Kathy Shaidle is an amazing author, writer, and blogger extraordinaire. She blogs current at Five Feet of Fury. She has been blogging for over a decade and prior to her current blog incarnation blogged at Relapsed Catholic. She has written for a number of religious newspapers and magazines, and also for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, CBC.ca, the Dallas Morning News and more. She recently took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for the readers of Book Reviews and More. So without further ado here's Kathy!
1. Kathy if you had not become a professional writer what do you think you would be doing with your life?
I might have gone into library studies 25 years ago, but not today. Libraries are dying. I never planned to do anything when I grew up, because in my teens we were all assured that Ronald Reagan was going to blow up the world anyhow. I didn't start making long term plans (if you can call them that) until after the Berlin Wall fell.
2. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?
If you want to see your name in print, open up the phonebook. There is nothing magical about it. Anyone can get something published. It won't change the world and 99% of the time, nobody cares except you. Learning from your mistakes is good. Learning from other people's mistakes is much better. I always knew this, but: there is no such thing as "inspiration." Just get your butt in the chair and write or you'll never write anything. Read everything, especially when you are young. I can still remember TIME magazine articles I read at age 12, but not what I read 24 hours ago. I could also read for hours at a time back then, and fall asleep after 10 minutes now. If you hate reading, you can't be a writer.
3. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?
In Grade 13, a short story I wrote was a runner up in a national contest. It only occurred to me decades later that probably thousands of schoolkids had been declared runners up too. But it was the shove I needed to make a decision. Nobody in my family had finished high school, let alone college. Also see "nuclear war," above. So I flipped through a college courses catalogue and took Media Arts (Writing) at Sheridan College. Two years, only a few thousand dollars. Best decision I ever made. Unlike everyone I know who went to a real university, I have been writing professionally in one capacity or another ever since I graduated.
4. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?
The staff at Sheridan College were wonderful to me. After college, I took an evening poetry workshop with Christopher Dewdney, at George Brown. I brought in a poem I'd written in 30 minutes the day before, and he said it was amazing. That went to my head and never fell out. Other people who've encouraged me above and beyond: Don Coles, Lynn Crosbie, Mark Steyn, the late Libby (Liba) Scheier, June Callwood - very different people who would not get along well in the same room! I try very hard to encourage people (who deserve it) because other people encouraged me (because I deserved it.) I have known that I was a good writer from the time I started writing (which, compared to most writers, was very late in life - that is, Grade 13. I have no juvenilia.)
5. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?
That's a tough one. I tend to write a lot of short form stuff and then just stick it together in a collection.
6. What was your favorite book to write and why?
The only book I think of as a real "book" is The Tyranny of Nice, co-authored with Pete Vere, about Canada's censorious human rights commissions. We wrote it in 6 weeks because our publisher wanted to beat Ezra Levant's book on the same topic to market! Pete and I repurposed a lot of our previous articles on the subject, through in new stuff and we were done. Painless and fruitful!
7. What of your books was the hardest to write and why?
None of my books were hard to write. Ghostwriting other people's books, on the other hand...
8. Have you ever considered writing fiction? If so is it a project we might see in the near future? Do you think we will ever see a novel from your pen?
I wrote a short story in high school, a few in college, and have been carrying around an idea for a short story for 25 years but only have the first paragraph and a very general outline. Fiction is a different language. At the Banff Writers Workshop (back when it was 6 weeks long) I accidentally walking into an informal meeting of the fiction writers. They were all speaking English, but I literally didn't understand what they were talking about. It scared the hell out of me.9. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?
I write all day long (for pay) and listen to U.S. talk radio and podcasts. Yes, I can get work done like that. The beat of real music is too distracting. Being old (47) I do tend to listen to the same 100 or so songs over and over, working or not. Anything put out between 1920 and 1990.
10. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?
I want to write a book called The Consolations of Ugliness, which would be a (cough!) meditation on the pros and cons of being a non-beautiful woman; the concept of the jolie laide; how ideals of female beauty have evolved. I'd also love to write a book about the "lady scientist" characters that began populated science fiction movies after World War 2. Not sure if there is really a book in that, per se. If someone gave me a big enough advance, I'd write a book about almost anything. As it is, I am so busying ghostwriting, copywriting and blogging that I don't have time to think about a big project like a book of my own. I will likely just put out another self-published book of my greatest blog posts, like I do every few years.
11. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?
The Bible. Start with The Message Bible, written in the vernacular of today, then move up to the New King James. If you haven't read the Bible, you are illiterate. If you really can't cope, at least read the Four Gospels.
Solitude, by Anthony Storr Anything written by Theodore Dalrymple Anything written by Florence King The Road to Serfdom, by Hayek (There is a free version in cartoon form, online) Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson To learn what true style looks like, read anything by Mark Steyn. The Complete Stories, by Flannery O'Connor, plus her letters (The Habit of Being) and essays & speeches (Mystery and Manners). The best book I've read in years is In 50 Years, We'll All Be Chicks by Adam Carolla. No contest. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy by Thomas Sowell Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin (proves you can be artistically talented and successful AND responsible and disciplined. In fact, it helps. Great lessons in dealing with failure - and success.) Women writers should try to avoid reading too many biographies of women writers, as these women tend to commit suicide.
12. Are there plans to release your older books in eBook Format?
Not right away, but maybe at some point I will release God Rides A Yamaha in that format.
13. You spend so much time online, writing your own blog, as a writer for hire, tweeting and more. What does your typical day look like?
I get up around 6AM, make coffee and check email and my affiliate sales for the previous day (Amazon, etc.) I write some blog posts so my readers will have something to read before 9AM. Then I get on the treadmill around 8AM so I can be done before I start getting calls and emails from clients at 9AM. I read and blog throughout the day while doing client work, which is mostly ghostwriting/blogging/tweeting; consulting; copywriting. Since I write a weekly column about talk radio, I'm usually tuned in to one of the big U.S. conservative talkers at the same time. Our mail shows up really late, around 3PM. If I get a check, I go down the street and deposit it, then come home and take care of bills and accounting online. I stop for dinner around 6PM but commonly go back to work/blogging until around 8PM.
14. You are into cult and classic films. What would be your top ten recommendations for offbeat films for someone to watch?
My favorite movies aren't necessarily very good. I just have a lot of affection for them, and often this has a lot to do with the screenplay. Moonstruck is a good example. Psycho (1960) may be the perfect film. The original Universal Studios Frankenstein (1931) and the sequel Bride of Frankenstein. Gun Crazy (1950) Seconds (1966) Ace in the Hole (1951) Sweet Smell of Success (1957) The King of Comedy (1982) Rope (1948).15. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?
One of the most important books I read was The Book of Lists. This novelty book was engagingly written, and actually gave me a fine basis of general knowledge that I fall back on almost daily. I read Woody Allen's collected essays obsessively, along with those of other humorists like James Thurber and even Lenny Bruce. I didn't understand all the jokes at the time, but years later, many of the jokes caught up with me. The Boy Looked at Johnny: The Obituary of Rock and Roll, by Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons was a huge deal for me. It is one of the few books I keep on my desk at all times. It is falling apart. I also read a lot of books about the history of film, from the serious to the unserious (like The Golden Turkey Awards.) I read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, which was probably a mistake from a mental health standpoint; however, the edition I found at the used bookstore had an introductory biographical essay about Plath that made me realize: a woman can be a writer; this is how one woman did it (just don't kill yourself.) My first article was published in Seventeen magazine when I was 20, which made me particularly proud because according to that essay, it took Plath 50 tries to break it. (Remember what I said about the importance of what you read when you are younger. I can still see paragraphs of this essay in my minds eye, laid out on the page.)
16. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?
I always read Ann Coulter's latest (in hardcover). I've mentioned Thomas Sowell, Dalrymple and Mark Steyn before. Other writers: David Horowitz, Jonah Goldberg, Victor Davis Hanson. P.J. O'Rourke in small doses. I re-read Donald Critchlow's Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade once a year. I am fascinated by the topic of fame and celebrity, and will read almost anything on that subject, most recently the many books documenting the development of tabloids, movie magazines and gossip "rags." The next book on my to-read list is I'm Dying Up Here, about the 1978 stand up comedians' strike at the Comedy Store.
17. What are some of your favorite contemporary religious authors to read?
I honestly don't read many religious authors any longer. I've recommended the letters of Flannery O'Connor and they offer a still relevant religious education of sorts.
18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?
College is a waste of time and money. Drop out. Whatever the goal "should" be, it no longer is. University is a groupthink factory. Take the money and start your own business. Follow as few laws, regulations and rules as you can safely get away with, and read books on your own time.
19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?
A complete Shakespeare. A complete Dickens. Oxford collections of British, American and Canadian poetry. I'd love to have the complete boxed set of the BFI Film Classics.
20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?
Write "artistically" first and "spiritually" last if at all. If your art is true, the spirituality will be too (maybe even in spite of yourself.) Don't be parochial. Avoid "Christian" publishing. The movie Knocked Up has probably prevented more abortions than all the stuck up, well intentioned, goody-goody, corny "pro-life" writing nobody actually reads. Read "The Closing of the Evangelical Mind" and don't be like the people he talks about, basically. And yes, read more Flannery O'Connor.
Thank you Kathy for taking the time to answer some questions for the readers at Book Reviews And More.
Books by Kathy Shaidle:
gas station of the cross (1990)
Round Up The Usual Suspects: More poems about famous dead people (1992)
Lobotomy Magnificat (1997)
God Rides a Yamaha (1998)
A Seeker's Dozen: The 12 Steps for Everyone Else (2004)
A Catholic Alphabet: The Faith from A to Z (2005)
Acoustic Ladyland: Kathy Shaidle Unplugged (2007)
The Tyranny of Nice (2009 with Pete Vere)
Confessions of A Failed Slut (2014)
Author Profile Kathy Shidle Interview (2011)
Author Profile (2006)
Other Posts and Links:
Kathy Shaidle's Blog
More Books That Will Change Your Life
Some Old Stuff Some New
Trends: Female Authors
Meme Booked by 3 - December
Meme - A fun Book Meme