Susan Tepper, author of Deer & Other Stories, was so kind as to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me. In reviewed Deer here, earlier this week.
BBB: It seems to me you had quite a few jobs before turning to writing, and some of them sound pretty amazing - actor, singer, marketing manager, flight attendant, tour guide, interior decorater, rescue worker, television producer. Which one of your many jobs was your favorite?
ST: The funny thing is, I liked just about every job I was doing, so at that time that particular job seemed perfect and my favorite. But then wanderlust would kick in, or some life situation that required a change or a move, and I'd find myself in another career. Some things I sought out while others seemed to fall in my lap. While I was working as an interior decorator for a national furniture chain, a woman came into the store seeking decorating advice. It turned out she a principle in a cable tv station, and after working with me, she asked would I be interested in doing a daytime slot about interior design. So I produced that series of shows, about 20 of them. Acting was always my first love, but I kept drifting in and out of that because I needed an income. I worked as a flight attendant for TWA as a chance to escape a bad love affair and to see the world for free, and it was worth every second! Rescue worker was not my choice. While I worked for Northwest Airlines, there was a terrible crash in Detroit. Since I was part of airline management, they "recruited" me along with other managers to work at the crash site. At the time it was devastating, but in retrospect it was a blessing. Everyone who worked that crash seemed like an angel to me. It was a very holy place, and I'm still close with some of the others who worked the crash.
BBB: Wow! Sounds like you've had a lot of life experience! I guess this must be what makes your writing so amazing.
Did any of these jobs in particular inspire you to become a writer? Why did you finally turn towards writing in the end?
ST: I believe that all of life is a conspiracy to move us in a particular direction. The mystics think of it as "soul work." My curiousity led me to seek out many job experiences, all of which provide me with material for writing. Of course I didn't see that until I'd been writing for a while. At least a decade before I began, a psychic predicted I would become a prolific writer. At the time I was an actor and her prediction struck me as absurd. I had no interest at all. Except for one poem that had popped out of me rather spontaneously, I had no other real writing.
BBB: Soul work, huh? I like it!
The imageries in Deer are so vivid; it almost seems as if you lived through all of your stories personally. Which of the stories, if any, were based on personal experiences, and how so?
ST: Everything we write comes from what we have witnessed, dreamt, longed for, overheard, and even despised. We often write what is missing in our lives. There are snipets of my real life in every story, but usually not as the story is written. I tend to disguise my fiction in metaphor. This is not done intentionally. I find my own life kind of boring to write about. It doesn't interest me on the page. And because I write spontaneously, and never plot or outline, it just spills onto the page. I've been called an emotional writer, and I won't deny that. I can see how certain stories evolved based on what was going on with me at the time. But other than that, each story holds claim to its own life.
BBB: In one of my favorite stories in Deer, we go on a train ride with the Beatles. What kind of reasearch did you have to do, if any, to write this story? Did a lot of research go into the other stories as well?
ST: While flying for TWA, I had the chance to visit India. It fascinated me. I also have a close friend who lives in India, the writer Ramesh Avadhani. I did his interview for Cervena Barva Press a few years ago. Ramesh and I email a lot. So I guess India was on my brain when that story began. Also, I had just finished watching some old films about India during the British Colonial period which helped me to recreate the train. I don't really know how the Beatles got into it, I never was a big Beatles fan. I don't do much research, I tend to be lazy in that way. That's why I don't write much non-fiction.
BBB: Honestly, after reading the story, I am SHOCKED to hear that you don't like the Beatles.
Now I want you to tell us a little bit about your writing process.
Do you have any favorite places to write?
ST: Anywhere. Under just about any circumstances. Parts of my first novel were written while my staircase was being remodelled. Very noisy. I just kept typing.
BBB: What about must-haves for while you are writing?
ST: I like to take a break and go out during the day and meet a friend for coffee or lunch. Then I go back to writing. Sometimes I clean the place which inspires me. I heard Joyce Carol Oates speak when I was a student at New School, and she said that she got a lot of her ideas while vacuuming. That stuck with me. Very sensible. You get ideas and your place gets cleaner.
BBB: Awesome that you went to the New School. I used to walk by it all the time when I was living in New York City, attending NYU.
Were the stories in Deer written over an extended period of time? Were you originally planning them as a collection of short stories - I mean, did you write them all specifically to go together or did they just happen to all fit?
ST: The Deer stories were written over a 12 year period. There was no plan at the time, I was just cranking out all kinds of stories. Then Wilderness House Press, who had been publishing a number of them in their anthology, well Steve noticed the deer connection. I wasn't aware that so many deer had come into the stories! I also use other animals. I've got stories with birds, mice, dogs, you name it. So Steve suggested we do a collection of all my Deer stories. He lives on the Wilderness Retreat in northern Massachusetts, and the Deer is his mystical animal!
BBB: That is, indeed, incredibly cool! Like it was meant to be. . .
What are your plans now? Can we expect a novel from you in the future?
ST: I've written 3 novels. The first one was shortlisted in a national contest sponsored by Zoetrope magazine, but my agent at that time couldn't get it published (I am currently without an agent). My second novel may come out by a small press, we're in the talking phase. But my 3rd and most current novel (my baby) I just completed last year. I would like to see it in print. It's making the publisher rounds but it's hard doing that yourself. I really need an agent to push for me.
BBB: I for one hope the novel makes it to print. Good luck finding an agent.
Now, one last question - is there anything that you'd like to say that I forgot to ask?
ST: Yes, I'd like to say "Thank You" for your excellent thoughtful questions, it was a pleasure!
No, thank you. The pleasure's all mine. :-) What a GREAT interview!
Susan was also so kind as to provide me with a copy of her book to give away to one of my lucky followers. And lucky indeed you will be, because this book is AWESOME!
Here's what you have to do to enter:
Follow my blog and leave a comment with your e-mail address. Yep, it's that easy! No follow, no entry! (unless you subscribe, just let me know)
CONTEST ENDS November 28, 2009 at 8 AM Paris time (that's 2 AM on the east coast)
+2 for old followers, just let me know
+8 if you post a relevant comment on my review here. By relevant I mean show that you've read it; don't just say "great review."
+8 if you make an interesting and relevant comment about the interview
+3 for checking out Susan Tepper's Amazon page and tell me something you learn
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+5 for grabbing my blog button and posting it in your blog (leave a link!)
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That's for a whopping total of 33 entries! Awesome! Don't forget to leave your e-mail so I can contact you!
1)This is not my 100 followers giveaway
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