Monday, March 14, 2011

Talking with Cate Tiernan

I am very excited to be able to share this guest  post by Cate Tiernan with you today. You sill see that she is most definitely One of Us, an introvert to the core. I first 'met' Cate online years ago through her incredible, gripping  YA series SWEEP. Her most recent book, IMMORTAL BELOVED, was one of my favorite reads last year, on of those terrific books that make you forget you're a writer. I love when books can do that!

 I can do blog posts. I can do blog posts out the wazoo. Need a blog post? I’m your woman.
            If, however, you for some reason need me to speak to strangers in public . . . you’ll find me under the nearest bed, trying to self-medicate with chocolate.
            I understand that this is part of who I am, part of what makes me me. This is partly why I’m a writer, working alone at home in my bathrobe, and not, say, pursuing a career in customer service, where as soon as someone was mean to me, I would cry.
            I’m a writer. To me, being a writer is basically trying to decipher yourself and others with a whole bunch of words--in the way that being a painter can be trying to decipher yourself and others with a whole bunch of paint. Or whatever your chosen medium is. But the point of the whole bunch of words is that ultimately, I’m trying to make a connection with other people.
            I know: the irony.
            But that’s what my writing is about. I’m trying to interpret the world around me (and the world inside me), and I’m trying to express that in a way that others will understand, and perhaps come to see themselves in, at least a little bit. For that reader, and for me, that’s a connection, and it means that we’re not alone: Someone understands us.
            The trick is to do all this without someone really noticing.
            People often tell me they’d like to be writers. They ask how I do it, and how they can do it too. I wish there was an answer like, You go to a certain website, and there’s a game there, and once you get to level sixty-five, boom! You’re a writer.
            But no.
            What I do is: I try to create worlds I’d like to live in. I try to create plots that are exciting, that I can live vicariously through. I create people I’d like to meet, or be, or love. Everything I see in the real world, everything I hear, everything I learn, taste, smell, feel--all of it is the raw material for my work. I take it all in and then I smush it together into a story, into characters, and I write it all down. And afterward, when I read it, I can see myself in the words. I can see my feelings and my heart and even things I keep hidden in the real world. And I put it out there in the hopes that my words will mean something to someone else--that someone else, shaped by entirely different experiences, immersed in a different real world--will somehow, as if by magick, see themselves in my writing.
            The beauty is, everyone can do this. It is within every person to be able to connect with others this way. But--you need to know and understand yourself (at least mostly). You need to be able to understand others, put yourself in their sneakers. You need to love and value yourself and your uniqueness. You need to love and value others and their uniqueness. You need to pay attention to everything around you. And when you write, understand what you’re trying to say. Understand who you’re trying to say it to.
            For me, writing is more than putting feelings on paper and showing the paper to the world, like, Here! It’s putting feelings on paper, showing the paper to the world, and saying, Do you feel this too? Does this help you understand? Can you see me? I’m trying to see you.
            In my book Immortal Beloved, the main character, Nastasya, is someone who doesn’t understand herself, and truly does not want to understand herself--the more she digs down into her feelings, the more painful stuff she finds. The story is about her determination to keep going, to wade through the memories of her horrible past and pointless future, because she realizes how crucial it is to really know herself, really understand herself. Until she does, she won’t be able to know or understand or love anyone else.
            Nastasya is a little part of me. Can you see me? I’m trying to see you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Cate Tiernan was born and raised in New Orleans. She is also the author of Penguin Speak's vastly successful (and recently reissued) Sweep series. She currently lives in Durham, North Carolina with her husband and children. Her website is www.catetiernan.org.




9 comments:

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Thanks so much! You expressed so perfectly why I write, and what I hope to find when I read. It's all about the connections!

Elizabeth Loupas said...

Wonderful post, Cate!

"I try to create worlds I’d like to live in. I try to create plots that are exciting, that I can live vicariously through. I create people I’d like to meet, or be, or love." <-- This. So much this.

And that's a spectacularly gorgeous cover.

(And thank God that post about--shudder horror NUMBERS--has moved down. La la la I'm not listening to the numberssss...)

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Thanks for expressing the world of the introverted writer so perfectly: a person who enjoys solitude, yet seeks connection.

Kenda said...

Cate, what a fantastic description of what it means to be a writer. I especially like "I'm trying to interpret the world around me (and the world inside me), and I’m trying to express that in a way that others will understand, and perhaps come to see themselves in..." I haven't yet read "Sweep" or "Immortal Beloved," but sounds like I need to put them at the top of my to-read pile. Thank you for this...

R.L. LaFevers said...

Didn't Cate put that perfectly, Anne?

Elizabeth, so sorry to have stressed you out with all those nasty numbers and that this week's post was more to your taste. :-) Also? I am HUGELY excited today because I just got my copy of The SECOND DUCHESS!! Can't wait to read it!

Jenn, I know many think that's a contraction, to crave both solitude *and* connecting, but it is very much at the heart of being an introvert!

Irene Latham said...

I love Cate's emphasis on feeling. "Do you feel this too?" That's why I read AND why I write. Thanks so much for this post!

kangaroobee said...

Totally agree with Jennifer, it's not like we are all social outcasts, we just need that time by ourselves. (Sorry I haven't been here in ages)
Catherine

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, folks, I’m writer but I’m not especially thrilled with the public speaking part of writing. I like to put the words on the paper. The blog is awesome and I’m new so thank you. I love thoughts here. I’m learning to be myself and that is a hard lesson.

Amanda Hoving said...

I love to communicate with others...that's why I write! And I also self-medicate with chocolate at the thought of speaking in public...yeah I'm that kind of writer, too.

Thank you for this!