Interview with Deborah Prum

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a tenement in New Britain, Connecticut, the hardware capital of the world. Most people in my neighborhood came from other countries: Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Armenia,Cuba, Puerto Rico. They chose New Britain, so they could work in the factories. I was the oldest of seventeen first cousins, many of whom either lived in that apartment building or close by. My novels and short stories draw from my growing up in a big family in the middle of a diverse community.
When did you first start writing?
I began my writing career at age seven. Perched atop a chrome kitchen chair, I pecked out children’s stories on my mother’s Royal typewriter. Every plot contained a similar theme. At the outset, some disaster (plane crash, rampant disease, ravaging insects) took the lives of parents and all other authority figures. The kids ate wild berries and skinned rabbits to make clothing. Without exception, by the end of each tale, the sturdy little survivors had created a utopia and lived blissfully ever after. Unfortunately, it did not occur to my parents to call a child psychologist.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My father's life inspired FATTY IN THE BACK SEAT, my latest book. ). My father, who couldn’t read, worked three jobs to keep our family afloat. He held a day job at a factory. At night, he worked as an upholsterer in a little shop behind our apartment building Even though he couldn’t read, my dad would bring home books from the dumpster at a nearby community college and any books that his upholstery clients had discarded. My inner city elementary school library contained about 60 books—I read through them in a flash and being a voracious reader at seven years old was dying to read anything else I could get me hands on.
So, evenings at the upholstery shop, I’d pore over my father’s eclectic finds: an abnormal psychology text book, lots of Cliff Notes, Great Expectations, a collection of New Yorker cartoons from the 1940’s, the poetry of Stephen Vincent Benet and so on.
Eventually, I worked my way through the University of Connecticut. In a psychology of learning class during my junior year, I figured out that my father was challenged by undiagnosed dyslexia. That was a huge revelation. He wound up taking reading classes at the town library and became a reader at age fifty.
I went on to earn a master’s degree at Dartmouth College and have worked as a writer for the past decade or so.
I’ve just released a humorous young adult novel called FATTY IN THE BACK SEAT, about a 15 year-old boy with significant and undiagnosed learning disabilities. One reviewer described the book as “humanity with a dollop of humor.” My intention is to offer a glimmer of hope to kids with learning disabilities as well as provide a funny and engaging book for reluctant readers. The book is not my father’s life story, but instead is about a teen caught between his two warring parents, both academicians, neither of whom possess the emotional energy to pay attention to their child’s needs.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Most of my books/stories/essays have been published by publishers. I had a special vision for Fatty in the Back Seat (my YA novel), so I decided to publish it myself. All of my essays in First Kiss and Other Cautionary Tales have been aired on NPR-member stations and/or have appeared in print. I own the rights to them and decided to self publish the collection. I released my Renaissance book with a publisher. I wanted to experiment with iBooks and create an interactive history book, so I plan to release Czars & Czarinas as an interactive iBook with iTunes–it will probably come out in Nov 2013.
What inspires you to write?
Every day life inspires me to write. I’m at the gym and I hear someone say how they are, “Mostly wonderful.” Then I imagine what would cause a person to describe herself that way and a story bubbles up. Or, I’m driving along and see a large woman who seems to have two heads. As I get closer, I realize one of her “heads” is actually an enormous pony tail. The next thing I know, she becomes a character in one of my short stories, a character with a rich back story and who plays a pivotal part in the climax of the story when she overpowers a man who is trying to rob a convenience store.
What are you working on next?
Two things: FIRST KISS AND OTHER CAUTIONARY TALES which is a collection of 21 of my NPR essays. It's available as an eBook and as an audiobook ( Also, CZARS &CZARINAS which is an iBook--an anecdotal and humorous interactive book about the first nine centuries of Russian history, available in November 2013 on iTunes.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Playing mandolin, banjo, harmonica. Kayaking. Painting (mostly portraits.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. The first story I ever wrote was about children who survived a plane crash. The parents and the pilot were dead. They wound up on an island, created a lovely civilization and lived happily ever after.
What is your writing process?
I try to stay alert to all the images and ideas and words and phrases the universe is hurling my way. I keep them in a book and refer to them frequently. My best ideas arrive early in the morning and in the middle of the night. I keep a notebook by my bed. I edit in the afternoon and evenings. I have three or four projects going at once and am pretty driven to finish them. I almost never send anything out without someone else reading it. Even if I love a piece, I wait a few days before sending it around to see if I can improve it. Then I send it–I usually have everything I write circulating somewhere.
When I’m writing fiction, I do not outline. However, when I wrote my book on the Renaissance and later when I wrote my book about the first nine centuries of Russian history, you better believe I outlined. There was no other way to keep all the facts straight.
Published 2013-08-30.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

First Kiss and Other Cautionary Tales
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 12,340. Language: English. Published: July 15, 2013. Categories: Essay » Author profile, Nonfiction » Entertainment » Humor & satire
In First Kiss and Other Cautionary Tales, you will: ***Learn about: spring-loaded toilet seats in the Pisa Airport (a creation of the Devil). ***Find out why Googling “How to Pick Up a Chick” is not the best strategy for determining the best way to scoop up live poultry. ***Hear the lurid details about a poor soul who inadvertently became locked in the loo at the Louvre. *** Learn the ancient sec
Fatty in the Back Seat
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 12,340. Language: English. Published: July 15, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Drama
Fifteen-year-old Cuss Brewster is not a criminal. Well, maybe a slight criminal in the state of New York where he accidentally burns down his neighbor’s barn. It’s not his first fire-related mishap, so a judge tells Cuss, “Behave for the next six months, or you’ll go to jail.” But for Cuss, behaving is a lot harder than it seems.