Last week I had the pleasure of attending a reading of first time novelist Anton DiSclafani and her much talked about book THE YONAHLOSEE RIDING CAMP FOR GIRLS. We were in the Vero Beach Book Center, a great Indie book store. We had a few minutes to chat and I’d sent her a few questions too. It was awesome!!
Anton was open and engaging, eager to answer questions, I was just 40 pages from finishing the book, so we talked about some of the plot twists and secrets…oh what an amazing story she has woven! So without further ado, here is our interview:
Thank you so much for doing this interview for my blog. As you may or may not know I’m participating in a group read-a-long of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls on twitter. We call ourselves the Hashtag reading group as we do twitter chats and discuss the book as we are reading. Last week was our first talks, Tuesday and Friday this week we are back for more, and I can’t wait to discuss. I’m ahead of the reading schedule, and loving it!!
What led you to become a writer, and more specifically to become a novelist? Was that part of your goal while in college etc?
Anton: I wasn’t one of those kids who wrote all the time–I wrote when homework called for it, but that was about it. I read endlessly, though (still do!) and started taking creative writing classes in college. I took one and got hooked! It didn’t really occur to me to pursue writing as a career in any sort of thunderbolt moment–I just kept writing more, and then the idea of an MFA program got into my head, etc, etc.
I decided to write a novel after grad school. My short stories weren’t going anywhere, and I’m kind of an all or nothing person: I was going to write a novel, or do something else.
AL:I know you’re an avid horsewoman, so what came first–the idea of a girls riding camp or Thea’s story?
AD:The idea of the riding camp, closely followed by Thea Atwell. The camp couldn’t exist without her, and vice-versa.
AL: You and I have discovered we have a link to the actual Camp Yonahlossee, small world. Did your research lead you to the camp or were you familiar with it? Did you ask any of the former campers how they felt about your fictionalized story and history of the camp?
AD: I was actually kind of terrified about how the Yonahlossee campers felt about my book, but I met them all this Saturday (Yonahlossee’s 90th Reunion!) and they were all the kindest and most gracious women ever. What I told them, and what I tell everyone, is that I hope my love for Yonahlossee comes through in the book, but I have always been very clear about the fact that it is 100% fiction, except for the name and the mountains.
One of the best, and most unexpected parts about this book tour has been meeting former Yonahlossee campers. It’s been so exciting to talk shop with them.
AL: Do you have a favorite character?
AD: I like that question. I have a deep, abiding sympathy for Sam, who is so kind and easily hurt.
AL: I’m only a third into the book, but I’m fascinated with Thea’s relationship with her parents. Was it always so strained or reserved as you were writing?
AD: There was genuine love in her house, but relationship is very formal, which I think leads to Thea’s transgressions.
AL: Can you tell me about your writing space or where you like to write?
AD: I love this question! I write in a sunroom in our apartment (my husband gets the guest bedroom as his office, because he needs privacy to write, and I don’t, particularly). My favorite part of the office is that our cats hang out there (because their food is in there), and so they’re always around. I love being around animals–my best days are when I hang out with my dog and two cats at home, and then go to the barn and see my horse. The worst part of being on tour is that I can’t bring an animal with me!
AL: What is your writing routine or process like?
AD: When I’m writing new material, I write two to three hours every morning. It’s usually morning–I find I’m more productive at the start of a day. When I’m revising, I can go for longer.
AL: You are a teacher of creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis, has the process of writing your novel and becoming published changed the way you teach?
AD: Not really. One of the nice things about undergrads is that they don’t care about the world of publishing. It’s been fun to talk to them about the ins and outs of the publishing world, though–I brought in my galleys, and told them about the editing process, etc.
AL: Are you working on another book, and if yes can you share anything about it?
AD: I can share what I know so far (I’m only 100 pages in). It’s about a woman who returns to her Southern hometown after her brother dies in mysterious circumstances. It’s contemporary, so that’s a change!
AL: Tell me something that your readers wouldn’t know about you from your bio or recent interviews? Something funny or quirky?
AD: Hmm…my husband and I went to Vietnam for our honeymoon. We wanted to go some place that was new to both of us. What else? I’m fascinated by people’s eating habits–I LOVE to listen to what people eat for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner. It never gets old. When I talk to friends on the phone that’s one of the first things I ask–what they ate that day.
We also chatted about her early reading, which included her childhood love of Charlotte’s Web followed by The Babysitter’s Club books. She also has a fondness for chocolate cake with vanilla icing, something I asked because cake and cupcakes just make me happy.
While I was visiting with Anton I bought an extra copy of her fabulous book, just for YOU!! It’s autographed too!
To enter to win a copy of THE YONAHLOSSEE RIDING CAMP FOR GIRLS just leave a comment below!! I’ll chose a winner using random.org and the contest is open until midnight Sunday June 23. Open to US residents only.