Interview with Joyce Sweeney

Published July 2, 2013 by booksforbirds2013
A few days ago I got together, virtually, with author Joyce Sweeney for a little chat, so here it is for all of you to read:

As a writer do you think you view the world differently to perhaps other people?

I think all writers look at the world differently because they look very hard for meaning and patterns in the things that happen to them…specifically right now as I’m writing poetry, I look at situations to see how they could be made into poems and when I wrote Young Adult, I looked to see how my life situations could be turned into teen situations.  I remember when I was first married having a fight with my husband, and I started writing down what he was saying because it was such good dialog! LOL

When writing serious subject matter, such as the hostage situation in ‘Takedown’, how do you get yourself into the mindset these teens were in?

That’s a great question!  I think you pick a subject for a book because somehow, metaphorically, you’re in that situation.  I think I said in TAKEDOWN, everyone is in some kind of room with some kind of gun.  Now, what was going on in my life at that moment, that I felt so trapped and scared?  I don’t remember, but I must have been feeling that way or that story wouldn’t have been the one that grabbed me.

How do you get yourself ‘hyped up’ and full of ideas when sitting down to write, e.g. music, meditation??

I write first, in the first part of the morning before my ‘business’ brain takes over and starts answering emails and doing practical things.  I have a journal and I just start with whatever random stuff is going through my mind…this morning it was the realization I had yesterday that all my favorite flavors come from Greek cuisine…like I said, random, then somehow from there I start writing pieces of things and eventually it works its way into poetry or fiction.  I spend at least ninety minutes of the day on creative time before I let myself do anything else.

What were your favorite subjects at school and which were your worst?

Best subject English, of course.  I liked history and French and in college I took anything that had to do with the arts: art, music appreciation, theater etc.  Math was usually a problem, but somehow I magically aced algebra…and I don’t even know what it is!  My worst subjects were ones where I had to do physical things quickly, because I have an integration deficit between my spacial and motor brains…or to put it simply, I tend to drive cars into walls or put my hand directly under the blade of the power saw…

As a child (and now) did you have any phobias or strange fears?

The same for childhood and now:  claustrophobia…but only certain kinds. I’m scared of being locked in or trapped, which made my book Free Fall (about being in a cave) really scary for me.  Lightning…but I live in Florida and the lightning here is actually very dangerous.  And if I see a big dog I don’t know off a leash I’m scared, but if the dog is nice, I get over it.

What’s the publishing process like for you?

The publishing process is always a huge challenge and I like huge challenges.  Who wants to do something anyone can do?  You have to be good at what you do, and patient, and clever AND lucky to get published.  So you never get bored.  

Can you tell me about any projects you’re hoping to work on in the future?

I’ve been focused on poetry for the last five or six years and that’s where I feel the most creative now.  I have one chapbook published and lots of individual poems and I’m putting together a second chapbook now.  I channel all my prose knowledge into teaching.

What is your most valued virtue?

Patience.  Don’t leave home without it.

From where do you tend to get inspirations from, paintings, pictures, the world around you, or really a mix?

It’s a mix.  In fact, it’s usually a lot of those things coming together.  My novels are usually a mix of some memory I can’t let go of, mixed with something that’s happening to me now, mixed with the last movie I saw, mixed with what’s playing on the radio…you get the idea.

If you were asked to write a prequel about Dorn, from Takedown, would you? If not, why?

Dorn was the hardest character I ever had to write.  It was sooo hard for me to get into the head of someone violent because I’m an extreme pacifist.  I actually wrote and rewrote his backstory…I tried him as an escaped convict, a spree killer with no conscience and all sorts of other approaches.  Nothing worked.  I finally had to make him a bitter, messed up college student, so I could somehow relate to him.  I don’t think I could write a prequel with him. It’s horrible being inside his head!

Have any of your past experiences impacted on your writing?

All writing is about the author’s experiences. Fiction writers just disguise it really well.  But it’s not literal, it’s a metaphor…for instance, my first book Center Line was about kids who ran away from home and grew up too fast.  I never ran away from home, but I wrote it when I was away from home for the first time and was hating adult responsibility…so emotionally I was a runaway and could relate.  

If you could change the world in one way what would you change? And why?

Peace and non-violence.  I would stop all the fighting.  It never solves problems, and usually escalates them.

MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION:
Favorite ice-cream flavor?

Black Cherry Passion from Publix….dark chocolate base with black cherries and dark chocolate chunks…need I say more?
This was fun!  You ask better questions than most interviewers!  

Thanks for Your Time Joyce xx

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