Shelly Lowenkoph, Author of Love Will Make you Drink and Gamble, Stay Out Late at Night, has stopped by the Blog today. Here's what the had to say.
Tell us your latest news?
The actor Billy Baldwin has agreed to provide the Introduction to my newest book project (described below)
If you could have a dinner party with any authors from any time in history, who would you choose and why?
I’d begin by inviting Mark Twain, because he’s my favorite and has had the most influence on me. Then I’d ask Geoffrey Chaucer because, not only was it worth “getting” his language as it was used in his time, his characters have lasted for me, after all this time. I’d see if I could persuade Ring Lardner to join us, thinking that were I to ply him with enough drink, he might reveal some storytelling secrets. We’d need some ladies. I’d ask Jane Austen, Willa Cather, and Joan Didion because each has that ability to focus on a topic until it comes to life and shimmers as a tangible presence. We would eat much, tell stories about ourselves, and raise a few glasses to those who could not be with us. And I would be supremely happy.
What are your current projects?
Current project is a nonfiction title, another book about the writing process. Its tentative title is A Character Prepares. The title and some of the intent come from a book by the great Russian drama director and teacher, Constantin Stanislavsky, showing actors how to act. My project shows writers how to build more remarkable and believable characters through the use of techniques well known to today’s actors, thanks to Stanislavsky.
What books or authors have influenced your writing?
Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Joan Didion’s The White Album send me messages every time I sit to compose. Each has a way of making setting, character, and narrative tone at an intense focus I find myself trying to capture. The short stories of Bernard Malamud, Kathleen Mansfield, and John Cheever got to me when I was younger, causing me to think there was something special and wonderful about the medium. The short story is, for me, lightning in a bottle. My favorite current short story writers are Deborah Eisenberg and Thomas McGuane.
Is there an Author that you would really like to meet?
Two, actually, Daniel Woodrell and Dennis Lehane. With the possible exceptions of Deborah Eisenberg and Philip Roth, I’ve had a chance to meet and hang out with contemporary authors who’ve mattered to me, writers such as Elmore Leonard, Tony Hillerman, and Joseph Wambaugh. I delivered mail to Ray Bradbury before he became well known, and I played poker with some of the Florida mafia such as Day Keene, Bob Turner, and John D. McDonald. As an editor, I edited William F. Nolan, Chad Oliver, Henry Miller, Dorothy B. Hughes, Stuart Palmer, Vera Caspery,Aldous Huxley, Theodore Sturgeon, and that crazy-lovable astrologer, Sydney Omarr, whose real name was Kimmelman.
Tell us a little about your background. When did you start writing?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but yanked about the country during World War II, when my father was busy helping build Naval bases. I began writing around the fifth grade when, during a rainy day and thus no recess, a teacher, in desperation, started reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I finished the novel on my own, pestered my parents for advances on allowance to buy Huckleberry Finn, then decided that was the life for me. One of my greatest joys came when I was taken on in later years as a correspondent for The Territorial-Enterprise of Virginia City, NV, where Twain got his start .
Where do you get your ideas?
Many of my ideas come from having taught at various universities for many years. Faculty meetings, college and departmental politics are a cornucopia of dramatic conditions.
Are any of your characters based on real-life friends or acquaintances? Most of my characters are based on individuals I know and/or have worked for/with. In some of the stories in this collection, I’ve not even bothered to change their names.
Do you ever incorporate yourself into your characters?
Without hesitation and almost invariably.
Tell us about your cover. Did you design it yourself?
The cover was designed by Deborah Daly, who used to be the designer at St. Martin’s Press, and who now freelances. I insisted on her. She produced two or three sketches, but I was drawn to this one and sent the publisher a note: “This is it.”
Where did you get the inspiration for your cover?
You’d have to ask Deb to get the direct answer. My answer is that I was inspired to ask for Deb.
Does your reading inspire you and your work?
I cannot imagine a life without reading. My tastes and preferences run all over the spectrum, from short stories and mysteries to adventure, historical fiction, and the speculative. Biography, memoir, and inner workings top my nonfiction tastes, along with the reviews and journals I subscribe to for essays, poems, and reviews. My work is filled with references to poets, philosophers, mad men, mad women, other times, and other places. At one time, I was fired from a job as a library page, where my duty was to replace books in their proper order, NOT be seen as recommending books to the patrons. I was also fired from a job in a bookstore because my job was to sell books, not read them.
Every decent idea I’ve had as a writer has come from a book I read, a discussion-turned-into-argument with a writer, or being told by an editor that what I was doing made no sense.