1. How did you develop a writing practice over the years?
My work ethic has improved significantly since my first book was published. I think the old adage, “practice makes perfect” fits. But as you state in your book, it’s not only practice, it’s persistence.
2. Name 1-2 memorable risks you’ve taken over the years that felt scary but ultimately paid off in your writing practice or career.
My most memorable risk was going with an unknown micropublisher for my first book before it became not only acceptable, but trendy to do so. I decided to go with a small publisher because my first book, Harlot’s Sauce was narrative non-fiction (memoir) and I had a number of agents tell me that I should turn it into a novel if I wanted it to be picked up because bigger publishers prefer a memoir that’s tethered to a big name. That wasn’t bad advice, but I was firm in wanting the story should be presented in a non-fiction format. One of my beliefs is that there are not enough women helping women, and I’d had some life-changing experiences that I wanted to share with other women. Also, because those experiences took place when I was living in a foreign country that I loved, Greece. It’s a country that I feel not enough Americans know much about. What we hear about Greece is either negative or silly, but having lived there for seven years, I discovered so much about it that I loved and I wanted to share that. By going with the micropublisher, I was able to get Harlot’s Sauce published much sooner than I would have otherwise. And once I had that book published and went out there to actively promote and sell it, my author platform built up, and I was able to get a second book deal on another narrative non-fiction relatively easier.
One of my beliefs is that there are not enough women helping women, and I’d had some life-changing experiences that I wanted to share with other women.
3. What are your go-to habits for revising a work?
Reread. Revise. Reread. Revise. Get feedback. Revise. Reread. Repeat.
4. Do you seek feedback from others? Who?
I seek feedback all the time. I think it’s a terrible mistake new writers make not to do so. However, I don’t work with a writing group when my work is in progress. I work with one person, whom I call my “work-in-progress editor.” For example, currently my agent is shopping my first novel—book one of a trilogy—and I’m in the middle of writing the second in the series. I like to show my work a few chapters at a time to a content editor I know who “gets” me. By that editor making suggestions, adding comments and asking questions, it’s very much like working with a coach. I get the instant gratification of feedback while my work is in draft, and that helps keep me at my desk, typing. Plus, it’s much more social and fun. After my editor and I were both satisfied that my novel was ready, I then sent it out to one dozen carefully picked work-in-progress readers, who gave me valuable feedback —everything from comments about a character’s ‘voice’ not sounding quite right, to the type of private airplane that I’d written was flying from Hanoi to Los Angeles. It was all very helpful stuff and gave me a good idea of hwo the story would be received.
5. How do you handle constructive critique of your work? (Get straight to work—or take time to digest? Curse the person who delivered it
Get to work straightaway. I only ask for comments from those I trust, so I am not offended if they point out parts that need revision. I don’t always agree with their assessments, but more often than not, I do.
I truly hope my stories, both fiction and non-fiction, might lend the support and encouragement that some of us never had while growing up.
6. How do you handle personal criticism? (Do you curl up in a fetal ball? Get mad? Call a friend and weep? Ignore it?)
In reference to criticism about my work, see above. In reference to comments about my character, my thoughts on that vary depending upon who is doing the criticizing! I might curl up and weep, or I might ignore it completely.
7. What is the root of your writing practice, in other words: why do you write? What keeps you coming back to it?
When it comes to non-fiction, it’s being passionate about helping other women, writing about what I think other women need to know in order to be inspired to live happier, more productive lives. When it comes to fiction, it is the love of the craft and love of a good story that motivates me. I truly hope my stories, both fiction and non-fiction, might lend the support and encouragement that some of us never had while growing up.
8. What has helped you persist the most through the challenges of a writing life (can be more than one answer)? Who has?
One thing keeps me going for sure—the idea that I started writing late in life after raising a child and having all the “safe jobs,” and now I feel the clock ticking. I only have so many years left to write all that I want to write, I also am inspired to persist because I have a son, who is also in the arts. I want him to see me as a role model of perseverance and thick skin.
9. What are you most proud of about your writing practice?
It’s pretty darn regimented. I get a lot done. Having said that, it’s not nearly as regimented as some other writers I know. And I also try to put out my very best work. I don’t shy away from revision. Technology has it made it almost too easy to publish, and some inexperienced writers are turning what are essentially first drafts into ebooks. This is the one drawback to the more open publishing market—writers are not learning the discipline it takes to revise and hone their work until it is truly at its best.
10. What would you not change at all about your writing practice? What would you change immediately if you knew how or had the means?
I wish I could write faster. Much faster. Apart from that, nothing. I’m thankful that so far, my work has been well-received.
Patricia V. Davis is the author of the bestselling Harlot’s Sauce: A Memoir of Food, Family, Love, Loss, and Greece and The Diva Doctrine: 16 Universal Principles Every Woman Needs to Know. Her first novel, with the working title COOKING FOR GHOSTS AND LOST LOVERS, has just been completed and shares the theme of female dynamism with her other non-fiction works. She is represented by Gordon Warnock at Fuse Literary Agency. For more about Patricia visit: www.TheDivaDoctrine.com