|Writing Through the Lens|
Celebrating Writing and Writers
Featuring New Author: Becca Spence Dobias
Interviewed by Kathie Neff (firstname.lastname@example.org)
November 12, 2021
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU’D LIKE YOUR READERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?
One of my blurbs, from author Mary Helen Specht, describes this book as “Lyricism with a punk rock edge,” which I totally love, because it’s kind of what I go for as a person. I see myself as equal parts tough and soft, poetic contemplation and crude humor. Everyone probably feels that way about themselves—everyone is complex, I know, and can contain so many different parts within themselves, but I think people either meet me and feel like I’m intimidating, then realize I’m a total dork, or they think I’m a total pushover and then realize I have an edge. I’m really proud that my book was able to capture that friction.
AT WHAT AGE DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WERE A WRITER?
I’ve thought of myself as a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was five, I entered and won a writing contest where you were supposed to write about how you would use computers in your future job. At the time, I wanted to be an archaeologist and I think I wrote something about how I would use computers to mark off where I’d already excavated so I would know where I still had to dig. I’m pretty sure I was the only entrant in my age category, but still, winning gave me a hit of external approval that I liked.
My dad was a writer—he was a staff writer and later, the editor, for our local newspaper, and he wrote poetry and journaled. I really looked up to him and wanted his approval too. I started journaling at nine and would sometimes share things I’d written with him, and I wrote for my school paper starting in middle school. I also wrote terrible poetry, but my friends ate it up.
Words have always made sense to me and the identity of “writer” has always felt both right and romantic. It wasn’t until my late 20s, though, that I thought, “Hey, maybe I could actually do something with this thing I really love.”
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT ONE WRITING HABIT YOU’VE DEVELOPED THAT HAS MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE FOR YOU.
In the last year, I’ve developed a routine where I exercise for 15 minutes before I start writing. It really makes me feel awake and ready to sit down and get to work.
HOW DID NA-NO-WRI-MO IMPACT YOU AS A WRITER?
NaNoWriMo gave me the motivation to write my first drafts. I’m very goal-oriented and achievement-oriented and NaNo has a great built-in structure for all of that. The whole fun, supportive community vibe surrounding NaNo also set the tone for my expectations of what a writing community should be.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST PIECE YOU PUBLISHED AND HOW DID THAT SUCCESS IMPACT THE TRAJECTORY OF YOUR WRITING JOURNEY?
Well, I published in newspapers from middle school through college, which reinforced my identity as a writer and my sense that words came naturally, but the first fiction I published was in a Writing Bloc anthology—the first one we put out, Escape. It was an amazing collaborative process and really solidified my knowledge that community is essential for writers. Working with people firsthand on every aspect of the publishing process also taught me how much goes on behind the scenes to get books into hands and made me really grateful for everyone who works so hard to make books a reality. It was also really exciting to see my name on the page, especially amongst those of so many friends!
HOW DID YOUR PUBLISHING PROCESS TRANSFORM YOUR ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT?
Oh my gosh, the manuscript is almost unrecognizable now, looking back on the draft I first sent to my publishers. It really feels like they put me through an MFA. It’s not at all what I used to think of as “edits.” When I used to think of “editing” I thought of what I now know is “line editing,” going through line by line and making things clearer or better. Instead, my manuscript first went through several rounds of developmental edits, which, to say it simply, means tearing the whole thing apart and trying again. I expanded some stories and cut others. I changed settings. I changed the whole thing from first to third person. Along the way, I was reading books my editors suggested to learn best practices for different techniques—Gillian Flynn to learn how to drip information slowly, Elena Ferrante and Celeste Ng to learn how to write about the dark sides of relationships, and then books to learn about certain places and times—books from the 1940s, Myla Goldberg’s book about Prague. It really felt as intensive as my graduate school study. The book totally transformed. And then there were line edits and copy edits.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER TO THOSE WHOSE MANUSCRIPTS ARE WAITING TO GO OUT INTO THE WORLD?
It’s normal for it to take a long time and a lot of work. Like, a really long time and a lot of work. Keep improving your craft. Read craft books, read books in your genre, read new books to learn what is selling. Don’t sit on your manuscript while you’re trying to find it a home. Keep honing and keep improving.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR BOOK LAUNCH EXPERIENCE
I’d prepared myself for the anti-climax of publication, so my expectations were exceeded! I had a wonderful time at my in-person and virtual launches, and all the support was affirming and humbling. I’m trying to focus on my really tangible goals for the book—numbers of reviews and sales, etc. and my new projects. Mostly I’m trying to integrate the experience into an understanding that it’s the work and connection that matter. The quality of connection this whole process has generated has been so wonderful!
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOUR BOOK?
The book is online anywhere books are sold, but I’d love for folks to buy it from Bookshop.org, which supports independent bookstores, or from Charis Books and More, an awesome feminist bookstore.
NOTE: Here is a recent update about Becca’s book in audio format.
Y’all! I have some VERY exciting news! There will be an AUDIOBOOK of On Home available on November 27, just in time for the holidays. Those of you who ordered a physical copy but have a hard time finding time to read it, this is a great way to listen to the story while you’re driving or doing chores.
It’s narrated by the amazing Erin Spencer of One Night Stand Studios who has family from West Virginia and Kentucky and was so sensitive to Appalachian experiences and accents. I’m so honored to share this with you!
Update! Amazon has it listed to go live on black Friday! You can pre-order now! Eeee!
You can pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1950301257/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_fabc_CTGSJXRFMTPJ1J2XMR93
WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS FOR YOUR WRITING FUTURE, BECCA?
I want to keep writing books that people want to read. The process of writing is so important to me, and I know that ultimately I can’t base my feelings of success on external validation, but knowing I’m connecting with readers in a deep way is so incredibly fulfilling.
Thank you, Becca, for participating in this interview and sharing On Home with all of us. Your hard work and commitment to your writing shines through this interview. Wishing you much success as the book makes it way through the world.
—Kathie, Writing Through The Lens