Interview with Vanessa Gonzales
Author of The Light in the Sound
Vanessa Gonzales was born in Utah, but grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University, Louisville, KY. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared in U.S. and Canadian literary magazines. She taught composition and literature courses for Daytona State College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. She is currently working on her next novel while living and traveling full time in a vintage RV with her husband, Josh, and their four furry kids. Learn more and follow her work at vanessagonzales.com
Tell us about your book The Light in the Sound, the lead character Rachel, and what inspired you to write it?
I’m drawing a blank on the speaker, but I read a quote a long while back about not writing to influence, but to let others know they’re not alone. That really moved me. The most impactful writing I’ve had the privilege of reading did exactly that and it quickly became a driving force for me in my own work.
The Light in the Sound is a character-driven, literary drama with comedic undertones. It’s about a 24-year-old girl who lives in Seattle, WA and works in a porn shop. She’s juggling love, loss, and the sense of isolation that the entrapments of the modern world impose on all of us.
You’ve done a video trailer for this book. Would you suggest other authors do the same?
Yes. It has increased sales and been a powerful advertising tool that I highly recommend authors utilize. I also recommend hiring someone skilled in book trailer creation because a poor quality trailer will do more harm than good.
Is there anything about your Utah upbringing that influences how you write, or what you write?
Besides the frequent desire to describe majestic desert settings, not so much anymore. It influenced The Light in the Sound greatly, however. Going back to my comment about letting people know they’re not alone, that was a huge motivation to write a character who was ultimately exiled from her family and struggles with difficult childhood memories, stemming from her rejection of their religious ideals that were a huge part of her upbringing. I think many people are struggling with variations of this situation right now that they’ll likely find relatable in The Light in the Sound.
You also train others in creative writing. Can good writing be taught?
Ha. That’s quite the debate in the literary community, isn’t it. I’m among the tribe that believes it can be taught. As such, I don’t subscribe to the thinking that there are no rules. To me, that sounds like a lazy writer copout. Fiction writers are notorious for playing with the artful fragment, but otherwise, good writing follows a number of grammatical rules with proper sentence construction, dialogue format, as well as balancing narrative with dialogue and action.
Too many people think they are or could be writers because they have the ability to string together sentences for pages on end—something we’re taught very early in grade school. My best advice is to read work that has won (or been nominated for) credible literary awards such as The O. Henry Prize, Flannery O’Connor Award, Pulitzer Prize, Newberry Medal, and so on. Alice Munro is one of my all-time-favorite authors and my go-to recommendation for everyone. (I was over-the-moon when she won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2013.) The recipients of these awards have contributed a lifetime worth of education in amazing writing. And if you feel like traveling further down the rabbit hole, do some research on those writers and find out whose work they’re reading.
Indie publishing has become a tremendous resource for up and coming writers who might have never made it into print otherwise, but that shouldn’t allow poorly written work to gain a readership.
It’s not just a writer’s job to capture and enchant the imagination, but to educate with the correct use of the English language, and that can be taught. …No one is born knowing how to write. Ultimately, it’s a skill that anyone with the desire and dedication can develop and master.
What creates magic in writing for you?
This is a fabulous question!
Too many new writers think the magic is in doing some sort of awkward writerly strut with long, hard to follow sentences. But in fact, when you look closely at work by “the greats,” their sentence structure is often quite simple.
What blows your mind is the escape from cliché in being presented with the unique use of metaphor and analogy. Besides insightful character development in which we see reflections of society or ourselves, unique metaphors and analogies are often what we highlight or underline as readers. I strive to sprinkle my work with moments worth trudging down the hallway to find your favorite highlighter.
Pick some of your writing and imagine it in TurlBook™ format. What would be 3D animated? What would you want readers to explore visually?
“Transporting the reader directly there via 3D animation would be sublime.”
Probably the majestic city, water, and mountain views that setting a novel in the Puget Sound region offered. The setting is secondary in my work to character development, but it definitely creates a unique mood, and transporting the reader directly there via 3D animation would be sublime.
What advice would you give to writers reading this?
I tend to get questioned a lot concerning writer’s block, and I try to remind authors that the well of creativity is not bottomless for any of us. When your writer brain is drained you have to find alternative ways to send drips down into the well to fill it back up. Reading great work and participating in alternative forms of creative expression are often effective ways to fill the well. Writers will argue that their first novel came like a burst of lightning. But how old were you when you wrote said novel, and how long does that mean you had been filling the well? Once you start draining the well, you have to actively participate in replenishing it to maintain a career as a prolific writer. My freelance business, editing, designing book covers and doing author branding for fellow writers, has been a huge asset in replenishing my well.