RHP staff got the chance recently to sit down with Janice Deal, author of The Sound of Rabbits (releasing June 6), to ask those particular questions that we’ve always wanted to know! You know, the really important questions about chocolate and wine (in addition to the writing craft!), and we are delighted to share her answers with you! And don’t forget to pick up a copy of her marvelous book (either from us or from your local indie bookseller!)
1. Do you see chocolate/wine as an intrinsic aid to writing?
Oh yes. Yes, please. With an emphasis on chocolate. I operate well under the influence of the “three C’s,” in fact: chocolate, coffee, and cats. On days when I can get a little of all three, I believe I do some of my best work!
2. What questions would you like us to ask other authors?
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? (The power of place is profound, and going to visit, either virtually or literally, the places inhabited by our favorite authors and their characters can create such a sense of connection to work we love. Visiting or researching a specific place can also deeply inform our own work.)
3. How much to you is writing a solitary activity and how much a communal one?
It’s a mix of both. A few times a year, I steal away on “mini writing retreats” with my close friends Katie (Katherine Shonk) and Sandy (Sandra Jones): we are all, always, working on some sort of writing project, and we’ll rent a house in Indiana or Michigan and spend a few days writing and exploring. Once a year, the three of us also participate in the residency program at Write On, Door County (special thanks to founding and artistic director Jerod Santek): we spend a week up in Fish Creek, Wisconsin, teaching a class, writing, and for me, swimming laps at the beautiful local Y (swimming never fails to clear my head and I have done some good thinking about characters while in the pool). We tend to land the residency in December, a quieter time in Door County. It suits us all well.
I also go with my husband David on short writing retreats: to a nearby cottage called Spring Bird
(shout-out to Anna Lentz!), and sometimes to Wisconsin. We work well together, toggling between writing and hiking.
Ultimately, when I sit down to work, that’s where the solitary bit begins. No one can get the words on the page but me, after all. As drafts develop, I turn to a few trusted writer/editor friends for feedback. But when writing, I tend to dig deep; “coming back” to the world is like emerging from deep water. Then it’s time to reconnect with “real life”! I love that balance.
4. What’s next for you?
I have recently completed an experimental short novel, The Blue Door, which is a mashup of a contemporary story and a fairy tale of my devising. My linked story collection Strange Attractors, about the fictional town of Ephrem, Illinois, and its denizens, is due out from New Door Books in September 2023. And I have an idea for a collection of linked short stories, tentatively entitled Whale Fall, that I envision will explore themes of death and resilience. I’ve been taking notes for that project and we’ll see where those ideas take me (presumably with the aid of chocolate)!
5. What is the last book that made you cry?
Claire Keegan’s novella Foster. Just . . . wow. Keegan’s compassionate, nuanced prose absolutely slays me. Foster is a quiet story but it hits hard—and goes deep. Keegan has such a clear-eyed understanding of what it means to be human.