Faran Krentcil [faranalexis]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I first wrote with crayons. I was obsessed with letters, and making them bigger, smaller, puffy, thin... I was obsessed with fonts before I knew the word. I would invent my own alphabets and color them in constantly. I didn't know what to do with myself if I didn't have paper and crayons around at all times. I'm sure my parents were the first to read what I wrote. I used to beg them to make "books" for me out of computer paper by folding several sheets in half. I would fill them in with my own stories and illustrations. I took it very seriously, and even made "about the author" pages on the back, where I would draw a self portrait (in pink crayon, of course) and write my name. My parents didn't seem phased by my graphomania... I guess they were just relieved I didn't want to watch TV all the time... And when I was writing and coloring, I wasn't pestering my brother, which was my other favorite pastime!
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I think it's my responsibility to write about women, and to write for women. That's especially true when I'm writing a play, because it's literally giving a voice to a woman. I made a drawing once that says, "What happens in the bedrooms of adolescent girls is as political as what happens on the killing fields of Afghanistan. I truly believe that, and I try and write for it as much as possible. You can go to my tumblr if you want - farankrentcil.tumblr.com :)
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Long walks and nights blasting rock music usually lead to an inspiration. I came up with the idea for my last play, "Or Forever," when I was walking home at 2 am, listening to Fleetwood Mack through my headphones. In the middle of the street, I stopped myself and thought, "You've got to stop doing this. Someone's going to mug you." And then I thought, "Well great, if someone tries, maybe I can ask him out on a date! I haven't had one in a few weeks." Sure enough, that scenario became the opening scene in my play, and one of my favorites that I've ever written!
What type of reading inspires you to write?
I find that, unfortunately, the best motivation is jealousy. When I read a book by a friend or a friend-of-friend, or I see a first novel from a young woman, or a first novel about young women, a blue flame switches through my gut and I think, "I need to do this. I need to do this hard, and strong, and better than anyone else, and I need to do this NOW." Sometimes I visit bookstores while carrying my laptop in a tote bag, just to kick my butt back into writing gear. I used to be a fiercely competitive runner, but I had to get surgery when I was 18. So I think I channeled all my race aggression into my writing!
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
One of my most valuable teachers, the playwright Karen Hartman, says a good story begins with a brave person and a big problem. I think that's true, and I also think that a story happens because something is changing, and someone has to figure out how to deal with it. A story can't happen unless there's a change. I have a piece of paper with the phrase "WHY IS TODAY?" taped to my fridge. That's what it's about - why are you starting this story TODAY? What is different about TODAY? And if you go through your favorite stories, you'll be able to answer that question for every one. Today is different because Romeo crashed Juliet's party. Today is different because Peter Parker got a spider bite. Today is different because Sal finally got a car, and Dean Moriarty decided to drive. You have to find the catalyst to start a story. Something's changing - that's where you start.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
If your goal is to have the reader follow you the whole way, then keep first person for characters that are inherently good - even if they're flawed - and third person for the characters who are inherently evil, or doing evil things - even if they're good. Cormack McCarthy is a master of this. In Blood Meridian, you don't even know his main character's first name, and so you feel removed enough that you can join his really gruesome journey. You wouldn't be able to do that - psychologically, emotionally - if you were actually in the guy's head. Toni Morrison does that beautifully with "Beloved," too, and when she does use first person, in something like "The Bluest Eye," the one speaking is a witness, she's not the one experiencing horrors firsthand. In "The Book Thief," we hear about a group of German children during World War 2 through Death - literally, Death is the narrator. That's an amazing device. As for me, I live in first person, so it's hard for me not to write in first person. But I'm trying.
What well known writers do you admire most?
Kazuo Ishiguro, Annie Dillard, Arthur Miller, Tom Stoppard, David Auburn, and my gosh, The Hunger Games were an incredible, heart-skipping read.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
I think there's a direct connection between a believable character and an author who's willing to admit she isn't perfect and has some pretty devastating memories. You have to accept things about yourself and your life before your audience can accept your character.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
No way! I'm a rambler. When I tell stories on paper, I can go back and edit. Believe me, everyone is grateful for that :)
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
In the moment, I pick a writer that I'm trying to out-do, and I write for them. I used to run for the fastest girl in a race, and I'm just as unforgiving about writing. I think I need to work on that, but for now... yeah.
In the long term, like why I write... it's for girls in their bedrooms who know they're special but also suspect they're deeply flawed. So basically, all American girls.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Writing often FEELS like therapy, because your fuel is emotions and memories and hypotheticals. And absolutely, what worries you or haunts you will always be a fruitful place for creative work, because writing lets you explore your fears and hatreds in a safe, solitary space. But ultimately, you have to stick to your characters and where they're going, what they're doing to get from one place to another. If you stick to your story, the emotions will come.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Definitely! Always! Knowing what's clear and what's unclear, what's believable and what's not - readers are great for that. Just be careful that readers are giving you feed-back to help your story, and not to prove they're smart or talented. Reader feed-back works best when your ego AND the reader's ego are off the table. Look up Liz Lerman's Critical Response for guidelines.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
Yes. Yes. But I want more.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
Absolutely. A writing group made of several peers whom you trust is invaluable. It also motivates you, because if you're meeting once a week, you need to have new pages once a week. It's an instant deadline!
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
I'm not sure I've ever "searched" for my voice so much as chased it. You hear things in your head, you follow those words as fast as you can, and you see where you end up at the end of the page.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
iPhone calendars are very helpful. I schedule 45 minute writing sessions as often as I can. And I disconnect the Internet for those 45 minutes!
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
I think you've got to go back to what worked for you in school. Some kids could study in the library and needed absolute quiet. If you're that kid, go write in a library, or set up a desk in a quiet room in your house. I'm always distracted and a little bit scared of silence, so I enjoy writing in cafes, listening to music. It makes me feel a part of something bigger than just my thoughts.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I write on a computer, but I also write in a little notebook in the subway. Commuter time is a fantastic opportunity to write. I don't print that often, instead I retype whole scenes in another word document, editing as I go.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
None. (This one?) But I do often try to read newspaper stories online that are about characters like mine - especially little local newspapers, where you feel like you know the people in the articles.
What has been your experience with publishers?
I'm a magazine editor for a living, so my relationship to the publishing world is a bit different, and I think a bit easier, since I'm already in that industry.
What are you working on now?
A play called "Zero Tolerance" about online bullying. It's roughly based on The Crucible. It's really fun.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Accept them as part of your training, create a writing schedule, cast around for a writing group or join a writing class, and write new things with the intention to definitely share them!
New York City