Ed: Hi, Christine. By way of introduction, please answer each of the following biographic questions twice. Once with the truth, and once “creative writerly” (with a lie).
XTINE: This is fine but I’m not going to tell you WHICH is true or false.
XTINE: 1) Christine DeMaio. 2) Christine DeMaio-Rice
Ed: Where you from?
XTINE: 1) New York. 2) Brooklyn
Ed: Can’t those both be true? Anyway…Day job?
XTINE: 1) Technical designer with a specialty in sweaters. Which doesn’t mean anything to you, until you go into the store and you don’t buy a sweater because it feels cheap and you can’t tell why, but it makes you wrinkle your nose. Or because when you put it on, it doesn’t feel quite right. If it’s an inexpensive sweater, likely it’s just too short or long or whatever. But if it’s an expensive thing, and you want it to be worth the money, and the armhole feels a little funny but you don’t know why and you’re not about to figure it out because you’ve already moved on to the next thing…well that would be my fault. Sorry.
2) Copy editor. You need to know what a semicolon is? Or how to slash the end of that dangling participle? Or why the dash is an en instead of an em? I’m your woman. I feint, I slide, I bob and weave. I dot paragraphs with quotation marks like Casius Clay landing jabs. Commas obey my commands and periods cannot stop a sentence without my explicit say-so, in triplicate. My infallibility is world renowned by kings, princes and the New Yorker magazine, whose fastidiousness with regard to usage is careless compared to mine. If there were a gold statue of a lady with a pen for editing, I would win it, but no one bothers awarding one because I will take that bitch home, every time, without fail. Period.
Ed: Dream job?
XTINE: 1) Anything involving bon bons, a couch and back-to-back Oprah episodes. And making six figures a year.
2) Anything involving moving traffic, multitasking, fast-talking and moving from desk to desk, telling people what to do. And making six figures a year.
Ed: Why do you write?
XTINE: 1) Because in the seconds between doing thing A and thing B, I’m bored and I need a way to occupy my brain.
2) It keeps me away from the television.
Ed: You can go back to full honesty now, if you want, for a few quick Favorites:
Piece of clothing – I just got an orange satin Stella McCartney jacket and that’s my new favoritist thing in the world. It has like fourteen metal zippers on it. The zippers have zippers. It weighs thirty pounds, most of it in zippers.
Drink – Yes, thank you.
Pizza topping – where I come from, pizza is peasant food. Which means, it’s not some gourmet bullshit with artichokes from Turin and pancetta from Umbria. No. it’s something your grandmother makes quick to shut you up. And you don’t put goddamn pineapple on it, and you most certainly do not put ranch dressing on it. Do you realize how foul that is? How damaging it is to your palate? Stop that. Eat pizza the way it was meant to be eaten. With cheese and sauce and maybe, on a special day, you put a meat on there. One meat.
Crime – You’re really asking me this? You should ask me how wonderful my kids are. That’s a freaking crime.
Place – Manhattan. If I could find a way to afford it and make it worthwhile for my husband it’s sayonara Los Angeles.
Ed: Three random things about yourself, please.
2 – I cook dinner most nights and we eat as a family even if it means I have to tie my son to a chair.
3 – I have no fillings or dental work in my mouth.
What genre do you enjoy most?
XTINE: Okay I should say cozies but the fact is, I like YA paranormal, yes I do. Or dystopian. Just give me some swoony impractical, romantic love unencumbered by anything an adult would worry about. Put it in a world where someone should be worrying about where to eat as opposed to whether he likes me or not, and I’m happy. I’m really not kidding.
But also, I like that literate erudite stuff because one, it makes me feel smart. And two, it has a way of sneaking up on you emotionally. Like Jonathan Safran Foer or Dave Eggers. Or David Foster Wallace, my favorite ever, because he cracks me up with what he says and what he doesn’t, and the calm with which he presents the most ridiculous situations. If he published his shopping list (which he won’t, because he’s dead) I’d buy it.
Ed: What genre would you read only if you lost a bet?
XTINE: Regency Romance. Despite what I said above, without the dystopia, the paranormal, the stakes of vampirism, I really don’t give a rat’s ass who you marry. (I am sorry if I’m insulting any of my friends who write romance. You just keep cashing those checks people, knowing I’m in the minority)
Ed: What’s the first book you remember buying with your own money?
XTINE: The book version of the Star Wars movie, because the movie was rated PG and my mother wouldn’t let me see it. So I read it. It had a gold cover with Luke holding up his light saber and Princess Lea draped at his feet. Darth Vader hung in the background.
Ed: Any books you have been told you should read, and know you probably never will?
XTINE: Moby Dick. I want to. I just know I won’t.
Ed: That’s definitely the most common answer to that question. Poor Melville.
Ever lied about reading, or not reading, a book?
XTINE: No, I really did love Infinite Jest and ate every word, including the footnotes, with relish.
Ed: And now, acouple “writer” sort of things. Plotter or Pantser?
XTINE: Combo. I always think my outline is airtight, then I get to the middle and I’m ground to a halt. Really happens every single time. You can set your watch by when I’m going to turn the outline upside down, shake it out and go pantser.
Ed: Best/Worst advice you ever got as a writer?
XTINE: Worst – Write every day or you’re not a writer. I mean sure, it’s terrific advice for a 24 year-old. But when you have kids and a job, if you beat yourself up every day you don’t write, then you’re really not a writer. You’re an emotional masochist.
Best – Everyone’s journey is different. Don’t try to emulate someone else’s success story.
Ed: Time to really ask some hypothetical questions, as opposed to hypothetically asking some real questions.
Your computer is smoking, wheezing, and sparks are shooting out of the back. You can save one thing off the hard drive. What is it?
XTINE: You’re going to think I sound incredibly superior, but everything is backed up to the cloud constantly. Watch, I find a way to lose something later today and cry my eyes out on IWU. ((note Ed – that would be the “Indie Writers Unite!” Facebook group))
I just tried to think about what I would save if I had a minute, and I just got so confused and boggled, that likely I’d end up saving nothing because I was overwhelmed. But if I had five calm minutes, I’d save the pictures of my kids.
Ed: You have one perfect day of free time, no obligations, needs, or responsibilities. What do you do?
XTINE: Unfortunately, I putter around on Facebook, then feel guilty later.
Ed: Someone “in the business” suggests you change something you feel is a critical part of one of your books, and guarantees it will increase sales. What do you do?
XTINE: If this hadn’t happened to me a hundred times while I was screenwriting, I’d laugh at the question. But here’s the only thing I know, and I know it because William Goldman told me. Nobody knows anything. I’d add that goes doubly for people “in the business.”
So my point is, do you see me living in a mansion in Bel-Air? Well, no you don’t see me at all because we’re communicating on the interwebz. So let me tell you. I don’t live in a mansion in Bel-Air. I live in a bungalow in Hollywood that’s financed by the fashion industry, not film. Because sometimes I changed stuff for the sake of commerciality, and sometimes I didn’t, and it never mattered. Sometimes things sell and sometimes they don’t, and the ability to predict which is which is not a skill. It’s not born through experience. It’s playing the odds. If an exec asks 100 writers to change 100 things, a percentage will hit. And then he’s got the golden touch forevermore, amen.
So, I’m sorry, there was a question. The answer is, I’d do it if it seemed right. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t. That’s the beauty of being indie.
Ed: You are offered just enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life, if you will just stop writing. What do you do?
XTINE: Look, in case you can’t tell, the whole fantasy of living on the beach with a beer and a towel boy, watching the sunset, makes me feel more trapped than the idea of working and writing. Actually, the idea of having my hands tied creatively sends a shiver of terror down my spine. I’d either make this deal and take up painting, acting, directing, cooking, or I’d tell whatever deity that offered it that they can stick it where it’s unholy – depending on my mood. I’ll do what I want to do without apology or regret.
Ed: What question do you wish I had asked?
XTINE: I wished you’d asked me what I’m wearing. Because I’ve got on this fabulous Stella McCartney jacket in a color that might be pink or orange. And it’s shiny! And it has zippers!
Chistine’s books may be found in all the usually suspected places, do check her out. 🙂
(And BTW, this title is – depending on exactly when you are reading this sentence – FREE everywhere. – Ed)