In addition to being the author of two novels, Dented Cans and the more recent The Drake Equation, Heather Walsh has an actual life. For one thing, she’s a foodie who loves to eat. She’s lived in New York City, San Francisco, and now Boston, which, she’s quick to point out, are all great food cities. On the home front, Heather has two small children, a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. Also, she’s taught English, has unassailable taste in television programming (Her favorite show is The Wire), and even played rugby in college. According to Heather, this sport worked especially well for her because, though she was small, she was also fast and able to run away.
Striking a balance between family obligations and writing is no small feat, but somehow Heather finds the time. Not only did she author the aforementionedThe Drake Equation–which we reviewed here–but she also managed to field our daunting but ultimately reasonable nine questions. Good for her!
Tell us a bit about Emily Crossley, the protagonist of The Drake Equation.
Emily is a force. She knows what she believes and she believes it passionately. She’s a twenty-six-year-old liberal environmentalist who believes that people can change the world, one small town at a time. But without giving too much away, her love interest Robert and some other events in her life reshape her worldview. To find out just how, you will have to read the novel!
Can you tell us anything about the evolution of The Drake Equation?
I am not one of those writers who can write the final draft of a novel quickly, or in just a few edits. I edit, re-edit, and then edit some more. I finished Drake almost ten years ago. It took me about a year to write it. I then then went back to it a few years later and tinkered with it, and then before I published it this year I went back over it again. I found that having those years of distance really allowed me to be ruthless with the red pen. I could kill those darlings a lot more easily!
What is one work of literature that changed your life?
Reading Alice Munro for the first time. I could not believe that someone was able to write that well. She is my idol and she constantly floors me with her talent. I was thrilled when she won the Nobel this year. I will never be anywhere nearly as good as her, but she inspires me to try to make my writing the best it can be.
What’s the most useful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Write every day.” And since 2001, I have. It doesn’t matter if it is just one sentence, or one paragraph, or if it’s any good. It’s the discipline of it. You have to force yourself to do it, because there are always a million excuses you can come up with for why not to write.
Writers often say that at least part of their creative process is about working out certain truths for themselves. Have you ever gained wisdom from any of your characters?
Oh, absolutely. I’ve found sometimes that my characters take on lives of their own, and I am just following along and trying to record what they are doing. It sounds strange, but that is often what happens. So they teach me all sorts of things. Hannah from Dented Cans taught me about humility, Robert and Emily from Drake reminded me there is not only one way to look at the world.
What writer, living or dead, would you most like to meet, and what question would you most like for that person to answer? What book or story would you ask that writer to sign?
Sorry for the trite answer, but it’s Shakespeare. I’d ask him how it’s possible for a human to have written Hamlet. And sure, I’d take a signed copy of it.
Who are some writers you admire, in or out of your genre? What do you admire about them?
As I mentioned, Alice Munro is my favorite. I admire her greatly, especially because she persevered in a time when female authors were not common and her preferred mode of story-telling, the short story, was not popular or lucrative. She had to have believed in herself to keep writing. I also admire Stephen King and his formidable work ethic and talent. I highly recommend his On Writing for some great writing advice.
Blogging and social networks like Facebook and Twitter are providing readers with unprecedented access to their favorite authors and vice versa. Have you been able to utilize any of these venues?
I have an author Facebook page and I have a Twitter page as well, and I am slowly building an audience. I think they are great tools for writers.
What’s next for Heather Walsh?
I have one more novel that I wrote before I had my children, which I plan on editing and publishing next. I’d love to see it out there in Fall 2014, but no promises. Who knows when I will stop with the edits!