When a bored employee in a rock star’s office decides to flirt with a fan online in the guise of his boss he sets off a chain of events he cannot control.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I live in the suburbs of Detroit. I divide my time between writing and touring with a Russian ballet dancer giving master classes. We have taught in 41 of the 50 states.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
It is called Identity Theft. It is the story of a fan who is taken in by a young man who works in a rock star’s office and who decides to take on the identity of the rock star and flirt with her via his boss’s social network and all of the unforeseen consequences that unleashes. The initial germ of the idea came when the internet was fairly new and people were able to communicate directly with their favorite stars for the first time.
Creating online personas has become even more ubiquitous no. But even though the technology makes it a modern story, it really all goes back to the kind of thing Oscar Wilde wrote about– the social masks we wear and how they both disguise and reveal.
How do you create your characters?
It depends on the story. For example, with my first novel Angel, I began with the idea of a minister who had some sort of change of life that made him question his assumptions and put him out of step with a congregation that was invested in him staying as he had always been. So I thought a lot about the character of Paul and what that situation would feel like and what kind of conflict it could be. It was only when I stumbled on the idea that he fell in love with a man that the character of Ian appeared. He had to be someone entirely outside of Paul’s normal world, and I had to think of what would bring someone like that into a church and I figured he would be coming for an AA meeting. This gave Ian shape as a character.
In the case of Identity Theft, I started with the idea of how we express personal identity and a story to illustrate it. There is a character who wants to play at being a rock star. There is a character who is seduced by the notion of a romance with a rock star and there is the rock star himself who is basically unaware of any of it. So you have to imagine what type of person would each of these individuals be, what personalities do they have and what other situations are happening in their lives to make them act as they do. So Ethan, the office worker, is someone who doesn’t take life too seriously. He is young, and he doesn’t think too far ahead. He doesn’t have any serious ambitions. He’s dropped out of college and hangs around with his friends. He’d like to have a girlfriend and thinks he’s a bit gawky to attract one.
I didn’t want Candi, the woman who corresponds with Ethan, to be just a victim. So she is smart and witty even though she is at a low point in her life dealing with financial troubles and the prospect of layoffs at her office. She took the smart, responsible route and it hasn’t gotten her where she thought she should be and when her favorite rock star starts flirting with her it is as though she has entered a fairy tale. It seems as though all of her dreams might be possible. I thought quite a bit about how it would feel for her, because to Candi, it is all real. She thinks the person she most admires returns her affection.
With the rock star, Ollie, who goes by the stage name Blast, I thought it would bring out the themes of identity and false personas more if he were a certain kind of performer– a very theatrical pop star in the vein of Adam Ant or David Bowie. From the era when music videos were the main way music was presented. He uses a stage name and wears heavy stage makeup and elaborate costumes. But I’ve always been fascinated with the shy performer. So Ollie onstage is a force, off stage he is shy and socially awkward, completely at odds with what his fans picture.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
My father was a writer. He always insisted that I was a born writer. I didn’t believe him and wanted to be an actress. In fact, I have little talent for performing. I got a degree in theater but I was never cast in one of the official university performances and was relegated to working backstage. I say “relegated” because it was not where I wanted to be, not because it is an inferior position. In fact, I became quite good friends with the theater techs and what I do now (in the ballet half of my job) is basically artist support. I like being the fairly anonymous person behind the scenes. Had I known myself better, I probably should have relegated myself to the backstage anyway and taken pride in it. But it takes a while to get to know yourself. In any case, the first real success I had as a theater student was when I wrote a one act play. That was the first hint that perhaps I did have a writing skill that I should develop.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
The worst place to get ideas, I have found, is sitting in front of the computer. I often go to the library, or go to the store or take a shower in order to free my mind. Only after I have the basic elements of what I am going to write do I sit down at the computer and type it out. Otherwise the blank screen is intimidating. Also, it is easy to get distracted and find yourself playing Words of Wonder on Facebook.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
I read a great interview with Margaret Atwood in the Paris Review. She said, “There’s no way of knowing in advance what will get into your work. One collects all the shiny objects that catch the fancy—a great array of them. Some of them you think are utterly useless. I have a large collection of curios of that kind, and every once in a while I need one of them.” That resonated with me.
What do you like to read?
I read a lot of theology, sociology and poetry. I like books that provide a different view, a different way of thinking about things that have become commonplace. I like novelists who weave a lot of philosophy and social observation into their stories. I read a lot of Oscar Wilde and I read a lot about Oscar Wilde.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
You can’t really rush the process. My partner is a ballet dancer. It is interesting for me because the timeline for our two art forms is entirely reversed. Classical dancers are retiring from the stage at just about the same age when a writer is really finding her voice. The ideal, I think, would be to be a dancer when young and retire into writing. I don’t really know of any dancer/writers though. The only problem is that writing takes just as much regular practice and discipline as dance, it just takes a maddening amount of time.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Oh, I think I have rambled enough.