Author Interview: Pat Schmatz
Pat grew up in rural Wisconsin and loved reading, playing basketball, and spending time in the woods. She lived in Michigan, California, and Minnesota before making her way back to central Wisconsin. Traveling is still a passion that she indulges whenever she can, traveling all around the world from Rhode Island to New Zealand to Japan and Vancouver.
When she’s not out exploring the world, Pat does administrative work for the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, helping those dedicated and talented public interest lawyers provide free civil legal services for low-income folks and people with disabilities. She also spends her summers working on the staff of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. In her spare time, Pat loves running and skiing or swimming in lakes. If she’s not outside, she’s studying Spanish and Japanese or watching the Green Bay Packers, and of course, she reads, reads, reads!
For more information about Pat, check out her website.
What gave you the idea to have an illiterate protagonist?
My idea didn’t originate around illiteracy; it originated around a kid who would rather be in the woods than in school. In early drafts, Travis was much younger (around third grade). It was only as the story and character developed that I had an illiterate teen on my hands.
I’ve read that Velveeta’s character was not in the first draft. What brought her to life by the final draft?
I was several draft in – by that time, Travis was in eighth grade – and I had a problem. Travis was boring because he didn’t talk. Nobody knew what was going on in his head, and no one cared to find out. I needed someone who could see him more clearly than he could see himself. I sat down to write one morning and – boom! – there she was. She was completely herself from the first line of dialogue. She’s the easiest character I’ve ever written – all I had to do was transcribe, and try to keep her from taking over the story.
In elementary school, it was Kjelgaard’s books. Then I discovered The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – I think I was in sixth grade – and that was my absolute go-to comfort book for many years.
Do you see yourself ever returning to the world of Travis and Velveeta?
I do. Velveeta keeps tapping on the back of my brain. She has her own story to tell, and I’d like to tell it, as soon as I finish the book I’m working on now.
Do you put any characteristics or personalities of people around you into your characters?
I am an incorrigible thief. I’m always stealing dialogue, body parts (this person’s ears, that person’s hair, this other one’s big feet), mannerisms and ideas. Anyone close to me knows that I’ll steal whatever I can.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Years ago, I heard that it’s good to read in another language before you write, and I liked that idea. I prefer to take a half an hour for my other languages – Spanish and Japanese – before I start writing in the morning. I’ve been working my way through Harry Potter in Spanish and I’m finally on the Deathly Hallows. I read from that, and do a few pages of kanji (Japanese writing) workbook. I’m not sure it’s a hardcore ritual, but it is a preference.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read read read, and write and write and write. Read books like the ones you want to write. Read books more than once. If you admire a book, study it. Write every day. Don’t talk about a story or ideas out loud. Write. Once you have a complete story on paper, you can start to think about your next moves.
Can you tell us anything about your latest project?
Ha, this is the part where I don’t talk about a story or ideas! It’s a novel with a working title of Lizard Radio. That’s as much as I can say right now.
I read on your website that you have a passion for traveling. What’s the best place you’ve visited?
My favorite place was Kyoto, Japan. It’s an amazing city, with stunning hiking in the mountains north of the city. The colors in the maples in October are almost unbelievable.
If you were a flower, what kind of flower would you be?
Many thanks to Pat for her great interview!
Mrs. Estronsky and the U.F.O., 2001.
Circle the Truth, 2007.