Guest post – Deb Atwood

Deb’s blog, peninherhand, is full of delicious ghost story reviews. As this is one of my favorite things to read – ghost stories! – you can imagine why I am a fan. Add to this a beautiful photo of her and her dog and you can see why I’m often visiting her blog. As part of my new year resolution of hosting guest posts by bloggers I’ve come in contact over the years, I’m very happy Deb has agreed to be a part of this. Here are my questions and her answers. More guest posts to come in the following months.

debatwood 1. Who are you?

Aside from a year in Utah and another in London, I’m a long-time Californian, earning my BA and MFA here. I’m a reader who maintains a stack of books by the bed. When the stack runs low, I get the shakes. I’m also sort of a research fiend. That’s the great thing about being an author—you get to find out cool stuff about whatever piques your interest, and it doesn’t even have to be for your current project. In my case, that includes studying Korean for five years as well as traveling throughout the “hermit kingdom.” I also picked up factoids about celadon pottery, martial arts, car trunks, samurai swords, adoption, shamanism, and iguanas. Writers are like magpies. We collect shiny bits first and figure out what to do with them later.

2. Why do you blog and what is your blog about?

On my blog I set out to be the go-to girl of ghostlit (okay, maybe no longer a girl). Just like Lucy from Peanuts who sits behind a desk offering advice, I wanted to match readers to ghost novels. Ghostlit fascinates me partly because it’s not actually a genre. You can come across ghost novels in Literary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery, Romance, really any kind of genre you read—yes, even horror—but it can be hard to locate. I review these ghost novels on my blog because I love to read them (and I even wrote one). I’m branching out now to include reviews of young adult contemporary and doglit. I’m currently writing a young adult novel featuring a service dog and finding myself drawn to books covering this new topic as well. I guess I read and review what I like to write. Or is it the other way around?

3. Favorite books/authors/genres.

Age of Innocence/Edith Wharton/historical
Catch 22/Joseph Heller/literary
Emma/Jane Austen/literary
The Madwoman of Chaillot/Jean Giraudoux/drama
Second Glance/Jodi Picoult/women’s fiction
A Single Shard/Linda Sue Park/historical middle grade.

4. Kindle or paper book?

Both are great as long as I’m reading! I like the Amazon feature of downloading 10 % so that I can preview a novel I’m thinking of buying. So handy! If it’s an old book, I love to check it out from the library. There’s nothing like the smell of leather and the touch of fine paper to get me in the reading mood. When I’m doing research, I find it’s much easier to locate a passage or consult the index in a physical book.

5. Three things you learned from a book.

From the opening pages of Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, I learned that prose can be poetry. I learned that forgiveness and redemption are the noblest of themes. And much later I learned that writings inform and interweave with each other and with the past. Alan Paton was so moved by The Grapes of Wrath that he set out to do for South Africa what Steinbeck had done for the Dust Bowl.

6. Best book to take with you on a desert island.

I would take Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I love this book, and it would make a great companion because of the unique characters and intelligent writing and ironic wit. More than that, though, Neverwhere offers so many connections to mythology, classics, fairy tales, and metaphysics that I could spend hours untangling all the allusions.

7. Best book to use as a doorstop.

My house is almost one hundred years old, so I favor a vintage book, perhaps something in burgundy tooled leather. Paradise Lost would do nicely. It’s big and fat, and if an earthquake traps me in my room, I would have something seminal to read since Paradise Lost has inspired such masterworks as Of Mice and Men and Frankenstein. Plus, there’s a part of me that would like to have John Milton at my feet, a man who was not nice to his daughters. When he knew he was going blind, he taught them to read Greek and Latin poetry. But Milton would not teach his daughters the meanings of these languages, so they sat for hours reading to him without understanding a word.

8. Last book that made you cry.

Meant For You by Edie Claire
I’m not a crier, not generally, though for some reason children working as school crossing guards can prick my eyes with tears – their shiny whistles and stop signs and somber expressions. Meant For You, a work of romantic suspense, does not include crossing guards, but the novel does touch another of my soft spots – the adoption quest. Though Meara has been raised by loving parents, she always wondered about her birth story, and Meant For You proves the perfect medium for the unfolding of her surprising discoveries. My family has been impacted by adoption (and my fiction inevitably references adoption in some way or other), so I was probably already primed for some tears. By the way, they were happy tears.

9. Favorite quotes.

Everyone knows that as one wears pearls, little by little, they become real…And isn’t it exactly the same with memories?

~ Jean Giraudoux.

Men have had every advantage of us in telling their story…the pen has been in their hands

~ Jane Austen.

10. Three tips for bloggers.

* Please use black type. When I visit a site with white or red type, I click off right away. White and many other colors are nearly impossible to read and will give visitors headaches.
* Establish an engaging voice. Marti does a good job of this in her blog What Has Been Read Cannot Be Unread.
* Make sure your menu and sign-up bar are easy to navigate.

11. Best/worst blogging experience.

I had a blast participating in my first Armchair BEA. Every morning the facilitators would post a writing prompt related to books. I so enjoyed composing responses to the prompts and having conversations about books with other bloggers. I highly recommend this annual event for book bloggers.

MDb 12. You are also a writer. Tell us more about your book.

A doll…a ghost…a love that transcends time. My women’s fiction novel Moonlight Dancer is about how we are connected in ways we may not know. Kendra JinJu Macgregor, a UC Berkeley student, discovers an antique Korean doll in a dusty warehouse. Once she brings home her purchase, her dog reacts with fear, and items go missing only to reappear. When unexplained events escalate, Kendra seeks the help of Hiro Piretti, the expert in Asian art who sold her the doll. Together they begin to uncover the past of NanJu—a ghost who will soon draw Kendra to war-torn 16th century Korea to right a grievous wrong and prevent murder.

13. What is your writing routine like? Do you have one?

I write longhand on the backs of used manuscript pages or pieces of junk mail. It’s less intimidating to scrawl my words on brightly colored sheets of paper destined for the recycling bin than onto a blank computer screen. Ice water and milky coffee are at the ready. Sometimes I sip boricha, Korean barley tea. Keiko Matsui, Kitka, or Bach play in the background. Then I type onto my ancient, heavy laptop.

14. Three tips for writers.

* Read all the time in as many different genres as you can and observe how writers resolve plot and characterization issues.
* Attend a writing conference or retreat. You’ll come away refreshed and inspired (and tired).
* Move your body. Walk, swing, or take a step or twirling class. Movement, especially back and forth or circular, stimulates the right brain, your creative center. When I have a writing problem to solve, I pose it to myself right before my weekly step class. By the end of class, I have my answer. A train’s rocking motion works, too.

15. What are you most passionate about?

Do I get to choose more than one? I love ghosts and all things Korean, but right now I’m feeling pretty passionate about service dogs. I’m in awe of sniffing dogs like the Belgian Malinois that parachute out of planes to hunt for bombs, and the allergen canines like the Portuguese Water dog who alert their owners to deadly substances. The novel I’m working on features one of the latter that has been trained to detect peanuts. I’m also a sucker for service dog stories, especially those about formerly homeless dogs. Operation Freedom Paws is a wonderful organization in Gilroy, CA that rescues dogs from shelters and places them with veterans suffering from PTSD. Something simple like standing behind a veteran in line at the grocery store to prevent him/her from being bumped and scared by another shopper can make the difference in that vet’s quality of life. I marvel that an animal can sense just what its owner needs and move into position to provide care and protection.

Ask me a question.

Goody! I’m interested to know how you came by your unique name. Delia, a diminutive of Cordelia, appears to be Welsh, meaning sea jewel. How lovely! There’s also a Greek shepherdess by that name. Do you identify with Lear’s daughter or with the shepherdess from Delos or…?

* * *

Thank you, Delia, for the opportunity to introduce myself to your readers! It’s been fun talking about a subject near and dear to my heart—me. I have enjoyed reading your posts and will continue to be an avid follower. Cheers!

This entry was posted in Guests. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Guest post – Deb Atwood

  1. Delia says:

    Thanks for being a guest on my blog, Deb. I really enjoyed reading your answers.
    You studied Korean! That is interesting. I can imagine it was quite the challenge.

    I liked Neverwhere as well, though not as much as The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
    Paradise Lost is a book I’d like to read one day and The Age of Innocence is one of my favorite classics.

    To answer your question – my godmother named me but I have no idea why she chose this particular name. One thing I know, it wasn’t because of Shakespeare. 🙂 I will make a point to ask her, something I’ve always wanted to find out but always forgot to ask.

    • Deb Atwood says:

      Oh, you have a godmother. How cool is that? I’m so intrigued by names. (And I love that yours means sea jewel.) I always spend a lot of time deciding on names for characters, even secondary ones.

      I hope you learn the reason behind your name and let us know!

      • Delia says:

        Where I come from we all have a godmother, it’s part of our tradition.
        I had no idea about “sea jewel’. I think I need a tiara now, too. 😉

        Names are important, especially in books, I agree. That is why I love Dickensian characters, they have such interesting names.

        • Deb Atwood says:

          Oh, you absolutely need a tiara! Especially since you have a godmother–perhaps she can conjure one for you.

          A while ago I read Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box. Have you read it? He plays with Dickensian names; for instance, his bad guy ghost is named Craddock. His reluctant good guy is Judas Coyne. How great is that?

          • Delia says:

            Out of some onions rings. Wouldn’t that be something!

            I’ve read Heart-Shaped Box and liked it but it was a while ago and I don’t really remember the names. Judas is a great name for a tortured character, that’s for sure.
            Strangely enough, Heart-Shaped Box is the name of a song by Nirvana. Did you know that? I wonder if that’s where Joe Hill got his inspiration from.

      • Deb Atwood says:

        Hi Delia,

        No, I had no idea about the Nirvana song. That would be totally cool if those lyrics inspired a novel. If I ever get a chance to ask the author a question, I’ll pose that one.

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    What a great interview full of interesting insights.

    Deb’s writing technique as described is so interesting. I people have such varied ways of writing that work for them.

    I also love the list of favorite books.

    • Deb Atwood says:

      Thanks for your comment, Brian. I’m glad you share your love for the favorite books. There were so many for me, of course, so it was hard to choose.

    • Delia says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Brian. Just reading all these answers made me feel like I’ve expanded my literary knowledge. So far I’m not liking Milton very much.

      When it comes to writing there are so many ways to do it, but the main thing is that everybody has to find out what works for them. I read about a writer who wrote his novels on index cards while standing up and stopping now and then to pace along his room. Now that is different. But Deb’s technique makes sense to me – writing on unpretentious stationery can take some of that pressure away.

  3. Pingback: Interview at Postcards from Asia - PEN IN HER HAND

  4. Vishy says:

    Nice interview, Delia! Thanks for hosting this interview series. It was nice to know about Deb and her thoughts on books and writing. I love the fact that she reviews ghostlit. I also love her choice for the doorstop 🙂 I also loved that Jane Austen quote. Deb’s book looks quite fascinating – I will look for it. I also love the fact that her new book is about service dogs – it makes me remember a TV series that I watched and loved – ‘Growing Up Fisher’ – which has a service dog as one of the important characters. I also enjoyed reading about Deb’s interpretation of the meaning of your name and your explanation of it.

    • Deb Atwood says:

      Thank you, Vishy, for all your lovely comments! Your happy face regarding my doorstop made me laugh.

      I’d never heard of the Growing Up Fisher series, so I made a search for it. I’m going to try to order the series and take a look. I love the cover photo. Thanks for passing that along!

      • Vishy says:

        Milton definitely needs to be at your feet, especially after the way he treated his daughters. Thanks for sharing that story, Deb. I didn’t know that. I read parts of ‘Paradise Lost’ when I was studying literature at the university, and it is a beautiful book and takes lots of risks for its time. We have to applaud Milton for that. But for the way he treated his daughters – that is really sad and disappointing.

        Glad to know that you like the looks of ‘Growing Up Fisher’. I hope you enjoy watching it. The service dog Elvis is a wonderful character and the whole story is beautiful and humorous.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      Deb is the one to thank for agreeing to this. I’m having a lot of fun reading the answers and participating in the discussion.

      I haven’t heard about Growing Up Fisher, I’ll have to do some digging.
      The only book that I remember reading that qualifies as doglit would be The Art of Racing in the Rain. Lovely, lovely story.

      • Vishy says:

        I haven’t read ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’, Delia, but many readers seemed to have loved the book. Thanks for mentioning it. I have to read it one of these days.

  5. Caroline says:

    That was very interesting. I love ghost stories so I’ll have to visit the blog.
    I love the idea of those dogs helping solidres with PTSD.
    I knew a Delia once. She was half Spanish. I didn’t think it was a short form.

    • Deb Atwood says:

      Hi Caroline,

      I’m glad you like ghost stories, too. I’ll look for you over at the blog.

      I agree with you about the dogs. They truly are amazing creatures. Dogs do great work with autistic kids as well. I did read somewhere that having a dog lowers one’s blood pressure. I know I sometimes like to bury my face in my dog’s thick fur and end up feeling very calm.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Caroline,
      I love the idea of dogs helping people who suffer from various traumas. Have you seen John Wick, a movie with Keanu Reeves? There’s a lovely pup in that movie who’s supposed to do just that. But it’s doesn’t have a happy ending.

      Spanish, I like that. We have Nedelia and Cordelia here but they’re not very popular.

  6. Deb Atwood says:

    Oh my, I looked into John Wick. It does seem quite dark. I may be too cowardly for that one.

    • Delia says:

      It’s an action movie so there are a lot of fight scenes but nothing to make you afraid of watching. Keanu Reeves has a quiet role, meaning he doesn’t speak much but he does fight quite a bit. I liked the psychological side of the movie.

  7. Priya says:

    I love this interview, though I am a bit late to it. I like your questions and the long interesting answers, so many things to learn. Neverwhere is such a good choice as the book to take with on a deserted island, I can imagine spending hours and hours trying to untangle all the illusions too. Just this pick is enough to make me rush to view Deb’s blog. I hadn’t heard of the Milton story, and it sounds horrible. I’ll remember the tips for bloggers and I am just completely intrigued by the ‘movement’ tip for writers. I don’t think I’d have ever thought of or done it, but it sounds right, and the next time I feel a writer’s block coming on, I’ll definitely try to walk it away! This was such a good read.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Priya,
      Glad to see you here. Deb has such interesting answers.
      The “movement” tip is great, long walks can work wonders, provided you have a means of recording your ideas. Some of the best ideas come to me while I’m in the shower, and not all of them survive by the time I’m at the computer. Weird, that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *