Thursday, December 8, 2016

Interview with writer Patricia Steffy

Writer Patricia Steffy is with me today. We’re chatting about My Letter to Fear: Essays on Life, Love and the Search for Prince Charming. It’s a non-fiction work / multi-person memoir.

During her virtual book tour, Patricia will be awarding one $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Patricia Steffy attended Kenyon College and American University. She is a recent refugee from the corporate world where she worked as an analyst for a law firm for more than 16 years. An escape plan started to develop as she pursued her interests as a writer and producer through Circe’s World Films. She has been involved in co- and exec-producing a number of feature and short films ranging from broad comedy to psychological drama, including the award-winning short Touch. She is currently developing Dating in LA and Other Urban Myths as a web series. The series is based on her long-running blog of the same name.
Pieces from My Letter to Fear were featured in a one-night only special showcase event. The showcase was directed by Danielle Turchiano and featured readings from Nikki DeLoach (Awkward.), Lesley Fera (Pretty Little Liars), Stevie Lynn Jones (Crisis), Jen Lilley (Days of Our Lives), Roma Maffia (Pretty Little Liars), Dennisha Pratt (The Sunny Side Up Show), and Carla Renata (Hart of Dixie). You can see excerpts from the readings here:

Welcome, Patricia. Please share a little bit about your current release.
My Letter to Fear is a collection of essays based on interviews I did with women over the course of two years. I allowed the interviews to shape the book. The published collection covers a wide range of topics, including beauty myths, aging, abuse, rape, unmet life expectations, dating and more. Even though most of the experiences in the book are not my own, I wrote it from a unified perspective. And because I'm me, even some of the pieces that are quite serious have hints of humor, and the very funny (even ridiculous ones) have a hint of a more serious reality behind them.

What inspired you to write this book?
I had been writing a blog at the time called “Dating in LA and Other Urban Myths.” It started out focused on dating and starting over in Los Angeles, but quickly became more about being a woman, who is over a certain age, in a city that is largely focused on youth, beauty and success. Some of the early pieces in the book are reworked pieces from the blog.

Over time, I realized that there really were the makings of a series in those pieces, but I wanted to go beyond my own experiences. At the same time, I was talking to a friend of mine, who is a therapist, about a tool that is sometimes used. Basically, clients are asked to write a letter addressing a particular issue (addiction, anxiety, fear, etc.). The idea of writing letters to fear and expectations (and so on) really appealed to me. It was a great jumping off point for me, and it certainly got the process started.

A few early pieces were read as part of staged reading by a group of fabulous actresses for a charity event. It was a thrill to see an audience react to the pieces, and I had a lot of people come up to me after the reading and ask about where they could get the full collection. It was the push I needed to keep going – although I'll admit it took another 17 months and 45-50 new pieces (40 of which made the final collection) to finish it.

Excerpt from My Letter to Fear: Essays on Life, Love and the Search for Prince Charming:

From The Moment
Do we all long for that moment when our secret selves are finally seen and applauded? Are we all waiting for the moment where our exes rue the day they let us go? Do we all pine for that life-changing second where the world says, "How could we have missed you all this time?"

I think about it all the time now – with every stranger I see, from the person sitting alone in a restaurant to the person singing at the top of their lungs while driving because they are convinced that their car is sound-proofed. I see them. I recognize them.

I'm still waiting for my moment, of course. But if you see me hiding behind a plant, clutching a drink and looking lost at some social gathering I couldn't get out of, know that inside I'm putting on one hell of a show.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I'm about to take a film script out that actually found its core in one of the pieces in “My Letter to Fear.” It's a drama and covers a very current topic, and I think that's all I'm allowed to say about it. Hopefully, I can say more soon.

I also wrote a 10-episode web series based on the blog that also inspired “My Letter to Fear.” The series “Dating in LA and Other Urban Myths” starts in the same way the blog did – a woman who is no longer 22, finds herself starting over again in Los Angeles after a long-term relationship ends. It deals with the insane social scene in Los Angeles, and also the challenges facing people as they confront the expectations they once had for their lives (a topic that is also covered in the book). You can see the sizzle reel for it here: I'm a huge fan of Lesley Fera, Jen Lilley, Tamara Taylor and Kris Polaha – and their willingness to take on this project at such an early stage was enormously helpful and encouraging.

The next book is also in the planning stages. It will be fiction. It will be a comedy (largely), and it uses the piece Lost Folk Hero from “My Letter to Fear” as its central idea. I'm excited and more than a little nervous about this new project. Creatively, it's a good next step!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That's a good question! I'm not sure. It might have been the first time I heard my work read in front of an audience. It was certainly an inspiring event that pushed me to keep going. Certainly, when I was going out to actors to film the pilot/sizzle reel, I had to take a deep breath and prepare myself for actors/agents/managers to say no to the work. Luckily, the response was overwhelmingly positive, and I got to see my words in action (at least a small portion of them).

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
That's complicated. I do write full-time, but not always on creative projects. When I'm not working on scripts or starting a new book, I'm a travel writer. You can see some of my pieces here: I also do quite a bit of travel web writing as my “day job.” It has been challenging to try to balance writing for someone else's goals and writing for my own. I'm getting better at it, but only because I've created a real intention for myself to value my work and my creative time. I'm not saying there aren't times when I still have to put other people's projects ahead of my own – there are. But I need to remind myself that my creative pursuits are why I went down this independent path in the first place.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I work best in a dark-ish room with rain sounds playing. Yeah, it's sort of strange, but I find myself easily distracted. I need to lose myself in what I'm writing in order to find the flow of it. I find that only happens when the other elements of my surroundings are lessened. I live in Southern California, and the odds of having an actual rain storm are not in my favor, so YouTube rain sounds did the trick! I even had a sounds device (rain, waves, thunder, etc.) I used for a while.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a detective, a spy, a doctor and a writer. I think I chose to be a writer, in part, because that way, through my characters, I can still be all of those things.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you so much for giving a non-fiction, multi-person memoir a chance. It's not an easy category. It's not something that sings from the shelf. But I think you'll find yourself relating to many of the stories and connecting with the women who experienced them. I know I did.

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Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you for having me!

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Patricia said...

Thank you for hosting today. I'm so excited to be here!

Bernie Wallace said...

What is the best book taht you have read recently? Thanks for the giveaway. I hope that I win. Bernie W BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

Victoria Alexander said...

Sounds like a great book, thanks for sharing :)

Unknown said...

Congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

Patricia said...

Many thanks to all of you for reading!! @Joseph Wallace, I just finished The Master Blaster by PF Kluge. It was a slow build kind of book, but the last third really came together and the ending was very powerful. Before that, I finally sat down to read Eat Pray Love. It wasn’t what I expected after all these years of conversation about it. I found I related to the early chapters quite a bit, and found the forward in the 10th anniversary edition almost more moving than the book.