Why We Write: Sheila Frye-Matragrano

Q1. What inspires your creativity?


I watch people. I eavesdrop. I ask personal questions. (Somehow I still get invited to parties.) Lots of my stories are inspired by personal events, but I combine characters, exaggerate situations, leave things out or just change them all together to stick with my theme. Usually, by the time I am done with the story I can’t remember what is true and what I made up.


Q2. What conditions do you like to write in?


I need quiet and solitude, usually in the morning with a cup of coffee, or at night with a glass of wine.


Q3. Are there any authors that you most strive to be like and why?


I admire Barbara Kingsolver’s ability to write distinctive voices, as she did in The Poisonwood Bible. I also admire Andre Dubus for his ability to write so well from the perspective of men, women and children. I strive to make ordinary people and common situations poignant, like Fred Busch manages to do in many of his short stories. I try not to imitate anyone, though, because then I lose my own voice.


Q4. What is your favorite book and why?


I love any book in which I get so caught up I forget I am reading. If this doesn’t happen, I find myself analyzing the author’s choices. I prefer an escape. My favorite book changes depending on my mood, and my age. When I was young my favorite book was Lillian Hellman’s memoir Pentimento: A Book of Portraits, mostly because I wanted to live a life like hers (even though it was probably more fiction than memoir.) I read Louise Erdich’s books Love Medicine and Beet Queen almost 25 years ago and still remember some of the scenes. I really enjoyed the historical novel Ahab’s Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund. My most recent escape was The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht. I love her unique sense of language.


Q5. Do you have any tips about the writing process?


Write honestly, even if it frightens you.


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