We offer this exclusive Q&A Interview with Patricia Furstenberg, Author of the Year of 2022, a writer whose multiple literary works have been featured on our Spillwords pages, as well as previously being Author of the Month of October 2022.
What was an early experience where you learned that language and writing had power?
I was in junior high-school. It was a winter day and we were stuck in history class. Snow was late that year and Christmas was a short way ahead. And with it, the winter holidays. We were learning about medieval wars wedged between Ottomans and Wallachians (which is today part of my native Romania). The teacher’s words were floating above the classroom, like the gray clouds were hanging above the school yard. You can guess where my attention was… The lesson was far from the excitement of “Rise of Empires”. That was when my attention suddenly jumped. It wasn’t what the teacher said, but the way she said it. She’d swerved from her usual teaching style to something a lot more conversational. A lot less boring. And a lot more exciting. Within minutes, everyone was paying attention, questions were raised, and even some laughs filled the classroom. Our history teacher had used her language to help us make sense of a part of history we had no relation with.
As for writing, during our creative writing class in senior high-school our language teacher chose my short story to read to the classroom. Everyone fell under her spell – she was a wonderful reader, but, still, the story was mine.
Language and writing hold a magical power. In many ways – any parent can tell you that. For me, as a writer, this is a kind of power I know I must use wisely, and never count on it, but always work to improve it.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I absolutely adore writing. It makes me feel creative, it stimulates me, and it connects me with my inner self. Often it makes my heart race when I work on a scene I visualize it and I feel as I am practically there, with my characters. It’s like I am in an agitated dream-like state. I have to catch the flow, I am, yet I am anxious that it will go away if I am not writing fast enough. At the same time new ideas come to mind. It is exhilarating. I also find energizing the moment I feel that something unknown, a hole in the plot for example, a solution, are about to reveal themselves.
So, yes, it is a mentally and physically exhausting activity and one that takes its toll on a writer’s mind and body. But I try to stay focused on the main goal, and take breaks now and then, be active, move about, change the scenery.
How many hours a day do you write? And in a perfect world how many hours would you like to dedicate to writing?
The time I spend writing depends on where I am on my writing, on the day and the season. If I have to push to finish a chapter or an edit, when I know that I am close to finish a big body of work, then I work close to six-eight hours a day. That means that I wake up between 3am and 4am to put in some solid work hours before my family is up and needs me. I can work again during mid-morning, and maybe early afternoon, time permitting. Winters are cold here in South Africa, especially indoors, so during those four months of winter I really need to put in extra effort to get up and write in a cold kitchen, with the heater by my feet and a blanket hangs over my back. But in the end, any effort is well worth it.
Does ego help or hurt writers?
A big ego can stand in the way of a writer because it will act as a brick wall in perfecting his writing skills. A big ego will often rise between a writer and legitimate and well-meant criticism.
On the other hand, some ego is needed for a writer in order to push through a life spent mostly alone, in front of a white piece of paper, pursuing a dream that only he can see – until that dream comes true, taking the shape of a published book.
If we don’t believe in our work, if we don’t have the confidence to share it with the world, no writing dream will ever come true. No tale will be told, no poem whispered, no smile painted.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Stress, especially when I feel that one of the members of my family is under a great deal of stress. Over time, I tried (I still am, I haven’t mastered this skill yet) to overcome this weakness, to compartmentalize when it comes to writing, knowing that it will make me stronger.
Do you summon your muse or does it come naturally?
For me writing is about self-discipline and routine, much like a gymnast has his rigorous training routine. So perhaps following these steps at the same time, day after day, prior to sitting in front of my laptop is my way of summoning the muse. Like a ritual – only that a lot more boring and not at all out of the extraordinary. But it works for me, so the muse must be happy with the attention it receives.
Is the support of your friends and family important to your writing process?
It is, especially their understanding if I tend to be absent-minded, if I take time for myself, behind closed doors, or lack the time to go out for a coffee. I love my family very much, so feeling that they are happy for me as I follow my writing path, as I am happy for them as they discover and follow their own dreams and passions, is crucial.
Do you ever Google yourself?
Yes, I do. For different reasons, I admit. It is a lot of fun, plus as I have full control over my author website and blog keeping an eye on SEO is crucial. It is fascinating to discover how the work I did in the past resurfaces, depending on the Google trends and time of year.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become better writers? If so, what are they?
Read, read, read, then write, rewrite, and rewrite some more. Don’t be scared to cut out. Don’t be cared of change. Step away and come back with a fresh eye, if needed. And do not give into the fear of other’s perception, believe in yourself. Have fun.
What does it mean to you to be the Spillwords Press Author Of The Year 2022?
Being voted Spillwords Press 2022 Author of the Year means the world to me. It is joyful and humbling having the support and respect of my peers, knowing that I earned their trust through my work. It is a dream come true, and I hope it won’t boost my ego too much that I will shy away from working even harder at improving my writing skills and remembering to show my support and appreciation, in turn, to my fellow authors.
OCTOBER 2022 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH / 2022 AUTHOR OF THE YEAR at Spillwords.com
Novelist and poet Patricia Furstenberg has a degree in Dentistry and is the author of 18 books including DREAMLAND, 100-Word Stories, TRANSYLVANIA’s HISTORY A to Z, SILENT HEROES – chosen “One of the Five Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime”, and JOYFUL TROUBLE – Amazon Bestseller. Patricia Furstenberg’s writing focuses on people, on how history surprised them, and on the footprints they left, memories that should not be forgotten.