The characters in the stories all seem a little (in some case, a lot!) wounded or vulnerable. What draws you to write about these types of characters?
I’m not entirely sure. It’s not like I set out to write stories about odd, eccentric or unstable people. It’s just, for some reason, I am drawn to those types of people—perhaps it’s one of those “There, but for the grace of God” things.
My fiction—or at least, my short fiction—tends to be about people who are damaged in some way—by what they have done to themselves or by what was done to them, by what they have received, what they gave up, or what was taken from them. They are, for the most part, struggling to navigate through dangerous waters. Some survive and move forward toward land, some are just treading water, and some don’t even know that they have lost the battle and are, even now, drowning.
I feel sorry for those people, wish I could do something for them, and perhaps, in the writing of their stories, that is what I am doing. Because somewhere out there, there is a real person who is held in thrall by his or her obsessions, who is controlled by past or present circumstances, who wants to live a happy, normal, balanced life but finds that the tightrope of life vibrates too much and maintaining equilibrium is but a dream.
“Dream”—and there it is again. The idea of what we want and what we have. For some of us—perhaps for most of us—the former is the dream and the latter is the reality and never the twain shall meet.
Where did the idea of the cover art for TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER come from?
From the very beginning—even before I knew it would be a book!—I had an image in mind for the book cover. The cover is a literal interpretation of each character’s metaphorical journey on the road of life. Some of them zig-zag across the center line only to pull back to the right side at the last moment, while others cross once and never make it back in time. And then, there are the few who are merrily driving right down the center, every now and then drifting first to the left and then to the right, blissfully unaware that they are courting disaster. When I shared the concept with my publisher, it took only a few tweaks before we had the “ah hah!” moment and said “This is it!” and after a few revisions, we successfully “birthed” this book cover!
You made a reference to your “short fiction”—does that mean there is a novel or two kicking around in your writer’s closet? And are those characters damaged as well?
Yes—two that I have finished and several more in various stages of creation. And no, those characters are more normal (whatever that means!) although they too have their own battles. But those battles are, in a sense, more conventional—trying to figure what they want out of life, trying to carve a new identity and role when circumstances alter.
I don’t think I could sustain a story line like “Annabelle” for fifty or sixty-thousand words. It’s not a writing thing but a temperament thing—it would exhaust me psychologically to become so immersed for so long in that type of story. When I write, I live with my characters. It would be too draining to live with Annabelle or Sarah in “Skating on Thin Ice” for months or years on end.
What was your “writer dream”—your goal— when you began to write? Has it changed over the years?
I don’t think I had a dream. Certainly, I never pictured myself holding a book with my name on it. Writing is such a natural part of me that I never thought about it as an occupation or a goal, any more than I would think about breathing as a profession. It was just something I did.
Of course now, with two books—TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER and my non-fiction book, THE GIFTS OF CHANGE— in print and two short stories as e-books plus others that have been published in literary journals, I do have a dream or two. Great reviews in The Times. Accolades from well-known literary fiction writers. An award or two to stick somewhere on my bookshelf—next to about a dozen foreign translations of my collection!
Or maybe my accountant telling me that my royalties have pushed me into a different income bracket!
Where do you do most of your writing?
I’d love to say that I write on some special paper in some special notebook using some special pen but the reality is I am a keyboard writer. I hate to transcribe and sometimes can’t even read my own notes, so I write using the computer. But most of the times, the ideas for the story come when I am far from my electronic secretary. I’m out on a run or mowing the lawn or driving along somewhere and, for no reason whatsoever, the opening lines of dialogue fill my mind and it’s off to the races! Sometimes, if it will be awhile before I can get back o the computer, I have to stop myself from going too far lest I forget all the good parts!
Do you have a theme you return to time and again?
Probably change. I mean, that is the constant we all face, isn’t it? We are only fooling ourselves if we think we can control everything that happens to us. So, that being the case, what do we do? How do we handle change—happy change, sad change, confusing change? That’s the predicament my characters find themselves in.
What do you want your writer’s epitaph to be?
Just two words: “Fiction Writer”
Nancy Christie is a professional writer, whose credits include both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to her fiction collection, TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER, and two short story e-books, ANNABELLE and ALICE IN WONDERLAND (all published by Pixel Hall Press), her short stories can be found in literary publications such as EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and Xtreme.
Her inspirational book, THE GIFTS OF CHANGE, (Beyond Words/Atria) encourages readers to take a closer look at how they deal with the inevitability of change and ways in which they can use change to gain a new perspective, re-evaluate their goals and reconsider their options. Christie’s essays have also appeared in Woman’s Day, Stress-Free Living, Succeed, Experience Life, Tai Chi and Writer’s Digest. She is currently working on several other book projects, including a novel and a book for writers.
A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG), Christie teaches workshops at writing conferences and schools across the country and hosts the monthly Monday Night Writers group in Canfield, Ohio.
Finding Fran http://www.nancychristie.com/findingfran
The Writer’s Place http://www.nancychristie.com/writersplace/
One on One http://www.nancychristie.com/oneonone/
Make a Change http://www.nancychristie.com/makeachange/
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Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/NChristie_OH @NChristie_OH