What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?
Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone.
Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?
I was recently aghast when I realized that I’d never read Call of the Wild. I cried much of the way through, but glad I rectified the situation.
Do you re-read books? And if yes, what was your last re-read?
I am a serial re-reader. I’m currently on my third read of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, my second round of David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day, and my 179th deep dive into Psalm 40—”the psalm of patience”—it just never seems to stick.
What are your go-to genres?
I’m all over the place, and I’m usually reading four to five books at a time; it depends on where I am, and my mood. Humor written with poignant prose and old-school satire (think Jonathan Swift) are often top choices, followed by fiction that explores family dynamics, teeming with complex characters. I am into philosophy and spiritual genres as well, and lately have been consuming Richard Rohr through a firehose.
What is your favorite childhood book?
What books are on your bedside table right now?
A collection of Faulkner’s short stories, Traveling Mercies, Clementine, What French Women Know, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, and Cynical Theories.
Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?
I do both, depending on how far I have to reach for a bookmark.
What is your ideal reading setting?
A cozy couch close to a fireplace, a glass of wine nearby—my husband and dog snuggling on either side of me.
Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?
I lived in Sausalito, California for many years during my “tech founder” days, and every weekend (when I wasn’t traveling for work) I’d drive up to Mill Valley and spend hours wandering around the quaint city square and browsing books at the Depot Bookstore and Cafe. Something about the ability to poke around through stacks of books, discover a locally made greeting card, and enjoy a cup of coffee gets me every time. Now I live in Nashville, so I spend a fair amount of time at Parnassus Books (and I bring my own coffee.)
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I was rather “bossy” as a kid; and, in fairness, most of the time it worked. I really liked to communicate, in all ways, all the time. In first grade, my mother started setting a timer for 30 minutes when I got home from school, during which I was not allowed to speak. So, I would get out a notebook and write down my thoughts. What would now be considered borderline emotional abuse was the start of my writing career.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
My husband and I recently spent a weekend in Oxford, Mississippi, a literary mecca and home to many great writers—Faulkner being the most notable, followed by John Grisham and Larry Brown. After strolling through the square, peeking into old nooks and crannies—where one could imagine Faulkner smoking his pipe while ticking away the hours deep in thought—we visited Rowan Oak, his famed homestead. As a writer, being in Oxford is like diving into a literary vortex; similar to how some describe Sedona, Arizona (or, um, Jerusalem?) for spiritual pilgrimages. There’s just nothing like it. Plus, I have a fantasy that I’m a true southern gal who graduated from Ole Miss (this must have been a past life thing), and so walking around the campus was icing on the cake.
Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?
Most of my “first pass” writing happens in my home office, in a giant leather chaise lounge—I am surrounded by books and photos of people I love. On Wednesdays, I try to change it up, and I go to the Belmont University Library or John P. Holt Library. Editing is a separate “task” for me, and happens mostly at my home office desk: reserved for work that doesn’t require much creative energy.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
For the most part, I find it exhilarating once I’m finally sitting down and doing it. The thinking about it, the perseverating about an idea, that can sometimes be exhausting. I’m getting much better about just putting my butt in a chair and writing…and not overthinking it.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Fortunately, none. But I have about 4,000 unfinished essays, story ideas, song lyrics, and other forms of writing strewn all over the place. It’s a mess up in this head sometimes!
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Given Champagne for One is my first book, I haven’t had to deal with any bad reviews; they have only been good so far. I’m certain that will change at some point, and I’ll cross that bridge. However, I have had loads of negative comments about articles or essays I’ve written; it bothered me the very first time, then I just let it go. I stand by what I write; and I also know I’m free to change my mind and evolve as a writer.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Find a writing routine, and don’t let ideas stay stuck in your head. Also, don’t listen to people who tell you “writers can’t make money.” There are all sorts of ways writing is lucrative—you may not be Ann Patchett or Randy Wayne White—but writing is a core skill that can be applied in so many different and important ways. Now, more than ever, we need writers who can cross divides, speak the truth, and interpret the complexities of the world in which we live.
When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?
Thinking “why am I not reading or writing?” [laughs] Honestly, I’m pretty boring these days. I like to do yoga, go hiking with my husband and our pup, sidle up to a bar for happy hour with a gal pal, and find fun spots to add to our growing list of weekend getaways. My life used to be very “big”…loads of responsibilities, flying all over the world, moving and shaking. Now, I enjoy laying low and having more space for just “being”…instead of focusing on “doing.”
What are your three favorite things right now?
Reading by the fire, making people laugh, spending time with my friends and family.
Your favorite travel destination and why?
I love a good southern road trip, and Savannah, Georgia will always be my favorite spot. My maternal grandparents lived there my entire childhood and adult life (until they passed away in 2017 and 2018)—it is the place I feel the most free, the most creative, the most loved. Savannah has that old world charm, the smell of the ocean, and tons of history…all mixed together.
What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?
I adore my husband’s beer can chicken, he’s the best chef I could ask for. Go-to drink order: large vanilla latte, please!
What six people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner a party?
This may seem obvious at this point, but: William Faulkner (deceased), Anne Lamott (living), David Sedaris (living), my grandma Lois (deceased), my best friend Katie (deceased), and RuPaul (living). I mean, can you imagine the shenanigans? Bonus guest, if I could be so lucky, would be Samantha Irby.
If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, who would play you?
For better or worse, it would probably fall into the “comic tragedy” genre, perhaps a little “romcom” thrown in. I’d love for Kristen Wiig to satirize my so-called life.
What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?
“Goliath” (series on Amazon)
You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?
“Tennessee Whiskey”, the Chris Stapleton version.
If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?
Does anyone really get “taken” to a desert island? I assume one would only get there if things went completely sideways. [laughs] Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. That’s another one I re-read about every five years: it toughens me up when I’m feeling sorry for myself, but also reminds me how fragile we all are.