Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Virginia, went to Harvard and lived in Massachusetts until 1990, when my partner, our son and I moved to San Francisco. Two more kids later, we relocated to Oakland County in 2006 to be closer to her family, good schools, bumpy cake, and so forth.
During my time in San Francisco I earned my MFA in acting from the American Conservatory Theater and did dozens of musicals and cabaret performances in the San Francisco Bay area. I’ve always maintained a serious day job alongside my artistic career. Right now I am an executive communications manager for a metro Detroit health care system in addition to my work as a writer.
What inspired you to become a writer?
My mother published stories and articles that were carried in everything from Methodist national publications to True Romance. Her stories about my childhood were my favorites, since I had delusions of grandeur even then. The fact that she got published meant that being a working writer was possible, and I wrote poems and stories in high school. However, I turned my creative juices to acting and singing once I hit college. Other than some misguided attempts in the late 1990s like TV-based fanfic (don’t ask what show) and a half-baked first draft of a novel, I didn’t focus on writing fiction until I moved to Michigan.
What was the initial spark of inspiration for your book and how did that develop into the finished novel?
I didn’t have an easy time getting acting work once I moved here, I didn’t have any friends in the area and I had a lot of creative time on my hands. Listening to music filled the void, fueled by the extensive collection of rock, rhythm, country and blues at my local libraries. Certain songs and musicians snapped into the empty spaces in my life when I needed them most.
About that time I saw a couple of rock documentaries and wondered what a typical day is like for these stars: I mean, does Bruce Springsteen pump his own gas? And what would happen if a civilian fell in love with a rock star: could she have a life and career of her own? That started the wheels turning, and Stee Walsh came out of the blue as the musician who I’d make “the seventh most successful American rock musician in the last 30 years.” I had a first draft about two years later, got a lot of reader feedback and revised it multiple times and – five years after I began – I published my first novel, Love and Other B-Sides.
What is your process as a writer?
I write toward whatever intrigues me the most at the moment – answering a question I had about the characters or putting them into a situation and seeing how they handle it. Then I polish the scenes and connect them to others, and the story unfolds from there. It’s not always efficient, I’ll admit, but it frees up the process so I can stay interested in my work.
Acting and writing are very similar pursuits, in that you create characters who tell stories. I think in dialogue – the building blocks of characters in a play – and write most of my scenes as conversations, then fill in the descriptions afterward.
What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about a writing career?
Constantly redefining “success” is a humbling exercise. Once I had a completed manuscript I thought – like a lot of us, I’m sure – that I was going to find an agent, sell a certain number of books and earn enough attention to be paid an advance to write the next one. Well, that ain’t happening any time soon, and having to do the marketing and sales as well as continuing to write new material is daunting.
I do take a lot of pride in my work, and it’s rewarding to know that family, friends and perfect strangers read and enjoy what I write. I’ve also appreciated getting to know other writers and the chance to support and encourage them as they do for me time and time again.
Do you have any new books in the pipeline?
Remember that half-finished manuscript in the proverbial drawer? I’m revisiting it because the story still intrigues me. The tale – with the working title Desired Effect – uses the story of Eros and Psyche from Greek mythology as the launching point for two young actors to discover true love on a movie set teeming with mythic Hollywood stars. It’s still in the early stages of renovation, but I’ve got a good feeling about this one. It’s not rock and roll, but I like it.
You can keep up with Lisa Peers on her music-themed blog LP on 45.