Interview with Rachel Dacus

How do you approach cover design?
The best art I can't afford! As the daughter of a painter, I gravitate to paintings rather than photos, but it depends on the book. I negotiated the great grandson of Matisse down to my budget to obtain cover image rights for my poetry book FEMME AU CHAPEAU (title after the famous painting by Matisse, so what other cover image could I possibly use?). He was gracious and very, very French in his formality. I remain star-struck.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I'd have to cite all of Jane Austen's novels in my top five because I re-read them almost every year. Maybe almost all of them. Plus a book on what literary devices Austen used to great effect, including using the weather for plot turns. If I give Jane only one slot in the top 5, then I have room for the whole series of Oz books, Annie Dillard's AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD (and all her other works), Gerald Durrell's MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS (sorry, Lawrence, but on rereading THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET your brother Gerald's book won out for re-reads), and Anne LaMott's BIRD BY BIRD, which has saved my bacon more than once.
Describe your desk
My desk is a bed or couch, with a Macbook draped across my knees (draped is a wishful-thinking verb, I do wish my devices were flexible, pretty as the casing is), with an iPhone set to a Kindle book on writing or a novel I'm reading, and ready to conference call with my fundraising clients. A few papers scattered across the coffee table to remind me of my To-Do list for To-Day. I eschew my beautiful, large office, except for the one comfortable armchair in the corner by the window. I am all-portable, and my other office is a busy coffeehouse.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I gew up in San Pedro, California, the port of Los Angeles and an immigrant community on the Pacific Ocean. When I was growing up there, with an artist and rocket scientist father, and a musician mother, San Pedro was the center of the tuna fishing industry. Lots of my friends had fathers who went out on the tuna fleets -- and sometimes didn't come back, because it was a dangerous, hard living. Many of the Italian, Yugoslav, and Portuguese families were fairly poor. Japanese families made a humble living farming the slopes above the seaside cliffs and selling their produce at roadside stands. It was a working-class place, and I felt out of step with it from the first, while loving the sea and the beaches. I never fit into this conservative, Catholic culture, so I stood aside and witnessed it, and grew into the observer role a writer must assume in order to do her creative work. I thank San Pedro for being so individual and so impenetrable in many ways. The mystery, the sea, and the Latin masses spurred me to invent and investigate. My memoir ROCKET LESSONS pays homage to the town and the time, and is available to an interested publisher.
When did you first start writing?
Age ten, thanks to L. Frank Baum and the Oz books, and a distracted mother.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans keep me writing! And believing that what I can create will be something they will want to read. They make me want to write better. When someone tells me they keep my book on their bedside table so they can read my poems or stories, I'm in awe. It's like the world inside my head moves out into real space and shimmers there, opening a doorway for a reader to step through and both lose and find themselves for an hour. I'm grateful to fans who give me advice and ideas. I'm inspired to write more for them. They mean everything about my writing and publishing process.
What are you working on next?
My work-in-progress is THE RENAISSANCE CLUB, a history-bending love story between a beautiful young art historian and her idol, the rock star of the Renaissance, sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, as they share a foothold in time. It was inspired by
an art history course, culiminating in a trip to study the Italian Renaissance, and that journey also inspired many essays, one of which is included in the anthology ITALY: A LOVE STORY: WOMEN WRITE ABOUT THE ITALIAN EXPERIENCE (Seal Press). After this novel comes THE ROMANTICS CLUB, a novel of two half-sisters whose longtime estrangement heats up over a cottage in Italy, inherited from their father, and inhabited by what may turn out to be the ghost of the poet Shelley
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I raise funds for nonprofit organizations in the fields of healthcare, education, social services, and the arts. And I write plays for local production. I walk my darling Silky Terrier, Terry, and gaze at the beauties of my neighborhood and Diablo Valley region. And of course, read, read, and read more.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I well remember it. It was a spooky-funny Halloween story, and what I best recall is reading it aloud to my third grade class and being amazed when they all laughed at the funny parts. A writer was born!
What is your writing process?
It's a complex answer that I'll summarize by saying I spend a good bit of time coaxing ideas out of liminal states -- usually doing something else, such as walking, showering, washing dishes (water seems to evoke the muse a lot), or awakening from sleep. Awakening is my richest time, so I get up early to write for a couple of hours. Writing can include beginning my session by reading -- usually poetry, which for me evokes the most condensed language and evocative images, so I get a lot of ideas cruising around Poets.org and Poetry Daily, or opening one of the many stacked up books of poetry I keep around the house. I dictate on my phone a lot, with a headset, so hands-free thinking is my favorite. My husband says he can never tell when I'm walking around the house if I'm talking on the phone, talking to him, or writing.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy is in the act of receiving ideas and images, being transported in that way, and almost as an observer listening for the works to come and cloak them. It's magic. I do it every day because I'm so addicted to that joy! And I wish you similar joy in reading and writing.
Who are your favorite authors?
So many are my favorites that I can't possibly make a complete list, but Jane Austen, Annie Dillard, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Anthony Doerr, and E.E. Cummings are on there.
Published 2016-08-11.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Femme au chapeau
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 9,850. Language: English. Published: September 8, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » American poetry
Rachel Dacus's poetry collection Femme au chapeau offers a realm of dazzling strangeness and beauty, addressing a wide range of subjects: from art, childhood, and beauty, to the tormented relationship between a father and daughter, the hardships of an immigrant fishing town, and the longing to have a child. One reviewer called it "thrilling, one-of-a-kind poetry".