Author Interview: Missy Wilkinson

  • First, can you give us some background about yourself?

  • Growing up, I read for hours every day. I secretly longed to be a child prodigy like Mozart, but that wasn't happening. So I took some pleasure in reading well beyond my grade level. It made me feel precocious and smart, and oftentimes adult books included sex scenes. When I was a college sophomore, my English professor David Madden told me, "You are a writer. There is nothing else for you." Something of a dire prediction, but he was right. 

  • What have you written?

  • I have written five novels and published one as of last year. I am a journalist with hundreds of published features in newspapers and magazines worldwide. I blog, write branded content for companies, publish short stories in anthologies and have kept a diary off-and-on for 28 of my 36 years.

  • Are you currently working on anything?

  • Yes. I'm writing a sequel to my novel DESTROYING ANGEL, which was published in 2015 by Torquere Press.


  • How much research do you do for your writing?

  • It depends. One of my unpublished novels centered around the 1878 yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans, and for that I spent hours in library archives scrolling through newspaper microfiche. I read tons of books about yellow fever and visited the French Quarter's pharmacy museum, too. Another unpublished manuscript drew heavily from Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE. I got pretty obsessed with Masonic conspiracy theories for that one. However, I think that research was a way of spinning my wheels in many ways. It's significant that neither of those manuscripts ever saw the light of day. My published novel draws much more heavily from my own life. With journalism, I do some research, enough to be able to ask my sources informed questions.
  • What is your process like in the midst of writing a book?

  • I write a very quick first draft--no re-reading, no editing. Just burn through until the end. It's usually short, maybe 50,000 or 60,000 words. I don't generally outline before writing, though I have a sense of the characters, what's driving them, the conflict and the stakes. I let that draft sit for a few weeks or a month, then reread. There are always parts that make me want to vomit. I delete those parts, then build out what's left by creating a scene chart. I use the framework from a book called ROCK YOUR REVISIONS. I might add subplots at this point. When I have pushed the manuscript as far as I can on my own, I hand it off to a developmental editor, Diane Glazman, who is fabulous and not terribly expensive. Then I incorporate her suggestions, do a final line-edit and submit to agents and small presses, in that order. 
  • What does your routine look like when you get to the editing process?

  • Ah, I kind of touched on that already. A developmental editor helps me immensely during the more general editing phase. One thing that's really useful to me when I'm at the line edit phase is to print out a hard copy and approach the book like a regular reader would. Often this means I'm reading/editing it/making notes after dinner and a few glasses of wine or tokes of weed. Being in a different head space helps for this stage of the editing process, though I only write when I'm sober.
  • Do you have any quirks or rituals that help you achieve your writing goals?

  • I do most of my writing at my 9-6 job at an alt-weekly paper, usually in the very late afternoon/early evening/after 5 p.m., when things are settling down at the office. When I am generating a draft, I try to write every weekday, even if that only means I write a single sentence and have the document open for five minutes. Visiting the manuscript every day keeps the lines open, so to speak, so I don't forget what I was working on or what the story is about and have to go back and reread. I write in Google Docs, and just keeping that tab open in my browser helps me write more.
  • Tell us about your work space.

  • It's a dark, windowless space lined with bulletin boards and the covers of newspaper issues past. I had a string of fish-shaped Christmas lights, but they all died. On my desk, there's an open Passion Planner, a cup of green tea, a small LED lamp and a box of thank-you notes within arms' reach.
  • Are there any software or apps that help you in your writing process?

  • No, just Google Docs. I wish I was better at Scrivener--I bought it but never learned to use it.
  • What do you do when you lose focus? Any tips for getting it back?

  • If I've already accomplished some writing, I don't worry about regaining focus. Some days, I write one good sentence and that's enough. Other days, I stare at the manuscript in frustration for half an hour, and that's all I can do. It's useful to remember that a frustrating, fruitless day is often followed by a day when the words flow like milk and honey. Physical exercise helps me stay focused, too. I like running and biking. Haruki Murakami runs a marathon every year, which is more than I do, but I have trained for two half-marathons and completed one (the other one got rained out).
  • Tell us about your publishing process.

  • My novel was published by a small LGBT press called Torquere. I submitted the manuscript to them directly. Prior to that, I cold-queried about 50 literary agents, but was rejected by every one of them. Had the manuscript not been picked up by a press, I probably would have self-published. I plan to repeat the process again for my next manuscript, but with different agents.
  • Where can people find you and your work?

  • Amazon:

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