Corinne Demas is the award-winning author of 29 books for adults and children, including four novels, two short-story collections, a memoir, a collection of poetry, and two plays. Her most recent novels, THE WRITING CIRCLE and EVERYTHING I WAS (YA), are now out in paperback. Her new YA novel RETURNING TO SHORE will be published in spring 2014. She is Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College and a fiction editor of The Massachusetts Review. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.
When did you first get bitten by the Writing Bug?
I was bitten by the Writing Bug as soon as I was old enough to write, and long before I learned how to spell. I wrote my first novel when I was six—at least I called it a novel. It was a story about about a prince, a king, and an “evil lady,” and had many chapters (which is why I thought it was worthy of being called a novel), some of them only a sentence long. I wrote it in a black composition book (you can see a photo of it on my website) and illustrated it in crayon.
Who gave you the most encouragement early on?
I was an only child of doting parents, and they were an indulgent audience for all my early writing. I was encouraged to give my parents handmade rather than store-bought Christmas or birthday gifts, so I would often present them with poems or stories in little home-made books. I found them all carefully preserved in my mother’s bureau drawer after she died.
The family tradition of home-made books has continued. When my daughter was little I wrote picture books for her (illustrating them with my amateurish water colors), and when she got older she’d get chapters of a novel. Now, the week before Christmas, I’m usually frantically making books for my little granddaughters.
Comment on the adage “Practice makes perfect” in regards to writing…
That sounds so dreary! Writing isn’t something you practice—it’s not like scales on the piano. Dexterity comes with talent and life experience. And writing should be something you love doing—not something you feel you have to work at.
I am fortunate to have two careers that dovetail—my writing career (which my husband calls my “cottage industry”) and my academic career, as a professor of English at Mount Holyoke. I love teaching, and I appreciate having a reason to dress in something nicer than sweatpants and get out in the world. My writing group—which I’ve been part of for many years—provides me with the company of folks who are doing what I do. It’s been my solace and my cheering squad (and we all need that!)
Have you ever gotten writer’s block, and how did you snap out of it?
My problem has always been that I have more things to write about than time to write. One advantage of being a writer who dabbles in different genres is that if I’m stuck on part of a novel, I can take a break and work on a poem or a play or a picture book.
What is your latest project about (recently published or about to be), and how long had you worked on it? Does it take the reader in a different direction than your last published work?
My new YA novel, Returning to Shore, is coming out in March. I went back to my notes to see when I had first started writing it and discovered to my amazement that it was before 2006! Which means I’ve been thinking about it, working on it, and fussing with it for more than seven years. Stylistically it’s similar to my previous fiction, but it deals with two subjects I’ve never tackled before: a girl dealing with the fact that her father is gay, and an environmental issue (the battle between landowners and people who want to preserve the habitat of the Eastern Diamondback terrapin.)
Where can you be found on line?
My website is www.corinnedemas.com
Connect with me on twitter @corinnedemas