TEATIME TEN: Emily C. A. Snyder

Welcome back to the Teatime Ten, an author interview series!  Today we have yours truly chatting about all things romantic from Regency to Shakespeare in Letters of Love & Deception and The Merry Widows of Windsor!

Oh...and what to do with an elephant you've suddenly been gifted.  Which is to say, check out questions #8 & 9 to see queries gleaned from you!

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I was raised on a boneless chicken farm off the coast of Kansas...wait, no.  I'm a theatre director, playwright and actor, as well as a novelist and blogger, living in NYC.  For ten years I taught teenagers, and now run my theatre company, TURN TO FLESH PRODUCTIONS which basically develops new Shakespeare plays, but with vibrant roles for women.

2) What are your latest projects about?
I guess love is really in the air!  Both of my projects this month are about romance - either the loves we gain or the loves we lose.

Letters of Love & Deception is a selection of short stories inspired by Jane Austen's characters, including an epistolary novel between two of the villains in Persuasion, and poking fun at the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies craze from a few years back (read now).  There's also a really sweet story about Miss Bates from Emma and her long lost love.

Conversely, The Merry Widows of Windsor, a riff on Shakespeare's Merry Wives, deals with what happens after happily ever after.  There's a lot of silliness, of course!  Dogberry and Verges make their way into the script from A Comedy of Heirors.  But it's also about sorting out how to keep living after loss.

3) What inspired you to write it?
Letters of Love & Deception came from my first year out of college, stuck in cubicle-land.  There was an on-line forum called The Republic of Pemberley which hosted a board to post paraliterature called Bits of Ivory.  Having spent my senior year of college thoroughly immersed in the emotionally disruptive world of Oscar Wilde's Salome, I was eager to spend some time in Jane Austen's civility. 

For The Merry Widows of Windsor, the American Shakespeare Center has put out a call for "Shakespeare's New Contemporaries" - that is, looking for plays in conversation with Shakespeare's canon.  Since I've spent my life as a working playwright - that is, always writing against a deadline and "to spec" (E.g., We've got fourteen actresses and twenty minutes!  Write a play!), I work well with these constraints.

That said, it's fascinating to see the difference between writing Letters in 2000, and writing Widows in 2018.  I hadn't had much life experience way back when.  I certainly hadn't suffered loss - I hadn't even suffered (romantic) love at that point.  So, there's an element of increased satire like Jane Austen in Letters, while Widows is dealing with some pretty personal stuff.

4) What was the hardest part to write?

Endings. Letters was fun to write.  I'm a performer at heart, so writing immediately and then putting it up for an audience once a week encouraged me to keep writing.  (That's how I finished my first two novels after all!)  But I'm like Leonardo da Vinci - I've got all these half-finished novels and plays lying around, and I need someone expecting to read or produce them in order to get myself together and finish the darn thing!

5) What's your favorite part of the writing process?

Probably finishing.  Naw, I'm just kidding.  (But I'm also pages away from finishing Widows, and you know how I feel about endings.)  I mean, my favorite part is when the characters are loud enough that you can just put a single song on repeat, zone out, and follow them around - gasping and laughing and crying (yes, crying) as though you were a reader.  Those days are rare, of course.  But when they come, they're great.

6) What was your journey to publishing like?

I've written about getting a traditional publisher here - and if I'm being honest, I've been fortunate enough to receive a couple of lucky breaks like that.  (Including a super-secret path-eos that'll impact this blog soon - shhhh!)  But a lot of getting published, or of getting produced is equal parts:
  • Luck: You just happen to be the person they're looking for at the time you're looking for them
  • Discipline & Endurance: Keep writing.  Then keep writing.  Then keep writing.
  • Chutzpah: Submit your stuff.  Then send it out again.  And again.  And when you don't believe in your stuff, and everything's terrible, send it out again.
7) Do you have any tips for would-be authors?

In acting, we want to get the scripts out of our hands as soon as possible.  Because once you're memorized and you can get it in your body, then the art really begins.

I think the same holds true for publishing.  Get the text out of your hands.  Let others read it.  Publish it.  Send it to agents.  Get rejected.  Learn from that.  Start again.

As a playwright, I've found that this discipline of not being too precious with one's text has made my work not only more vital, but more enjoyable.  Right now, we're in rehearsals for a private reading of Widows (shhhh - more information about a public reading coming soon!), and I'm wearing the hat of playwright-actor for the first time.  It's such an honor to see how others are interpreting the characters; to hear what they're experiencing from the inside; to just have lines changed and massaged to be better and more specific.  And I'm always amazed at the generosity of the cast and crew who are willing to roll with Act IV being entirely rewritten with new soliloquies thrown in, or being patient as they wait for pages...specifically for that darn ending!

But in short, best advice?  Courage.  Let your work be seen.

#8&9 (The following qustions were gleaned from you on the interwebs!)

How dare you?

I DON'T KNOW!  But I think it has a lot to do with Imposter Syndrome, frustration with how women are being written, and the Procrastination Monkey.

You got a lotta nerve!

No, I don't think I do.  But thanks for letting me know my acting like I've got nerve is paying off!  Acting, thank you! 

You’re invited to a party and you don’t know anyone there. You walk in. What do you do first? Do you survey the scene to get a feel for the vibes or do you go up to someone and introduce yourself?

In real life, if I don't know anyone there...I probably didn't go.  No, that's not true.  But I will almost certainly make my way to the chips and dip and hope that no one continues to notice me as I make like my ancestors and ghost.

If it's a networking event, though, I tend to crank up the charm to 11, waltz in - still go to the chips and dip (because that's where everyone who's also afraid to meet people go) - hold out my hand and start smiling like a mother.  (Full disclosure: first time I ever had to do this in Hollywood of all places, I had to give myself a pep talk and pretend to be my far more outgoing brother.)

If I'm going to an event where I don't know anyone, but I'm the keynote speaker, generally people come up to me.  And I never get to the chips and dip.

You were going to include a particular character/scene in your book but changed your mind. Why?

Ooooooooooh.  This is a good one.  Hmmm, well for the super-secret nunnery #MeToo project (see Question 10), I'm debating letting Dogberry and Verges invade here, too.  It's super 50-50 which way it will go.

I'd say one of the scenes I'm sorriest to have lost is in my taking-forever-to-write novel, The Sable Valentine.  There was this whole subplot where we went to the opera and met this louchy guy (I love writing louchy guys) who was going to be a romantic rival for our heroine.  But I don't know that I need him.  Although we'll still go to the opera.  

I'm also working on finishing up Presumption, a Pride and Prejudice novel, hopefully due out in the fall.  I got stalled by trying to add in a storyline for Anne de Bourgh, but I don't think that she needs it.

All my foils get foiled again!  

What do you look for in collaborators?

Really, I look for people who "get it."  In theatre, this means actors who just "get" my work, either interpreting it as actors or directors, or who know me well enough to needle me to be a better writer.  I don't need "yes men" - that's not productive - but I do want people who support me through the process to make the work the best that it can be.  Which often means asking questions, challenging, or offering new points of view.  But in a loving way.

I mean, it's like love, right?  There's a spark.  As C. S. Lewis says about friendship, it's meeting someone to whom you can say: "You, too?  I thought I was the only one who thought this way!"

I love finding that in others, and then challenging each other to be more than what we thought we were.

Describe your creative process prior to sitting down to write the first draft.  

So much TV.  So many showers.  So much cooking and cleaning and saying yes to parties and talking to old friends and doing pretty much anything not to actually start writing. 

I used to think that all this was procrastination, but I don't think so anymore.  Because the articles I read, the TV I take in, the quiet times spent doing physical activities, the conversations about life I have with friends and family - this is the stuff I write about.  It's like getting all your ingredients together.  And in some cases, it's about planting the seeds that will become ingredients further on.

That said, when I usually get a germ of an idea, I'm a talker.  For Widows, I've called up my family many times to just chat out loud with them about what the story might be.  I don't use a fifth of what we brainstorm, but it gets the water boiling.

Why do you write like you're running out of time?

Because...I am.  

Honestly, turning 40 this year, and starting to watch my parents and my parents' generation age, it's struck me that (God willing) I only have a good 40-50 years left on this earth, and I'd better make good use of it.

I think I made good use of my first 40, but I mostly interpreted works from others.  Mostly Shakespeare.  And while that's great training, if I don't write these plays, they will simply never ever ever be written.  They won't exist.

So...my literary clock is ticking?

On a scale from One to Pickle, how many oliphaunts are in a dram? 

Driving glove, man.  C'mon.  Everyone knows that.

If you could pick one of your characters to come into real life (a la the musical "City of Angels") and talk with you, who would you pick?  

Hmmmm, only one?  Shoot.  Romantically, I'm inclined to pick the very first swashbuckling brooder I ever wrote, the dashing Poityr vol Rev, because I'm still a twelve year old girl at heart.  

But if I wanted wisdom, I'd do better inviting Urdur, the Lord of Mysteries to come into my home.  He'd be grumpy and impossible, but he'd be right.  

Piggybacking on the above, if you could prevent anyone from ever acting like or sounding like any character you have written, which would you pick and why?

Yikes.  Again.  Only one?  I've written...I have written so many cads.  Like, so so many.  I mean, I'd rather not have Kian (from the Poityr novel; read here) be alive, because he's super powerful and mass-murdery and manipulative, so there's that. 

But I'm also not a fan of my Francis Ford in Merry Widows of Windsor, who's behaving like a controlling, manipulative jerk under the guise of piety and love.
  And although I know at least one friend who loves my character Padriac from Niamh and the Hermit, I find that guy manipulative and petty and opportunistic, too.

Can I just say: I'd stop all the manipulative people from manipulating?  But Kian.  Yes.  Because of all the genocide.

You've been given an elephant. You cannot sell it or regift it. What to you do with the elephant?

Are you kidding me?  Finally!  Free transportation in New York City!  

And finally...Why does a chicken?


10) What's up next creatively for you?

For novels: Letters will be available in audiobook by the summer, and hopefully hardcover, too!  

For plays: I'm working on a top secret new play that's inspired by Tartuffe and Measure for Measure in the light of #MeToo, which means that it involves sex, nuns, and convoluted rhymes.  Of course.

Over on Patreon: I'm releasing music, stories, and a pretty big writing project over there.  So check that out!

For blogs: As mentioned, there's a super secret and exciting set of papers being signed, but let's just say we've got some Pop Feminist articles coming your way soon.

Emily C. A. Snyder has written far too much.  And is grateful to do so.  She is starring for the first time since third grade in her own play, The Merry Widows of Windsor, and is terrified out of her mind.  Well, excited and scared.  She will bet you one kiss you didn't get this far in the blog.

Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube!  Become her patron on Patreon.  Check out her official website here

CONGRATS to Nicole Stallworth, Caitlin Leyden, and Laisha V for winning last week's give-away, copies of Rosamund Hodges' Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. See the full Teatime Ten interview here.

Want more Pop Feminism blogs?  Become my patron on Patreon today!


Popular Posts