Friday, December 13, 2013

Interview with Sonja Condit, author of Starter House - December 13, 2013

Please welcome Sonja Condit to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Starter House will be published on December 31st by William Morrow.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Sonja:  I wrote my first novel at age seven, about the life and adventures of a trap-door spider, an animal whose lifestyle interested me strongly. Then I wrote another one, about an Egyptian cat mummy who lived in a museum and came out at night to have adventures with other museum artifacts and also with the nearby cats. Then it was dinosaurs, then unicorns, and eventually I started to write about people.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Sonja:  I'm very boring and have no quirks. I can't write without coffee--but then, I can't really do anything without coffee. Also I need a cat nearby. Fortunately we have plenty so there's always one available.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Sonja:  I'm a rebellious plotter. I plot like mad, in agonizing detail, and then when I write it all goes to pieces and the book ends up different. Every now and then I stop writing and adjust the outline to reflect what's actually there.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sonja:  Every day, the first one hundred words are the hardest. Deadlines help. I belong to two wonderful writing groups, so there's always a workshop coming up, and that keeps me working.

TQ:  Describe Starter House in 140 characters or less.

Sonja:  Pregnant woman buys house haunted by jealous child.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Starter House?

Sonja:  I absolutely love ghost stories. But there are certain haunted-house traditions that disturb me, such as, that the houses are so horrible and dangerous, why would any reasonable person choose to live there? And the ghosts are so hateful and angry. So I tried to make it different. The house is an ordinary, pleasant suburban home, and the ghost is motivated by love, not hate.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Starter House?

Sonja:  None! I'd much rather make things up. Actually, that's not true; as part of plotting and outlining, I had a timeline, and made sure I knew what was going on with Lacey's pregnancy in every scene.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Sonja:  Lex was easy to write, because he was so different. I made a few rules for his language--he rarely uses names; his sentences are short and simple--and tried to understand what he was thinking. Eric was hard. My early readers found him very unsympathetic. This was disturbing, because I quite like him, and I wanted my readers to sympathize with him even when he's wrong.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Starter House?

Sonja:  The dreams. I rarely write dream scenes, and usually don't enjoy them as a reader, but I think they worked and that made me happy.

TQ:  What's next?

Sonja:  I'm working on another book; right now I'm partway through the second draft, and am just discovering that my timeline is in ruins and nothing makes sense! It'll work out in the end, though.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sonja:  Thank you.

Starter House

Starter House
William Morrow Paperbacks, December 31, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Her dream home is about to become a house of nightmares...

From the moment Lacey glimpses the dusty-rose colonial cottage with its angled dormer windows and quaint wooden shutters, she knows she's found her dream house. Walking through its cozy rooms, the expectant mother can see her future children sitting on the round bottom step of the house's beautifully carved staircase, and she imagines them playing beneath the giant maple tree in the warm South Carolina sun. It doesn't matter to Lacey and her husband, Eric, that people had died there years before.

But soon their warm and welcoming house turns cold. There is something malevolent within the walls—a disturbing presence that only Lacey can sense. And there is Drew, a demanding and jealous little boy who mysteriously appears when Lacey is alone. Protective of this enigmatic child who reminds her of the troubled students she used to teach, Lacey bakes cookies and plays games to amuse him. Yet, as she quickly discovers, Drew is unpredictable—and dangerous.

Fearing for her baby's safety, Lacey sets out to uncover the truth about Drew and her dream house—a search for answers that takes her into the past, into the lives of a long-dead family whose tragic secrets could destroy her. To save her loved ones, Lacey must find a way to lay a terrifying evil to rest...before she, Eric, and their child become its next victims.

About Sonja

Photo by Brent Coppenbarger
Sonja Condit received her MFA from Converse College, where she studied with Robert Olmstead, Leslie Pietrzyk, R. T. Smith, and Marlin Barton. Her short fiction has appeared in Shenandoah magazine, among other publications. She plays principal bassoon in the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium. She teaches at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities.

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