I met Diana Spechler at the Book Group Expo a little over six months ago. I had so much fun talking to her that I made sure I got a copy of her book. I loved it and thought it would be fun to interview her, so here we are!
Hey Lady: Welcome, Diana! First, I’m curious how you came up with the premise of Who By Fire?
Diana Spechler (DS): The novel sort of bloomed from a short story I wrote in grad school. I was mainly inspired by the time I’d spent in Israel in college.
Hey Lady: In Who By Fire, Bits was such a flawed character. The behavior she engaged in just made me cringe. You said in the interview that appears at the end of the book that your background and experiences definitely make their way into your writing: “It’s in there. All of it. It wears many full masks and thin veils.” What parts of you are in Bits?
DS: Bits is more isolated than I am. I keep a lot of people in my life. She doesn’t have even one real friend. And she’s a little more reckless than I am, too. But we’re similar in our desires to “help” the people we love. Sometimes I have to sit on my hands to keep from doing it.
Hey Lady: Even though it bloomed from a short story you wrote in grad school, it’s my understanding that Who By Fire took you four and a half years to write from start to finish. I’ve noticed that for the first book of most authors, that kind of time to write a book is pretty standard. Why do you think it takes authors so long to write their first book?
DS: I had no idea what I was doing. That was the first thing. I had read a lot of novels, but no one had ever sat me down and said, “Here’s the formula. Just plug in your characters and plot.” That’s because there is no formula. (Or if there is, please tell me, because I’m working on my second novel now and I’m open to any and all assistance.) I’m not sure if the writing process gets faster after the first book. My guess is that it doesn’t. So far, it hasn’t. Of course, I learned a lot from writing Who By Fire, but there are all kinds of other things I have to learn now that I’m writing something else. My guess is that it never ends.
DS: I sent it to the agent who wound up signing me a couple of years before she actually sold it. It took her some months to get back to me. When she did, she said, “I’d like to work with you” (and I practically fainted), and then she gave me her suggestions, and I did some revisions, and then she gave me more suggestions, and I did more revisions, and so on, until finally she said, “Okay, it’s ready to go.” I thought, It is? Well. Whatever you say. Then she sold it. And I screamed.
Hey Lady: LOL. I scream when I get comments on my blog. I know it’s not the same…but it’s as close as I’ll ever get to real writing! 🙂 When people find out you’re an author, do they ask you if they’re going to be in your next book?
DS: Sometimes. Or they say, “Like J.K. Rowling?” Or they say, “Will you remember me when you’re famous?” Or “Do you write for adults?” Or “You should hear my life story. You would make a billion dollars writing my life story.”
Hey Lady: Do you have a special place that you write? An office in a bedroom? A corner of your apartment?
DS: I just moved into a new apartment. In my old apartment, I wrote on the love seat. In the new apartment, I write in bed. I’ve never been a desk person.
Hey Lady: Okay, so do you write everything by hand or use a laptop? I only ask because I recently read that Joshua Henkin hand writes his work.
DS: Laptop! Always!
Hey Lady: Do you ever look back at old writing? Does it make you cringe or are you impressed?
DS: Impressed? God, no. Yes, it makes me cringe. Of course. It’s like looking at pictures of guys I was in love with in the ’90s. I think, But he had a feathery mullet! I used to write his name on the side of my shoe?!
Hey Lady: What books are on your nightstand right now?
DS: I’m actually reading an unpublished (although not for long, I’m sure) manuscript for a friend right now, the novelist Greg Williams, author of the amazing Boomtown.
Hey Lady: If you like Boomtown, I’ll be sure to check it out. Who was an author you were most excited to meet? Would you tell us about it?
DS: I met Curtis Sittenfeld before she was Curtis Sittenfeld. This was nearly six years ago in DC. She was working on Prep. After I met her, I couldn’t wait for her book to come out because I thought she was so cool. Then I read Prep and lost my mind over how amazing it was. I met her again last spring at BookExpo America in LA, and I was so excited to see her and gush. Maybe that doesn’t count as “meeting,” since I’d met her once before, but I had to remind her about the first meeting, so I think it counts. The only reason I got close enough to talk to her in LA was that we were both at a party for “emerging leaders,” which I guess was a euphemism for “young writers.” She’s really cool and down to earth, the kind of person who asks you a lot of questions and seems genuinely interesed. The kind of person who allows you to talk about yourself ad nauseum. Who doesn’t love that?
Hey Lady: What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time when you’re not writing?
DS: Um…feel guilty that I’m not writing? I also work several jobs, do Bikram yoga, and spend a lot of time with friends.
Hey Lady: HA! I could say the same thing about blogging. On average, how much time do you spend writing every day?
DS: It really depends on the day, but I try to make it my day’s main focus.
Hey Lady: And finally, I assume you’re working on your next novel…can you tell us about that?
DS: I’m writing a novel set at a weight-loss camp for kids in North Carolina. I’m writing about lots of people who have lots of secrets.
Hey Lady: That sounds like a great premise! Right up my alley. 🙂 Diana, thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed! You’re a blast to chat with.