Writer Interviews: Lisa Unger

Posted by on June 26, 2012


I’m beyond thrilled that Lisa Unger is my guest today on the blog. I’m a huge fan of her writing and her books. She writes the kind of mysteries I dream of writing: character-driven psychological suspense, lyrical writing that doesn’t draw attention to itself and a perfect blend of commercially friendly yet completely literary aesthetic.

Her novels and characters haunt me long after I close her books and put them on my shelf.

She is also one of my role models for how successful authors should treat their readers and fans. When I offered to feature her on my blog, she suggested that she provide a signed book as a giveaway for one of my readers. If you comment on this post before July 1st, you have a chance to win.

I know you will love them as well. Here is Lisa Unger in her own words:

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

My most creative hours are from about 5 AM to noon.  However, I have a six year old daughter, who comes before everything else … and she also likes to get up between 5 and 6 AM.  Luckily, my husband is on board to help, but I like to be with her first thing, make her breakfast and see her off to kindergarten … so the early hours are hit or miss.  I write when she’s in school.  If I haven’t met my goals by the time she comes home, I work again after she goes to bed.  The writer/mother thing can be a difficult balance, and sometimes I need support in the afternoons. But mainly it works.  And I feel lucky to do what I love and still be present every day for my little girl.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

I don’t believe in writers’ block.  I think that’s just fear, or perfectionism.  In The Lie that Tells a Truth, author John Dufresne says that writers’ block is you wanting to write well right now.  But sometimes all you have to do is write. Perfection – or hopefully something close — comes in revision.

My singular struggle – in work and in life — is that there are not enough hours in the day. Writing is the thing that has always come most naturally to me.  And it’s harder for me not to write, then it is for me to sit down and put my fingers to the keyboard.  I live for the blank page.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?

Stephen King’s On Writing, The Lie that Tells a Truth by John Dufresne, as well as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott all books that offer tremendous insight on the craft of writing.

4. Who do you read for fun?

I have always been a literary omnivore and have been influenced as heavily by popular fiction as by classic literature.  I don’t discriminate!  I have loved Truman Capote, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jane Austen, Patricia Highsmith, The Bronte sisters.  But I have also loved Stephen King, Sidney Sheldon, Joy Fielding.  My fiction love affair right now is George R.R. Martin’s Game of Throne series.  I am knee deep in book four, A Feast for Crows.  The series is simply a feat of brilliant storytelling and character development.

I have read widely across genre.  I love a great story and I think that can be found in every area of fiction.  One of my first and favorite thrillers was Rebecca by Daphne DuMurier.  I really loved that idea of the ordinary girl caught in extraordinary circumstances.  And it is a theme that has run through my work.

Some of my favorite contemporary writers:  Laura Lippman, John Connelly, Karin Slaughter, Michael Connelly, Kate Atkinson, Dennis Lehane …  I could go on and on.  I am currently also reading Lisa Gardeners Catch Me. (I always have multiple books going!)  It’s truly fantastic.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

I don’t remember a time before I defined myself as a writer.  Making a living as a writer is really the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life.  It was a twisty road to that place, and there were times when I never thought I’d manage it.  So I’m very grateful.  It’s a dream come true.

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

The best advice I can give aspiring writers is to write every day. Dig deeper every day. Be true to yourself. Think of publishing as an incidental element to the act of striving to be the best writer you can be, secondary to getting better every day for your experiences and dedication to the craft.

And read.  Read everything you can get your hands on.  Study the people who are doing it best and learn from them.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

Tenacity makes up for almost any shortfall.  Of course, you need talent.  You might also benefit from a little bit of good luck.  But without the drive and sheer never-say-die determination you won’t have what it takes to finish a novel, or to succeed once you do.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

Rebecca was my first gothic thriller.  I love every word Truman Capote has ever writer – from Music for Chameleons to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  But it was In Cold Blood that had the biggest impact on me as a writer.

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

I am sure every author feels this way, but I think I have the very best fans and readers.  I am connected with them every day at www.facebook.com/authorlisaunger. They are funny, smart, and so supportive.  So, I suppose what I’d like to say more than anything is: Thank you so much for reading and being a part of my life.

Lisa Unger is an award-winning New York Times and international bestselling author. Her novels have sold over 1 million copies in the U.S. and have been translated into 26 different languages.

She was born in New Haven, Connecticut but grew up in the Netherlands, England, New Jersey and New York, where she graduated from the New School for Social Research.  Lisa now divides her time, along with her husband and daughter, between Florida and New York City.

Her writing has been hailed as “masterful” (St. Petersburg Times), “sensational” (Publishers Weekly) and “sophisticated” (New York Daily News) with “gripping narrative and evocative, muscular prose” (Associated Press).

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6 Responses to Writer Interviews: Lisa Unger

  1. Kristi

    Susan, as you know from our Mysteristas tweets, she is one of my all-time favorite authors. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person last night and found she is also a really sweet and genuine person. I loved her!

  2. Kristi

    Mickie, she was even more delightful in person. You would’ve loved her. Great. Big. Heart. And great sense of humor.
    Your post is lovely, just like your fiction.

  3. MIckie Turk

    I read Rebecca when I was pregnant, working nights as a housemother/supervisor to remanded juvenile delinquent girls. The facility was an old mansion in South Minneapolis, and after the girls were supposed to be asleep upstairs, I made my way downstairs to an ancient, dusty-green, sagging, couch. There, I pulled out the tattered novel and my feet up, and tried to ignore the scores of fetal-like (yes practically hairless — imagine finger-down-the-throat, pukey-looking) mice running across the carpet just a foot and half below me. I’m terrified of mice, especially the hairless ones, but that did not stop me from devouring every word of the suspenseful Daphne du Maurier. I loved Lisa Unger’s insights and life-shares. I will have to start reading this author, soon.

  4. Susan M. Boyer

    Great interview Kristi! Lisa, I loved Stephen Kings On Writing. It’s the first book about writing I ever read, and it has stuck with me. I also love Lisa Gardner’s DD Warren series.

    Heartbroken sounds like a great read–I’m looking forward to it!

  5. Kristi

    Thanks Sarah and for the RT. I did finally pick up Rebecca when I realized I was a mystery writer! xoxo

  6. Sarah

    Ooooh, what a fantastic interview, Kristi! I really want to read “Rebecca” now … and MORE Lisa Unger, of course!