Thursday, August 4, 2011

13 Questions with..Margaret Taylor

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
I'd cook it myself, and it would be roast chicken with root vegetables in the bottom of the pan, because I don't get the chance to make that very often.  Maybe some really good bread on the side.

2. What is your beverage of choice?
Coffee from the instant coffee powder.  Black.  Water boiled in a pan on my stove because I don't have a teapot right now.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
I prefer physical books for a lot of reasons.  You can drop them, bend them, and smash them, you can get them from the library, and the paper smells nice.

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?Let's see…  Random sample from the bookshelf by my desk: the Gormenghast trilogy, Catwings, The Golden Compass, The Mind's I by Douglas Hofstader, a Spanish-English dictionary, a bunch of spiral-bound notebooks (some blank and some full of scribbled notes), a pop-up book with an illustrated version of The Jabberwocky, Perrine's Literature, Hero With a Thousand Faces, and a lava lamp.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
I don't remember ever not having it.  I'd make up little dialogues between imaginary people since I was able to talk, really.  But I do remember the first time I sat down to actually write something.  I must have been in about the first grade.  My dad was working in the yard to remove a sapling tree, and when it finally came out, the hole in the ground looked like a tunnel to magicland.  So I ran back inside and started writing this story about a couple of kids who find a tunnel to magicland when a tree falls over in their yard, and the first thing they find when they get to the other side is a traffic light who says hello to them.  Then I got stuck because I couldn't figure out what happened next.

6. What is your writing routine?
Right now I'm a graduate student at the University of Minnesota.  What I do is I get up really early and sneak into the laboratory before anybody else is there.  It's quiet and air-conditioned in there.  I sit down and write for a while, then I go and get experiments ready for the day.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
If I don't know what needs to happen next, well, I sit down with a pencil and paper and I brainstorm.  What was I trying to accomplish with this story as a whole?  How is this scene going to get it there?
If I know what needs to happen next but I don't know how to say it, I sort of put (this thing needs to happen here) in parentheses and move on to the next part.  Usually by the time I get back to it on the rewrite it's become obvious how to say it.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
A lot of people don't know that I make mean seven layer bars.

9. What was your best subject in school?
Well, I'll admit that I was pretty good at a lot of subjects, but my favorite subject was science.  I love slimy things.  One time in the seventh grade we dissected cow eyeballs, and that was just awesome.

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
YA literature is hot right now.  I like to write YA, but not because it's in fashion.  Teenagers make for really compelling protagonists.

11.Mac or PC?
Mac.  All the way.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
Oh, geez.  Song lyrics, misread road signs, other novels, nightmares, anything.  There was this one time I got a hold of a bottle of shampoo, and the label read, "Turns your dull straw into shimmering gold."  Holy crap.  People who grow metal hair, and then they trim it and sell it and it's a cottage industry!  I still don't know what I'm going to do with that idea, but it's kicking around until it can be useful.

13. What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Write.  Write write write write write write.  The first thing that you write is going to suck.  The first several things, actually.  You have to keep pounding on your craft and beat the suckitude out of your work.  Then find some experienced writers to critique your work and they will point out some more suckitude that you missed.  Keep doing this obsessively for years and your stuff's going to get really good.

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