We also have another occasion to celebrate today. You've dropped by during our 200th post. So, you get to join us in the celebration, Nancy! How exciting! :)
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
My short fiction collection, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, was released in September 2014 by Pixel Hall Press. It’s available in both trade paperback and e-book format through all major bookstores: chains, indies and online through Amazon and the Apple Bookstore.
Like so much of my fiction, the origins tend to be somewhat cloudy, since often the trigger for a story occurs way before the story itself comes to fruition. But the overall theme—people who have difficulty making the right choices or even knowing what choices are available to them—is one that has intrigued me for a long time. We tend to believe that we would always make the right choice, the wise choice, the intelligent choice. But that is from the vantage point of not being in the middle of a disastrous, overwhelming situation. Sometimes, clarity comes only after we have selected Option A. Then we realize that Option B would have been better. The good thing is that there are always more options, more choices, more opportunities to get it right.
I have always written—well, at least since second grade!—and before I wrote I made things up. Playing “let’s pretend” with my childhood friend Danny was great training for being a fiction writer. In a sense, I still play a version of “let’s pretend” when I write—although now I follow my characters and go where they take me.
Do you have any favorite authors?
So many: Agatha Christie, Mark Helprin, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Enid Blyton, Jules Verne… And then there are books that I keep by my bedside because they inspire me as a writer: The Writer on Her Work (edited by Janet Sternburg), Silences (by Tillie Olsen), Writing a Woman’s Life (by Carolyn Heilbrun), Negotiating with the Dead (by Margaret Atwood), Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers (by Caroline See). There are lots more but that’s a good start!
I try to do my fiction first thing in the morning, before I get caught up with client projects. (I am a writer by profession, and handle a variety of corporate writing projects as well as write magazine articles.) If I can do 30 minutes of fiction, that’s a good day. Anything after that is a bonus.
Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice?
Care about what you write. Don’t write because that is what the market expects. Write what is real to you, what moves you, frightens you, confuses you, brings you joy or sorrow or possibly both. Use writing to uncover, discover, let go and set free.
And, even if it takes a long time to have a piece or project accepted, don’t lose heart. Writing should be the primary goal. If your work is good and you continue to develop your skills, you will find a way to bring your work to light and find an audience who appreciates and enjoys the story.
TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER
“My father was a painter,” Annabelle had said—was it at the second session or the
third?—“and my mother would pose for him.”
Annabelle remembered watching her father paint in the cold, clear light filtering into his studio. He used canvas and oils the way God had used clay, creating life from inanimate objects. The walls of the house were hung with his paintings—those his agent could not convince him to release—and everywhere Annabelle looked, her mother’s dark eyes would follow her, glowing on the canvas.
Sometimes, after a long session in the studio, her mother would be pale and weak,
barely able to stand, so colorless that one would think her a ghost. The portraits, by contrast, were pulsing with life. Annabelle had feared that her father was drawing the very lifeblood from her mother, leaving behind an empty shell.
And yet, her mother gloried in the attention, willingly changing herself into any figure her husband desired, just to be able to stand there, caught by his passion, while he painted.
His work sold quite well in galleries across the country, but even if it had not, her
father would have continued to paint, and her mother to pose.
And Annabelle-the-child would be standing, somewhere just outside their line of
sight, watching. And waiting.
“Did your father never paint you, Anna?” Jules’ question was spoken so softly in the
darkened room that it almost seemed the words originated in Annabelle’s mind, and she answered them just to hear her own voice echoing in the darkness.
Annabelle blushed, an ugly red stain against her pale skin. “He did not paint children,” she answered hesitantly, not adding that once she had asked—begged!—her father to paint her.
She had been young, five or six, and perhaps a little jealous of the attention given her mother during those endless sessions in the studio. Just once, she wanted her father to look at her with the intensity he reserved for his wife—to fix her so clearly on the canvas that there was no possibility of her ceasing to exist.
The promises she had made—‟I won’t move! I won’t even breathe if you would just
paint me!”—were all in vain. Her father had looked at her absently, his brush suspended in mid-stroke, and Annabelle realized in that moment that he wasn’t at all certain who she was or why she was there in his studio.
Her mother, with gentle, insistent fingers, had urged her reluctant daughter from
the room, promising “another time, darling. You’re too young to be a model for your father’s art. He needs someone a little older, more knowledgeable. You are still unformed, innocent… too young. You must wait,” and then the door closed and Annabelle was left outside while her mother went back to pose for her husband.
Sometimes, when Annabelle remembered that moment, she almost hated her
mother. She had wanted her chance, and her mother wouldn’t let her have it. Perhaps she should have argued or cried. She didn’t want to wait. She wanted her father to see her now.
But Annabelle was a good child, an obedient daughter. Her mother said she must
wait. Therefore, she would wait. If not for her father, then someone else—some other man who would be drawn to her like a moth to a candle. It would happen. Her mother had promised.
Nancy Christie is a professional writer, whose credits include both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to her fiction collection, TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER, and two short story e-books, ANNABELLE and ALICE IN WONDERLAND (all published by Pixel Hall Press), her short stories can be found in literary publications such as Wild Violet, EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and Xtreme.
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/NChristie_OHGoodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1048768.Nancy_Christie