Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with poet and novelist Ana Paula Seixlack. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Ana. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Ana: Hi Morgen, I’m a Brazilian writer. I live in South Brazil, I’m 26 years old and I started to write when I was 5. I was at pre-school and quickly learned how to read and write. Back then I was reading a lot of children’s book and children’s poetry from the library school that I took the chance to start writing my own stuff. I was in love with rhyming and I thought I was really good at it. I used to write down in a paper all the time and then I got my grandpa’s old writing machine to type down the final version. I put them all together in a little book of my own. Parents and teacher liked it a lot. I can’t say the same about my colleges. Most of then haven’t even learned how to read and write yet.
As I was growing I used to handwrite and illustrate some other little books as well or type them in the machine. The computer came about when I was around 10, but in Brazil it also took a little while before we had internet on it or understand how to use programs like Word and anything else. After all I guess the learning process wasn’t so automatic like it is to children nowadays.
Morgen: Do you generally write rhyming or free verse?
Ana: Normally I prefer to rhyme. It seems to me that you are on the right way when you can find the perfect rhyming word. Not saying you can’t get the same result with a free verse poem. It’s just that it’s more difficult to realize when you have accomplished it. That’s how it works for me.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Ana: Well, I wrote the book Don’t back down from that wave. There are only surf poems. Then I wrote The Next Sunset last year. There are short stories and poems mixed. And I also wrote the book A chuva o parque as flores e outras coisas, It’s in Portuguese, as you can see and it’s a collection of short stories and chronicles. All three of them for I-Proclaim publisher. I always write under my own name. I have two novels on the way, but they are in Portuguese.
Morgen: Which author(s) would you compare your writing to?
Ana: That’s a really hard question. My poetry has a different style from my prose. I wouldn’t know how to compare my poetry with some other poets, because it’s just like… we tend to read and be inspired by people we admire, but that doesn’t mean you are able or crave to follow his or her style.
For example, I like the musicians who dare to write poetry apart from their songs.
Bob Dylan would be my first choice, for sure. His book Tarantula is great — tho it’s not an easy reading and we’ll never know how much of the fact that he is Bob Dylan can influence his fans to like or understand his poetry. I also like Dylan Thomas, the poet, but obviously Dylan, the singer/songwriter got me there… He also led me at one point to the Beatniks, like Ginsberg, Kerouac and Cassidy.
Another musician that I also like to save a time for reading his poetry is Art Garfunkel. Not to be the one who puts Paul aside, I do love his lyrics, but there’s just something pure and honest about Garfunkel that just can’t be neglected. I don’t think I ever captured the feeling of wandering around the world reading another poet than I ever got reading Arthur’s magical paths.
Talking about non-musicians poets, I can name Lord Byron and Robert Frost as favorites. But I can’t compare anyone of them to my writing style. I kind of focused in the surf thematic to write down my poetry and I don’t think I have read anyone exploring this peculiarity. On the other hand, I was totally inspired by the surf music and scene from the 60’s. I have always tried to catch this ‘fun in the sun- beach-surf-hot rod’ atmosphere into my writing. Tho some other different elements came along as well in order to add more variety to my work.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Ana: Mostly I only had rejections. Even in my dreams. But well, life is so full lately that I don’t have the time to bother. Never did actually.
I don’t write as much as I should, and I’m aware of that, plus I don’t submit much stuff as well. I’m always late on deadlines. I’m that kind of person that is always the last one to find out about something… you must know the type.
Morgen: Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Ana: I do, but so far I have only tried Brazilian competitions, which demands Portuguese language, so it wouldn’t be very useful to recommend any of those in here… Unless you speak Portuguese, do you? It would be helpful for those who are planning to visit our country during the next World Cup or the next Olympic Games…
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process?
Morgen: What / who do you read? And is it via eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Ana: I’m way too old-fashioned for a lot of things. Books are definitely one of them. I only read via paper. I sometimes try to read eBooks but it doesn’t work for me all that well. I soon get tired and start to skip parts of the reading to finish it faster and go find something else to do on the computer. That doesn’t happen when I’m reading on the paper.
I like to read so many people. I will start with Hemingway, of course. I know it’s a bit cliché, but I did enjoy his writing even before I knew it was a cliché. I found his book The sun also rises at an old books store for like 2 bucks when I was a teenager. When I read it I liked so much like I never had liked other book before. I really got into the story and wanted to wander around the fiesta in Spain and see the bullfight, even when I clearly knew that I hated such thing and the way they treated the bulls. But even then, I wanted to be there to defend Cohn, to drink my head off. Back then I thought I was the only one who knew or liked that author, but when I run after more of his work, I discovered he was not just anyone, he was Hemingway. But I still love him. No hard feelings.
Same thing with Fitzgerald. My grandparents had an old The great Gatsby edition on their coffee table and for my whole life I saw that book standing there next to a Brazilian novel that I don’t recall the name. When I was at high school I decided to read it in a very boring day and loved it. When I tried to find more about Fitzgerald, I learned he was popular too. And Hemingway’s friend… life never cease to amaze.
Later on, I discovered Mark Twain, Oscar Wild, Alan Poe, Hawthorne, Melville Jack London Faulkner, and many others.
But can we talk about the not so classic others for a while?
I mean something not that obvious as Hem and Fitz? I do like Tobias Wolf. I know I’m not totally running away from those jazz era guys roots, but he has some really interesting novels. And there’s this great writer Bob Greene – not the one who writes about health food, but the author of When we get to surf city. This one is pretty much autobiographic, in spite I think I can easily recognize some fantasy that he threw into the story claiming them to be real… I read a lot of his primary literature too and he has a very particular way to tell whatever he wants us to know of.
Morgen: Do you show / read your poems to anyone before you submit?
Ana: No really, but sometimes I think I should. Perhaps I could use a little help from them…
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Ana: Not everyday! I have already tried to set this kind of routine, but I’m not very disciplined to keep it. Sometimes I wonder ‘I bet Stephen King is writing right now’ because he writes so many bibles, and sometimes even more than one at a time, so it gets pretty obvious, if you have all that many pages you have a lot of work to do. There’s no other way to go.
But, about the writer’s block I think it’s a natural thing for all of us. Normally it happens when you open your computer or when you get a piece of paper and think ‘writing time’ or ‘I really need to come up with a very original short story or poem for a contest and I have only one day left to do that’. The best ideas come out of nowhere when you are not ready for them. Most of the times you have no paper or pen next to you or you are doing something you can’t interrupt. Also when you are about to sleep and think about something cool but decides to write it down only next morning swearing you will still remember about it. Common mistake!
I particularly don’t take pleasure in having to deal with writer’s block myself, but I must confess that I love seeing people suffering from it. Wonder boys with Michael Douglas used to be one of my favorite movies. I really enjoy this kind of plot.
Morgen: Why do you think poetry is such a difficult market to break into?
Ana: Maybe because is rare to find public for this specific kind of reading. Young people when they do it, it’s not for their own pleasure but because they need to, for school or anything else. It’s not a regular routine to search for poetry and read it for hobby. Although some people do that, you can find so many things for free if you know where to look that it doesn’t appeal to be a good deal for them to pay for it.
Morgen: Are there any tips you could give to someone wishing to write poetry?
Ana: Read a lot, write even more and always have a thesaurus near by. Sometimes you are so involved with your writing that you won’t even need it, but mostly it is very useful. And read your piece out loud, it’s important to hear how the words sound together.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing of your poems or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Ana: A lot of editing! Especially because now I only write poems in English and once that’s not my first language I don’t have the same facility as a native speaker. I always have to re-read many times before I think it’s done. Even when I swear it’s done if I keep looking I bet I can still find a grammar mistake or something like that. So it’s almost like a never-ending job.
Maybe in my language I wouldn’t have to edit all that much, but I stopped with Portuguese poems when I was still a child. I guess that’s because now I like better the way English language sounds. Perhaps one day I’ll get back to that, but before that happens I still have to focus on the challenges of a second language.
I always loved English and wanted to be able to write in his language as well. When I was around 12 I started the process and I’m still developing my learning. First of all I used to translate songs from Dylan, Simon e Garfunkel, Beach Boys and many other groups and singers from the 60’s. Some friends of mine used to do the same with Backstreet boys and Spice Girls lyrics. I Think I got some advantage on them, because my songwriters were — and many will agree — way more complex. Then I started to watch movies and sitcoms without the Portuguese subtitles. At the same time, when I was about 15 my sister moved to a big city to work as a model, and she lived near a huge old book store. Every time I went there we used to by horror books in that place: Ira Levin, Peter Straub, Frank De Felita, Lovecraft, Anne Rice and of course a lot of Stephen King. He’s my favorite of this gender. I truly love his books and the movies based on his books and the ones he wrote for TV. His stories can be catchier and way more likeable.
Morgen: I used to write a lot of 60-word stories and found the more I wrote the closer they came out to the word count. It’s obviously not a direct comparison but do you find your poems come out at similar lengths, or do they really vary.
Ana: They tend to vary according to how the two first lines go… They sort of guide the rest of the poem. But if I have a precise size in my mind I tend to manipulate the words in order to keep it the way I want it. Other times I just let it flow and then I see how it turned out. But what can I say? It really depends on the poem.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Ana: Yes! A lot! But for me, that’s one of the best parts.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Ana: Yes. When I was a teenager, about 14, 15 years old, out of the blue I came up with the idea of writing movie scripts. I called a friend of mine and asked if she wanted to write with me. None of us had ever thought about it until that day, but luckily after putting a minimum of thought about it she said yes. For the next three years we used to get together from Monday to Sunday to write, eat and joke around. We bought Syd Field’s book and really got into the script world. And that was it. When we finished our second script, we placed them both somewhere, never sent any of them to a soul and finally we procrastinated our third one until the day we went to different universities, everything changed and our partnership was forever ruined.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Ana: I have a feeling that we live in a solitary world. But I like to spend a time alone with my writing. And even more if I’m writing a novel or short story. I can laugh with my characters and their situations, I can also curse them and so one.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Ana: Ernest Hemingway. For sure! I wouldn’t care so much about the food — or maybe now those Bob Greene’s cooking books would be interesting… although the booze would be my main concern if I had Hemingway coming over for dinner. The second guest would be Jack Nicholson so he could entertain us, and the last one, Mozart. I was going to say Bob Dylan, but he’s so moody and I already have Papa Hem with this characteristics.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Ana: The world is a bad place, a terrible place to live, but I don’t wanna die – from Marmalade.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Ana: Studying, that has occupying a great amount of my time. Work and when I have a spare time I like watching movies and TV series, reading and I’m very fond of shooting short movies with friends and playing around with Windows Movie Maker. But just for kicks.
Morgen: Where can we find out more about you and writing?
Ana: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/ana.seixlack and blog http://encoredesparoles.blogspot.com.br/?zx=74b3cdd569b85f42
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Ana: Yes! Have you ever had a huge rejection that you still think about it?
Morgen: I’ve been really lucky and only had 28/29, 11 of those from agents for my chick lit novel (which went on to have two publisher offers which weren’t right for me so I turned down and self-published). The very first creative writing workshop was tough. The tutor (crime writer Sally Spedding, who I’m still in close contact with) pulled apart a piece I’d read out (and rightly so, it was rhyming poetry which didn’t scan, although I’m still fond of it). Driving home I didn’t want to go back but within a day or two, I thought, “alright, I’ll write something better” so I did (a short story), went back and it must have had a better reception (perhaps only mildly pulled apart) because I’m still writing them. So not a huge rejection but it nearly stopped me writing and that was have been HUGE! 🙂 Thank you, Ana. It’s great chatting with you today.
I then invited Ana to include one of her poems and she said…
I like this one because I wrote it especially for Mike Love of the Beach Boys and in the first time I met him in 2008 I took the chance to give it to him. He read it to my camera. It was so cool.
I have the YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fq5kXg9LP4
Uncle Sam will take a fine vacation,
You’ll be able to catch him in the next station.
Taking a bus straight down to the beach,
The best waves he’s trying to reach.
Settled on the northern shore,
Franklin got there days before.
He was too tired of writing a letter,
That moment a surfari sounded better.
George Washington refused himself,
A third time in an oval office with a shelf.
He called Lincoln for a walk in the sand,
A night in the theater his friend wouldn’t stand.
These fellows wanted a country of their own,
A new place to feel as home.
Because without America to stay,
There would be no Beach Boys surfin’ USA.
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