Writing has been a passion of Hope’s since she was six years old. And fortunately it has been a career for twenty years. Her outlet for things wordy is divided between the act of writing and teaching others to write — a dual compliment. Hope Edelman lives in Topanga Canyon, California with her husband and two pre-teen daughters. You may know her best from the international bestseller Motherless Daughters. Her articles and essays have appeared in both journalistic and literary publications. The Possibility of Everything, her fifth book, is now in print. Please enjoy getting to know Hope Edelman.
Moe: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?
Hope Edelman: In the first grade. My teacher, Mrs. Masarky, put stars at the top of my illustrated stories and told me I should be a writer. When my first book came out she attended a reading in my hometown and sat in the front row, beaming and saying “I knew it!” to everyone in the room.
Moe: What inspires you?
Hope Edelman: A quiet, uncluttered room with a desk that faces a blank wall.
Moe: Every writer has a method to their writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
Hope Edelman: I start with a cup of coffee (or three), answer emails, write for an hour or two, putter around a bit doing random activities, write for a few more hours, then pick up my kids from school.
Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
Hope Edelman: I revise as I go, reworking each chapter over and over until I feel it’s ready to show. Each chapter usually goes through 6 or 7 drafts before I ask my editor or my writing group for feedback, then probably another 4 or 5 drafts before it’s ready for publication. It’s a slow method, though. I’ve never written a book in less than two years.
Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre or type of readers?
Hope Edelman: I only write nonfiction (so far) so I don’t need to make a genre choice. My first four books were all for women who wanted to explore their mother-daughter relationships, or lack thereof. In other words, a very well-defined audience. My newest book is for a more general audience. I didn’t have an image of a particular kind of reader in mind for it, so I just tried to write as authentic and honest a story as I could in the hope that it would speak to a small slice of everyone.
Actually, I did first consider writing it as a novel, since I didn’t think anyone would believe it was a true story. That lasted for about four laborious and futile months. Then I reworked the book as a memoir and the writing went much quicker from there.
Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
Hope Edelman: I create an outline in advance, but I don’t feel compelled to stick to it. I like the security of having a plan more than I like having to stick to a plan.
Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?
Hope Edelman: It depends on the book. My first four were journalistic in nature, and I did about a year of interviews and library research for each one before I even wrote a paragraph. The fifth book is a memoir set partly in Belize. About halfway into writing it I went back down to Belize to do on-the-ground research. I wound up making a total of four trips to get all information I needed.
Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If yes, what measures do you take to get past it?
Hope Edelman: I live in a constant state of writer’s block. Most days I have to force myself to sit down and write, in the blind hope that producing sentences, even poorly written sentences, is the best antidote to self-doubt and fear. Most of the time it works.
Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
Hope Edelman: When my first book came out in 1994, publishers did most of the work for the author. Now, mainly because of the internet and the downswing in the economy, authors have to do much more of the promotional work themselves. Three things I’ve learned are: 1. Social networks definitely sell books. 2. Niche marketing is valuable for getting a book into the hands of its target audience; and 3. Be prepared to spend an enormous amount of time and as much money as you can afford to accomplish this. No one knows your audience or cares more about reaching them than you do.
Moe: What is your latest release about?
Hope Edelman: It’s the story of taking my three-year-old daughter to Maya healers in Belize to get rid of her troubling imaginary friend, and saving my marriage and changing my world view in the process. We took the ten-day trip in December of 2000. I didn’t go down there with a plan to write a book but when we returned to L.A. I realized I’d experienced an extraordinary set of events that had a perfect beginning, middle, and end. I began writing the book about a year later, after my second daughter was born. I’d drop my older daughter in preschool, then drive down the coast until the baby fell asleep. She was usually out by the time we reached a small cafÃ© on Ocean Avenue in Venice, and I’d wheel her inside in the stroller and type on my laptop until she woke up. Very J.K. Rowling of me, I know.
Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
Hope Edelman: Ski, cook, travel, go to the theater, attend author readings. We spend every summer in Iowa, where my kids and I like to sit on the couch after dinner knitting hats and obsessively watching HGTV. We could probably redecorate your whole house for under $1000 by now.
Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Hope Edelman: Writers don’t control the story; they’re in service to the story. Look inside the text for answers to your questions about how to write it. I know that sounds mystical, but it’s actually been a very practical method for me.
Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
Hope Edelman: Even crazier than I am now.
Moe: What is your favourite word?
Hope Edelman: Anemone. Because it’s so much fun to say out loud.
- Hope Edelman’s The Possibility of Everything is available at Amazon.com.
- Hope Edelman’s The Possibility of Everything is available at Amazon.ca.
Originally published 10/22/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.