Sunday, December 26, 2010

Writing In My Car... With Thea Atkinson

All writing is not the same. Sometimes, you try and you just can't cross genres. Yes, there are verbs and nouns and adverbs (not too many) but if you write suspense, it's very difficult to write romance. Just like it's difficult for a romance writer to pen a dark and edgy mystery.

Novelist Thea Atkinson knows what I'm talking about and she'd like to share her writing journey with all of us. So. let's welcome Thea, author of four novels, including the most recent Anomaly.

What is Anomaly about, you ask? J isn’t your run-of-the-mill, everyday kind of troubled GenXer. He’s a recovering addict who is more concerned about his encroaching gender relapse than his meth addiction. That is, until his best friend comes to visit and gives him worse things to worry about. Anomaly is a litfic tale of self-acceptance. Discover how one week can change a man for a lifetime.

Here's Thea!

I spent some time writing this up so I didn't forget it over the holidays. I hope it's something like what you were looking for. Let me know if it wasn't what you expected and I'll rewrite.

Alas, I'm no Jodi Picoult

I have a friend who keeps asking me to write a book for her. Let’s call her Alicia. Alicia keeps saying things to me like, "Write me a romance, Thea. Write a good relationship book with lots of romance. Write me a good love story."

I keep having to answer her back in ways she doesn’t want to hear. I keep saying things like, "That's not the style I write; I don't have a romantic bone in my body. I don't even remember my own wedding anniversary."

She's persistent. It's one of the things I like about her. So a few years ago, while I was bemoaning the fact that my agent hadn’t found a publisher who wanted to take a chance on a new literary writer, she piped up again: "You need to write a romance. A good story like Jodi Picoult."

I told her I would try a short story first, see if I could do it before investing the many months it took to write a novel. I was excited. Maybe if I tried hard enough, I could write something that people all over the world would want to read; no, would want to pay for.

I settled down to write, then filled my mind with Alicia’s encouraging words: "You’re a good writer, Thea. Surely you can write a love story."

I could. Of course, I could.

Imagine my discomfort a few days later when I had to admit to Alicia of the path that this little "romance" actually took. There I was, sipping tea, feeling sheepish as I confessed that the couple in the story were both octogenarians and that he accidentally broke a few of her bones while being romantic. Worse yet, that she ended up dying during the encounter.

I think Alicia might have blinked once or twice the way they do in cartoons when they've experienced a shock. I think I might have shrugged comically, helplessly.

I did try, after all. As much as I might like to believe that I could write a mass appeal novel and sell multiple copies, enough to buy me a new laptop, a brand-new thesaurus, and maybe a little trip to Petra, I have had to make my peace with the fact that I write dark literary fiction: a genre that by some descriptions is: that which does not sell.

Every now and then, Alicia still brings the subject up. She still persists, God bless her. She says I'm capable of writing the kind of story she loves to read and I feel so humbled every time she tries to support the writer in me by believing in me.

Now, I just remind her that the tale will end up in some very strange places. It won’t have mass appeal, it won’t sell a million copies, but despite the fact that I can’t write romance, it will be an honest-to-goodness Thea made story.

And then I ask her if she's ready to read that.

The first thing you should know about me is I'm a Canuck--and one from the Maritimes where the water means almost everything to the people who live here. It shows up in my fiction a lot.

I have a dog. I wish I had three or four. I love dogs.

Some of my earliest memories are my fondest: like when my older brother put snakes in my rubber boots and I felt them slithering up my ankle when I put one on to go outside to play. Or when my younger brother pilfered every bit of babysitting money I'd hidden until I discovered the only safe hiding place for money was in the pages of a book. Or when my baby brother somehow got into my Dad's wine and threw up in the bathtub. Ah. The life of a sister. Those boys have given me some memorable images to take with me into old age.

Can I help it then, if bits and pieces of these also characters show up in my fiction in some way or other?

I tend towards literary fiction--or at least I try to. My agent thinks I write dark, and one day we'll find the perfect match of story and darkness to make us both happy.

I've been fortunate enough to write for money, but I prefer writing for passion. I've published throughout the US, the UK, and my home country of Canada in various lit journals, but I'm a novelist at heart.

At present, 4 of my novels are available on and 3 are available from Smashwords. All offer free sampling if you have an ereader of some sort. You can also check me out on goodreads, or Facebook, or my blog.

Thanks for sharing, Thea!

Please stop by Thea Atkinson's blog. There, you will find more essays on writing, as well as posts on the life of a writer.


  1. Hey Rachel:

    just checking back in because I recently discovered that I write in the same genre as the aforementioned famous writer. ha! who would have thought: what I figured was chicklit was actually psychological thriller fiction.

    so huzzah! I can now say I COULD BE a Jodi Picoult