We’re back with another author interview, this time meeting Polish novelist Linda C. Wisniewski and diving into her rise and path towards authorship. Two-time novelist and contributor to several fiction and non-fiction anthologies, Linda is the author of time travel novel, Where the Stork Flies, which I reviewed exclusively for Coffee Time Reviews last month. The book mixes elements of magical realism and the supernatural, with a strikingly relevant and current portrayal of feminism and its progress through history.
But less about the book and more about the author, let’s find out about Linda’s fascinating journey towards becoming a writer, and how it all started with her winning a loaf of bread for her writing.
CTR: Why did you decide to become an author?
Linda: Looking back, it seems to have come upon me gradually, without a conscious decision. I’ve written all my life, starting in primary school where I won a loaf of bread in an essay contest from the bread company!
I have kept a journal since those early days but didn’t think I’d become an author until I was asked to write some technical articles for library journals while I was working as a librarian. I enjoyed researching and writing them up so much I couldn’t stop. I took workshops and read books and articles about how to write well, and I was on my way. I guess the short answer is, I became an author because I enjoyed writing.
CTR: What is your favourite part of writing?
Linda: Definitely revising. It’s the blank page or screen that is tough for me to face. Once I have words on the page, no matter how messy that first draft, I love to dig in and make it better, filling in details, expanding descriptive scenes, imagining dialogue and fleshing out the characters into people who would do the things I dream up for them. Before I know it, hours have passed and I need to get up and stretch.
CTR: What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Linda: Read as much and as often as you can. Write about the things that haunt you. If it’s not interesting to you, it won’t be for your readers. Write the hard stuff, the things that keep you up at night, the problems you can’t figure out. More than likely, these are the same issues your readers are wrestling with.
Whether memoirs, personal essays, or fiction, put your heart on the page and your readers will come right along with you. And always remember why you are writing. Not everyone will like everything you write, and rejection can be discouraging, so decide what your purpose and vision are and keep it posted somewhere you can see it every day.
CTR: Was your journey into authorship a smooth one or did you encounter challenges along the way?
Linda: Everything worth doing has challenges, right? I didn’t have a specific goal at the start. I just wanted to get my work out into the world, it was a slow journey, but a fulfilling one. The first time an essay of mine was accepted by a major publication — the Christian Science Monitor — I felt like I could truly call myself an author. I was told that a writer is anyone who writes, but an author is one who is published. It was important to me to be validated in this way, rather than taking the self-publishing route, and it still is.
I write a blog on my website which is well-received but the published articles and books are, I feel, greater achievements. It took years of rejections by literary magazines, agents, and publishers, but I know lots of generous and supportive authors who shared their stories with me so I expected this would be my fate as well. It took over 100 queries to find my current publisher, and I’m glad I didn’t give up. My writing has definitely improved over the years, but I’m still learning and I like it that way.
CTR: What inspires you the most in your writing?
Linda: My impulse to write comes from many places: the world news and social justice issues, my kids, my marriage, my community, my Polish American heritage, and my spiritual life. My overall vision is to shed light on the ways people connect with each other to solve problems and create their own happiness. In my memoir, Off Kilter, I shared stories of people who helped me find my way through a difficult childhood.
Writing my novel, Where the Stork Flies, I was inspired by the history of my female ancestors’ country to show how women’s friendships make us stronger, healthier, and happier. So one might say my biggest inspirations are people helping each other for mutual benefit.
CTR: What advice would you give your younger self?
Linda: Follow your dreams and ignore anyone who tries to discourage you. Everyone gets damaged in this life in some way, big or small, so consider the source and make your own path. Because you’re young, people will try to tell you what to do, if you let them. Trust in your own intuition and only ask for advice from people you respect.
CTR: What are 3 books you would recommend to our readers and can you give a short reason why?
Linda: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. This story of a family traveling through the Badlands of America to find a son who has run from the law is one of my favorite books of all time. The writing is so beautiful I read it slowly to just bathe in it. Little miracles, tragedy, love, and hardship plus believable characters moving through the great expanse of the American West made this one I recommend over and over again.
Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi. This is the book that finally explained the Holocaust to me. Trudi, the main character, has dwarfism and lives with her father in Nazi Germany, where the fanaticism of Hitler and his followers seeps into society slowly until it’s too late to turn back. I read this with my book club, which was great because it led to some good discussions among both Jews and Gentiles.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Told from the point of view of a young Nigerian woman who moves to the U.S., this is for anyone who has ever tried to adjust to a different culture. Her struggles with racism, her longing for love and acceptance that leads her into some risky behavior, and the parallel story of her boyfriend back home who has his own assimilation challenges in England are deftly rendered with a touch of humor mixed with disappointment.
Thank you for reading Author Spotlight, a series of interviews with authors who are happy to share the tools of the trade with our CTR readers. If you’re an author and would like to be featured, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. For any author suggestions, leave us a comment and we’ll try to chase them up. And if you’d like to support our independent publication, please consider doing so through our Donations page.