I have the great (and exciting) pleasure of welcoming Thalia Chaltas, author of Because I Am Furniture, to Sparrow Review for my first-ever author interview! Ms. Chaltas currently living in California, where she continues writing other works no doubt as brilliant as Because I Am Furniture.
Your biography reads that you have had trained to become everything from a kinesthesiologist to a helicopter pilot. When did you discover that you wanted to be a writer, and how have your many experiences helped you during your writing process?
I always wrote poetry, and I always wanted to write a novel (adult), but I didn't necessarily want to be a writer, per se. I think I thought that having one book on the library shelf would be great, but not my profession! "Oh I'll just whip off one novel and then move on..." After college, I kept learning new skills and finding them to be not quite what I wanted to "do" in life, interesting to me, but not applicable to what I thought of as real life. And along the way, I kept writing... In 2000 I joined a writer's critique group specifically for writing for children (because I thought it sounded "fun"), and this built a foundation and accountability, and a professionality I had not thought of before. I have not stopped since!
I don't know that specific past experiences and interests have helped my writing process, but I understand now that my tendency to gather information by learning something or doing something new is very useful. It is a great benefit as a writer to have the willingness to jump through the wormhole when it opens - how can I show what a character feels when they are bounced out of a raft in the rapids, if I am not willing to jump into rapids myself? So my passion for trying new experiences is what helps my writing, not necessarily drawing on the experiences I've already had. Although, sometimes those work, too. :)
Where did you find your inspiration for Because I Am Furniture, especially in light of its darker subject matter?
Unfortunately, my own childhood. I did not intend to write the novel, but poems came out of me, and after a lot of work I connected them together and started making it fiction. Once it was fiction, I loved writing it! I did not write BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE to state my case or punish or feel better - I wrote it because it developed into a novel with a great story and an unusual format and I enjoyed it.
What is one book that you would recommend to young adult readers, and why?
I happen to love books that stretch boundaries for me. I read a ton of sci fi and fantasy as a teen (and still do). One of my personal favorites recently was THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner. The main character does not know who he is or where he is, and the reader has to learn it all one page at a time with him. Social aspects, communication difficulties, friendships, broken bonds, self doubt - it's all in there. Brilliant, edge-of-your-seat stuff.
I read that you collect children's books- which would you consider the highlight of your collection?
I have some first editions I try not to drool on, like THE WIZARD OF OZ by Frank Baum, but honestly, my very favorite is an unusual middle grade book, tattered and discarded by a library when I was young, called TAASH AND THE JESTERS, by Ellen McKenzie. I am fairly certain it is not in print and I have never found anyone else who has read it! Taash is a young boy who is getting restless and curious (and damn grumpy) about the outer world and takes off into it, and ends up in a separate world from his, with the unlikely protection of twin jesters who appear and disappear. Of course, Taash finds out he is not who he thought he is. And isn't that true for all of us?
Do you listen to music as you write, or do you prefer quiet?
I would love to listen to music! I would love to have a playlist on my website and say "I listened to this because it inspired such and such -" But honestly, although I am very musical myself, I tune out everything when I write. So I could put on the iPod or a cd but I would not hear any of it! Waste of electricity for me.
Are you in the process of writing any other novels, and are they also in poems? Have you dabbled in prose as well?
I am finishing a new novel in poems, and it is scheduled to come out in Summer 2011. Keep track of news on that on my website. I have always written poetry, but I have always written my stories in prose, until recently. I tend to think in small gatherings of words, as in poetry, so writing prose takes a bit longer for me. Poems just come out of me fastest, and I am very happy that there is a genre specifically for novels in verse. It suits me!
Thanks for having me aboard for the interview, Cate!
You're so welcome! It was such a pleasure. :)
If you would like to learn more about Ms. Chaltas, you can visit her website or blog. And if you're interested in purchasing her book (which you should be!), Because I Am Furniture, you can do so here and here.