An Interview with Lisa Young
To start this off, why don't you give an idea of what the book is about?
Hum of Hushed Voices is a murder mystery that revolves around a rookie police officer and her disbelief that a small town psychologist has taken his own life. In her search for answers about the doctors death, she must confront not only the person ultimately responsible for killing him, but also the detective in charge of the investigation, a man with whom she has had a volatile relationship. She must also battle feelings of anger and grief for the doctor she once thought of as a father.
Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?
I grew up in central New Jersey, and yes, reading and writing was definitely a part of my life. My sister and I read constantly and often pretended we were other people, which ignited my creativity. Although I often wrote in little blurbs, I didnt write seriously until recently.
Who were your earliest influences and why?
The first adult book I ever read was called IQ 83. It was a medical thriller about a biological agent that lowered a persons IQ. I dont think that book sold well, but it stuck with me all these years. Then I had a run with Clive Cussler books. His writing taught me a lot about characters. I think he influenced me to stick with the same people for years rather than to write about different people in each book.
What would a typical day be like for a writer?
Hmm, this is a hard one. I write, so obviously, Im a writer. However, I dont make my living as a writer. My income comes from running blood work, although I do spend 30-50% of my day writing technical manuals. My ideal typical day as a writer would be to wake up and do some form of exercise (see question on sacrifice). Then sit down with a bowl of cereal in front of my computer and write all day.
How long have you been writing and in what capacities?
I loved to write when I was in high school. I quickly wrote a first draft to Hum of Hushed Voices not long after that, but then I stopped writing. For years. I suppose writing for work came first. I write standard operating procedure manuals, newsletter articles, and continuing education modules for a physicians office laboratory consulting firm. The people that lived in my head during the first draft writing of Hum had been dormant, but suddenly woke up and began pounding on the inside of my skull. I started to write again, not just Hum, but also small papers and poems about my then two-year old son.
Which is more difficult to write - Fiction or nonfiction and why?
Nonfiction is easy to write if I am equipped with all the resources I need to write it. Fiction, for me, requires the imaginative part of my brain to have free reign, and this is not easy for someone controlled by logic, as I am. My best fiction tendrils spread when Im not concentrating on making them spread, for example, when Im driving to work or taking a shower.
Has there ever been a time when you wanted to throw in the towel and give up? And if so, how did you defeat those instincts?
Definitely. Hum of Hushed Voices sat in the basement for a number of years. After I finally picked it out of the mildewed box and rewrote it, it ended up back in the basement. Getting published, even getting an agent to take an unknown writer seriously, sometimes seems as likely as winner the lottery. How did I defeat those instincts? I didnt. The people in my head did. They said, You dont think were staying locked in here, do you?
What is the hardest part about being a writer?
Being ignored by publishers and getting form letters back from agents.
Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?
I dabble in quilting and bird watching. Neither has come in handy in my writing yet.
Articles and media alike make it sound as though the only way to rise to the top is to sacrifice. What do you find to be good sacrifices?
Sleep and exercise often get sacrificed. Early mornings are my only time to write in a large block of uninterrupted time. I could use that time to exercise (the only time to do that as well). Free time and a clean house get sacrificed as well. Dirty dishes may sit in the sink, and the laundry may pile up. At this point in my life, Im not willing to sacrifice time with my seven-year-old son (unless hes busy staring open-mouthed at a television show).
What question do you get asked more than any other?
Is your book selling?
Whats the coolest thing a reader has said to you?
I read your book weeks ago, and Im still thinking about the characters.
What has been your feedback from readers? What do they say to you about their interpretations of your book?
Most people who have read the book focus on the mystery. Their comments revolve around who done it, clues, how well that aspect of it was set up. They love to talk about the twist ending. Im always surprised by this and want to scream, but it wasnt about the mystery, it was about the characters. I keep my mouth shut, though.
Do you think that as a writer you are more prone to watching what goes on around you and observing behaviors than most people are?
Yes, I love to look for mannerisms I can use as well as speech patterns. I once met a guy who would say, If you dont like Dr. Doe, you dont like people. I used that in my book, because I thought it was an interesting way of saying how remarkably nice Dr. Doe is.
Who are some of the authors you consider to be "don't miss"?
I can honestly say that I dont think Ive read every single book of any one author. However, I do enjoy Jack Finney, James Patterson, and the Kellermans.
If one were looking to start his/her own career as a writer, what would you suggest his/her first step to be?
Take classes in college. Write for school papers. Pay some dues in school. I didnt do that, as I majored in science/math. I took a technical writing class in college, which really helped me with my manual writing, but as far as writing creatively, theres a big learning curve there. Also, Id suggest becoming familiar with the whole business of query letters, agents, publishers and sales. Marketing experience would come in handy as well. And make contacts. Join writers organizations. Enter contests.
What kind of movies do you enjoy?
Suspenseful, blow your mind movies like Signs, but I also like romantic comedies.
What is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldnt want to live in?
Whats the strangest question youve ever been asked in an interview?
Ive never been interviewed. This is my first.
Well Betsies Literary Page awaits to read all future interviews, which we know will be many!
Whats the best part of being a writer?
Letting the folks out of my head. Also, having someone tell me something they specifically liked about my book, like a favorite scene that I personally thought was my best.
Im writing a sequel to Hum and working on a few short stories involving time travel.