Writing an entire book is no easy feat, let alone publishing one! So this week we’re celebrating first-time fiction writers here at Kobo. Kicking off a New Voices in Fiction promotion where select titles will be on sale for $4.99, we’ll be featuring some of the best fiction authors to get an inside look into their debut titles. Check out our blog each day for new authors and follow us on Twitter with the #KoboNewFiction hashtag.
Q&A with Lydia Netzer
Kobo: What inspired you to write?
Lydia Netzer: When I started this novel I had just gotten pregnant with my first child. I was paralyzed with fear that I was too weird, too self-absorbed, too unskilled to have a child, and that whatever baby had the bad luck to be born of my uterus would be permanently scarred by my failings. To put it simply, I didn’t think I was good enough to be a mother. I started the book to explore these transitions that women make, from single girl to married person, married person to mom, to grandmother, etc. That was the spark.
Kobo: What were some of the difficulties you had while writing Shine Shine Shine?
LN: I am a homeschooling mom, so I don’t have much time without the children. Finding a place in my life in which to write books is very difficult! Creating the mental space that it takes to write requires a level of compartmentalizing that I’m sometimes unable to achieve for weeks at a time. Sometimes to write this book I had to go away from the children entirely, taking to the mountains or beach for a real writing binge. Sometimes I just mentally retreat, and allow myself to bring the novel around to the front of my brain. During those times I let the children eat more takeout, and run a bit wild.
Kobo: Do you feel your characters speak about different facets of your life?
LN: Sunny is a woman on the edge — on the edge of maturing into her role as a mother, on the edge of believing in herself as a person, on the edge of finding out who she really is. Sunny could only get there through becoming a mother, through losing her own mother, through a forced separation from her husband who had always made it possible for her to ignore the existence of that very edge. While writing this book, I too crossed over a few barriers, and became more aware of myself as a mom and as a person.
Kobo: What was the feeling you had when you finished writing the book? Was it hard to let go of your characters?
LN: I cried! I finished the novel in Paris, on a family trip to France. I was sitting in our apartment, and the children were asleep in their room and my husband was asleep nearby. I had always envisioned myself finishing my novel with a big flourish, like I would rip the last page out of the typewriter and yell DONE! and slam it down on a pile of pages. Or I would be standing on a mountaintop, or on a bridge, and the last line would come to me like a lightning bolt and infuse me with literary power. In reality the scene was quite domestic, although we were in France. And ultimately it seemed more fitting finishing the book quietly with my family around me. I was happy and sad. I missed my characters, but they will always be in my mind.
Kobo: What books do you feel influenced you the most when writing Shine Shine Shine?
LN: While I was deeply engaged in writing my book, I read a lot of Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Edith Wharton — and to some extent I consider my writing a sort of postmodern permutation of naturalism. I wanted to establish my own voice, and not be unintentionally influenced by contemporary writers, so I read very few things from the last fifty years while my novel was still nascent. However, I felt inspired to push my boundaries by some contemporary books such as Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, Edward Carey’s Observatory Mansions, and motivated by sci-fi heroes such as Ursula LeGuin and Ray Bradbury. Ultimately I read and write everything from a position of a very mid-19th century sensibility, where the fulcrum of my literary appreciation rests on Melville, Hawthorne, and Poe.