Interview: Dena Blake + Erin Zak
December 15

Interview: Dena Blake + Erin Zak

Dena Blake interviews Erin Zak:

Congratulations! Your debut book, Falling Into Her, has just been released from Bold Strokes Books.

I found your characters likable and true to life. Kathryn was more confident and engaging, while understandably Pam was more on the cautious side. Give us a brief synopsis of your two main characters and a taste of their inner conflict.

Thank you so much, Dena! I’m very excited about this and am so grateful to Bold Strokes Books. Kathryn and Pam were so much fun to write. They are so different, yet similar—both are struggling to find love and acceptance, yet both have no idea how to handle it once they get it. Kathryn is so sure of herself in certain situations and then at the flip of the switch she’s like a bundle of nerves. And then Pam, she was so married for so long in a loveless marriage that I think she honestly just forgot how to love—not just someone else, but how to love herself. The story really is about falling in love with each other, but also really about Pam, especially, learning to love herself.

What was your inspiration for Falling Into Her, and what made you take the plunge to write a book?

My inspiration for Falling Into Her came years and years ago. I really wanted to write a piece that told a story about an older woman figuring out that what she thought was true her entire life really wasn’t true at all. I started writing and before I knew it I had twenty chapters. The story went through many rewrites and many different versions over the years. It has definitely been a labor of love—that’s for sure.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? Was it something you've always dreamed about?

I have always wanted to write. I have boxes of old papers that my mom kept from when I was a kid in school and I wrote about going to the zoo and seeing the elephants and going to space and all that jazz. I never thought that I would actually have the courage to put myself out here like this, though, and get published. I am beyond thrilled.

Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you write from beginning to end? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Does your plot drive you or do your characters lead the way?

I definitely write from beginning to end. I let my characters lead me, though. I have tried a lot to plot things out, to have a timeline, to get that entire outline out there on paper! And then all of a sudden, I’m cruising along, writing like crazy and my character will do something amazing that I love and it will change my entire outline. So I’ve learned to have a loose outline—hit the main parts and let my characters grow and develop as they hit those points. If I constrain myself too much I find writing becomes too much of a chore and I end up dreading it. And where’s the fun in that?

What part of writing is most fun for you? What part do you find the hardest?

The part of writing I love the most is the slow burn. I love the build-up, the clammy hands, the staring at each other from across a table, the longing and hoping for more but not knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling! I love writing angst and flirting and making readers’ hands ache with anticipation. I think partly because those moments are always so much fun in real life, as well. The parts I don’t necessarily like writing are probably the intimate scenes, but only because I am never really sure how intense to be. Even with that answer! How much is too much? Ha-ha!

How do you get your inspiration? You've mentioned to me that you have a day job. Does that spill over into your writing at all? How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

I try very hard to not put a lot of my personal life into my characters, but it’s difficult, you know? Kathryn, in particular, likes Star Wars, because I love Star Wars, but she also has washboard abs—I definitely do not! My characters do have some traits from people that have come and gone from my life, because I feel as a writer that is part of our gift to the world—to wax poetic about what we’ve seen and heard in this lifetime, in whatever capacity that is. Are Pam and Kathryn and Judy based on real people in my life? I’ll probably never tell. But they definitely have stories to tell and I think every writer feels that way about the characters in their books. I’ll be completely honest, though—when I get hit with something that inspires me to write, nine times out of ten it is someone I’ve seen or something I’ve experienced.

Who, out of your characters, would you date and why?

I would want to date Pam. I absolutely loved writing her. I loved everything about her, from her long blond hair, to the way she was damaged goods, to the way her Michigan roots made her seem like a country bumpkin. I honestly just loved her. She is everything I love about women. 

Describe how you felt when you opened your first box of books. How did it feel to hold your book in your hands for the first time?

Honestly? I felt like I was going to throw up. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I started crying and had to sit down. I still can’t believe it. Every time I pick up a copy I thumb through it and smell the pages. I wish my mom was alive to show her.

Is there something you’re looking forward to most now that you’re published?

My first book signing.

What are you working on now?

A romance set on a Colorado ranch with a brooding city girl and a stubborn ranch owner. Definitely not love at first sight.

Is there anything you’ve learned during your first book experience that you'd like to share? Any advice for new/aspiring authors out there?

Talk to all the other authors! Ask questions! Ask as many questions as possible. Seriously. And honestly, do not let negative reviews get you down…

Now for a few fun questions.

What's your favorite food?

Pequod’s deep-dish cheese pizza in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

What’s your favorite movie?

Star Wars—The Empire Strikes Back.

Cake or pie?

Cake. In the form of a cupcake. Vanilla. And I like to split it in half and do a cupcake sandwich with the icing in the middle.

When you’re not writing, what do you do for fun?

I’m a huge movie buff. Love, love, love watching movies. I also love reading, as well.

Thanks for opening up and giving us a glimpse of your life. Congratulations again on Falling Into Her which hit the Bold Strokes Books shelves on December 1, and will be available everywhere else December 12th. Just in time for Christmas!