TEATIME TEN: Zelda Knapp

Welcome back to the Teatime Ten, an author interview series!  Today we have the wonderful Zelda Knapp, author of This Is What They Made It Out Of: tales from the end of the world, theatre critic at A Work Unfinishing, and host of the Buffy and Veronica Mars rewatch, Once More With Extreme Prejudice.

BOOK GIVE AWAY!  Comment to win one free copy of This Is What They Made It Out Of.  Make sure to check back next week to see if you won! 

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself!

At Derek Delgaudio's show, In & Of Itself, there's a wall of identity cards in the lobby, and each audience member is invited to select one. The range is expansive and whimsical, including things like Bookkeeper, Mother-in-Law, and Unicorn. I chose Storyteller. I love stories; I love telling a story, and I love being told one. Part of what I love about live theater is the infinite range of stories to be told, and the infinite ways to tell them. As a writer, my love of stories has manifested in an eclectic way - as a creator: short stories, poetry, and several plays; as an appreciator: a theater blog, a television blog with my friend Daniel, and lately I've been collaborating with my brilliant musicologist father on several articles about musical theater because we're both tremendous nerds.

2) What's your latest book about?

My book, This Is What They Made It Out Of: tales from the end of the world, is about everything, if you want to get pretentious, but really it's about small moments and their rippling effects. It's a collection of short (and shorter) fiction, with a daub of poetry, intended as the remnants of what we leave behind, when we leave for good. They're unconnected but the intention is that, taken as a collection, they create a tapestry of memories and personalities. So I've got missed connections, relationships and the detritus they leave, and what the survivors make of the pieces left behind. It's not all as dour as that sounds (I'm rather fond of the adventures of the ill-fated band, Soul Kiss, and of what I imagine happens to the Dellacroft Children), and I like to believe in hope and happy endings, but there's definitely a melancholy thread throughout the collection.  

3) What was the hardest part of the book to write?

I have a tendency, in the eleventh hour, to start questioning everything about what I've done. While this has served me well in the articles with my dad (catching errors, strengthening arguments), in the case of getting TIWTMIOO, it led only to more stress. I filled to the brim with self-doubt about the book's title and asked my cover designer to show me the three cover contenders with two different titles, before I finally returned to my original. I'm still happy with it.

Oh, well, also. There's the writing. With a collection, it's not one long story, but you still want all the pieces to feel like they belong together. Part of constructing that jigsaw is finding missing pieces and brooding over how to fill them. That's been the biggest challenge with my second, not-yet-in-existence book. It's still missing a few limbs. And possibly its liver.

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

My fiction pieces usually start with an image or a moment, and ripple out from there. My favorite part is when I realize what to do with the starting point, where to go next. I have so many abandoned images, but the moment of clarity when I see what the possibilities are, and then when I go there - that's a good moment.

I also like landing on the exact right way to express an idea or image - which sometimes won't show up til the tenth or twelfth or twenty-fifth draft. This happened quite recently with one of the articles with my dad. Neither of us were happy with a particular piece of phrasing. The connotations weren't right, the diction of it wasn't pleasing. Finally we realized it was the verb that was off, not the adverb, and now it's perfect. PERFECT, I TELL YOU.

5) What was your journey to publishing like?

I'd tried the traditional route, submitting stories to magazines and journals, but hadn't had much luck. Then I saw that a writer I knew and admired from the Buffy fanworld, Valerie Z. Lewis (her fanfics were ridiculous and perfect), had independently published her longer works as ebooks. And I realized it was as easy as that. Digital publishing opened the door, like iTunes or YouTube did for other media, for the written word to get out there at little to no cost to the creator. That's when I decided I could do that, too, and began assembling my pieces into a coherent shape.

After countless drafts with the aid of some truly stellar beta readers, I downloaded Dianne L. Durante's book, Step-by-Step Kindle Publishing, which walked me through the formatting and other steps needed (it's such a good resource). Then I happened upon a postcard in an art studio in Chinatown, a gorgeous watercolor design for a playing card face by artist Danielle Rose Fisher. I reached out to Danielle via her website, and she agreed to design my cover.

6) Do you have any tips for would-be authors?

Here's a tip I stole from my dad: write every day. Make everything you write - emails, notes, instructions - something you write with care and specificity. That attention will extend into your other, more personal writing. It's a muscle which needs regular activity

7)  You've been stranded on a desert island, and only have enough paper to write a couplet for your message in the bottle.  What do you write and who do you hope gets it?

I'd steal a Grook from Piet Hein. (I'm cheating twice; it's neither a couplet nor original to me)

"It will steadily shrink,
our earthly abode,
until antipode stands
upon antipode.

Then, soles together,
the planet gone,
we'll know the ground
that we rest up."

Here's the deal: I don't have the survival skills to last long on a desert island, so a message asking for help won't save me. I may as well send out a quiet musing on how the world, through becoming a more interconnected web of people, is becoming smaller, until all we have left is us.

8) You've been given one wish by a fairy godmother.  Naturally, you wish to see one performance.  What show are you seeing, who's in it, and why is it awesome?

This is quite possibly the cruelest question I've ever been asked. Just ONE? I think I'll have to go with the original Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard. I saw the revival several times (because Raul Esparza and because Arcadia is one of the best plays ever) and I'd seen, at the Victoria & Albert archives, a video of the original production, but it wasn't the original cast. I'd love to see Emma Fielding as Thomasina (in my mom's opinion, the only one who's gotten it all right) and Rufus Sewell as Septimus. And come on, freaking Bill Nighy as Bernard. And why is Arcadia awesome? I tried to explain seven years ago here.

9) What's up next creatively for you?

I'm working on my second short fiction collection, though it's slower going than I'd like. This collection is called A Word For The Almost-Home, a title taken from the first line of the poem "there and back again" by Nora May Hill (permission granted via tumblr because the Internet is made of magic). This collection is about the magnetism of the idea of home: what it means to leave, what it means to return, what it means to be stranded, and what happens on the journey when you can't find it. I found Hill's poem when I was beginning to look for a shape to the pieces I had already assembled, and it was like someone had filled the room with fireflies: yes. My co-blogger Daniel is lobbing writing prompts at me, so I anticipate some progress in filling in the current gaps in the collection.

The two articles with my dad will hopefully be published sometime this year, and I'll no doubt be social media blasting once they do.

And if I ever actually sit down to write that book of short humorous essays that everyone is required to write, I have a title for that one, too: I Haven't Heard Of Me Either.

Connect with Zelda on Facebook, and Twitter.  Check out her official website here

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