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ZP: Your first book focused on a cultural moment, but Read by Strangers covers a lot more ground. What were the advantages and disadvantages of writing thematically linked stories?
|At Danceteria by Philip Dean Walker|
ZP: For me, the most striking aspect of your writing is your characters. They come alive on the page in even the simplest of interactions. Why is character so important to you and how do you develop it so well?
|Read by Strangers|
ZP: You also write about place beautifully. How has living in Washington influenced your writing?
PDW: Living in Washington has given me an appreciation for all kinds of people and all kinds of stories. And story can be located anywhere—at a big weekend brunch, at a party, on the other side of town in a neighborhood you've always driven past but never ventured into. I was speaking about setting and place with another writer and I told her that setting should never overwhelm a story (unless the setting or place is essentially acting as a character in the story similar to what I do in Strangers’ “Unicorn”). There are a couple stories in my new collection that take place in Washington, DC, or the surrounding environs, but it’s really just lightly suggested. Place is as important to a story as a writer chooses to make it. My stories that take place in Tokyo are very much connected to that setting, so “place” has a more vital function in those pieces.
ZP: Finally, what’s one piece of advice you have for aspiring writers?
PDW: This is a great question, Zach. My biggest piece of advice is this: if you’re afraid of writing it, you must write it. Simple but true.
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Read the rest of the interview in the Fall issue of The Writer's Guide. Click here to sign up for a free subscription »