I hope you enjoy the interview. I certainly felt wonderful being able to interview a real author and find out about the person behind the beautiful stories that Patti is known for.
Eva - In your latest book “The Idea of Love”, one of the characters suffers from writer’s block. This begs the question, have you ever suffered from writer’s block? And if you have (or even had problems getting started on some days), do you have a routine that you swear by to revive the writing process and get the ideas flowing?
Patti - Oh, the dreaded writer's block. I think we all have it at some point. For me, it is when I've let the well run dry, when I've pushed too hard and too fast and haven't lived my life well. That's when I get outside in nature, take long walks, spend time with friends and go on what Julia Cameron calls "artist dates"-- doing things and going places that inspire me.
Eva - Lies play a very prominent role in your latest book. Do you find lies acceptable in certain instances or do you prefer to be told the blunt truth? Do you feel that a relationship must be based on 100% truth or can it survive a lie every so often if told with the best of intentions?
Patti - This is such a complicated question because I never want to say that lying is acceptable. But even this story (and what is story but a way to tell the truth?) shows that lies can be both devastating and yet also lead to new lives. I prefer the blunt truth in my life so I can deal with "what is" instead of "what I imagine." But I did tell my kids that Santa was real. So who am I to judge? :)
Eva - Many authors cannot help but develop characters that are drawn from real life. Often the fictional characters are based in part on friends or maybe even the authors themselves. Do you incorporate people you know or even part of your personal history into your characters? If not, how do you manage to develop characters that are complex, yet fictional and do seem so realistic?
Patti - I have never purposefully drawn on someone I know to develop a character. My goal is to let them grow as I get to know them--just like a real friendship would. But I am positive that traits of those I know and love, and those I don't so much know or so much love, work their way into the character's lives. Sometimes I will read a section of a book I've written and know that I've "borrowed" from a friend or relative: the way they nod their head or hold a fork or even laugh.
Eva - You are Southern writer and depict in very authentic ways the way we live down South. Nevertheless, are you ever tempted to write a book about some exotic location? Which far away location would you pick and why?
Patti - One of the best things about being called a southern writer is this fact: I grew up in Philadelphia, PA. Granted I moved south at twelve years old, but I was not raised in a quintessentially southern home. And I have written about other places. For example, Ireland in 1920 (When Light Breaks) and many other locations. But if I did pick a truly exotic location to write about (and therefore have to go research) I would choose Italy. I've only been once but would love to go again. Who knows? Maybe I will write about it one day.
Eva - You incorporate characters in your book that are far from perfect. Are there certain topics or flaws that you would not cover in your books?
Patti - There isn't anything I would avoid if the subject served the story. I want my characters to be real, have depth and humanity. We are all flawed and I want my characters to be so also. There must be flaws to overcome, a way to grow. Decisions must be made. Choices and Y's in the road show what we are made of!
Eva - Now some general questions about your person and your career as a writer:
When did you consider being a writer for the first time and when did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
Patti - I wanted to be a writer before I knew what wanting to be a writer meant. I was writing little stories and poems when I was seven or eight years old. But I didn't make a conscious decision to pursue it as a career until I was thirty-five years old. And then I dove into the deep end and never turned back
If you could not be an author, what career would you pick?
Patti - Well, before I was a writer I was a Pediatric nurse. So I would probably still be doing that. I loved being a nurse and I'm sure I would have pursued it for years if I hadn't taken the Y in the road.
If you could live anywhere in the Southern USA, where would it be?
Patti - Charleston, South Carolina.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Patti - I love visiting other countries and wild places, but I think I'd still like to live in the United States.
Where do you draw inspiration from for the locations in your books?
Patti - I draw inspiration from the places I love the most -- southern united states. The beaches, marshes and small towns.
If you could go on a vacation in the Southern US for one month – what mode of transport would you pick (car, train, plane, RV etc.), where would you go and why?
Patti - I would really love to do as much of the United States as I could in a train. Travel and then get out in interesting places and ride a bike or take a car to see the sites.
What is your favorite (Southern) dish?
Patti - Pie. Any kind of pie. But buttermilk is the best. Seriously the best. You must have a piece :)
And last, but not least: If you could invite three people for dinner (dead or alive), which three people would you pick and why?
Patti - I think I would answer this question differently when I'm in different moods. But right now it is all about story tellers. So, C.S. Lewis because I'd want to hear his stories, how he thinks and why. Madeleine L'Engle because well, she's Madeleine L'Engle. And always Pat Conroy because he can tell a story unlike anyone I've ever met. Ever.
What was the most surprising about the interview with Patti to you? To me, it was the fact that she was Pediatric nurse before becoming a writer. While I have taken some Ys in the road as well, the fact that a writer like Patti had a career as a nurse, especially a Pediatric nurse came as surprise because that work is so totally different from being a writer. Nurses has strict procedures to adhere to and must work in groups a lot of time, while an author often works alone and needs inspiration and ideas to write a new book. Just goes to show that you can never judge a book by its cover.