Q&A with Jamie Ford

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Q&A With Jamie Ford

Last night I had gotten a message back from New York Times Bestselling author Jamie Ford agreeing to do this Q&A. Jamie is the author of “The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” “Songs of Willow Frost,” “Love and Other Consolation Prizes,” and his most recent novel “The Many Daughters of Afong Moy” which was a book club pick for Jenna Bush’s book club.

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



A: I’m not sure I’d say it’s a calling. My wife is a nurse and that’s definitely a calling. Mine is more of a condition, a set of emotional scars, traumas, abandonment, always searching for a better definition of self, and daydreaming was always my out. As a writer, I’ve essentially monetized my daydreaming. Or as Dorothy says in The Many Daughters of Afong Moy, “I get paid to break my own heart for a living.”



Q: I read somewhere that your recent novel “The Many Daughters of Afong Moy,” has been optioned as a series. Did they start filming and/or casting anyone yet?



A: We’re still in the early stages. There’s an amazing screenwriter hard at work and I cannot wait to see what magic she’s created on the page. But, many books get optioned and very few get produced, so I’m keeping both feel firmly on the ground and trying to not get too excited yet. That being stated, the folks working on the series adaptation are wonderful, talented people at the peak of their game, so that daydreaming thing kicks in again…



Q: What advice do you give to anyone who is interested in pursuing a career as an author? What advice do you give to anyone who struggles with writers block?



A: Give yourself permission to fail. Writing is like playing a musical instrument; you have to allow yourself to have some bad notes before you’re going to get better. But, that’s the craft aspect of writing. The creative part, or a writer’s voice, that’s hard to teach. It’s very personal and discoverable, but you have to be teachable, and honestly, people who are unwilling (or unable) to see the flaws in their own work never improve. As far as writer’s block, for the most part I think it has a lot to do with endings. Writers who begin a story but don’t know their ending often end up getting lost. It’s like driving a car without a destination. I always know my ending before I begin, which alleviates a lot of that pain and confusion.



Q: If you were to collaborate with another author, who would it be and why?



A: I’d love to get into a time machine and go back to the late 80s and work with Pat Conroy, if for nothing else, to observe how his mind worked. His prose was so lyrical and lush and emotive, and he wrote longhand on yellow legal pads, probably with a glass of Scotch in his hand. I want to see that. I want to be there for those aha moments (I’m presuming there were many).



Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your other novels?



A: My first book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was optioned six years ago. They’re great folks, but on their 3rd screenwriter. I know that’s how Hollywood works, but for me, it’s like sitting in a restaurant for six years and then the waiter comes out and says, “Um, yeah, we’re on our third chef but your meal will be out shortly.” It does not inspire confidence.



Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so can you spoil a little bit about it?



A: I really can’t, not because I keep secrets like that––because I’m probably overly transparent––but because I’ve recently switched gears and am trying something else out and it’s still in the early stages. I began another project, then learned another book hit a similar subject in 2016, so I’ve abandoned that earlier project. It happens sometimes.



Q: What was it like having your novel chosen for Jenna Bush’s book club? I hear from some of the authors I have done Q&A’s with that both her and Hoda are sweethearts.



A: They’re both wonderful people, totally down-to-earth, and honestly, I can’t say enough good things about them. But the funny thing is, I first learned that the Today show was considering my book, after a Zoom with a library. My publicist called and said, “We didn’t want to tell you beforehand because we were afraid it might freak you out, but there were people from NBC on that Zoom…just watching you.” Now I just assume total strangers, the pizza delivery guy, the clerk at the post office, they’re all secretly NBC employees.



Q: What do you like best about writing a novel? What do you like the least about writing a novel?



A: There’s such a wonderful positive rush when you start the day with a blank page (or screen) and end with something you’re proud of. I’m a writer, so I’m naturally a tangled knot of insecurities, but the blank page is the proving ground, and while it doesn’t always go well, when it does, it feels so good. The downside is, you can love something one day, then look at it the next and go, “What was I thinking?”