The Wentworths Q&A

The WentworthsThe Wentworths are an affluent family who live on the westside of Los Angeles. You come from an affluent family from that area. Is this some sort of autobiography?

No. No, no, no. But I knew when I started this novel that people would assume I was writing about my life and my family. I did grow up in L.A. and I know a million Wentworths. They were my friends in high school. They are the parents of my children’s’ friends. They were my neighbors and my peers. They’re everywhere. People like The Wentworths take themselves very seriously and are extremely arrogant about their position in life. They are very privileged and live in their own little bubble, separate and above the rest of us. They don’t have a very good sense of humor about themselves, which makes them very funny to me. My family is nothing like The Wentworths and my childhood was nothing like what I write about in this novel but I know these people very well.

When I wrote Chemical Pink everyone assumed that the weird sex life of my lead character, Charles Worthington, was some sort of personal confession about my relationship with my husband. I was horrified. How do you convince people that you’re not really a pervert in real life? You can’t. I gave up. People are going to think whatever they want to think. They have a very hard time understanding that once a character comes to life he or she does things that the writer isn’t always in control of. A lot of the time I’m just following my people around, writing down what they do. Their lives are separate from mine.

I think people have somehow forgotten that novelists MAKE STUFF UP. That’s what fiction is all about.

Okay, it isn’t autobiographical but do you resemble any of the characters in the novel?

Yes and no. In some ways I resemble all of the characters in my novel. There is a piece of me in each character I create. When I write from their point of view I become them but there’s still a part of me in each voice. If I had to pick one character that I most strongly identify with, I think it would be Norman–a young, single gay man. The way his mind works is very similar to my way of thinking. I’m secretly in love with Norman. He is the conscience and soul of the Wentworth family. I’m also kind of in love with Jack. Who wouldn’t be?

Can you talk about the structure of The Wentworths?

This book took forever to write and one of the reasons it was so difficult is that I kept trying to make it fit into a more traditional structure. I thought it would all be third person and maybe from Becky’s or Judith’s point of view. But almost from the beginning I couldn’t make everybody fit into one single format. Norman kept insisting on addressing the reader directly and then his sister wanted to have her voice too. They all rebelled. I finally gave up trying to corral everybody and just let the chapters adopt whatever voice was appropriate for the message. Once I let go, the book really came together.

Can you talk about your writing style?

I generally underwrite and have to go back and fill out. I like things as tight as possible; too many words dilute things. I try and say it as cleanly and concisely as possilible. It works for my writing because I can rewrite and fill in but I’m a terrible storyteller in real life. I just get right to the point and leave out all the details, which usually leaves my audience confused and sometimes embarrassed because they don’t understand what the hell I’m talking about. And forget about me telling jokes.

Can you talk about your work process? Do you work from an outline?

I have a pretty strict work routine. I get to the office early, usually by 8 and work until about 1:30. I can’t work at home because there are too many distractions and I can’t really work well in my regular office because there’s a phone. I go to this place called “The Office”. It’s a big room with a bunch of little desks where other distractible writers like me go and work. You can’t talk on the phone and you can’t lie down on the floor and take a nap if the writing isn’t going well. You just have to sit there quietly and work. Or sit there and not work–depending on the day. For me it’s time spend at the keyboard. Some people work on a word count bases: 1500 words a day and you’re done. I can’t do that. I just have to sit there everyday with my characters, open and ready. Some days are great and some days are terrible but it all balances out.

I wish I could work from an outline. I think that would be wonderful, to have such an organized mind. Whenever I’ve tried to sit down and plot out what’s going to happen it doesn’t work. That’s because I never know what’s going to happen. It’s my characters that determine what is going to happen. I’m just there to serve my character’s needs. I think my subconscious mind probably knows what’s going on all the time but I don’t really have direct access to my subconscious. That’s why I just have to sit at the computer and wait for it to happen. You’d probably get a better answer about the writing process if you hypnotized me and talked directly to the back of my mind. Let me know what it says.

Can you talk about your next novel?

Not really. I think it has something to do with Feederism but beyond that I can’t really say because I’m not sure where it’s going. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.