Kat chats with Dru Pagliassotti, author of Clockwork Heart, her first novel.
Clockwork Heart is your first published novel, but how long have you been writing?
Like most writers, since childhood. Up until college I worked on a baby blue Smith Corona typewriter, with which I typed reams and reams of fantasy fiction on slick, erasable typing paper. Does anyone remember how that stuff smudged, anymore? I collected some rejections and became discouraged — like most new writers, I considered my fiction an extension of myself and took the rejections personally. Through college and graduate school I wrote fiction only for myself and my friends — on a Commodore 64 and Mac, respectively, thereby gaining editorial versatility but losing finger muscles. I began my fiction webzine, The Harrow, during an uncomfortable one-year hiatus between graduating from college and being accepted into graduate school. Running it gradually encouraged me to try writing for publication again. I started sending my work out in earnest around 2002 and began getting acceptances in 2003.
As a child I’d dreamed of getting my first novel published at 14, but getting it published at 41 still makes me very happy.
Are you planning a sequel for Clockwork Heart?
No, not right now. I like the characters and the world and wouldn’t mind returning to both someday, but I’m working on other novels. I know, it’s almost unheard-of for a writer to write a standalone book, isn’t it? I may be breaking some kind of law. I’ll let you know.
You’re a college professor. What made you decide to write a novel, and how have you managed to find the time to do that?
I love writing novel-length fiction! I find novels much easier to write than short stories, but short stories much easier to sell than novels. Why do things always work out that way? Finding time to write isn’t easy, though. I’m a full-time, tenured associate professor at California Lutheran University and I’ve been the editor in chief and publisher of the webzine The Harrow for over ten years. In addition to the zine, we also put out books —we published our first anthology, Fear of the Unknown, through Echelon Press in 2005. Then, in 2007, we published our second anthology, Midnight Lullabies, through our new business, The Harrow Press. We plan to announce our third anthology soon. So all that keeps me pretty busy, although The Harrow is blessed with a dedicated, all-volunteer staff that keeps things running smoothly despite me.
I carve out time by practicing voluntary simplicity —that is, I choose very carefully how I spend my time, money, and energy. For example, I don’t own a TV and I don’t subscribe to newspapers or magazines, and I have no interest in any event that can’t be attended in jeans. I’m also single and child-free, so when I get home, my time’s my own. Even so, my semesters can get pretty hectic, and I don’t get much writing done during the academic term. Most of my significant work gets done over the breaks.
Just recently I was thinking about getting serious about my blog, DruPagliassotti.com — you know, writing one or two articles each day and joining blogger networks and the like — but then I realized that if I did that, something else would have to go. Like my sanity. So, I reluctantly set my glowing visions of blogger fame and fortune aside. That’s why I completely sympathize when people tell me they can’t find the time to write. There’s a whole lot to do in life. You have to concentrate on the stuff that’s most important to you and not regret the rest. :-)
Oh, yeah, I’d go nuts without pleasure reading. My tastes are eclectic and not very highbrow, which is a source of constant embarrassment to me when discussing books with my professorial peers: “Oh, I just finished Nabokov last night. What are you reading, Dru?” “The latest Evanovich.” “Oh, is that another Russian novelist? I don’t think I’ve heard of him.” “Uh … Janet Evanovich.”
I admire the imagination of authors like M. John Harrison, Tanith Lee, Harlan Ellison, China Mieville, Glen Cook, Steven Erikson, and Jacqueline Carey. Ellen Kushner‘s Swordspoint is one of my favorite novels. I wish I could write such a cheerfully amoral narrative voice as that of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter. I don’t think anyone has ever captured the spirit of LA as well as Raymond Chandler, whose books hold price of place on my shelves. I enjoy mystery, horror, and fantasy novels, and science fiction genres that end in -punk. I have a secret affection for Regency romances and I’m the oldest person to browse the manga section of my local bookstore: “Hey, kid, hand me volume 9 of Ouran High School Host Club, wouldja?”