, I let myself be a little more descriptive and dreamy. I wanted the book to have an easy, hypnotic feel to really bring the reader into her first love experience. Justin, the teenage guy on the run in REM, is faster and edgier. As much as I love rhapsodizing about stupid things (purple prose is a weakness of mine), Justin wouldn't notice half the crap Maggie would in the same situation.

What you read on my blog is a lot like having a conversation with me. I talk too much, ramble, and love to laugh at myself. Whatever I'm writing at the time will have a small influence on my blog posts, of course. It's kind of like being an actor; I tend to hang onto some of my protagonsists characteristics even when I'm writing something other than the actual manuscript.

4. Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?

I grew up on Stephen King. In junior high, I devoured the uncut version of THE STAND and was morbidly obsessed with planning my strategy to survive the end of the world. I read THE SHINING and PET SEMETARY and was utterly disgusted by the film versions (where the heck was the exploding boiler? Huh? HUH?). His characters are unbelievably real-- like you might actually bump into them on the street someday. I totally relate to characters with psychiatric issues. I finally sold my bookcase-filling hardcover collection on ebay when I got married and space was limited. I'm still kicking myself over that.

Other favorites of mine are Anne Rice, Wilson Rawls, Scott O'Dell, Laura Ingalls Wilder, J.K. Rowling, Shannon Hale, J.R.R. Tolkien, Suzanne Collins, Stephenie Meyer, Margaret Stohl, and Kami Garcia. Even authors who will probably never be nominated for a Newberry Award can be amazing story tellers, and that's what it's really all about for me.

5. What most attracts you to the life of a writer?

This has to be a trick question. I've always imagined the life of a writer to be a quiet one; sipping tea by a window and tapping away at a keyboard for hours on end. For me, I grab moments during the day when I can; perched at my breakfast bar on the laptop with kids hanging on my pants with complaints, snack requests, and dirty diapers. I've actually had love scenes interrupted by puking children and fights over video games. Some of my best writing happens late at night when I get the kids in bed and my fifteenth latte of the day finally kicks in. I have to peel myself away from the computer and force myself to go to bed sometimes. If this is the life of a writer, I am not attracted to it at all. I'd much rather have the life of a twenty-something hotel heiress, thank you.

I am excited about the concept of book tours, however. I love to travel and wouldn't mind taking a break from the kids once in a while.

6. If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?

There were two other things I wanted to be when I was growing up (author has always been number one): forensic detective and pastry chef. Decay and maggots make me throw up and zombies are my single biggest fear (seriously), so I leaned more toward pastry chef. I was all set to go to culinary school when I met my husband at eighteen and everything went awry. Writing involves far fewer calories, however, so it's all good.

7. If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?

Pink. Next question please.

8. What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?

Write for yourself. It may sound terribly selfish, but it's what works for me. I never intended to be a YA author, but my characters all seem to be around eighteen years old and I like sexual tension better than graphic encounters. I do drop the F-bomb in my first novel, but it would totally compromise the integrity of the scene to leave it out (you'll see when it's published). Anyway, I write what I want to read and it keeps it natural. Forcing my work to conform to a genre or a target audience would tick off the rebel in me and then things would get really nasty. Mama no likey.

Oh yeah, and Stephen King's ON WRITING. All of it. Seriously.

Caitlin Whitaker is an escapist mom raising five hooligans in rural Tennessee. She is married to a hot Marine, has a mad crush on Adam Lambert, drinks too much Diet Coke, and is allergic to house cleaning. Her first book, WILL & MAGGIE, is currently being considered by several literary agents while she plugs away at her second and writes mad notes on several others. You can follow her on Twitter; (warning; she's a rapid tweeter) and keep tabs on her progress by reading her blog;
Thank you for reading this edition of Fresh Voices. Feel free to follow the Fresh Voices list on Twitter or nominate yourself or another author as a Fresh Voice. 

1 comment:

  1. Great interview!

    Some parts made me laugh out loud (i.e. "perched at my breakfast bar on the laptop with kids hanging on my pants with complaints, snack requests, and dirty diapers." Haha! Yeah. I can picture that very well.)

    I'm a mother of three, so I can relate with trying to write and raising a family at the same time. Not easy, but possible.