Today I would like to welcome author Connie Corcoran Wilson to Turning the Pages. I'd also like to thank her fro taking time out of her busy schedule to allow for this interview to take place. Thanks Connie!
1. What made you want to become a writer?
I won a small prize ($50) in an Archdiocese of Dubuque poetry contest when I was in 6th grade. That started it. From there, I began writing for my hometown newspaper (the Independence, Iowa, “Bulletin Journal & Conservative”) because (I think) the editor thought it would be cute. From there, I went on to write for the high school newspaper as editor and received a full-ride Ferner/Hearst Scholarship to the University of Iowa as a result of my teachers’ nomination of me for that honor. Even though I switched into English in my junior year and taught, I always free-lanced as a newspaper “stringer” for our local newspapers, doing interviews, book and movie reviews (from which came “It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now”) and humor columns. I wanted to be “where the action was,” and I still do. I covered the DNC and RNC in 2008 from the inside, and I still cover politics, movies, entertainment news such as televison and live shows. I have always written. I would feel as though I were psychologically maimed if I could not write anything, even if just in a diary or journal. Since 2007 I’ve written for Yahoo as a Featured Contributor and fiction---to which I came late---began in 2003 when I sold my businesses. (I was named the Content Producer of the Year in politics by the Associated Content blog---which is now Yahoo--- in Jan., 2009).
2. What is your biggest inspiration?
I find inspiration in many odd places. Newspaper articles will inspire me. Family heritage will do it. Incidents I hear sometimes make me think of a story idea. Jane Smiley (1992 Pulitzer Prize winner and author of “1,000 Acres”), also an Iowa graduate, was at Spellbinders Conference in Hawaii that I just presented at and attended. Jane says, “All writing is gossip.” It’s an interesting idea. My last short story was inspired by a news clipping about a brand new spider called “The Cave Robber,” and that’s the name of the story I wrote. Then there was the one I read about people who want to have their perfectly healthy limbs amputated, which inspired “Confessions of an Apotemnophile,” while just won an ALMA (American Literary Merit Award, www.AmericanLiteraryMeritAward.com). That story, by the way, is up for free on my blog (www.WeeklyWilson.com) but I think it went up in September, 2011. (It was in “Hellfire & Damnation,” the first book). A story I have up on Kindle for 99 cents entitled “The Bureau” was inspired by the story of what organs sell for on the black market in the Philippines. [I explain the inspiration for each story within “Hellfire & Damnation II” in a “From the Author” section at the back.]
3. Where did the idea for Hellfire and Damnation II as well as the preceding book come from?
Both “Hellfire & Damnation,” the original book, and “Hellfire & Damnation II,” are organized around the framing device of the sins or crimes punished at each of the 9 Circles or levels of Hell in Dante’s “Inferno.”
4. What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Making myself sit down in the chair and do it. Once I get started, I’m fine, but I am easily distracted, like a small child. My own daughter (Stacey) used to say, (when young), “ I’m pwetty busy pwaying.” I took myself to a Prince concert on Monday night; I should have been writing. I have to go isolate myself in order to make real progress. There are too many fun things I like to do, and my husband is a bad influence when he suggests that we go do them. I have no “sales resistance” when he pitches me on dinner and a movie.
5. Do you have any quirks that tend to pop up when you're writing?
I use complete sentences and they sometimes become almost Faulknerian in length. I have to go back and make myself chop up long sentences and use the (currently fashionable) sentence fragments that are one or two words long (like dialogue from a movie). That seems to be in style now, and I violate every rule I ever taught when I employ this technique, used by many other writers today. I do think it reads better that way, but it’s hard for me to violate the grammar “rules” that I taught for 33 years. Other than that, I can’t think of anything particularly “quirky” except that I’m a night owl and write till all ungodly hours of the morning. After the “Prince” concert, I came home and wrote a review of it until 5 a.m. You can see it at www.WeeklyWilson.com.
6. What are some of your favourite books?
Like everyone else (it was named Best Novel of the Year by both the Horror Writers’ Association and the Thriller Writers’ Association) I liked Stephen King’s “11/22/1963.” His early short story collection, “Night Shift” was an influence. I was a HUGE Kurt Vonnegut fan when young ---mostly his early stuff like “God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine”---and interviewed him on campus at Iowa when I was nineteen for one hour of Special Project in “American Humor & Satire.” I liked Jonathan Lethem’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” which won the New York Critics’ Circle Award, I believe. (It’s about a detective with Tourette’s Syndrome). In the horror realm, the anthology, “The Devil’s Coattails,” edited by William F. Nolan and Jason V Brock is one of my recent favorites. And there are several of John Irving books (also, usually the earlier ones like “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” or “The Cider House Rules” or “The World According to Garp”) that I really loved. I also should say that I liked Jane Smiley’s “1,000 Acres,” which, as most readers will know, was a Midwestern reworking of the King Lear theme, and I thought her follow-up funny book with a lot of insights into campus politics when teaching, “Moo,” was a hoot. And there’s an author that I did, recently, get to sit down and have lunch with, as I also did with F. Paul Wilson, Jon Land, Gary Braver (Goshgarian)and Heather Graham at the same writing conference.
7. Do you think social networks are an aid to authors or a hindrance?
I suppose that I should say that they are an aid, because it is way too expensive for authors to advertise in “regular” newspapers any more, [unless one of the Big Six publishers is backing them.] I did hear Joseph Finder (“Company Man,” “Paranoia”) talking at ThrillerFest about how the need to do so much ‘social networking” is a real drain on an author’s time, and I think he’s right about that. I do Facebook, but not as much as I should. I Twitter (www.ConnieCWilsonSMM@gmail.com) but, again, not as much as I should. I plan to twitter “live” during the presidential debates and they actually paid me to blog “live” during the 2008 election one night., along with other writers. I have a blog (www.WeeklyWilson.com) that I’ve maintained since 2007, [which I do not make a single dime on], and I am a Featured Contributer for Facebook and will cover the Chicago Film Festival from Oct. 11 – Oct. 25. So, in some ways, social networks are an “aid,” and in other ways they can be a real time suckage of the time I should be doing something more constructive
. 8. Do you have any advice for would be authors?
Learn the basics of grammar, punctuation and spelling. Read what you write aloud, to yourself and/or others. Have a tough skin. Persevere. Make yourself write when you’d prefer to go to a movie or go out to dinner or do something fun. Join groups and attend conferences. And, as someone more famous than me once said, “Don’t let the bastards see you sweat (or get you down.)
9. If you got have lunch with any 3 authors living or dead who would they be?
A very interesting question. I probably would have said Kurt Vonnegut, (until I met him as a young college coed and he was very mean to me.) I’ll pick 3 living authors, so they can (perhaps) see this and make my dream come true: David Morrell, John Irving, and a tie between Jonathan Maberry and William F. Nolan. I’ve met and/or interviewed most of them and all were wonderful, supportive people. Plus, Irving was on campus as a student at Iowa when I was there (although I did not meet him then), and Morrell was a teacher at the University of Iowa then (although I did not meet him then, either). I’d mention Stephen King, whose son Joe Hill I have interviewed, but it’s my understanding that it is necessary for him to try to keep a low profile because of his adoring fans, which is understandable.
10. Who is your biggest supporter?
Professionally, William F. Nolan, author of “Logan’s Run,” has been wonderful to me, unfailingly supportive early on. He once told me I was “ a born storyteller and he wrote the Introduction to “Hellfire & Damnation,” the first book, as well as for “The Color of Evil,” the first in my novel trilogy about a boy with paranormal abilities. (He sees auras and dreams of the crimes of the evil-doers, sometimes in a predictive fashion.)On a personal level, of course I’d have to mention my husband of 45 years, Craig, but I think my best female friend (and former college roommate) Pamela Rhodes also has been unfailingly encouraging and three other friends (Sue Anne Raymond, Marcy Machacek and Karen Burgus Schootman) have also been great supporters of my writing, so I’d be remiss if I did not mention them.
Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (MS + 30) graduated from the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University, with additional study at Northern Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. She taught writing at six Iowa/Illinois colleges and has written for five newspapers and seven blogs, including Associated Content (now owned by Yahoo) which named her its 2008 Content Producer of the Year . She is an active, voting member of HWA (Horror Writers Association). Her stories and interviews with writers like David Morrell, Joe Hill, Kurt Vonnegut, Frederik Pohl and Anne Perry have appeared online and in numerous journals. Her work has won prizes from “Whim’s Place Flash Fiction,” “Writer’s Digest” (Screenplay) and she will have 12 books out by the end of the year. Connie reviewed film and books for the Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa) for 12 years and wrote humor columns and conducted interviews for the (Moline, Illinois) Daily Dispatch and now blogs for 7 blogs, including television reviews and political reporting for Yahoo. Connie lives in East Moline, Illinois with husband Craig and cat Lucy, and in Chicago, Illinois, where her son, Scott and daughter-in-law Jessica and their three-year-old twins Elise and Ava reside. Her daughter, Stacey, recently graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, as a Music Business graduate and is currently living and working in Australia. Connie’s Website: www.ConnieCWilson.com Connie’s blog: www.WeeklyWilson.com