Time to catch up! I'm jet-lagged from a trip to Costa Rica, and headachy from switching back to black tea after a week of excellent Costa Rican coffee. Today's post is an interview with the writer Alison Pearce Stevens, a person I admire because she is a scientist and a writer who writes fiction as well as non-fiction, is a mom to two energetic boys, has made the leap to living abroad (Berlin) and knows what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land. Also, I like her work for the Nature Education Knowledge Project.
Q: How did you become interested in writing again after studying science for 18 years?
A.P. Stevens: By chance, really. We try to come up with personal, hand-made gifts for family members, and my son and I decided to write a story for his grandparents. I got completely swept up in it. It was the first time in ages that I had let my creative side completely take over, and it was cathartic.
Q: Is it very different to write non-fiction vs fiction or do you think there is not that much difference?
A.P. Stevens: There are certainly differences, but I think that good, engaging non-fiction is narrative. It pulls the reader into the story, just as good fiction does. I also think it's important, even in fiction, to ensure that the story is factually accurate (unless, of course, it's fantasy). Readers retain information from engaging stories and they assume the information to be true, unless it was obviously fabricated.
Q: What brought you to Berlin?
A.P. Stevens: My husband was offered a job there. But we're about to move back to the U.S. (for the same reason). :)
Q: Has living abroad helped or hindered your writing?
A.P. Stevens: Definitely helped. It completely broadened my horizons and exposed me to new and different places and ideas. In addition, I stopped working full-time after we moved, so I had more time to spend on creative pursuits. It wasn't long before story lines and characters started appearing in my head, and I had to find a way to let them out.
Q: Do you have a writing routine?
A.P. Stevens: Nothing rigorous. I generally walk home after taking the kids to school. I find that walking helps stimulate ideas. By the time I'm home, I'm ready to sit down and work. But that means I might be writing a non-fiction article even though I'm in the middle of a chapter of a novel. I can't force myself to work on one particular story until it's done. The prominent idea from my morning walk gets my attention for the day, even if I'm in the middle of something else. By allowing myself to work on my top idea of the day, I find that my writing time is more productive, and the quality of my writing is much better.
Q: Do you have a favorite book or author?
A.P. Stevens: I can't possibly choose one! I adore Joseph Heller's work. More recently, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and Christopher Moore's books are great for a bit of levity.
Q: (If you are willing to say...) What is your current project?
A.P. Stevens: Which one? ;) I usually have at least three. I'm revising a middle-grade novel titled Thunderstruck, but I won't share the details (sorry!). I'm revising a couple of non-fiction picture books, one about how forests migrate with climate change and another about artificial reefs. My main focus in recent weeks has been non-fiction articles about scientists studying animals in the wild.
Thank you Alison!