20 Questions with Mourning Goats
INTERVIEW FORTY SIX
Sean P. Ferguson, a good friend of the goat, did a review of Paula's book for ManArchy Magazine and I was intrigued. When I asked the Mourning Goats readers who they wanted, he suggested that I ask her a few questions. So, knowing he has pretty good taste, I searched out Paula and found out she's awesome, even though she writes about a few things the goat has not dove into, literaryily (I believe in the freedom to make up words...like that one) speaking...
1. What comes to mind when you hear, "Mourning Goats?"
Honestly, a question mark. But I love your webzine.
2. What's your novel, 9 Months about, in your own words?
My own words sort of fail me regarding my work, so I'll quote some other people- I like the ones who say it's a woman having an existential and identity crisis. It's also an examination of one woman's pregnancy and birthing experience.
3. Your first book was Baby & Other Stories, then 9 Months, please tell me the next one is conception.
My next book, Inside Madeleine, is a novella and a group of stories that are about young women generally is some sort of crisis. The novella is decidedly unfunny and the stories range in tone.
4. You have your MA in English and Creative Writing from City College, what do you think about teaching creative writing? Is the degree necessary?
I've never taught creative writing, but I really enjoyed my time at CCNY. It was good for me, a twenty something year old. I took a lot of English classes because that's how that program was structured and that was wonderful. I should take some more now. The workshops were a mixed bag, but working one on one with great professors was helpful and often inspiring. That said, it is in no ways necessary.
5. I saw on your Facebook page about a review that was just downright mean, what's it like getting reviewed by people all over the world, stressful?
I do find getting reviewed by people who hate my book as mildly distressing. Then I can laugh it off, usually. I wrote Nine Months to purposefully push the PC buttons of the world, so I really have no right to be distressed when someone hates it. I tell myself, whoever hates my book it's because they are not the right reader for it. And I try to focus on the positive reviews, and that sometimes works. I can't wait to get to the point where I don't read them. I already don't really read my goodreads reviews.
6. What's your process like? Do you write every day? When the urge hits?
I write as much as possible and that varies tremendously. I'm pretty good with deadlines although I do bang my head on the desk at times or not get out of bed for a really long time to avoid working. I love it when I get that "flow" and I hate it when it's hard coming. It's often hard coming.
7. You have a reading coming up on February 11th, are you excited? Nervous?
I hate reading. My husband says I've gotten better at it but that's just because I discovered how relaxing vodka is. That said, I love getting out of my house and talking to people in the literary community because I don't do it enough. And I do love it when the audience laughs. That's gratifying.
8. If anything, you and Sonia have one thing in common, you're both Brooklynites, do you think living here changes a person?
I think wherever we live and wherever we are from greatly affects who we are. I've lived in Brooklyn for 22 years and frankly, I'm done. But I have a few more years before my kids are in college so I have to stick around. Then I'm going to try to force my husband to retire- oh wait, he has to pay for college. I'm stuck here for a while longer. Sigh.
9. Another Mourning Goats Author interviewed you, Shya Scanlon, what was that like?
That was wonderful. Firstly, Shya is just one of my favorite people to be around and I don't see him and his fantastic wife nearly enough. And he was an excellent reader of Nine Months and I loved his questions. He's a very smart man. He's funny, too.
10. I've heard whispers of a sequel? Where are you in that process?
Haha. One reviewer mentioned they wanted a sequel and I was so flattered and then I thought- what a great idea. Like Roth's Zuckerman, I can use Sonia in other books. I think I'll have her freak out on her teenagers who drive her mad and have her fly to some exotic land where all sorts of absurd and terrible things happen. I am absolutely nowhere with this book. I've got two other to finish up first. But who knows, maybe it will jump ahead of one of them.
11. Do you work on multiple projects at the same time? Reading over some timelines, it seems like there's a lot of overlap.
Yes. Baby was written over the course of many years and two novels were written within those years as well as some other stories from Inside Madeleine. That said, when working on the novels, I focused pretty intensely for months at a time just on those.
12. Where do you find the time, you have two kids, Sententia Books, AND writing?
I also have two dogs two cats and three houses. And I still manage to watch way too much TV. Frankly, my kids are teenagers and want nothing to do with me and are never around. They are so busy! I beg them to hang out with me, so they are not the problem. Any problem I have or ever had with writing comes from inside my brain.
13. Your book was reviewed by an online men's magazine, ManArchy, did you ever thing there would be a mail audience for this?
I am happy about it. I'm not really surprised. I don't think I write Chick Lit or even upscale women's fiction. I write literary fiction- or try to- and that should appeal to everyone. The excellent Jon Reiss wrote an interesting piece where he admitted he wasn't interested in Nine Months because of the subject matter and then said it was one of the best books he'd read in years. He discusses the prejudices we have as readers. Anyway, I;m just happy to have readers, period. Really really happy.
14. This was a very different book when you first wrote it. What happened?
I wouldn't say it was different. Sonia has always been Sonia and she was on a road trip after having a freakout. But I did revise it with the great help of my editor Mark Doten. He made me make her go to different places which is quite funny if you think about it. He made me make it a better book. Maybe some writers can do that themselves- I often hear about writers revising 400 times. I needed some direction and feel fortunate to get it. That said, with Baby, we didn't change a word. I'm much more comfortable in the story form, or was. Now I seem to have lost that comfort level. Here's hoping it comes back.
15. You have some awesome blurbs! How do they come in to play? Friends or just a publisher that pushes to the right people?
Some of the blurbs are from friends and acquaintances and some, frankly, are complete strangers that I contacted, writers I admired. I urged my Sententia author Scott Wrobel to do the same. He got some great blurbs that way. You'd be surprised who's generous and who wants to help out, and equally surprised who doesn't. But as a writer, I had nothing to lose. What's the worst that can happen? Oh wait, a former mentor insulted a book- this after being so encouraging for years- and refused to blurb me. I cried for three days (not non-stop).
16. You are the first author I've read about who's told their spouse and children to NOT read their work. Why?
My writing is my private thing. I never shared it with my parents or other family members, although they stumbled across it from time to time. My husband, at this point has heard me read -so therefore knows- quite a lot of my work. Maybe half? But we don't sit around discussing it. And if my kids at some point want to read my work- and they've attended two readings and my older son helped me with the Indiana chapter and once in a while I ask him to read something- then I have no power to stop them. But I think it's fine to warn them away from graphic sex scenes or really depressing stories. And they KNOW me. They don't want to read my fiction. That said, they're super proud of me. I was 42 and had been writing for 20 years before I got my first book published. No one is happier for me then my sons.
17. I read somewhere that you didn't want your kids to go to college in New York, do you think your schooling and travels created the author I have before me? Could you not have done it if you stayed here?
I think seeing as much as the world as one can is ideal. I'm pushing them a bit. Once they're done with college and want to move back to Brooklyn and never leave, I'll have no say in the matter. That said, we have a cabin in the Dominican Republic and I've traveled all over Europe and parts of South America with them so I think I've instilled in them the desire to travel. We shall see. For me, it's a huge priority.
18. You've worked with two presses, what are your thoughts on sticking with one, or jumping from press to press? How was publishing through Soho and Word Riot?
I am so fortunate that Jackie Corley at Word Riot loved Baby and did so well with it. She's become a friend and a writer and editor that I adore. When Mark Doten- another stroke of great fortune in my life- asked to see novels and loved Nine Months, Jackie was really happy for me. As a person who runs a small press myself, I'd love it if my authors nove to a bigger press. I'd be so happy for them. And so it was with Jackie- she was happy for me. It think that's the healthy response- Jackie is pretty sane. Except she runs more than me and that makes me - envious? Something like that. I wish I was in as good as shape as her.
19. When did you first really consider yourself a writer and why?
That's a good question. In my own little mind, at 22 even though I wrote some in high school and college. Openly admitting to the world was a slow process. That first story getting published, being in grad school for writing, and then- a book. And then another book. I'd say now that I have two books out, with a third on the way,I can safely call myself a writer,
20. What's next for Paula Bomer?
With great pain, I hope to God to finish this book I'm working on soon. Then I'll try to finish another. I'd love to quit smoking. And I'm desperate for a long vacation at my cabin in the Dominican Republic. I'll say this- no more pets- the last one was an impulse buy. And just a few nights ago, my husband and I were oohing and ahhing over photos of Maine Coone cats on the internet. Lord help us.