Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts. It was a very insular little spot on Cape Cod, and I think a lot of people in Central Pennsylvania talk about getting outside of their bubble and into the real world, and to me, this was getting out. Cape Cod is a great place — it’s beautiful, it’s got this multicultural tone to it if you keep your eyes open… but it’s a tourist town. It wasn’t a place that I could stick to. I wanted a place that I could dig into a community. So I ended up in Harrisburg.
Q: Where did you get your inspiration for The Fields?
A: It started as an image when I was in high school… I kept picturing these hands reaching out from a field of mud. There were no people digging them out at the time, it was just a sea of dirty fingers just trying to escape their traps (wow, if that’s not a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is). Eventually, that image became the cornerstone of the story: a people who come from the mud, who don’t question why or the implications of that. And it got interesting.
Q: Who are your favorite writers? Favorite books?
A: I have a huge fanaticism for Charlie Kaufman’s work, which is screenwriting, yes, but that’s part of my background. I love the way Kaufman writes his characters. I also really appreciate specific books more than I do authors — not that I don’t love the author who wrote the book, but I love how each book is a portal into an author’s mind in the time that they wrote it. There are some books that I just adore, but the place that the author is currently in life is not my favorite, and then there are some books that I obsess over that, embarrassingly, I haven’t read any of the other books by that author. But that being said, I do really love Speaker For The Dead, House of Leaves, Everything Is Illuminated, The Princess Bride, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Those are books I could read over and over and over.
Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
A: Oh, dear. I would say that the thought of writing exhausts me, but as soon as I start, I find myself being energized by it. I am an extrovert, and so most people would assume that writing would drain me, being a solo activity and all, but I like to think of it as hanging out with a bunch of really interesting people. I’m a big character nut, in writing and in life.
Q: Are any of the characters from The Fields based on real people?
A: Not specifically. I think there are bits and pieces of people I know that influenced these characters, but at some point, each character comes to life and really starts to write their own story. They become who they want to be, and I just simply put it down on paper. A lot of people say that authors write their protagonists as mirrors of themselves, and there are aspects of Mukisa that I definitely relate to, but she’s much more vocal than I am, and her temper is much worse (thank god). We do share a stubborn streak, though.
Q: Any current projects? How many half-finished books and screenplays do you have?
A: Too many. But I’m focusing on two… A novel about a bunch of ghosts who have to steal energy from dying people to move on to the afterlife, and a musical about a woman who is unwillingly the lead in a musical as a hallucinated chorus follows her around. The musical, I’m co-writing.
Q: If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
A: Well, I do work at Midtown Cinema in Harrisburg. I can’t get away from story. I love working at an independent cinema, because that’s the place that stories come to life — and not just washed up stories, as opposed to what you see in the bigger theaters, but original, vibrant, important stories. But if I had to choose another job, I would be a landlord, because I like working on projects and interacting with people.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
A: The middle! I always have these great intros that pop into my head, and then I pretty quickly figure out the gist of the ending… but then damn it all if it doesn’t take forever to connect the two. I know where I want my characters to end up, but sometimes about three quarters of the way through their journey I get stuck. And I think, it’s the characters that are supposed to have obstacles, not me!