San Francisco Bay Area novelist, editor and writing teacher Wendy Tokunaga's Official Blog. Mostly writing and editing tips and tricks, plus commentary on publishing, but also posts on Japan, music, TV, film, social media, cats, the writer's life and anything else I feel like talking about.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
MOONPIES AND MOVIE STARS by Amy Wallen
Amy Wallen, author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, MoonPies and Movie Stars is my guest today on the Girlfriends’ Cyber Circuit Lit Blog Tour. Her delightful first novel, described as “Eudora Welty on speed,” has just come out in paperback.
Ruby Kincaid has her hands full these days. In addition to running the bowling alley after the death of her husband, Rascal, she has the daunting task of caring for her two boisterous grandchildren, since her daughter Violet disappeared without a trace four years earlier. It’s 1976 and Ruby and her nearest and dearest in Devine, Texas are watching their favorite soap opera at the bowling alley when they see Violet in a Buttermaid commercial. Expecting it will only take a little motherly guilt to rein in her wayward daughter, Ruby loads up the Winnebago and heads for Hollywood to try and bring Violet back to the Lone Star State.
Along for the ride are Imogene, Violet’s over-bearing and pretentious mother-in-law (who’s ready to assume the title of “celebrity-in-law”), and Loralva, Ruby’s wild sister who is itching to visit Tinsel Town because it’s where all the game shows are taped – and nothing’s going to stop her from making it to her favorite, The Price Is Right. Rounding out the group are Ruby’s grandchildren Bunny and Bubbie who are confused, sad, and excited at the prospect of finding their mother. They give Ruby the courage she needs to track Violet down and try to make things right.
While MoonPies and Movie Stars is great fun and a lot of laughs, it is also a poignant story of dreaming big, finding home, and coming to terms with family.
Amy has studied with a number of acclaimed writers, including Janet Fitch (White Oleander). She has taken those talents cultivated in the workshops of these great writers and brought them to her own creative writing classes at UC San Diego Extension. Amy also hosts an open mic night in San Diego, Los Angeles, and New York called Dime Stories Live, in collaboration with the National Public Radio show airing this summer. She is currently a Writer-in-Residence at the New York State Writers Institute on the campus of Skidmore College.
Amy took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for me.
Name three songs that would be perfect for the soundtrack of your book.
Patsy Cline’s CRAZY
Waylon and Willie’s MAMMA’S DON’T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE COWBOYS
The theme to the Price is Right.
What was the inspiration behind the writing of MoonPies and Movie Stars?
I started with a monologue I wrote in which I was imitating my grandmother. She was a wild and crazy woman who owned a honky tonk (beer joint), hair salon, café, convenience store/gas station and various other businesses in a a small town in Texas. The character and story grew into something that was only a slight resemblance to her, but my aunts and cousins could see her in there after all.
What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since getting your first book deal?
It’s a revolving door of editors. But mainly I’ve learned to focus on my writing and not get caught up in the business side. That’s why I have such a great agent. I’m the writer and that’s what I should be doing at all times.
How do you approach writing your novel? Do you outline the plot? Start with a character or...?
Most definitely character is what gets me started. But plot is what gets me through to the end. Just like reading, I’m dying to know what happens to my characters and I don’t know until I write all the way to the end.
Who are the top three writers who have influenced your writing style?
Roddy Doyle, an Irish writer who writes humorous and poignant novels about the hardworking, never get a break Irish. Janet Fitch of White Oleander was my writing teacher and mentor for at least 4 years while I was writing MoonPies and Movie Stars. Mary Gordon who wrote Pearl and many other wonderful books has been my writing teacher and mentor for many years also and she has always referred me to Flannery O’Connor when I get stuck or have a question. She’s always been right.
What are you reading now?
Manuscripts from students at the NY State Summer Writers Institute where I’m a writer-in-residence for the next few weeks. I have 4 student manuscripts I’m reviewing. The one I just finished had beautiful language and a gorgeous tale. Very dark with an ironic narrator, which I love. I just finished reading Rachel Shukert’s memoir called HAVE YOU NO SHAME. I reviewed it for the LA Times. It’s hilarious and a must-read.
What is your writing schedule like?
Anytime and all the time. Stephen King said in his memoir and book about writing that a writer should be reading every chance they get—the bank line, while they chop onions, in the shower, etc. I try to do that, or if I forget my book, I rework scenes in my head.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read. I’m also an avid walker and hiker, but I use that time to mull over my story’s scenes and situations in my head. I push through to the next thing I need to sit down and write. That way the page may be blank, but my head is spilling over.
What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel published?
Write the best damn thing you can possibly write, then revise it again, and again, before you even think about sending it out.
What and where is your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?
Mexican. Rancho’s vegetarian restaurant in South Park San Diego Because it’s always fresh, I love Mexican, and it’s near my house. And they make the best avocado enchiladas.
Thanks, Amy! Check out her Web site at:
Posted by Wendy Tokunaga at 5:17 PM
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