Interview with Paula Tiberius, author of The Cowboy Singer
I see you’re a filmmaker and musician as well. Which is harder? Composing, Directing? Writing a novel? Is one more rewarding than another? Perhaps a Rock Opera of The Cowboy Singer in your future?
Rock opera! That is a life-long dream of mine, to write a rock opera, stage it, make the movie and then put out the book! I absolutely adore The Phantom of the Paradise and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of course it will have to be an epic life and death story with tragic consequences at every turn. I can't wait. But going back to the first question, my attitude has changed over the years. I used to find writing more difficult whereas directing came naturally. Now I find all the work of putting a production together exhausting. Casting calls, location scouting, pitching people for money - whew! I'm getting tired just thinking about it. But sitting at my desk alone with my words and emotions? Easy! Plus I used to be able to work until wine 'o' clock, then enjoy cocktail hour(s) and go to bed. Now I have to be 'on' with the kid each evening, so I notice it much more when I have a physically tiring day.
Inspiration comes in many forms and authors are not always inspired just by other writers. Who or what energizes you in your work?
Usually all I need is one good Idea for a fruitful writing session. If I've got nothing, I'll just write nonsense until an idea hits. It doesn't have to be anything big - a piece of dialogue or an emotional motivation for a character will do - and then I'm off and running. Other people's writing rarely inspires me to actually write - it inspires me to curl up in bed - especially if it's good. Bad writing sometimes inspires me to write, if the subject isn't being done justice.
What’s your writing practice? Quiet room? Distractions? Loud music? Munchies?
Definitely a quiet room and lots of munchies. I eat constantly when I work. Or maybe it just seems that way because the day is only ever broken up by those treasured trips to the kitchen. If I liked classical music I could probably write with music, but rock and roll with all its lyrics and licks is way too much of a distraction. I also like to neurotically check my e-mail and Twitter, to the point where I have to set time goals - "no Twitter until 2pm..."
As a filmmaker and musician you must be accustomed to working in a group. Was it difficult to write a novel, not having as much interaction? Do you ever write with others or is writing a purely solo venture for you?
I like collaborating with other writers. I have a number of film and TV projects in development with actor / comic Tanya Henley and we work well together. It's fantastic to hand something off to another writer and have them fix it, finish it, or at the very least come back to you with a whole slew of ideas you'd never even considered. The project takes these giant leaps that are very satisfying. Although I don't know that it would work with fiction. I doubt I'll ever collaborate on a novel. Non-fiction, sure, but there's something about fiction that is so deeply personal. You have to become the voice of your characters from the inside out, and I'm not sure if that would work by committee. Writing for the screen is different because so much of that intimacy with the character is left up to the performer.
All writers, except the very few (and I don’t know who they are) have to face it at some point. Love it? Hate it? Fuel you up to try try again or crush you like a bug? Or can you shake it off and just move forward?
Are you talking about rejection? What else could you be talking about. Oh boy, it's everywhere, isn't it? I've certainly faced my fair share. My official policy is absolutely: Shake it off, move forward. Then my unofficial policy is to say things like, "It's so goddamn easy to be a critic," or "Critics are so lazy," or "They didn't even spell my name right." There are always those choice reviews that stick with you and you can't shake them. One reviewer began his rant on my movie Goldirocks (a film about a girl who starts her own band) by saying that I should have made a documentary about Broken Social Scene instead. Seriously, it was so weird and disrespectful. And it still bugs me.
What’s on your reading list these days?
I just found out Ann Patchett wrote a new book without notifying me! How dare she. So I need to get that. Right now I'm reading this hilarious British novel by Susan Alison called White Lies & Custard Cream. I haven't read anything quite so frantic in a long time. I really like her voice and how she writes with such urgency - it's addictive.
As a filmmaker you may have scripts which may work well as novels or perhaps novels which work as scripts. Do you have any plans to work a screenplay into a novel, or vice versa? If so, how difficult (and rewarding!) is that process?
Funny you should ask, I am finding out the answer to your question as we speak! I'm novelizing a romantic comedy screenplay of mine that's working out quite well in the fiction medium. I've had to get over that stigma in my head about 'novelizing' though. It reminds me of when I was eight years old and bought the novelized version of the movie Grease. Lots of glossy production stills and verbatim dialogue. But it's actually quite a challenging and fascinating process. You're constantly making decisions about point of view and which character should be witnessing the events of a scene. With both mediums you can have an omniscient narrator of course, but in fiction there's no camera. I've never been more conscious of the camera as in novelizing a screenplay.
Any thoughts on revising The Cowboy Singer for a different market? There are many romance sub-genres out there. What are your thoughts on issuing variations on your novel? Or is it a fixed work and it’s time to move to the next?
I'm definitely moving on to the next project, although my cousin Anna asked me if I would consider doing a version of The Cowboy Singer without the sex scenes! She really loved the book, but she's a Mormon and they don't go in for sex scenes apparently, so she skipped over them. She said she saw the sex coming and 'skipped three or four pages.' I was like, "Wow, how long do you think I can keep a sex scene going! You might have missed some important story." But anyway, I'm still considering that. And my friends at Deambulation Editions are putting out a Spanish version which is very cool. I can't wait to see what the title translates into!
Quick News Update
Paperback Copies of
The Cowboy Singer NOW AVAILABLE
Paula's Blog Tour:
July 2 The East Village
July 5 Storm Goddess Book Reviews
July 7 Sophie Sansregret
July 8 Lost In Literature
July 9 Jersey Girl Book Reviews
July 10 Nose in a Book Blog
July 12 Chick Lit Goddess
July 16 Second Bookshelf on the Right
July 16 Change the Word
July 19 Samantha March
July 21 A Bundle of Contradictions
July 23 Chick Lit Plus