Liz Moore is the author of the novels The Words of Every Song (Broadway Books, 2007) and Heft (W.W. Norton, 2012), along with works of short fiction and creative nonfiction that have been published in print and online. She is also a professor of writing at Holy Family University in Philadelphia, where she lives.
When did you first know you wanted to write books?
I think I tried to write a novel when I was very young, perhaps twelve, and quit after about a page. I actually sort of stumbled into writing my first book by writing a series of interconnected short stories that, suddenly, was long enough to be a novel…so I never had to make that nerve-wracking decision to WRITE A BOOK, per se. I’m glad I did it that way–I’m not sure I would have had the courage to ever write a book, otherwise.
What does your day look like while you’re writing a book?
I’m always at some stage of writing a book; toward the end, I tend to have greater stamina (partly because at a certain point I want to just get it over with!) In the beginning, I write for shorter periods, making lots of false starts and sort of aimless character sketches. My days also really depend on where in the semester I am–I teach full-time at a university, so if I’m fully in the swing of the semester, I don’t write nearly enough. Over the summer I try to get a great deal done.
Do you type or write?
I type. I used to be a great journal-keeper and write long-hand in that, but I fear that what little time I have to devote to writing I now use on whatever book I’m writing, or occasionally articles or short stories.
What do you read while you’re writing?
I try to avoid anything that’s similar in voice or concept to what I’m working on. I try to read “great writing” that I find inspiring. And of course if a book requires research, I read whatever nonfiction aids in that process.
What have you read recently that you really loved?
In January, I read Montauk by Max Frisch, which was given to me by my friend Alex Gilvarry, also an author (and a Frisch devotee); This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff (I love his fiction, but somehow had never read his famous memoir); and Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro, whom I met at a book festival this past fall and whose writing is as lovely as she is.
What are your all-time favourites?
Dubliners by James Joyce; short stories by Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Mansfield, and William Trevor; Edith Wharton; Kazuo Ishiguro; and the short story “Forever Overhead” by David Foster Wallace, which is the best story to teach in the known universe. My students love it, and it explains something about the power of writing, and how evocative it can be, without my having to actually try to articulate it.
You can either write or read for the rest of your life – but not both. Which do you choose?
Read. I’d get bored of myself, and there’s so much to learn still.
What’s your third R, and why?
Rigor. That sounds boring, but I have strong feelings about earning things through hard work. I am skeptical of people who don’t.