Our Wednesday Writer's Spotlight this week features an interview with the author of The Obvious Game. Rita's book will be released on February 7th. The Obvious Game is a young adult story about a young lady who is facing a variety of challenges in her life. Let's find out more about Rita and her writing process.
When did you first start writing? What made you want to be a writer? I started writing when I was around my daughter’s age now – eight. I wrote mostly poetry and a few short stories through high school and college, then I wrote my first (unpublished) novel when I was twenty-five. Though it never saw the light of day, the writing of that novel reassured me I was capable of a full-length novel and that I just needed to get better at it.
I finished a graduate writing program in 2002, and my thesis advisor, Michael Pritchett, actually helped quite a bit with the early drafts of THE OBVIOUS GAME, as did my agent, Eric Myers. I edited a parenting anthology called SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK in 2008 to kind of dip my toe in the Dewey Decimal system. After I published that book, I had the bug, and I was ready to try a novel again. The anthology was a great experience, but it’s completely different to publish a book that’s just your writing.
What inspired you to write your book? While Diana’s story is not mine and Diana is different from a personality perspective than I am, this novel is semi-autobiographical. My mother had cancer when I was in middle school, and my anorexia showed up when I was seventeen. I didn’t completely defeat the rules in my head until I was almost thirty. I wanted to write a novel, and I wanted to give life to what helped me overcome my eating disorder. I thought a young adult novel might be a good platform from which to jump beyond myself and put a conversation starter into the hands of teens and their parents. Moreover, I get a lot of email from parents of kids with ED who don’t understand why their kids are acting that way. Despite their love for their kids, they find it hard to be compassionate. I want to help parents and friends understand what it feels like to be in that headspace. And I want kids with ED to hear the words that helped me with the hope that it will help them. And I like high school wrestling and – back in the day -- wrestlers.
Are you a pantser or a plotter? Plotter. I like to stick my headphones in my ears, lie back and access my memories. Usually something will pop up and then I’ll think how it could’ve gone differently, or what I liked about it, or what was important about it. I’ll take something real and mess with it until it isn’t real anymore. I feel the same when I’m writing as I do when I’m falling in love. I wouldn’t do it otherwise – it’s a lot of rejection and a lot of hard work.
Do you have any writing rituals or special processes you complete before sitting down to write? Nope. I have a husband, a kid, two cats, two hermit crabs and a fish, as well as a more-than-fulltime job. I write when I can.
What authors inspire you? Any author that publishes inspires me, because after SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK and THE OBVIOUS GAME, I understand what a challenge the current publishing environment is. That said, I love John Irving, Tom Robbins, Amor Towles, Joseph Heller and a host of YA authors I’ve only just discovered and who are legion.
If you could only write in one genre for the rest of your career, what genre would you choose? Why? I think I’ll stick with contemporary YA fiction. I was always so sure I would write literary adult fiction, but then I really thought hard about which books have shaped my life the most. They were the books I read when I was in high school, when I was still figuring out my worldview. So I changed my mind and wrote a YA novel.
Which of the characters in your current release is your favorite? Why? Pa is my favorite. He’s a lot like my own dad, and I’ve learned a lot from my dad. Only one of the things Pa said is really what my dad said, but a lot of his dialogue is what I think my dad would say in that situation.
Are any of your characters modeled after real people? If so, which ones? All of them are composites of people I know. It’s hard to completely envision a character out of thin air for me, but it’s not hard to take a piece of this person, a piece of that person. Not all of those people are people I knew when I was a teenager, though. My job in media has a side effect of meeting a lot of people, and I like listening to their conversations, thinking about how they would react if put in a certain situation. I steal dialogue by eavesdropping. I’m interested in people.
What music was on your playlist while writing your novel?
Since the novel is set in 1990, I actually named all the chapters after albums that were on the radio in my hometown around that time, with the exception of the last chapter. Here’s the chapter list and its corresponding albums and the song off each album I think complements best that chapter.
The Obvious Game Playlist
Chapter 1: Pride by White Lion (1987) – When the Children Cry
Chapter 2: Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses (1987) – Welcome to the Jungle
Chapter 3: Scarecrow by John Mellencamp (1985) – Small Town
Chapter 4: True Colors by Cyndi Lauper (1986) – True Colors
Chapter 5: Can’t Hold Back by Eddie Money (1986) – Take Me Home Tonight
Chapter 6: Hysteria by Def Leppard (1987) – Hysteria
Chapter 7: Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction (1988) – Jane Says
Chapter 8: Just Like the First Time by Freddie Jackson (1986) – Have You Ever Loved Somebody
Chapter 9: Use Your Illusion by Guns N’Roses (1991) – November Rain
Chapter 10: Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf (1977) – Bat Out of Hell
Chapter 11: Head Games by Foreigner (1979) – Dirty White Boy
Chapter 12: Faith by George Michael (1987) – Monkey
Chapter 13: Cuts Like a Knife by Bryan Adams (1983) – Straight From the Heart
Chapter 14: Double Vision by Foreigner (1978) – Hot Blooded
Chapter 15: Disintegration by The Cure (1989) – Fascination Street
Chapter 16: Poison by Bell Biv DeVoe (1990) – Poison
Chapter 17: Achtung Baby by U2 (1991) -- Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?
Chapter 18: Nevermind by Nirvana (1991) – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Chapter 19: Listen Without Prejudice by George Michael (1990) – Something to Save
Chapter 20: Out of Time by R.E.M. (1991) – Losing My Religion
Chapter 21: The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby (1986) – Mandolin Rain
Chapter 22: Infected by The The (1986) – Out of the Blue (Into the Fire)
Chapter 23: Strange Fire by Indigo Girls (1989) – Strange Fire
Chapter 24: Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos (1992) -- China
Morning person or grumpy bear? I function best with 9-10 hours of sleep, but I seldom get it. I would say I’m less grumpy, more walking into walls.
Tell us one thing it would surprise us to know about you? I once physically bumped into Bruce Willis when I lived in Chicago. He’s about my height, and I’m 5’6”.
What is next for you? I’m at work on a YA novel called THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES.
Do you have any unique skills or talents? If so, what? I can sail.
If I were to look in your closet right now, would I find frills and lace or demin and tees? Denim and tees. I’d like to be fancier, but I work from home.