Thursday, March 15, 2012

An Interview With Abby Slovin Plus A Giveaway!

Hello my dear readers! Today I'm beyond excited to bring you an interview with the wonderful Abby Slovin, author of the novel, Letters in Cardboard Boxes
Letters in Cardboard Boxes
I recently read and reviewed Letters in Cardboard boxes about  a month ago. My review can be found Here. Abby then so graciously contacted me and asked if I would want to do an author interview as well as a giveaway. I have never done either on this blog so of course I said yes! Working with Abby to put together this interview has been an awesomely easy and wonderful learning experience. Abby has also graciously offered to  provide ebook copies to 2 lucky winners. Thanks Abby! The details of the giveaway will follow the interview. Without any further ado, please help me welcome Abby Slovin!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 
       Well, I love to travel, go to the movies, and spend time outdoors. Probably my favorite thing to do is sit outside with a coffee or beer and have some good conversation. 

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What was your "Aha" moment?.

      I think I knew once it became something that was no longer a choice, when my characters took on a life of their own and it didn't even feel like I was writing them at all anymore. Sometimes, things just click like that. Before I wrote Letters, it was a hobby that I enjoyed, no doubt. But during this process, it became such a huge part of me that it was difficult to imagine a time when it wasn't a huge part of my life.

2. What is your writing process? Do you have a special time of day or place that you write?
Since I work full-time, my process is more influenced by time constraints. Most of my big ideas, big scenes, or dialogue have come from sporadic thoughts I’ve had throughout the day. Walking to work, for example, something might occur to me and I write myself a text so I don’t forget. Sometimes, I’m able to run right to my computer and flesh it out. Other times, the little notes to myself sit for a few weeks until I can get to them. I don’t necessarily have a schedule to write, but I think that’s what makes my prose more energetic, more raw. Because I’m usually moving while I’m “writing.” I usually jump around in the story also. One day I’ll write parts of the beginning, then jump to the end, then back to the middle, and so on. I just go with what section is speaking to me at that moment. If you can call chaos a process, then I guess that’s exactly what my process is. I always love hearing stories about writers and their rituals, but I don’t think I have any. Similar to “process”, I think rituals result from a kind of control over a writer’s environment, and I just don’t have that kind of control. Maybe one day…

3. How do you come up with your character names?

        For the most part, this is a random process. I prefer to have character names not loaded with meaning so readers can concentrate instead on how these characters are developed in the story. One exception to this rule, Dotty and Jerry are actually the names of my own grandparent's who passed away years ago. There was something very powerful to me about naming my characters after my grandparents. Not because they share any of the same qualities, but more so because it felt good to breath life into characters who share their names. Made my own grandparents feel very much alive to me at that moment.

4. Who is your favorite character in Letters in Cardboard Boxes?

        I love Jerry. His quite sadness. His charm and humor. And how he seems to emerge almost like a guardian angel beneath the night sky.

5. Are any of the characters in the novel modeled after people in your real life?

        Very few of my characters are based in real life, but this is just a preference of mine. I love creating purely fictional characters. To me, its a challenge to see if I can make them feel genuine despite them coming from a fictional place. One of my characters, Phila, is based on a homeless man I met when I was in college. He was a groovy sort of guy. Had a very calm, philosopher-way about him, despite the circumstances of his life, so I found a good place for a version of him in the story. 

6. In the novel, Parker goes through a major personal transformation when dealing with her grandmother's illness. She progresses through this transformation in the same fashion as the 5 stages of the grief cycle. Was this intentional? What was your inspiration for setting up the story in this way?

Yes, very intentional. The story's five parts used to be titled with each of the five stages of grief (example: Part I: Denial), but some of the early feedback on the novel indicated that labeling the sections like this didn't work well, so I ultimately chose to make the connection more subtle. And, looking back, I do agree that the labeling made it too "in your face", too prescriptive. The inspiration behind it was simply because its a story that has the grieving process at its core. And, by providing these labels, I wanted to challenge the notion that grief can occur in such a linear way, in stages. Its almost too simplified for real life, so you'll notice there are a number of moments where Parker states she'll never fully "accept" something. Or she'll experience denial or anger at a moment when she should be in a different stage. I know its understood in the psychological field that people often float in and out of these stages, but I wanted to illustrate that in a very real way.

7. What was your motivation for making Parker's parents so detached from her life and the situation surrounding her grandmother?
        I wanted to heighten the impact of this loss on Parker -- really magnify for the reader the idea that Dotty is so central to Parker, almost all she has. It also felt like a good way to depict her isolation as she grieves.

8. If you had to imagine Parker and Tanya 10 years later, what do you think they would be doing?

         I could definitely see them still getting together for Thanksgiving. Maybe even exchanging letters despite living in the same city, like Dotty and Parker once did. I could also see Tanya fulfilling her desire to be a teacher and help "the kids who don't always get things the way they're taught." And I could see Parker working with Nurse Diaz at the Center in some capacity. Overall, I see the two of them remaining close. Its hard to imagine two people going through something so heavy together only to grow apart.

9. Do you have your own box full of letters from someone who is special to you?

        I "inherited" my grandmother's box of important letters filled with little drawings from her grandchildren, cards from friends, even letters from my grandfather during their courtship. My best friend and I also have a box of important mementos from our friendship. I love the process of looking back into these, remembering each of the little memories that the contents of the box represent. Its a very powerful experience. What I've heard from readers is that this is a fairly common practice and even the title of the novel has evoked a lot of personal memories from readers and their own cardboard boxes. To me, this is a sign of something almost universal being depicted in the story.

10. What is the hardest part about writing a book?

        Probably the hardest thing for me was being patient with the process, allowing the inspiration to occur organically, and not force my writing just so I could "finish". Some writers have a schedule where they write every day, make progress consistently. For me, this has always forced the writing process and, at least in my experience, makes it feel forced when you read it. I only write when I feel inspired to write, and that can be a blessing when inspiration is flowing, but it can be very challenging to manage the stress, being patient and waiting for inspiration when its not flowing.

11. Who is your favorite author?

        I love Kurt Vonnegut, and am in awe of how he consistently made such profound observations in such a simple way. And I love the quirky relationships and multi-dimentional characters depicted in the work of Charles Baxter, Woody Allen, and Ruth Ozeki.

12. What are you working on right now?

        Right now, I'm moving forward with two new projects. The first, being released monthly on the Dunce Academy blog, is a humorous story about a recent college graduate searching for work (link: ). The other will be my next novel, called 10:15 on a Tuesday, tells the story of an unlikely friendship that develops between an upper-middle class widower and a psychic (link: ).

Thanks so much for doing this interview, and for sharing your work with us!

Thanks for having me! Readers can find out more information on my work on my website: Anyone interested in doing a review or author feature should definitely contact me!

As I mentioned above, there are two copies of Letters In Cardboard Boxes up for grabs! Since these are Ebooks this giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY  Enter below for your chance to win! Since this entry is a little bit longer, the Rafflecopter portion for Giveaway Entry will be after the hyperlink "Read More" for some of you. For others, it should just show up automatically.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*****Please excuse the color coding issues with some of the questions, Blogger is just not cooperating with me on color choices right now!****


kerry said...

I think the story looks interesting.

kimba88 said...

This book sounds delightful. I love sitting outside and enjoying coffee or a beer with friends..hello spring :)
I still have every letter or card my hubby has ever given me. We have been together 27 yrs and will be married 24 this April.

Kayla Thayer Evans said...

I think I would enjoy the book, because I can relate to saving momentos from the past and periodically going through them and remembering the people and events they are linked to. I still have a few boxes of letters and pictures and random momentos from family and friends dating back to kindergarten or so...

Melissa said...

It's a very interesting story!

Kimba: Wow, that must be a lot of cards! Congratulations on having been with your husband so long :)

Lori Goldstein said...

Letters in Cardboard boxes will most likely be an enjoyable read for me as I'm a packrat. In fact just the other day I came across a box of letters from a European student tour I went on nearly 36 years ago. Seeing these and the pictures in said box brought a lot f good memories back.

Hope I'm lucky enough to see how the letters to this character helped them.

hitchcockbe44 said...

I would love to win this book. I think we all have similar mementos. Whether it is objects we can take out and touch and re-read or just memories we keep in a virtual box in our mind. I know I have quite a bit of both. Thanks for a great interview and the chance to win the ebook.

Anonymous said...

I like the book, hope to be able to read it!

Melissa said...

I'm loving reading everyone's perspectives on mementos :)

Denise said...

I'm 60, and I have every letter anyone has ever written to me. I can relate.