Q&A With Anna Quinn

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Q&A With Anna Quinn 

Today’s Q&A is with author Anna Quinn. Anna’s novels are The Night Child, & Angeline. Both novels are psychological fiction.


Q: What fascinates you about writing psychological fiction? 


A: Psychological fiction is a genre that emphasizes interior characterization and motivation—there’s more focus on the complexities and dynamics of a character’s behavior than on action or plot, and even the action is driven by the character’s inner conflict rather than external forces. I love this because I am deeply intrigued by human behavior and the monologues we have going on inside our heads. Also, because humans think in fragments, and in a stream of consciousness way, psychological fiction beautifully fits my style of writing.


Q: When in your life did you realize that you were called to be a writer? 


A: My mother taught me to write when I was four. I watched in awe as she showed me how letters could form words could form sentences, could form language, could form stories. My life was changed in that moment. I’d fallen in love with writing. I wrote whenever I could. I wrote the stories I wanted to read and the stories I wanted to be in and never stopped. Strangely, I never shared my writing with anyone, until 6th grade. My teacher encouraged me to enter a writing contest. I loved her, so I wrote a story and entered it. The story was told from the perspective of an onion named Miss Pearl. She was very anxious about someone potentially peeling off her layers. I clearly remember Miss Pearl speaking to me—a very surreal experience. I won the contest and had to read the story aloud to an auditorium of kids and teachers. I was surprised to hear all the clapping. But it was the engrossing connection with the character that compelled me to keep writing these types of stories. 


Q: What advice do you give to anyone wanting to write psychological fiction? 


A.If you’re drawn to writing psychological fiction, you’re probably already a keen observer of people—their obsessions and motivations and choices. You already love the nature of the mind—how it works and why—like in an all-consuming way. Bring those examinations and insights into your characters. Take the time to really know them, like you do the real people in your life. Ask them lots of questions: Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want? What do you feel? What do you carry? What do you most want me to know? What will happen if you don’t get what you want? What are you most afraid of? Why?


Experiment mirroring the way your characters think, move and speak, on the page. Play with the use of fragments, pauses, white space, sentence length, flashbacks, flash forwards, stream of consciousness, etc. to reinforce their interior landscape, tone and mood. 

Read all the psychological fiction you can. Here are a few I love: Yaa Gyasi, Dorthe Nors, Emma Donohue, John Williams, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Toni Morrison, Murasaki Shikibu, Sylvia Plath, Donna Tartt, Ken Kesey, Virginia Woolf, Emma Cline, Haruki Murakami, Ruth Ware, Maggie O’Farrell, Zora Neale Hurston


Q: What is your advice to aspiring authors who struggle with writer’s block?


A. I’ve never been comfortable with the term writer’s block, but instead see the silence as a receptive phase. A phase where I need to replenish, shift my attention. Or sometimes I see it as a red flag that I’m trying to force something to go in a direction it doesn’t want to go. When my writing goes silent, I’ve learned to give myself permission to wait, to rest, to consider other possibilities. While I’m waiting, I draw a lot, take walks, dance, write poetry, do something new.


Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels?


A: Not yet. 


Q: What is your advice to new authors on how to deal with negative feedback whether its negative reviews, online trolls and family and friends who don’t support their writing goals?

A: Art is subjective, and people will love it or hate it or be somewhere along the continuum, so you might as well write what you want, write the best you can write and stand behind the writing you do. I’m working to become comfortable with that idea because to do otherwise, is to second-guess myself, and that’s a slippery slope to having critics on my shoulders as I write which is destructive to creativity. Still, I’m a sensitive human being and sometimes negative reviews hurt especially when I’m tired or stressed out. I don’t mind a constructive conversation; they can be informative, fascinating. I just mind harshness. I hate that, I really do. I mean, there’s enough hurt in the world, why do people have to add to it? And honestly, when I hear or read harsh feedback I stop thinking about the art, and I start thinking about the one who was harsh. I wonder what happened to them that they feel the need to project their pain and wounded egos onto another’s work? Eventually, though with some good self-talk, I remember that what really matters—that I wrote what I wanted to write and had a deeply satisfying time doing so. 

Q: If you’re writing a new novel now, can you reveal any details?


A: I’m working on a novel set in the 1500’s. That’s all I can say for now, but it’s completely absorbing me, and I can’t stop thinking about it.