Thanks for spending some time with us, Patoka. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a twenty-nine year old fiction writer from the midwest with a gadjillion short stories under my belt. Currently I'm on a mission to promote my novella, "My Son The Boy Magician" available in both e-book and podcast (audio) form. You can find links to both at: www.patokabrown.com
Q How long have you been a writer? What made you put that first story down on paper?
I was in the fourth grade when I realized I wanted to be a writer. But I chickened out fast. I was pretty sure you weren't allowed to dream so big. It took me until I was twenty-two to wise up enough to consider otherwise and pick up a pen. So, I've been writing for six or seven years then.
Yearning made me finally put that first story down. I desperately needed to release all the stuff I'd been suppressing inside me for twelve years. Still do.
Q What types of stories do you write?
The kind dealing with human emotions. I could care less about plot and genre. I try and write what I like to read. To me the best stories allow you to empathize with the characters. The best of the best leave you re-considering how you view the world. That's what I strive for.
Q What do your family/friends think about your writing? Are they supportive?
Some are more supportive than others. It's not anyone's fault. Most small-town midwesterners don't know what to do with the few creative people who have ambition and do something with their gift. From the looks on their faces, you might as well be sporting a third nipple in the center of your forehead. And it's lactating. You're a freak.
Q For you, what is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
Most frustrating is when the writing doesn't just flow out like water.
Most rewarding is the groupies. No, seriously it's the feeling you get every time you've nailed something. It doesn't matter if it's just a good paragraph in a longer story or a long-last completed project. Unlike everyday life you've captured something, YOUR something, perfectly. There is no foot to put in your mouth. A foot may have existed in the first draft but you cut it out in editing. In that moment you are a god, however minor.
Q Do you read much? What kinds of books inspire you to write - if any? Favorite authors?
Yes. Any great book inspires me to write –– to push harder and try to raise my writing to that level.
Amy Hempel, Eddy Harris, Bill Callahan (singer-songwriter), Will Oldham (singer-songwriter), Richard Russo, Jonathan Lethem.
Q How do you handle rejection letters? Any hints?
Badly. I probably am not a good example on this subject. The best way, ie. least depressing way I've found is to send out batches of five to ten submissions at a time. And then when the rejection letters start pouring in, and they will, no matter how good you are, counter it with sending out another submission. This keeps things positive. There is always something in the works and you always feel like you have a chance.
Q If I were sitting down today to write my very first story, what would your advice be?
Expect the worst. That first story will be horrible. So will the next couple dozen. Keep working at it.
Q Do you take most of your ideas from life? Or your imagination? A mix? (do you hate when people ask this?)
I don't consciously take them from anywhere. I start with nothing and let the ideas spill out my subconscious.
Q Do you have days when the words won't flow? What do you do?
I have whole weeks when the words won't flow. I keep at it anyway. Sometimes winding up with a blank page after an hour's time. I try to relax and keep things in perspective. Things will get better, even if sometimes they get worse first.
Q What's a typical writing day like for you? How do you keep from procrastinating?
I average between one and two hours of writing a day. Usually I do better on the weekdays than weekends -- less distractions, less going on. I keep a loose schedule of writing in the evening, anywhere from the time I come home from work from the time I go to bed. It doesn't really matter when, so long as I get it in that night. Otherwise, I'm not happy with myself.
How do I keep from procrastinating? I think the best way is to maintain some type of schedule. Beyond that, I don't know that there is anything you can do. Just like anything else in life, if it's something you really want to do, you'll do it. It's a shame to think of all the incredibly talented writers out there, sitting around doing nothing, wasting it away. But then again, that's less competition for me...
Q What do you do to unwind and relax?
Listen to music. Read.
Q. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and started writing? Do dreams inspire you?
No and no.
Q Do you have a "golden rule" of writing that almost always works for you?
Relax, focus, don't think. It's much harder than it sounds.
Q What's your opinion on "How-to" books on writing? Helpful, a waste of money?
I like the vague ones, dealing in general philosophies. Anything specific is a waste of money. Writing is deeply personal and can only be done right when you've figured it out for yourself.
Q What's the best piece of advice you've been given as a writer? What's the worst?
Best: Don't think.
Worst: I can't think of a worst. Guess I've blocked it out.
Q Did we forget anything? What would you like to add? Any upcoming publications or links for our readers? Current projects to watch for?
Yes, you forgot to ask me about my name –– what it means and is it my real name? I'll never tell. Here's a good link: www.patokabrown.com Bookmark the site. There will be updates.