Author Interview with Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon
Get to know Victoria and T.R. SIMON…
Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon are the co-athors of the award winning chidren’s novel Zora and Me. Winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent and nominated for an Edgar. Zora and Me was also a Junior Library Guild Selection, ABC 2010 New Voices Selection, SIBA 2010 Okra Award Winner, Fall 2010 Indie Next Top Ten Pick, The New York Public Library 2010 list of 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, a World Book Night pick, and Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award. Their work has been featured in USA Today, Essence Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, Seattle Examiner. Their radio interviews have appeared on WBUR Here & Now, BBC, and WNYC The Takeaway. They are currently at work on the second volume of Zora and Me. For more information please visit their website.
What song best describes your work ethic?
VB: Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye.” Whenever I’m working on something the thing that thrills me most about the process is the process being over.
TS: Dinah Washington’s “You Got What It Takes.” I guess I’m a collaborator at heart.
Have you been told you look like someone famous?
VB: Yes and they all look different. From Veronica Webb to Sandra Bullock to the actress that plays the protagonist’s sister on Sleepy Hollow, who I think I may actually look like.
TS: No one, although everyone tells me I look like a relative they have.
If you were to get a tattoo, what would it be?
VB: A winged skull because I think of myself that way: mortality in flight. Crazy, I know, but true.
TS: Something horribly clichéd like a jumping dolphin. This is why I would never get a tattoo!
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
VB: I deal with blocks by continuing to write, usually pretty badly. Though during periods when I’m not writing every day, or at least 5-6 days a week, I make visual art. So when the writing muse sleeps in me, another muse wakes up, which is nice.
TS: I’m with Vicky. I just keep churning out crap until something decent shows up again.
Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?
VB: Yes and no. I think I have faith that the book will get done, so in that way I can see a manuscript, but I don’t necessarily see it on a bookshelf with all the bells and whistles that end up going into a work that makes it to the marketplace.
TS: Yes, I’m very goal oriented and I never work on something for which I have not already mapped the end.
Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?
VB: Writing chose me; I chose it back and now we’re in a painful marriage with a lot of bad periods. But there’s also the romance and the joy and the fun of being in love.
TS: I’m passionate about expressing my opinions, so in that sense writing is true to who I am.
Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?
VS: Outside in the sun.
TS: I need a cozy nook, somewhere safe and private. I’m a bit like a bear and I need a good den to hibernate in.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
VB: Having a writing partner and a contract helps with keeping my head in the game. But it’s also the person in the mirror that keeps me bound up with the writing life. There is a piece of me it would be hell to disappoint, that it is hell to disappoint, and that’s my artist self, who with each passing year it seems keeps edging out other aspects of my personality.
TS: I don’t really believe in the concept of quitting. Everything is always in process, sometimes that process seems more productive than others. When I look at things that way, I don’t really worry about quitting, I worry more about being present.
If you were no longer able to write, how else would you express your creativity?
VB: I would make a go at making more visual art and probably begin to take more seriously a lot of the ideas I have for conceptual pieces.
TS: If I can think and talk then I can write.
What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the author you are today?
VB: Being ridden, overwhelmed and run by self-doubt that puts my self-esteem on the chopping block every day.
TS: I think the person who has sacrificed the most is my husband. He’s always there for me and almost never loses patience when I’m cranky, self-doubting, or full of wacky story ideas right before bed.
What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?
VB: Write the books you want to read.
If you knew that you had only one last opportunity to express yourself creatively, what message would you want to convey to others?
VB: Live until you die.
TS: Don’t be so afraid. Life is one long, glorious series of failures and mistakes and funnily enough it’s what makes the trip grand.
When did you realize that you had a gift?
VB: I don’t think I have a gift because I have to work too hard. My creative life feels more like a determination than anything else.
TS: Again, I’m suspect of terms like “gift.” Everyone is gifted, some folks just show it off more publicly than others.
How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?
VB: I haven’t really. I have a job and then I create stuff. And as a result, my “personal life” seesaws between being painfully boring or just painful.
TS: It’s hard. I have a young daughter and she’s very much our priority, so the rest of life has to fit around her.
What is your typical day like?
VB: On a day that I’m writing, I wake up around 7, run for about an hour, write and then finish up about 5. On a day that I’m teaching, I wake up at 5:30, leave for work by 7 and am usually home around 7.
TS: Much the same. I work from home so there’s never enough time to get everything done.
How much of your own life is reflected in your work?
VB: When I first started writing a lot of my own life was. In fact, I think it was too much and it was detriment to me being able to work and solve problems. Now, how I see the world and people is there in my fiction, but the circumstantial baggage of my life is gone, which is a welcomed change.
TS: The wisdom I’ve gained and emotional experiences I’ve had are in my writing, but not the details of my life.
Do you have family members who like to write too?
TS: Yes, my husband. He has an actual MFA in writing.
What was your childhood like? Did your upbringing influence the way you write today?
VB: I spent a lot of time alone in my own head. Also, my best friends when I was a kid were all old people who now for the most part are dead. For this reason I have always been simultaneously aware of how long and short life is. As a creative person now, I feel like I have time to make the work I want, but I know that this time will not last forever.
TS: I was a solitary child, so books were a big part of my emotional life. I guess you could say I like to write about bookish protagonists.
How do you think you differ from other creative people in your genre?
VB: Instead of being different I hope our book represents the best of the genre.
TS: I wouldn’t begin to know how to compare our work to others. Everyone has their own unique voice.
Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?
VB: I no longer have any interest in writing fiction that’s remotely based on anything from my real life.
TS: I’m more patient with myself and my process.
When do you feel the most energized?
VB: After I take 2-3 caffeine pills.
TS: Lol. I prefer green tea.
Does your writing reflect your personality?
VB: I’m pensive and I like to think of myself as funny, so I hope those two pieces of me come through.
TS: I believe deeply in the capacity for people to care for one another, and I like to think our book reflects that hopefulness on my part.
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