Tell us what makes this is a multimedia memoir? The multimedia aspect is featured on my website: http://www.chloezola.com/video There you will find a handful of short films that blend narration of the book’s most poignant moments, music, and antique video footage.
Tell us a bit about your family. My family is the most frustrating and beautiful force in my life. This book, and everything else I do is for them and because of them- regardless of how crabby I seem most days.
What is your favorite quality about yourself? My ability to be creative.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself? How serious I am. While I am a clown a lot of the time, sometimes to the point of recklessness, I am equally as serious.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why? These lyrics from Macklemore’s Ten Thousand Hours:
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint,
The greats were great cause they paint a lot
I will not be a statistic, Just let me be.
No child left behind, that’s the american scheme.
I make my living off of words, and do what I love for work, and got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system, what did you expect?
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is.
For me, he has perfectly articulated my motivation and justification for doing things a little bit differently.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life? I am proud of my ability to morph, adjust, and keep going, creatively, regardless of setbacks, opinions, and rejections.
What is your favorite color? I hate this question.
What is your favorite food? Kindergarten: the butter on top of the toast
4th grade: tuna helper and oreos
7th grade: lasagna
10th grade: mashed potatoes
freshman in college: taco bell- bean burrito
now: curried-avocado sandwich
What’s your favorite place in the entire world? It is a toss up between Barbados and the high desert of central mexico (where my family lives and I am writing from now).
How has your upbringing influenced your writing? I feel like I am the writer I am because of my upbringing. I have an affinity for childhood. It is probably the most deeply rooted theme in all of my writing. I am almost obsessed with the journey of growing up- how we go from children to adults, how that is defined based on life events, parents, location, opportunity. I like to think I had a very colorful upbringing, one that was constantly forcing me to reevaluate what I thought to be true. Constantly forcing me to take things with a grain of salt. I was lucky to travel to exotic places where we have family, and I feel as though seeing different cultures outside the blur of a cruise ship kept my mind and my heart open. I could go on for days about upbringing. Plain and simple- my upbringing is my writing and my writing is my upbringing.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? When and why did you begin writing? When did you first know you could be a writer? Honestly, I was never interested in writing until college. My senior year of high school I had to beg my guidance counselor just to be in an advanced english course, because until then I had very little real interest in school. I was a freshman in college, and by a friend’s request, got into a 300-level creative writing course. The first assignment was a creative non-fiction essay. without thinking about it too much, I wrote a story about my sister, her first love, and his recent murder. (The story is in chapter 8 of Beside My Doorstep) I have always been on the private side, have always had to be pried open for information, and I remember the feeling of writing this story- something I had spoken little about, it was the feeling of making sense. My professor pulled me into his office, asked me if I was religious at all, and then flat out said-you are really fucking good at writing. The combination of these things- the discovery of a new release, and the first real academic encouragement I could remember, catapulted me into what is now second nature.
What inspires you to write and why? The people around me- both ones I know deeply as well as people I pass on the street. Anything that breaks my heart a little or catches me sideways triggers sentences in my head
What genre are you most comfortable writing? I am most comfortable writing creative nonfiction but have just begun working with fiction and might be falling in love with it. I have realized that there really is no such thing as flat out fiction. I think that genre is a writer’s way of organizing and coping with all of the people, events, constant happenings in their lives- an unbiased outlet.
What inspired you to write your first book? My family. That’s what it’s about and who it’s for- it is an ode to them, so naturally, they are the inspiration. Oh, and Sue Monk Kidd. The day I finished reading The Secret Life of Bees was the day I started working on Beside My Doorstep. In the back of her book, in an author interview, she was quoted saying “I thinkmany people need, even require, a narrative version of their life.” That sentiment resonated very deeply with me.
What made you want to be a writer? I don’t think I ever wanted to be a writer. The last time I distinctly wanted to be something was when I was six and I wanted to be Jasmine from Aladdin. It just happened. I feel like a write as a survival technique, a way to organize my mind and my heart.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? The most challenging thing about writing, for me, is the patience it requires. I am an immediate satisfaction kind of girl. Patience has never been my strong suit, and writing this book has really put that to the test.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? In our primitive years of schooling we drew houses and stick figures, guitars, and globes, wedding dresses, and astronauts- we created flat pictures on paper of our wildest dreams, but the teacher failed to mention that these things are far off, constantly shifting, and rarely look like the image we had on paper. That they often appear in small doses over long periods of time, and that we will spend most of our time trying very hard to appreciate the process- all of the moments in between.
Writing Beside My Doorstep has shown me this. As I combed through my memory, piecing together stories of my childhood, I built up the image of what it would be like when I was done. How easy it would be to separate myself and my work from every other author doing the exact same thing. I thought my world would change when I put the last period on the last sentence on the last page. And every moment since I put the last period on the last sentence on the last page, has been spent drawing a new picture of my wildest dreams- scratching over what hasn’t worked out, erasing trivial details that once seemed so important, and readjusting expectation. I wrote my childhood into a book and learned what they have always meant by coming of age.
Do you intend to make writing a career? Not at the beginning, but now it only seems natural that I would pursuit one.
Have you developed a specific writing style? I have been told that my writing has a very lyrical, almost poetic feeling about it.
What is your greatest strength as a writer? Observation.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? I have learned to do nothing. If I am struggling to get something down on paper I usually walk away and detach completely. This usually solves the problem. The letting go of what/how I am supposed to write allows it to come much more naturally.
Can you share a little of your current work with us? Beside My Doorstep
How did you come up with the title? The title was the first real thing I knew about this book. When I was 18 I got a tattoo of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds on the inside of my wrist. If you read the book, you will know that his music is rooted deeply in the nostalgia of my childhood, and that specific song was my first favorite. Beside My Doorstep, is that song deconstructed slightly. The idea of smiling with the rising sun, three little birds beside the doorstep singing sweet songs…this is a theme, a reminder, through out the book and through out my life. Not to mention the book is broken up into the different houses that I lived in as a child- so the idea of the doorstep is fitting.
How did you develop your plot and characters? They developed themselves over the course of my lifetime. What I chose to include was based on the theme of the story, and how each character’s development contributed to that.
Who designed the cover? I did.
Who is your publisher? Amazon/Me.
Why did you choose to write this particular book? I don’t think I chose to write this book as much as it chose me, as cheesy as that sounds. I never grew up wanting to write, but this book kind of just fell out of me, like it needed to be done- either for me, or my mom, or the rest of my family.
What was the hardest part about writing this book? Editing. Enough said.
How do you promote this book? here.
Will you write others in this same genre? I will write more creative nonfiction, but probably not a straightforward memoir…at least not for another twenty years.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Definitely. It is the same message that I wrote the book trying to find. It is that it is okay to be in love with your life even when it is messy.
How much of the book is realistic? All of it.
Have you ever considered anyone as a mentor? I was lucky enough to have George Crane, author of Bones of the Master, as a professor/mentor while I studied abroad in Greece two years ago. I consider him largely responsible for opening this can of worms (my memoir). He didn’t take any shit, and above all else, required honesty in writing.
Who is your favorite author and why? Cheryl Strayed, hands down. As far as writing goes, I aspire to honesty. And as far as Cheryl Strayed goes, I think her writing is the epitome of truth. I am a strong believer that there are writers who are dedicated to the craft and who aim to be good writers, then there are writers who write because they were born to do so. In my opinion Cheryl Strayed was born to write and that fact is evident in every true word she puts down. I saw her speak at a bookstore in my hometown, and in the three days that followed I wrote 20,000 words- I appreciate authors who inspire.
Can we expect any more books from you in the future? Yes I have a couple of things in process. I have just completed an illustrated novella, of sorts which I will publish in the next week or so. This is my first real attempt at fiction, so take it with a grain of salt!
Have you started another book yet? I have actually started and almost completed two short books. I have this problem/blessing where I am not happy/content unless I am creating.
Where do you see yourself in five years? I try not to attach myself to an answer of this question, because when I get attached to an idea, it’s not working out crushes me.
But my long-term plan is to travel, buy fixer-upper buildings, restore them to their original beauty, and turn them into creative spaces. So I want to be able to do things like this, all the while writing and creating.
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I am wearing out my copy ofTiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. And have just started The Emperor’s Handbook,upon referral by a trusted friend.
What contributes to making a writer successful? I think the answer to that question depends greatly on how one measures success. You could look at Amanda Hocking and boil her success down to capitalizing on a niche market. Or you could look at writers like Lidia Yuknavitch, and see a bare bones memoir that is as honest as it is beautifully written, and say she was successful because of her writerly voice. I think writer’s get out what they put in.
On the other hand, I really have no idea, because I would not consider myself successful yet. I would think that a large factor is finding one influential person to add to your corner, back your work up, and then it must be a gravy train, right?
Do you have any advice for writers? Write from your core. Nothing else. Writing from any other place is transparent and wasteful.
What do you do to unwind and relax? Embarrassingly, I relax more than I do most things. The most relaxing activity for me is baking. I find an upsetting amount of comfort in warm things that blend lots of butter, sugar, and chocolate.