On Thursday night, two writers published by FC2 kindly allowed me to pester them with questions (and I‘m sure more writers would have done so, had I had the time to stick around longer). Here is what they had to say.
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(BRIEF) INTERVIEW WITH JEFFREY DESHELL

Why address the issues or themes that come up in your writing?:
Deshell said that seeming themes arise “just to move the plot along.” I found this insightful; certainly, fiction writers dealing with plots find themselves drawn to certain solutions for moving it along.

How do you see your body of work? (I.e., a random series, or something more connected?):
Deshell immediately said, “It’s not random.” He went on to say that “there’s probably a project in” trying to find the connections between his works—but “I’m not the right person to ask,” he said with a laugh. He did say that his works had something in common, however: “things in language that interest me.” When I asked, “Anything in particular,” he replied, “Problems of language,” and “problems of narrative.” “Narrative,” he said, “is always a series of problems.”

How did you become a writer?:
“I was a music major first,” Deshell said. “Then I moved on to fiction.” I asked, “Any particular reason?” and he replied, “Well, I wasn’t good at music.”

INTERVIEW WITH AMELIA GRAY

Before approaching Amanda Gray, I overheard her saying that she has to “take on a personality” in order to read to an audience; otherwise it would be too scary. I did not doubt it; her reading voice and body language were way different from those of her conversations with the other writers.

She cheerfully provided me with the following in response to my questions.

Why address the issues that come up in your writing?:
The issues in Gray’s writing are “things that are crawling through my brain,” she says. Her writing emerges as a “collage of life”—obsession and other feelings for certain people; current or previous occupations; roles people play. She sometimes changes details about characters—gender, age, location—from those of their inspirations; but, she said, “A kernal of it is always something really basic.” I said it’s weird to me how finished pieces (if they’re finished) spring from those “really basic” things and end up as they do. Gray agreed: “It’s weird to me too.”

Do you feel that [the work is] detached from you once it’s done?:
“It’s super-detached.” Gray went on to say that writing is “like a kid when it’s born”—it’s going to grow and develop, but when it’s done growing it’s “out of my hands.” As for when a work is done, she quoted: “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” (A Google search indicates that the quote is from Paul Valery.) She also recommended that I read Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Rilke.

How do you see your body of work? (I.e., a series of random spasms, or something more connected?):
Gray had a couple of answers for that. One was that her body of work was a collection of recurring themes, particularly hair and cottage cheese. The other was that a body of work is like her life—“we see life as one life, but with different parts.” One part of it may be spent in school, another in a job, etc.—so it goes with writing.

How did becoming a writer come about for you?:
“I was pushed in the right direction by some teachers.” Gray also did an MFA program. However, she then said, “Writing’s always been something I’ve done because I have to.” She went on to say, “The fact that this is even a profession blows my mind.”

Gray went on to answer another question I had, but didn’t have to ask—namely, how a writer supports herself while writing:
Gray supports herself with, as she puts it, an “unglamorous” job that pays the bills: she works as a “marketing freelance writer,” writing about various topics (lately, online education). She does this job because that way she doesn’t have to teach or publish—common day jobs for writers which she says she doesn’t really like. Most importantly, it takes pressure off her work. “The best way to work as a writer is with as little pressure as possible,” she said.

This led me to the last question …

Do you think writing with the intention to sell compromises the work, or the writer?:
Some people write in certain, “formulaic” ways because it sells, Gray said. As for herself: “I think it would be weird to make a lot of money. So I don’t.” Overall, she maintains that each writer does what works for him or her: “Whatever works.”
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I’ll be trying to chat up more writers until they’re all gone.

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