Alicia Jamtaas is currently editing a manuscript that she hopes will take the world by storm – or at the very least, the Pacific Northwest – in a sunny room three stories up in the trees. As an active member of the writing community in Bellingham, Washington she derives inspiration from an outstanding group of poets, memoir writers, and novelists. During writing breaks, she occasionally chases deer out of her garden by frantically yelling, “Go away!” while brandishing a Cheez-It box.
What made you decide to be a writer?
I didn’t decide to become a writer. Writing chose me. In high school, my best friend and I wrote in her kitchen about three or four times a week after classes. In my senior year, I won an award for creative writing. During my working years, I didn’t pick up a pen to write anything creative until the idea came to write a story about my experience as an archaeologist. The idea morphed into a young adult novel about the clash and blending of cultures through two young men—a Norwegian settler and a Makah Indian—in the 1800’s. Through the years it’s taken to write and edit my YA novel “The Rain Cape” I’ve taken time out to write another novel about a small fishing town in Washington State.
What is your favorite genre?
I like a variety of genres: Historical fiction, mysteries, biographies, history books and short stories.
I believe that as an author, it’s best to expose oneself to a variety of books and authors, not just for their entertainment value—after awhile authors mentally edit almost every book they read—but to learn new styles and expand one’s vocabulary.
Who is the author who inspires you the most?
I can’t say there is only one author that inspires me. James Lee Burke’s stories are well constructed and his use of language poetic. Louise Erdrich whose in-depth Native American characters and settings helped keep me focused on “The Rain Cape.” Jonathan Safran Foer for the way he seamlessly interweaves the past and present. Annie Proulx. Peter Matthiessen. Actually, there are too many to list.
How often do you write?
I try to write every day. When I’m in the middle of a novel I could write for hours but force myself to step away from the computer to rest my eyes and my brain. After about three hours the creative juices slow down. After four they stop.
Do you have any major projects in the works?
Yes, I’ve just begun a novel about a young woman caught in throes of domestic abuse.
What are your writing goals for the future?
To keep writing as much as I can, every day. There is such peace in sitting down to create a world with characters you love—or love to hate—that you will someday share with others.
What advice would you give other writers?
Try not to turn criticism and rejection into something personal. Taste in writing and literature is individual. Some people will be absorbed by what you’ve written; others will be happy to detail exactly what they don’t like about it.
Another thing is to make sure you get your work out where people can see it. It doesn’t have to be a major publication. An editor or agent may contact you after reading your work in a small journal. An opportunity may arrive from a place you never expected, but you must give people a chance to find you.
Many thanks to Alicia for the interview. It’s great fun to learn more about another writer. Alicia is also a regular participant in Friday Fictioneers. I hope you enjoyed visiting with her as much as I.