Anne Korkeakivi is an American writer, who has worked for many years as a journalist, but chose to focus on fiction after coming to France. Her first novel, An Unexpected Guest, was published by Little, Brown & Co. in 2012 and garnered comparisons to Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. Her second novel, Shining Sea, will come out also from Little, Brown on the 9th of August this year.
Anne is currently based in Geneva with her family. She is not a GWG member but does occasionally attend our conferences and other events. You can find her online at her website, on Facebook, on Twitter and Instagram.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/writing come from?
I’ve always been a bookworm and a storyteller. When I was a little girl, four or five years old, all long braids and freckles, I’d lie in bed at night and tell myself continuing stories, each night a new episode. It came naturally. Happily for me, my parents were readers; their bookshelves were a treasure trove, heavy with work by the likes of Joseph Conrad, William Faulkner, E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf.
What sort of writing do you do and why?
I write literary fiction. For many years I worked as a journalist, and I also still occasionally write essays and articles. Literary fiction and journalistic nonfiction are my favorite things to read as well--although I enjoy and read other genres too--which may not be unrelated.
Who or what inspires you?
One interesting truth of writing is both love and anger, and both beauty and horror can provide inspiration. History, news, nature, human beings – there’s inspiration everywhere.
Tell us a little bit about your publishing journey.
While I’ve always written fiction in spare hours and I earned an MA in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, for many years I made my living with nonfiction, contributing to different publications in the US and UK: the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times, etc. I occasionally wrote book reviews but mostly I wrote about the other arts, travel, or culture.
At some point after I’d become a mother and moved to France for my husband’s work, time and geographical constraints told me I had to make a choice between these two poles—fiction and nonfiction. I decided to gamble. I took a freelance editing job with a publisher in Paris and gave myself one year without working as a journalist to teach myself to write effective fiction. In the eleventh month, I received my first acceptance of a short story for publication.
I continued writing short stories until I felt ready to start on a novel. I worked hard, completed a solid draft, and found a wonderful agent in NY to represent it.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
If you mean what part of the process: when I’m deep inside a story, when the story has become its own world, and I’m reaching into it, discovering.
What do you find most difficult about writing?
I suppose when I’m not deep within a story. Being between stories leaves me dangling.
What is your writing routine?
Writing is my profession, so my writing routine is similar to other 9-5 work routines, except that my office is in my home, I’m alone, and the hours are longer. I get to my desk by 9 am at the latest and stay there as long as I can uninterrupted. I don’t usually break for lunch but, because I’m a mom and because I work at home, my days can also involve, for example, helping my kids with whatever is going on in their lives or talking with a plumber. I typically save the actual writing of fiction for days when I expect to have a longer period of uninterrupted time. On other days, I might edit already written work, do research, work on nonfiction, social media or emails. A couple of times a week, I’ll take an hour out for a run, an excellent way to clear my head.
When I have a book (or article/short story) coming up for publication, my hours really go haywire, however, because my agent and publisher are based in the US, six hours behind us here in Geneva. I can be back at my desk responding to email requests, for example, well after midnight. It’s completely worth it, though. I’m not complaining!
How did you hear of GWG and how has it helped your writing (if it has)?
When I learned I was moving to Geneva, a friend of mine in Paris, who had attended a GWG conference, told me about Susan Tiberghien, Susan is a really cool lady, my friend told me. That’s an understatement. I’m not a member of the GWG, but I have attended a couple of the conferences now myself. They were super. I like to think of myself as an enthusiastic, if off-stage, GWG advocate. No matter where you are as a writer, from just starting out to making your living from it, the encouragement and shared knowledge of a supportive community is invaluable.
What (if anything) has surprised you most since publishing your first book?
The practical process of publishing a novel was a non-stop learning experience for me; the period from manuscript submission to appearing on the shelves of bookstores is more labyrinthine and requires more continued participation from the author than I had understood. It has given me even more respect for publishing houses. I feel honored to be a part of what they do, as an author.
Some of the nicest surprises post-publication have been the people who went out of their way to champion An Unexpected Guest. Getting the word out on a novel takes the support of others, and the individuals who showed up for readings and bought books, posted on social media, proposed my work to their book group, blogged about it, wrote nice reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, gave copies for Christmas presents, etcetera, were my heroes. It wasn’t always the people I would have expected either. So, while there have been some deep disappointments, there have also been the loveliest of surprises. I send huge thanks in advance to anyone who does the same for Shining Sea now!
What advice would you give to new writers?
Try reading like a writer, and work very hard. When you think you’re done, take a moment to celebrate--and then ask yourself whether you may well have only just started. But don’t give up!