This week I had the pleasure of exploring the inner workings of FEROCIOUS ROMANCE author Donna Minkowitz's mind. Her forthcoming book, THE MARVELOUS TOY blends myth with memoir, madness with magic. Enjoy the ride!
JD: Tell us about your latest book and how you managed to bust so many genres, girl!
DM: The Marvelous Toy, which I just finished, combines absolutely true memoir with something that is complete fantasy -- that my mother created me as a golem, which is a sort of clay automaton out of Jewish legend. As a kid, my mother really did tell us that she could do Jewish magic she had learned from her grandparents, and she could make us do whatever she wanted to! And I believed her. The book is a memoir of a recent crisis period in my life when all my usual methods for coping break down, and I find myself needing to find a way to stop being this magical clay golem and become a human being for real!
According to legend, a golem can do that, but it's very, very hard. (Smile.) I wanted to combine memoir with out-and-out fantasy because I had been getting rather impatient with people who don't take memoir seriously as a literary form -- a story -- and expect it to be some kind of verbatim record of your life. In actuality, that's impossible -- that's not how stories work, or how memory works -- so I just decided to say that this book combines approximately 87% true memoir with material that is not only untrue, but physically impossible!
JD: When did you develop such a strong interest in Science Fiction? Do you read a lot of science writing as well?
DM: I've always loved science fiction and fantasy. Tolkien and Le Guin were my first -- and still the best, I think -- but I also love HG Wells, Star Trek, the Alien movies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I love the fairy tales and myth that I believe were the origins of this form. These archetypal stories still shape the way all of us see our lives, and the part of our brain that makes up wild, impossible tales like this might be our most creative part. I didn't want to not use that part just because I was writing a memoir.
As for your question about science writing, I was going to answer no -- but then I remembered that I have been reading lots of science writing about intelligent robots. First for The Marvelous Toy, where the golem character is also partly a robot -- actually, golems and robots have a lot in common -- but also for a new story I'm working on about a gay military robot.
JD: How has your experience as a journalist informed your other writing?
DM: Being a journalist for 12 years got me interested in the other part -- writing about the truth. Being as real as possible. Going to scary places. In all my memoir writing, including The Marvelous Toy, it's very important to me to go as deeply into the uncomfortable parts of the truth as possible. Writing about things I'm ashamed of, places where I feel very vulnerable, sort of the meat of what I've been struggling with.
JD: What's your take on how the publishing industry has changed in recent years?
DM: I think it's both a terrible time for writers, and a wonderful time for writers. It's probably harder now than it has ever been to get published by a mainstream press, but a lot of independent publishers are booming, and writers are also benefiting tremendously from the availability of blogs, social media, reader communities, and elegant and effective self-publishing.
JD: What's your writing practice like these days?
DM: Very different than it was before I got something called Repetitive Strain Injury, which is a musculoskeletal injury to the arms and shoulders you can get from using the computer too much. So now I intersperse writing throughout the day with all sorts of other activities, to make sure I'm not sitting in the dreaded "computer pose" for too long. On the other hand, I'm writing in more different kinds of physical places, which is nice. I edit my work longhand in printouts on the subway, or in a coffee bar, or even while hiking if I take a day trip.
JD: Thanks to Donna for joining us. For more please check out her website:
And for more on the craft and practice of writing please check out my book,
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