Tell our readers about your background: where are you from, and what led you to write for a living?
My name is Móna Wise and I am from Galway, Ireland. In 1994 I moved to Cincinnati, OH when I was nineteen where I met and married my husband Ron Wise aka The Chef, and we lived the for fifteen years before making the move back home to Ireland in 2008. When we got back home to Galway, my kids were in school and my Mum encouraged me to take an evening writing class. I had started a blog in 2007 and it had a few followers so I knew I was able to entertain people with my words but I wants and needed to ‘learn’ how to write. So after a couple of different evening classes I decided to enrole in a four year undergrad course at my local university (NUIG) and have just completed third year and published my first book.
Please, tell us all about your book “The Chef & I…”
This is a love story with recipes. When I met the chef I told him I would type up all his recipes someday. When I was presented with the opportunity at college to take third year off to ‘write’ I knew this was my opportunity. I started writing the book on September 5th 2011 and it went to the printers on April 12th 2012. It is half narrative and have recipe. A nourishing narrative in every sense of the word.
What inspired you to tell this story?
I am a storyteller by nature. I felt that we have an interesting story and this would be a great place t start if I want to make a living as a writer. Start at the bottom as it were, being the coffee girl. Tell my own story, be it filled with sadness or glee.
Does non-fiction require more research than fiction? What’s your research process?
I am not sure how to compare these two genres as I only write non-fiction. I am incredibly visual and write from experiences I have had, or from experiences others have had. My research process is different to most I reckon. I journal, and blog and keep photos. I also am blessed with an iron clad long-term memory bank. (Terrible short term one though!) so all I do when I am recalling a certain time or phase of my life that would coincide with a part of the story I am telling I just dig out a photo or a diary and recall the occurrences of that time. Another great trick for this, especially when you can’t remember what might have happened, is to write down every single thing you ‘don’t remember’ about that particular time. This works every time!
Tell us about your writing process: how do you write (paper, keyboard, voice recorder)? How do you approach a book (outline, mind-map, just write, begin at the end)? Where do you do your best writing (your office, curled up in bed, in public spaces)?
I write best when at home alone in my office. I am a fast typist and have not written a thing by hand – save a greeting card – since my teens. For this book, I had a plan. I shared it with my editor the first week of September (last year) and got started. I wrote 2,000 to 4,000 words per week until Christmas … and that gave me enough content for the first narrative part of the book. After Christmas I worked on the recipes and photos.
The book, in its final state, is nothing like my original plan or layout. Although I had lived it, the story took on a life of its own and I let it go in its own direction. There were several times when I would leave my desk to go for a walk with my husband and I could not WAIT to get back to writing to see ‘what happens next’. It was a great feeling! No, I started at the very beginning and worked by following a fairly sturdy timeline of our life happenings. I had no idea where the story would end or even how it would end until I wrote the last paragraph.
Many of our readers are creative types, but struggle with balancing time for creative pursuits with the mundane tasks required to live life. Walk us through a typical day in your life.
I will…but a word of warning. It is filled with very boring routine details. I am a creature of habit and thrive under the gun. I love deadlines and very rarely miss one. I wake around 6:00am daily and write a short rhyme on my Facebook page (WiseWords) every day before I have my first cup of coffee. This was my way of avoiding using the excuse of writers block. It works. I have breakfast in bed with my husband every morning and he leaves for work at 7:30am. I write for one hour and wake the four kids at 8:30am. I take them to school at 9:15am and am back at my desk at 9:30am. I work a fifty minute ‘write’ with ten minute play on FB or Twitter kind of hour. I take a break at 12:30 pm for a half hour lunch. I go outside – even in the rain for some fresh air. Then I write again until 3:30pm when my husband and I go for a 5k walk every day and I am back at my desk from 5pm to 6:00pm to edit photos or tidy up any bockety sentences I might have found. I rarely ‘write’ after 3:30pm. I am a morning writer for sure. The evenings are spent doing laundry etc. and reading. I do not like, or watch, TV.
In what ways did your childhood influence you as a writer? As a person?
Good question! I was raised by teachers. We were given a lot of free time … No after school scheduling and no structured summer camp play. Just free time…I was, and still am, a chronic daydreamer. Most of my writing gets ‘done’ in this state while I iron or cut the grass. The story gets going and by the time I sit down to write…it is ready to flow. I rarely sit and try to force the words on the page. If the story is not there and burdening me to be ‘told’ then I am not going to try to force it.
Most writers are also avid readers. What authors did you read as a child? What authors do you read today? Do you have a favorite book or author?
I know. I am the world’s slowest readers. I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter as a young child (still am actually) but once I grew into my teen years I started reading non-fiction. I am not a fan of fiction at all. I like autobiographies and true to life stories. I read a lot of food journals (The Art of Eating by Edward Behr) and Patience Grey is my favourite author. I have a lot of favourite books … All non-fiction and a lot of them are food books but some are also just photos.
What’s next for Mona Wise?
Well, back to college for the final year of my undergrad in September and then who knows? I will continue to write because I just got a column with The Sunday Times. We are shooting the images for the second book late July 2012 so I hope to release the next installment of The Chef & I … with kids Summer of 2013. We are also planning a trip back to the US in June 2013 and hope to do a book signing tour if it all works according to my plan.
Now is YOUR opportunity to tell us what we missed! What question should we have asked, that we didn’t (and what’s the answer to it)?
Wow. What a lovey opportunity! You asked a few really excellent questions here but one of the things I would like to write about, seeing that you asked, is the importance of chasing your dream. I attempted college as a teen but it was not for me. I hate it. I was too young and too eager to do my own thing. I lived a lovely life in the US, working as a wedding planner for ten years and owning/operating our own restaurant with my husband for five years. I spent all my time nurturing my husband and building our family. When we moved back home, and I had a bit of ‘me’ time, I decided to do what I had to do to be a writer. Not for one second do I regret making that decision and chasing this dream. We are living a very simple, less materialistic life, and we are very happy. Long may it last!