I had the opportunity to interview Cristina Alger, the author of the popular novels This Was Not the Plan and The Darlings. Here are some highlights.
Do you write for others because you have to write or for yourself only?
I write for myself. My writing suffers when I start worrying too much about what other people will think of it.
How many days do you actually write, and how rigid you are about that schedule?
With two small children at home, I can’t be as rigid about my schedule as I once was. I write around their schedules now, mostly when the older one is at school or they are both asleep. I do my best to fit in an hour or two every day.
While writing, what kind of relationship do you often form with your own writing self – a painful or a joyful one?
I tend to find outlining painful and writing joyful. I try to remind myself that they are both part of the same process.
How do you recognize if you are on the wrong track?
If the writing feels forced. If I’ve been laboring over a chapter or paragraph for days or weeks with little to no progress, it usually means I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere.
Are you affected by other people’s appraisal of your work? Have you ever been hurt by them?
Certainly. For me, reading reviews is the hardest, most unpleasant part of the publication process. I’m doing my best to grow a thicker skin.
Do you feel you and the characters in your books have always been well understood by your readers?
Some readers of my first novel, The Darlings, assumed that the characters were thinly veiled portraits of real people, instead of products of my imagination. Honestly, though, I think it’s okay if readers have a different understanding of my characters than I do. Characters are like real people. We’re not all going to experience them in the same way.
Do you lose yourself in your writing? The very fact that writing is a very lonely art, do you sometimes feel lonely?
I think of it as a solitary art, but not a lonely one. But then, I’m an introvert. I enjoy working by myself for long stretches of time.
What books are currently on your book stand?
I have a tall stack of books on my nightstand. Some are favorites that I like to re-read over and over, like In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen and A Season in Purgatory by Dominick Dunne. Others are new-ish titles I’m hoping to get to soon, like Swans of the Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin and A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon.
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
What do you plan to read next?
Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin.
Which books might we be surprised to fined on your shelves?
I have a lot of dull finance and accounting textbooks from my law school days. And my husband has a bunch of books on baseball trivia forreasons that are beyond me.
What is next for Cristina Alger and what would be next for Cristina Alger if the sky were the limit?
I’m working on a third novel. I feel incredibly lucky to do what I do. I hope I’m able to for years to come.
- Purchase her books on Amazon.