Patti Larsen is a fellow author I met online this year. We share a publisher, a favorite author, and a love for YA fiction. I've read some of Patti's flash fiction, and it's terrific. I bought her new short story, Henry, and it's going to be my reward read after I accomplish some tasks this week. It's an honor to have her interview on my blog.
What led you into the writing profession?
My father was a closet author who never actually did anything about it. Both he and my mother were passionate readers, however and passed that on to me and my sisters. We didn’t have a great deal of money when I was growing up so entertainment was cheap sci-fi and fantasy books and weekend-long games of Dungeons and Dragons. I cut my baby teeth on Isaac Asimov and Andre Norton and Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Belgariad and the Dragonriders of Pern. Not exactly young adult fare but I loved all of it. When I was twelve, I finished a book one afternoon and set it aside. I looked up to find my parents both reading on the sofa across from me and in that moment I knew. I told them I was going to write a book. My mother snickered but my dad just nodded. I spent the next several weeks hammering away at the old green contraption I’d dug out of the closet, a left over from my mother’s college days until my dad gave me the best gift in the world—an electric typewriter. I’ve been a writer ever since, but only in the last two years have I actually considered myself an author.
If you had a do-over in life, what would you choose to do differently?
I wouldn’t have let the ravaging disappointment I experienced in my mid twenties stop me from pursuing my writing career. It was my first attempt to get an agent and my work was torn to shreds. I was devastated and gave up writing for almost a decade because of it. My creativity found other outlets in the form of improv theatre and screenwriting but I wish I had someone to stand behind me at that time and not let me quit. In fact, I’m so adamant about it these days I try to help as many young writers as I can to realize the creative side of this career and the business side are two very different things.
Oh, that and I wish I had stood my ground when my parents insisted I go to University and not college like I wanted in the first place. I did very well but it stifled my creativity.
Which genre do you read, and who is your favorite author?
You have to know this is a difficult question! Most writers I know (myself included) are influenced by many others and read just as widely. If I have to choose… In adult fiction, Stephen King. Not all of his work, mind you. But the way he explores the human condition and really makes you think about the horrible and terrifying while still loving the characters he writes about. In YA fiction, Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games was a turning point for me. When I read that series I understood that it was all right for me to let the darkness out with teenagers and still preserve that sense of adoration for what I create. As for the rest, all the old-school writers my father adored still influence me to this day.
Have you worked any other interesting jobs? Did you experiences affect your writing?
Well, I grew up on a farm, worked retail, was a journalist, worked more retail, was a 1-800 operator (the clean kind), yet another bout of retail, did hair for fifteen years, owned my own business, read Tarot cards professionally… all the while writing and wishing and hoping. Made movies. Not the same. Close but no cigar. And yes, they all affected who I am as a writer. The people I encountered, the experiences I had doing things I hated or at least weren’t in line with my life’s purpose prodded me into finding a way to make this real and viable and profitable. I catch myself wishing it happened at twenty-five instead of thirty-seven but I know I wasn’t ready. Not like I am now. And being a business owner has really helped me to understand the separation between the art and the science. I no longer allow the logic parts of the industry to color the creative side. When I’m writing, I’m a creator. When I’m doing everything else, I’m a businesswoman. It helps a great deal in self-confidence and taking criticism.
One bit of advice you'd give to someone who wants to become an author....
Don’t ever, ever, ever quit. EVER. Even if someone tells you that you suck. Even if your mother won’t read what you’ve written because it’s so bad. Take a class. Talk to other writers. If the passion is there, the art is too. The rest can be learned. Trust me. Keep writing but be willing to learn and nothing will stop you from getting what you want.
A secret about you that you are willing to give up for this interview...
I’m having a half-sleeve tattoo done of my book covers. I LOVE tattoos though you’d never know it looking at me. I want to wear my work and carry it with me everywhere I go. I’m already planning the first one--Fresco comes out the end of this month. I can’t wait.
Patti Larsen is a 39-year-old novelist and independent filmmaker. A writer of fiction and screenplays, she began her writing career at a tender age and had her first typewriter by the time she was twelve. Choosing to develop her skills in journalism, her passion for storytelling eventually led her back to fiction. She found filmmaking and screenwriting and fell in love with telling stories all over again. She sees all types of fiction as wonderful forms of expression. Her original passion, however, is writing novels, and she is very happy to be doing so.
Her young adult novel Fresco (Etopia Press) is due for publication in July of 2011. The sequels are pending. Her middle grade novel, The Ghost Boy of MacKenzie House (Acorn Press) is scheduled for release in the spring of 2012.
Patti lives on the East Coast of Canada, with her very understanding and patient husband Scott, and four massive cats.