Natasha Stagg: How long have you been writing?
Gay Degani: I wrote a novel long-hand in purple ink in the fifth grade. It was about the Twellington family–eleven of them, with two sets of twins. The stars of my book were Abbie and Amy, the 12-year-olds who liked to ice skate. Definitely derivative of Little Women, The Five Little Peppers, and The Bobbsey Twins. Now you know how old I am!
NS: Do you write every day?
GD: I do. I spend a good part of my day at the computer. I love writing short short fiction–I have a piece in the new Hint Fiction Anthology from Norton–but I also like to write stories in the 1000 to 2000 range. I’m working on a novel, too, about a woman who discovers she has an African-American sister who’s been murdered. The woman’s daughter and Abbie, the main character, search for the killer and information about what happened back in 1948.
NS: What are your thoughts on “writing on writing?” Ever read the advice other authors give?
GD: I’ve read dozens of craft books over the years as well as books on being a writer. I always felt if I read enough guides to writing I would eventually understand it all. That and being an ardent reader of fiction. I’d recommend Stephen King‘s On Writing, John Gardner’s books, Ron Carlson‘s Ron Carlson Writes a Story, and Robert McKee‘s Story though there are many more out there worthy of reading.
NS: Do you have some advice to give?
GD: Having recommended writing books above, I do want to say that I don’t think anyone needs to accept everything another writer might suggest. We have to find out what fits our own vision and what doesn’t. and this is done through trial and error. My advice is to write a lot of short fiction. Because of length, short fiction allows new writers to see more easily what is working in their craft and what is not. And the feedback is vital to becoming a more intuitive writer.
NS: Who is your favorite author of the moment, and what should we read by them?
GD: Too many to name here, but off the top of my head, here are a couple writers I would like to write like: Joyce Carol Oates, Carol Shields, Margaret Atwood, Andre Dubus III, and Jeffrey Eugenides, and all for different reasons.
NS: What is a book that kind of blew your mind, that we’d be surprised by?
GD: Mind-blowing? That’s tough. Middlesex , of course, such control. House of Sand and Fog, fabulous structure, and Cutting for Stone, not for the actual language nor the use of coincidence which bugged me, but because of the overall appeal of the story. Oh I know. Ethan Frome because most people hate it ,and I think it’s a near perfect piece of writing. Lots to learn from Edith Wharton with this one.