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20 Writerly Questions Series: Joy Fielding

abstract:The "20 Writerly Questions Series" is brought to you courtesy of Random House Canada who partners with BookBuffet. Look for this feature each Monday. The idea is we ask different authors the same set of questions designed to give readers a glimpse into the lives and writing mechanics of authors. It is fascinating to compare and contrast. Today we feature Joy Fielding. Joy Fielding is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Charley's Web, Heartstopper, Mad River Road, See Jane Run and other acclaimed novels. She divides her time between Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida. For more information on her newest novel, The Wild Zone, please visit her website

1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
"The Wild Zone": Three men make a bet as to which of them can be the first to seduce a mysterious young woman, with unforseen, and deadly, consequences.

2. How long did it take you to write this book?
It took approximately one year - from the time I first got the idea till it was completed - to write. About 4 to 6 months of actual writing. This is true of all my books.

3. Where is your favorite place to write?
My favourite place to write is in my office, which is a room in my downtown condominium. The room is beautiful, the view spectacular. (4-20 continued)


March 29, 2010
4. How do you choose your characters’ names?
That's hard to answer. Sometimes I use names of friends and family members; sometimes I use names others suggest or pick a name I like or one that seems appropriate to the character. I try to match the name to the person's age and circumstance. Younger characters have more modern, with-it names; older characters have names more in keeping with their year of birth. I try not to go with anything too outrageous unless there's a reason for it.

5. How many drafts do you go through?
It's hard to say how many drafts I write because I revise on a daily basis. Then I revise again after five and/or ten chapters, then again after another ten, etc. Once the book is complete, I usually have several people read it and then revise again according to their suggestions. Then my editor reads it, and I'll revise again, although usually by this point, the changes are relatively minor. I prefer get the first half of the book right before proceeding with the rest of the novel. It's a lot easier to revise five chapters than thirty. Some books are easier than others. "The Wild Zone" was tough. I rewrote the entire first half three times before I got it right.

6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
Joan Didion's "Play It As It Lays."

7. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
There are five main characters in "The Wild Zone," and a lot of young actors and actresses would be great. Example: Robert Pattinson (?), Chris Pine, James Franco, Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhall, Bradley Cooper. Or if they want to go a little older, I wouldn't say no to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

8. What’s your favourite city in the world?
Paris. Where else?

9. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask?
Philip Roth. I don't know what I'd ask him; I'd probably just gush.

10. When do you write best, morning or night?
The morning, definitely.

11. Who is the first person who gets to you read your manuscript?
The first person to read my books is usually my friend, writer-and-producer Larry Mirkin. He reads my manuscripts as I'm writing and tells me what is and isn't working. His help is invaluable. Next is probably my husband, although he has to be very careful about what he says. Writers don't really want criticism from their mates. We only want to be told how wonderful we are.

12. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
My guilty pleasure is probably People and Us magazines, although I've been trying to wean myself off them of late. Too many people I've never heard of or couldn't care less about. But I don't really feel guilty about reading them. Truthfully, I generally don't feel guilty about much at all.

13. What’s on your nightstand right now?
I have three books currently on my nightstand: "The Swimming Pool" by Holly Lecraw; "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova; and "Leaving the World" by Douglas Kennedy. I've also been re-reading "The Wild Zone" because I always like reading my books in actual book form to try to get a feel for what the reader might be experiencing.

14. What is the first book you remember reading?
The first book I remember reading - actually, a teacher read it to my grade 3-4 class - was "Linegan and the Ants," a novel about man-eating red ants in Africa. It was later made into the movie, "The Naked Jungle," a much better title. I loved it.

15. Did you always want to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer from the time I was eight years old.

16. What do you drink or eat while you write?
I don't generally eat when I'm working, although occasionally I'll have raisins or licorice allsorts.

17. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?
I use a Mac computer, although it's not a laptop. I prefer to have a large screen, where I can see two full pages side by side, and a big keyboard, not the dinky little ones that come with a lap top. The first books I wrote were in longhand, then I switched to a typewriter, but I've used a computer since "See Jane Run," and the difference is phenomenal. It makes rewriting so much easier.

18. What do you wear when you write?
That sounds kind of kinky. I usually wear jeans and a sweater or blouse. Something casual and comfortable, but not sloppy. And slippers.

19. How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
This usually depends on the story I want to tell. Some stories are more intimate and need to be told from one character's perspective, while others, like "The Wild Zone" are more expansive, and need to be told from a number of different points of view. The important thing is the story. You have to always keep it moving forward, so whatever point of view will do that best is the point of view I take.

20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
This is so subjective. Anything that makes the writing process easier - a new computer, a great desk - is a good idea. Also, books are terrific. And jewellery is always welcome.

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    Andrew Kaufman
    Beth Powning



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