Wendy Wax Answers Ten Questions

May 4, 2011 8 Comments

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing the which questions, and how many questions they want to answer! Wendy Wax author of the newly released Ten Beach Road, played along and answered seven questions.  Here is what Wendy had to say about reading, writing and how post-pregnancy hormones made her write her first book.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

My name is Wendy Wax and I write what I would call women’s fiction in that my books are largely about women’s journeys of self discovery and generally appeal to a female audience (although men are allowed to read them!)

I worked in broadcasting and film for over twenty years before deciding to try to write fiction. My biggest claim to fame during my previous career was hosting a live radio call in show in the Tampa Bay area called ‘Desperate & Dateless’ when I was both.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process? 

Books have always been my greatest means of escape. I’ve joked that I could read a book a day if my family would just leave me alone long enough. There were times in my life (before marriage and children) that this was exactly how I dealt with adversity.  Because I’ve always treasured that escape, however brief,  my goal is always to provide that to my reader.

As to what helps me through the writing process, I’d have to say my biggest crutch is my writer friends, especially my critique partners, who are on the same path and understand the extreme ups and downs that are a part of the publishing business.

Other than that it’s just one great big leap of faith. I sit down as close to every day as I can manage and tell myself with firmness that this is NOT brain surgery even when it feels like it and that I CAN do this.  And, of course, having a deadline is a pretty great motivator.

People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this story that made it the one you had to tell at this time? What impact did telling this story have on your life?  Did you find that it had changed you?

Ten Beach Road, my newest novel, is a story about three women– strangers to each other– who lose everything to a Ponzi scheme and then spend a sweat soaked summer trying to bring the derelict beachfront mansion, which is all they have left, back to life. Like all of my books, Ten Beach Road deals with inner strength, self discovery and getting by with a little help from your friends.

Frankly, Bernie Madoff made me write this book. When I first started reading about the victims of his Ponzi scheme and how much he’d stolen, I was aghast. And then I started wondering what it would be like to have to live with that kind of devastating loss. As any writer will tell you, once you start the ‘what-iffing’ there’s no turning back.

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were you in choosing the name of the book? 

Of the books I’ve written only a small percentage of them have been published under their original working title. I don’t know exactly what this means, but the reality is a title is very much a marketing thing, like the cover it’s meant to entice you to pick it up and want to read it.  As a result titles are seldom as tied to what happens in the book as an author might like.

Ten Beach Road was The Sand Castle while I was working on it. Leave It to Cleavage (my favorite title ever) was The Making of Miranda, because that’s what the book was really about. But even I have to agree my choice wasn’t anywhere near as catchy.

Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began? 

No, I have never gone back and read an earlier book. This is partly because I’ve read it so many times in the editing and copyediting and proofing stages, that I just can’t face it and partly because I’m afraid that I’ll see too many things I’ll wish I’d done differently—or better.  So far, I am my harshest critic.

Although I think my ‘voice’ remains the same and I continue to blend emotion and humor, I like to think my writing gets stronger with each book. I know each story has felt deeper and more complex, and I hope more enjoyable.

What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer? 

I did force a neighborhood friend to teach me how to read fairly early because I thought I was supposed to know how before I went to elementary school.

As a child, I dreamed of being a famous actress or writer, but I never had a specific goal for achieving either. I majored in journalism in college and worked in tv, film and radio for many years, but it wasn’t until I was at home with a two year old and a newborn that I decided to try to write a book. I chalk this up to post-pregnancy hormones and lack of sleep!  I had no idea what I was undertaking.

As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?

Like most people, I thought that once I was published everything would miraculously sort itself out and I’d simply sail into bestsellerdom and all kinds of publishing happily-ever-afters.  Sadly, this was not the case. (And rarely is.)

My experiences compelled me to write a book called The Accidental Bestseller, which came out in 2009. It’s a story about four writers, critique partners for a decade, who help each other survive the publishing industry. It’s a very real look at what it is to be a writer today. I’ve joked that ‘the names have been changed to protect the innocent,’ but there are some people in New York who I’m hoping recognized themselves.

Did you have to do much research when working on your books, and do you tend to write first or research first?

In the course of the nine novels I’ve written, I’ve searched out a pretty eclectic mix of  information. The bra industry, cross dressing, financial fraud, beauty pageants and forensics (not necessarily in that order) were all need-to-know topics for an early comedy titled, Leave It to Cleavage .  There was talk radio for 7 Days and 7 Nights and advertising and heart attack for Hostile Makeover. The publishing industry, at least those parts that take place inside the publishing house where authors seldom tread, televangelism, speed cooking, the Oprah Winfrey Show, New York City and Chicago neighborhoods and restaurants, helped me flesh out The Accidental Bestseller. For Magnolia Wednesdays, which was just rereleased in mass market paperback, I took ballroom dancing classes and had to track down the sometimes grim realities of being a war correspondent and an investigative journalist.

As I plotted Ten Beach Road and figured out the financial aspects (I have a husband in finance on retainer for that) I knew there’d be an FBI agent involved, but finding the right agent to speak to proved a trifle unnerving. Especially when they requested all my personal information, at which point I was torn between wanting to disappear (if, in fact, one can do this with the FBI watching) and saying, ‘You’re the FBI—shouldn’t you already know this?”

Ten Beach Road also required knowledge of professional matchmaking, filmmaking, historic preservation, interior design, architecture and construction/renovation. (This last was especially challenging for someone who belongs to a family that can’t use tools without requiring medical attention and ultimately led to a somewhat unhealthy addiction to HGTV.)

Each book and cast of characters present unique situations and challenges. A scene might take a turn and suddenly demand information or background you didn’t realize you’d need to know. I’ve learned the hard way to research those things on the spot or risk the entire story grinding to a halt.  Because if I don’t understand how something works, neither can my character.  And, ultimately, neither will the reader.

Where do you most love to write? Are there places where it comes to you easier than others?

For me first choice is always in my office at my larger screen with the doors closed and quiet surrounding me. My desk sits in a triple window .  I can work on my laptop in almost any situation as long as it’s not too crazy, but I have to have a window, or at least a sliver of a window.

What’s next?

Right now I’m working on a new novel about two estranged best friends currently titled, Reality Check. But I think I mentioned my luck with titles—so I’ll be sure to let you know what it ends up being called!

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