Writing Wicket interviews Lisa Kohn today.
Lisa is the author of to the moon and back: a childhood under the influence, as well as The Power of Thoughtful Leadership. She is a writer, teacher, and public speaker who owns a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm (www.chatsworthconsulting.com) and who works to bring to others the tools, mind-shifts, and practices she’s found that have helped her heal, as well as the hope and forgiveness she’s been blessed to let into her life. She will always tell you that she is a native New Yorker, but she currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children, whenever they’re around.
Q: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
to the moon and back is the only full-form book I’ve written. (The Power of Thoughtful Leadership is a compilation of my work blog.) I had been working on a hybrid book – part memoir, part self-help – and when I finally decided to make it into a full memoir, it took me about a year to write the book.
Q: How does your life unfold in a normal writing day?
Because my writing is not my “day job” (my leadership consulting and executive coaching firm is what I do on a daily basis), I work my writing into my life. I set aside specific blocks of time to write, and I take myself away from my home-office desk, to a designated “writing” spot, so that I can think with that different brain and ignore my work responsibilities for a little while.
Q: If you could start over again in your writing career, what would you do differently?
I would start writing earlier. I had no idea how much I loved to write, to edit, to craft, to delete, to recraft, etc. I would give myself the gift of that much sooner, and I would create even more space and time in my life to write.
Q: Have you ever cried with one of your characters?
Because my book is a memoir, I am the main character. So, while I don’t think I can say that I’ve cried with myself, I certainly re-experienced many of the situations and emotions as I wrote the book, and now, during my author readings, I certainly re-experience them again.
Q: Do you believe in writer’s block?
I know that it sometimes can take me a while to get started when I’m trying to write – to find the best way into the story or idea – but I don’t believe in writer’s blog, per se, because as soon as I just start writing something, ideas and words seem to flow.
Q: What genre do you favour?
I really enjoy narrative nonfiction and memoir.
Q: What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
When I wrote my memoir, I tried to be as true as I could be to my memory, while also being aware of other people’s perspectives. While this is not the same as writing about historical figures, I think you would need to be as aware as you can be of the bias and perspective you bring, which flavors what you notice and what you write.
Q: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Because my genre is memoir, there isn’t specific research that I do. That said, I do speak with others about their memories and perspectives, and I do go through old journals, calendars, notes, etc., to see what was or seemed true at that time.
Q: What is your favourite childhood book?
I loved all of Louisa May Alcott’s books, especially the Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys series.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The most difficult part of my artistic process is actually one of the most rewarding parts as well. It is the editing, and specifically going through my writing carefully and deleting words, sentences, paragraphs, and full concepts/ideas that don’t move the story along. I have learned to thoroughly enjoy it, but it can be quite challenging to delete anything that I’ve “created” and written.
Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
In some ways, writing both energizes and exhausts me, but I would have to say it is more energizing. I am lucky in that I found that I love to write, and while I pour my heart, soul, and energy into it – especially because I’m writing memoir and narrative nonfiction – it fuels me to write more and more.
Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?
The two Kryptonite that can bring me down are: 1) getting started – it can be tough to figure out how to start a story or map out what I’m going to write. I can sit with my fingers on the keyboard for what seems like forever, waiting for the inspiration to hit me (and to hit me well). I have learned to “just start” – and then to work with whatever starts flowing. and 2) because I write memoir, I can get stuck trying to remember what “actually” happened. I’ve learned a great deal about memory through this process – largely that memory is subjective and hazy at best – and when I task myself with capturing as “true” a version of the truth/situation as I can, getting words out can be quite baffling.
Q: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If you write under one now, why?
I have never considered writing under a pseudonym because I am trying to spread a message of hope and love with my memoir, and I believe I will be best able to do this when I am cleary writing as myself.
Q: Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I don’t necessarily think one must feel emotions strongly in order to write. Just as there are many ways to go through life, I believe there are many ways to be a successful writer. While my writing is clearly influenced by my emotions – and my emotional nature – I think one can just as easily create/capture a story from a different life-viewpoint.
Q: If you could be any author, who would it be and why?
If I could be any author, I would be Mary Karr. She is, in many ways, the “queen of memoir.” Her memoirs have touched many people and also inspired many memoirists go public with their story. I also think she writes beautifully.
Q: What is the first book that made you cry?
I am pretty certain that it was Little Women that first made me cry. I yearned for a family like the March’s.
Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?
While my leadership book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership, was self-published, my memoir, to the moon and back: a childhood under the influence, is not. I decided to self-publish The Power of Thoughtful Leadership because my business partner and I wanted to quickly get our book out to clients and prospects, and self-publishing was the quickest way to do this (with the most control).
Q: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think the most common trap is thinking it will be easy and not being willing to put in the time and/or work. I have found the writing, publishing, and now promoting all to be challenging in their own way, and there are times I’ve wanted (and want) to quit. However, I keep at it because I remember that I’ve written (and am promoting) to the moon and back for a reason – to spread a message of hope and love. When I focus on that, I can keep at this and give it time to have results.
Q: What books have you self-published?
The Power of Thoughtful Leadership
Check out Lisa’s website: www.lisakohnwrites.com
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.