Jamie Quatro Q&A
In your childhood, did you ever think you’d grow up to be an author? And if not, who did young you imagine the you now to be?
I always wanted to be a writer. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else when I grew up. I was a huge reader as a kid. My favorite picture book was The Maggie B by Irene Haas. After wishing on a star, Maggie wakes to find herself at sea, on a ship named after her. Her baby brother James is the only one on board with her. She sets to work cooking and cleaning and teaching James his ABCs; she also deep-sea fishes and captains the ship through a massive storm. I remember being in awe of her independence — no parents! — and by the way she lived above and outside the “traditional" gender roles I was accustomed to, growing up in the 70s. And the illustrations were magical.
What’s the next step after finishing a novel? Do you have any celebratory rituals?
Whenever I finish something I try to write the first sentences of whatever is next.
In past interviews you’ve said running is where your body goes on autopilot and your mind wanders to mend out story problems. On the grind of working though, what does the average writing day look like for you? Do you have any writing idiosyncrasies that go hand in hand with your processes of forming a novel? (Like when I'm writing research essays, I don't know why or when it started, but I like to walk around every hour or so and always have candy or something sugary nearby)
I’m a pianist, and often when I’m working at home I’ll wander between desk and piano, as a way to take breaks. Another habit (a dangerous one) is getting up to put the kettle on for tea, then going back to work and forgetting about it until all the water has boiled off. I obviously need to invest in a kettle with a whistle.
When writing Fire Sermon are there any scenes or characters you were excited to write and expand upon? Were there any scenes or characters you got stuck on developing?
In the final stages of editing Fire Sermon, I added a new scene, the one at the lake house. I'd been editing for so long, it was a joy to go back in and draft something new.
Would you mind sending me a picture of your dog?
Sure - a couple attached. (The one with the pumpkin is the day I got her.) We got Luna the day after the 2016 election. I couldn’t stop crying that morning, and I knew a woman who’d recently had a litter of English Goldens. I dropped my son off at school, then drove out to the farm and bought Luna. Total impulse purchase. But it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
When the process of creating a novel is finished and words from other authors and literary figures come in about what you and a team of others have spent hours and hours creating, how would you describe your feelings then?
God, it runs the gamut. Bad reviews suck, good reviews don’t suck. But nothing anyone says or writes, glowing or disparaging, changes a single word of the finished book you’ve sent out into the world. The trick is to ignore the publication noise and keep working. So difficult in the internet era.
In your Barnes and Nobles interview conversation with Lily King, I love when you said it’s a "crucial time for women to be writing frankly and openly about female sexual longing and transgression in general” and that the "assumption that male artists can write about sex and infidelity but female artists should be more demure is passé, even dangerous.”
That spoke so much with me. There has always been gender inequality in the literary world, so is there any advice you have for upcoming female authors or really any female who’s entering in the writing and publishing sphere?
Write the story you have to write — the one that makes your stomach bottom out and your heart race. The secret thing you’d never want your mom to know, the thing you’ve never told anyone. The thing that keeps you up at night. Forget the market. Forget what “sells.” Open your veins and tell your own truth. Then stay the course-