I’m very excited to have Catherine Gilbert Murdock here today because I’ve been a fan of hers since I read the first book in the Dairy Queen series. Probably since I read the first sentence. What a wonderful voice D.J. (and Catherine) have. If you’re not familiar with them, what rock have you been living under? try to remedy that as soon as possible. You’ll be highly entertained as well as experience a whole range of emotions while you follow along with D.J. and her adventures in small town America. The third, and final book in the series came out last fall, and I recently read it. Front and Center is as wonderful as the rest and I blew through it in one sitting and then was mad at myself for reading it so fast because then the series was over! Luckily, they’re books, so I can reread them whenever I want!
And now for Catherine.
- What’s your favourite website?
Cake Wrecks (cakewrecks.blogspot.com ) which features pictures of horrible bakery cakes. I now have to check it daily because the woman who hosts it is so hilarious, and the cakes are so awful, that it really . . . well, frankly, now that I think about it I’m not sure what it does “really,” other than both undermine and reaffirm my faith in humanity. But it’s great.
- What do you read in the bathroom?
This is luscious . . . I got a copy of Henry Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage for Christmas, and that’s what’s in our loo now. His articles are so dense that I can only read so much — so loo length is ideal — but I still emerge inspired, and often howling in laughter. Fowler has a real, and legitimate, bone to pick with pedantry, and as I’m writing a book right now with a very pedantic character (though intentionally so), The Dictionary of Modern English Usage really keeps me on the straight and narrow. I hope, at least. Let’s just say I’m glad Fowler’s no longer around to critique me.
- What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you (or you learned from a book)?
I was an aspiring but unsuccessful screenwriter before I was an aspiring but ultimately successful author, so pretty much everything I know about writing comes from my screenwriting days. Including this tip, courtesy of Writers Book Camp (no apostrophe — it’s a Hollywood thing), to develop a list of fifty little insights about each character. For example, if you have a character who’s really into sports, you could demonstrate this by describing the sports posters in every room, or the sports pages spread everywhere, or three TVs playing ESPN, or . . . how all the cows are named after football players. Which turned out to be one of the most memorable elements of Dairy Queen. The point is, don’t just say “Mary was, or felt, so-and-so;” show us. Show with images, show with actions, show with dialog or smell or flashback, but show it. Don’t just lecture.
- What are you reading now?
I just finished (finally, I know) the seventh Harry Potter book. I saved it for vacation, and gobbled it up in almost one sitting. Man, can J.K. Rowling tell a story. I’m in awe.
- What author or book have you recently discovered that you want the world to know about?
A few years ago I read Jim Malusa’s Into Thick Air, and absolutely fell in love with it. He describes a six-continent bike trip in such vivid and enthusiastic detail that I wanted to do it myself, and I hate camping. Why this wonderful book hasn’t received far more attention I can’t imagine.
- Do you know how to cook? What’s your specialty?
Anything that’s quick, or easy, or one-dish. Preferably all three, but that’s tough. Tonight I’m making Peposo, which is 3 pounds beef, ten garlic cloves, salt, pepper and a bottle of red wine, all baked together for 3 hours. So it fills fills both the “easy” and “one-dish” categories, even if it’s not exactly quick. Actually, I need to get to the supermarket soon if we’re going to eat before nine PM . . . The recipe is from In Nonna’s Kitchen, another great book that should not be out of print, but sadly is. If I ran the world, everyone would have this book. And be much better off for it.
- What’s the coolest writing-thing that’s happened to you since you sold your first book?
Other than hugging Neil Gaiman? Actually, the coolest thing happened before I sold, or even wrote, Dairy Queen. My sister Liz — Elizabeth Gilbert — got nominated for a national book award (this was for The Last American Man, way prior Eat Pray Love), and she invited me to an event held the night before the actual awards ceremony, when the nominees each read aloud for five minutes. Needless to say, this is an amazing experience, and it inspired me so much in my own writing: not just to write well, but to write each sentence as though I were standing on stage reading it to this audience. Which I’m sure sounds horribly pretentious, but trust me, it really helps eliminate the chaff. There are worse goals in the world that aspiring to write a paragraph that will hold 500 people’s attention.
Thanks so much, Catherine! It’s great to have you here, and I am definitely going to use that fifty things when creating characters. I love it!
P.S. As any of you regular readers know, I am a big fan of Eat, Pray, Love but I want you to know that after I read it and went to E.G.’s site, what I was excited most about was the fact that she was related to the fantastic and famous YA writer who had actually answered a few of my emails, Catherine Gilbert Murdock!