Interview with Jaime Patterson, Author of Lost Edens
Jamie Patterson is a writer, teacher, runner, and dog owner who has been writing since she was 9-years-old as the "kids corner" reporter for the Tangletown News in Minneapolis. Since then, she has written her way through life in four states and two continents and has completed four marathons. She is now an academic editor and lives in Minneapolis with her dog, Huey. Lost Edens is her first book.
When did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but my first writing gig was as the Kids-Corner Reporter for the Tangletown News in Minneapolis. I was nine years old. As an adult I’ve belonged to writing groups and taken several creative writing classes in undergrad and grad school. My focus as a writer was always fiction until I wrote Lost Edens. Some of my training as a fiction writer is evident in how the story is presented.
What is this book about?
Lost Edens is a chronicle of the last week of my marriage. At its root, this is a story of a failed relationship but it really touches more on the personal struggle I went through in coming to terms with the relationship and how it ended. One of the things I really like about Lost Edens is that it captures what the falling apart of a person is really like. So many books focus on what happens after but Lost Edens shows day by day how far you can fall and then still recover.
What inspired you to write Lost Edens?
This was a story I needed to tell myself first and it wasn’t until years later that I had the thought of sharing it with others. I think this absence of audience while I was writing made it so much easier for me to write—I wasn’t so much inspired as I was driven. Dr. Miller, the doctor mentioned in Lost Edens, told me to keep retelling my story. He said the more you can retell a traumatic event the more you can own it so that it becomes less something that happened to you and more something that simply happened and that you can manage. Writing down what happened certainly helped me to own the events and manage them.
Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?
I’m really lucky in that I’ve always been surrounded by editors; I work with 20 or so writers and editors who all provided feedback at some point. In particular, though, there were two readers who were extremely influential early in the process: Sue Greenberg and Laurel Walsh. The very first reader of Lost Edens was Sue Greenberg, a wonderful friend and editor who provided support and encouragement years before I thought of publishing. Another friend and editor, Laurel Walsh, read the entire 90,000 word manuscript and pointed out that the story could be told in half the word count. It’s largely thanks to her that Lost Edens is so compact. Even before Sue and Laurel, though, my mom would read what I wrote at the end of each day as I was drafting. She was the immediate input about whether something worked or not. Now, my sister reads each first draft I produce and lets me know what she thinks. If you can find just one honest reader, that’s more than a writer could hope for. I’ve found several and am extremely grateful.
Was the road to publication smoothly sailing or a bumpy ride?
The road to publication has been relatively smooth. I chose to work with a mentor publisher, Beaver’s Pond Press, so that I could really learn about each aspect of producing a book. The only thing I would have done differently is allow more time for my own education. I initially had hoped for publication within a year of starting the process. Now, we’re publishing at about 16 months. If I could advise any first-time author who has control of the project just one thing it would be to plan for 16 to 24 months to really do each element of the process well and allow for your own education.
What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?
The best investment I made by far was employing the help of a publicist Stephanie Barko early on. I wanted a publicist on board during pre-publication to help guide the project toward a marketable end product and Stephanie was really involved in development aspects in ways most publicists wouldn’t have been. She secured the endorsements, created a platform for promotion, and has served as my guide as I get to know this other side of being a writer. The book wouldn’t be what it is without her involvement.
What is up next for you?
I mailed a galley to each person mentioned in the book except for the Ben and Beth characters; other than these two names I used the actual names of each person and wanted to be sure they were okay with how they were presented in the book. As I was mailing the galleys I felt the need to include a note with the book that said something to the effect of: “don’t worry! I’m okay now and really happy.” I realized then that I need a follow-up to Lost Edens to say this for me. I’m working on this manuscript now. It is largely set in North London, where I shared a flat with eight others for a summer. It’s been harder to write because there’s less personal urgency but at the same time it’s been much more fun!