Today, we talk with Patricia Wood, author of Lottery, a book released by Putnam in August (2007), but is now available.
I started seeing a book title mentioned here and there on the internet. I thought, "why is everybody getting excited by Shirley Jackson's famous story all over again?" Turns out that "Lottery" (not "The Lottery") is the debut novel of Patricia Wood. Predictions is that this Renaissance woman's novel will become a best seller.
The fabulous Miss Snark mentioned it on her blog in a very admiring post written with the usual Snarkly humor. Then, a link from Kimber An's blog, then other mentions and pretty soon, I've just got to go take a look myself.
Patricia was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. She has served in the U.S. Army, worked as a Medical Technologist, horseback-riding instructor, and most recently as a marine science teacher working with high-risk students in Honolulu. Patricia is an avid SCUBA diver, has assisted with shark research, won the Hawaii State Jumper Championship with her horse Airborne, crewed in a 39-foot sailboat across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu to San Francisco, and is now pursuing her dream of writing. Currently a PhD student at the University of Hawaii, her work is focused on education and the study of disability and diversity. She has been fortunate to have the guidance of author Paul Theroux, who spends his winters in Hawaii and has been her mentor. Patricia lives with her husband, Gordon aboard ORION, a 48-foot sailboat moored in Ko`Olina, Hawaii. She has a son, Andrew who lives in Everett, where Lottery takes place.
Perry's IQ is only 76, but he’s not stupid. His grandmother taught him everything he needs to know to survive: She taught him to write things down so he won't forget them. She taught him to play the lottery every week. And most important, she taught him who to trust. When Gram dies, Perry is left orphaned and bereft at the age of 31. Then his weekly Washington State Lottery tickets wins him 12 million dollars, and he finds he has more family than he knows what to do with. Peopled with characters both wicked and heroic who leap off the pages, LOTTERY is a deeply satisfying, gorgeously rendered novel about trust, loyalty, and what distinguishes us as capable.
Read the review by Bernita Harris.
Read the review by John Coyne.
Check out Pat's Website. Read an excerpt from Lottery here.
Read Pat's Blog here.
Whew! Now, we'll get on with the interview.
Marva: Hi Patricia. Thanks for taking my questions. Your resume, listed above in your bio, only lacks working on a shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico. Do you bring a little of all those experiences to your writing?
Patricia: I have never considered that my age or circumstance puts limits on me. My interests are mercurial and varied. If something piques my curiosity, I am motivated to learn about it or do it. One caveat. You will never hear that I have parasailed or jumped out of an airplane.
Marva: Where did "Lottery" come from? Somebody you know or some past experience? Dream? Epiphany?
Patricia: Combination over-active imagination, dream, and conjecture. The two words: What if?
And then the characters. They took over and started talking to me. They arose out of my subconscious.
Note: Patricia's brother-in-law, Jeri, was born mentally challenged. Working as a public school teacher, she dealt with many students whose needs were not met by the system. Her father won the Washington State lottery--hence the Lottery theme--giving Pat inside info on how lotteries work. Finally, Pat is a doctoral student at the University of Hawaii enrolled in a Certificate program in disability and diversity. Whew again.
Marva: I slapped the book blurb up top. Is there anything else you'd like to add about Lottery to pique the interest of potential book buyers?
Patricia: I wrote Lottery because it mirrored what I want to read. I love books that move me. That make me think in different ways. I adore endearing unconventional protagonists and seeing them grow and transform and while I do not require happy endings I want a book that satisfies me. That when I close the last page I sigh and say, "I LOVED that book." and then I think of three or four of my friends I can pass it on to.
So if I add anything it would be "You will want to pass this book on to all your friends."
Marva: Your website says you use "beta" readers. Can you explain that a little bit? How do you get beta readers? And do you keep them chained in your basement?
Patricia: They are my swabbies (sic) below deck ARGGHHH!
My beta readers originated because I live in a marina. If you know anything about sailing, you will know that sailors are great readers and will read anything. They are also cheap--too cheap to buy books! Whenever anyone would discover I was an aspiring novelist, they would ask to read my work and they actually WOULD read it and comment! My first beta reader was my good friend Bob from Wandering Star in the next slip. He is a blazingly fast reader and one of my fans. Although he prefers mysteries and thrillers, it was a tip off to me my work was getting better, when he would give me increasingly positive feedback. As each person communicated to another of their friends my beta group increased. I recommend finding voracious readers NOT writers. Many of my novels have been read by captive audiences crossing the Pacific! Another one of my readers shares my name -- Pat. She lives in California and has read all four of my novels and several of my short stories. She is the demographic I write for. I suggest to writers to invest in as much energy finding a group of beta readers as they do in their writing.
Marva: You mention writer Paul Theroux as your mentor. How did you get so lucky? Are you a stalker?
Patricia: It would seem so! It is one of those serendipitous occasions in life. I have been an avid horsewoman and have taught riding in the past. A friend of a friend recommended me, when Paul and his wife told her they wanted to take lessons. Although I was a bit reluctant (I shirked from getting back into giving lessons again and I only knew Paul from his books and interviews) -- they both have been a delight.
We have become great friends. It goes to show you that networking and maintaining wide interests help. I refused payment and Paul offered to read my work. He liked what he read and became my mentor and friend. Keep in mind he did NOT send me to his agent and he did NOT show my work to his publisher. It is a collegial relationship about reading and writing and as such is invaluable.
Marva: How many agents did you approach before being snapped up? I know at least one name, which we won't mention. Also, did you try publishers directly?
Patricia: Only one publisher - McAdams I believe -- and that was with my first novel. I was quite naïve. The rest were agents and they probably number in the neighborhood of between 50 to 70 (I queried some twice). Keep in mind that was for all my novels and over three years.
After attending the Maui Writers Retreat and Conference in 2005 and meeting the author Holly Kennedy and taking a class from Jacquelyn Mitchard I was able to refine my query, start understanding how the business worked, and ultimately was started on the path to creating Lottery and being published.
Marva: Lottery is your debut novel, but do you have a trunk full of old manuscripts in the closet? What else have you published? What future plans can you reveal?
Patricia: I still love the premise of my first novel and I have a total of four completed (including Lottery). I am the finest example of being picked out of the slush pile. I have no real publishing credits outside of a couple small articles in horse magazines that I never ever mentioned in my query.
As far as my next novel I will be cryptic. It is still being edited and will focus on endearing characters in tragic-comic conditions.
Marva: I like to end every interview with a spot where the interviewee can spout off about anything they want. Go.
Patricia: I guess I'll end with what every author is prepared to be asked: What is your advice to aspiring novelists?
My advice? Keep on writing. I think many writers get stuck on one book. You need to write several and FINISH each one, go back and edit, and then start the next. Rinse and repeat!
I am not one for ongoing writers' groups as I think over-all other writers' opinions often times can be detrimental but I am a great one for choosing a writers' retreat or conference that you can attend every year. Get to know other authors through other venues. Teaching riding opened up doors that I might not have had. Keep your eyes and ears open for those great premises...oh yes...and write.
And never stop.
Marva: Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed. We all, of course, wish you monster sales when the novel comes out in August. A reminder to my readers: You can order Lottery from Amazon right this second.