An Interview with Andrea Dunlop
A native of Seattle who’s spent time in both New York and abroad, Andrea Dunlop is about to embark on a three-date tour of the Pacific Northwest in support of her debut novel, Losing the Light. We caught up with the exciting, up-and-coming author in advance of her coastal trek to talk about starting as an author, publishing, and her work with Seattle’s Girl Friday Productions. Read the entire interview below, and don’t forget to grab tickets to the events which include breakfast and readings from both Dunlop and Jamie Ford.
Losing the Light is your debut novel and came out on the highly recognized Washington Square imprint this year, would you mind giving our readers a bit of information on your previous works and publications?
Losing the Light is my debut novel. I’m happy to say that my agent and I recently signed on my editor for a second novel, so there will be more to come. Like most authors, I have several other novels in my drawer—one that I came close to getting published years ago—but I’m very happy that this book was my debut.
How long was the process of completing Losing the Light? Did it ever seem like a project that might never see the light, or had a novel been a long term goal?
I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was a little kid, and I’ve been working toward the goal of getting a novel published for years. As for this specific book, I’d been working on it on and off for about twelve years by the time it finally sold. Needless to say, I’ve had many moments of doubt, it’s inevitable as an unpublished writer to wonder if anyone will ever care about this thing you’re pouring your heart into. Working through all of that is how you know you have the stomach for it.
Many readers and reviewers have commented on the authenticity of your characters in the novel, saying that the central theme of discovery and coming of age resonated with them because it never felt forced or inauthentic. How do you go about crafting your characters? Is anything pulled from reality or aspects of yourself or your life?
Absolutely! I began this novel when I returned home from a semester abroad in France and that was an experience that made an enormous impression on me. I think all novelists pull from their own lives in some respect. That said, nothing in the book is truly autobiographical. The characters are composites of many people I’ve known, but then they are also completely themselves. Characters really take on their own lives at some point in the writing process, and it’s one of the most exciting aspects of being a novelist for me. I suppose you could say in a way that they are all me, and none of them are me.
In addition to being an author, you’re also the marketing and social media director for Girl Friday Productions in Seattle. What are the differences and challenges between creating and marketing your own novel and aiding in the creation and marketing of someone else’s book or product? Is the personal connection an incentive to power through and make things happen, or can it make everything more intimidating?
Once my own book was coming out, I knew I had to lead by example. Knowing so much about the process could be daunting at times (I’ve seen how the sausage is made, so to speak) but ignorance is in no way bliss when it comes to being an author. It has helped me enormously to have such a thorough understanding of book publishing and promotion; and I think it has helped quell my natural “author-ly anxiety” because I’m not in the dark about things.
I love working with clients but sometimes I wish I could get them more excited to use social media. It feels like a lot of work to manage all these platforms and do all of this promotional stuff in addition to writing, and it is—but I think it’s also really rewarding. I used to be a publicist and in that realm of marketing, the author has zero control. There’s less for them to do, but that’s not a good thing!
What’s been your favorite project to work on through Girl Friday?
In addition to working with clients, I also do marketing work for the company itself and that is often what I enjoy the most. My colleagues at GFP are such incredible, talented, kind people, and it’s such a fun place to work. I’ve seen the company grow from five people to twenty-seven in the time I’ve been here, and it’s always evolving, always changing, all while holding true to our core values. It’s never a challenge to get excited when I’m talking about Girl Friday.
An interview standard: Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring writers or those just breaking out into the world of publishing? Anything to avoid?
My best advice is simple but not easy: Try not to take things personally. Being a writer necessarily involves making yourself vulnerable without becoming so cynical that you throw in the towel. It involves being met with rejection, criticism, or worst of all, indifference. People judging your writing can feel like them judging you but they’re not. Once your work is out there, you have to detach from it as best you can. You have to decide what you need to protect yourself: a good support system, for one, good writer friends who understand, and perhaps a moratorium on reading reviews if you can’t stop from obsessing over them.
Many authors and those involved in production services often relocate to New York or Los Angeles, what is it about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest that’s kept you here?
I did live in New York for about six years right after college. I worked as a publicist for Doubleday and that was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. But I love being back in the Northwest where I grew up. New York is a great place to network as a writer, but not the best place to actually, you know, write. Living quarters are cramped, it’s loud, it’s distracting, it’s competitive. Obviously plenty of people overcome those obstacles and write there, but for me, I love the relative quiet of Seattle. The publishing and writing community here is both vibrant and supportive. I go to bed at 9:30 so I can get up to write, I can’t imagine doing that in New York, I’d just be starting dinner!
What does the rest of 2016 hold in store for you?
A lot! I’m getting married in August (thank god for my talented wedding planner or I’d be eloping). My next book is due in October and I’m still on the road for Losing the Light through the end of May. Girl Friday is busier than ever and not looking to slow down anytime soon. It’s a pretty incredible year for me, I’m trying not to let it rush by!
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