Chica Lit: Describe your writing process with this particular book. What were its challenges?
M.J.: Three months before I start any new novel, I start my main character’s scrapbook. The very process of collecting his or her past –preferred poems, swatches of favorite colors, letters, postcards, memorabilia allows me time to find him or her.
I collect everything — the ticket stubs for a performance of the Metropolitan Opera that she went to, a postcard from his mother’s first trip to Europe, a piece of the red and white string on the pastry box from her grandmother’s apartment: it’s all in the scrapbook.
Only when I’ve found all the knickknacks of that imagined life and I’ve done a fair amount of procrastinating do I sit down to write. By then, I’ve unconsciously worked out a lot of the plot of the themes of the book.
This time in addition to that I read about 60 books – reasearching both reincarnation and ancient Rome.
The challenge was keeping all that info organized so I could get to it when I needed it.
Chica Lit: How do you know when the characters are present and the story is coming alive?
M.J.: It takes a long time, usually the thrird draft of the novel, and what happens is I start to see the people in my head operating of their own accord without me pushing them around the page.
Chica Lit: When you’re not writing, what other interests do you pursue?
M.J.: I love to paint. I don’t get to do it often enough but I pick up a paintbrush as often as I can. No one sees what I do; I’m just not good. But this I do for me and it recharges me like nothing else. I think because compared to writing its physical versus intellectual and cerebral versus philosophical. Paintings, like music move you without logic. Writing and reading for that matter requires thinking, logic. I love the movement of painting. I can stare at colors for hours, mix blues and greens into each other for no other reason than seeing them bleed together like the ocean. I love the smell of paint, the sting of the turpentine in your nose, the overwhelming scent of the linseed oil, the feel of brushes, buying new brushes and running one down your cheek and feeling that smooth silky touch of the sable. I love touching thick rich watercolor paper with its tiny indentations where the color pools. And I lust after the idea that when you paint you can create something in an hour or an afternoon and look at all of it at once. See the whole. Take in all of it all at the same time.
Chica Lit: Do you feel that you chose to be a writer or that it chose you?
M.J.: A little of both I think. I wanted to be a writer for along time but never wrote. Then at a certain point I didn’t really want to be a writer anymore and tried to move on.
That’s when I really became compelled to write. How perverse, right?
Chica Lit: What are you working on now?
M.J.: The Reincarnationist is the first in a series of at least three books. I’m doing this series a little differently. There won’t be continuing characters but rather a continuing group of objects.
The first book, The Reincarnationist, is about the modern day discovery of and adventure around an ancient memory tool that helps people access their past lives. I’ve suggested in this book that there were 12 such memory tools created in ancient India over 5,000 years ago. In each book in the series, a different one of those memory tools will surface and the story will flow from there. I’m working on book two now.
Win a copy of M.J.’s new book by emailing me with “MJ Rose Contest” in the subject line. I’ll draw the name of the lucky winner on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007. Enter now!
And check out my guest blog, “The Five Qualities of a Writer” at The Writing Playground!