Saturday, September 15, 2007

An Interview with Patricia Wood, author of "Lottery"

Winning the Lottery

Let’s face it, who amongst us can honestly say they’ve never dreamed about winning the lottery, especially when it creeps up to ridiculous proportions like $200 million. I mean what a ridiculous sum of money for anyone to win. (Please let it be me! Please, Please!) So when I heard the concept of Patricia Wood’s debut novel “Lottery,” I was completely hooked, and so was the entire publishing world.

They called it a high concept hook - “Forrest Gump wins Powerball,” and it created an immediate stir in publishing. Ann Oldenburg’s article in USA Today, stated that Lottery went to auction and landed a six-figure deal for its first time author. It is a dream that all writers aspire too.

So often we hear the hype, buy into it and then end up being disappointed. That is definitely not the case here. I read Lottery in one day in two sittings. And it would have been one sitting but for the simple fact that I had to cook dinner, feed the kids, bathe them, check their homework and tuck them in bed, all while glancing impatiently at my book and growling and muttering under my breath. When I finally closed my book, I sighed with happiness tinged with the sad thought that having finished, I could never have that new book pleasure filled with the discovery of finding new characters that warm your heart. Unless I suffer from amnesia, then please remind me that I will want to read Lottery again.

The main character is Perry L. Crandall, and he is not retarded. He knows this because he scored a 76 on his IQ test and Reader’s Digest says that you have to have 75 or lower to be retarded. So he is not retarded. And from this introduction on, you are absolutely hooked by Perry, his loving but sharp tongued grandmother, his nervous but caring boss and a disgusting burping, farting best friend, Keith, who was my second most favorite character of the book. Not just because I think burping and farting are hysterically funny, although they are, but because Ms. Wood develops Keith, a Vietnam Vet, into a living breathing person you come to care deeply for. Now all the bad guys in the book, Perry’s brothers, in-laws and even his mother, are either lawyers or married to lawyers. (I would feel indignant on behalf of all us lawyers, except I actually know too many like this to take offense for my profession.)

When Grandma dies early in the book and Perry wins $12 million playing the lottery, you’d have to be a real gullible, naïve fool not to know what happens next. The beauty of Ms. Wood’s book is that Perry, who knows he is slow, is neither as gullible nor as naïve as people like to think. And while the bad guys are little more than cliché’s, they work extremely well when placed in the context of the book. Their portrayal is as Perry sees them, no more, no less. As characters, they are not shaded or nuanced like Grandma, Keith or Cherry, a woman Perry would like to have as a girlfriend. That is because the actions of the brothers and Perry’s mother have only ever been unkind, and even when circumstances change and they try to act nicely to Perry, he sees right through to the desperation beneath their surfaces. Their words might have changed, but they are still the same. Perry is one of the most likeable underdog characters you will ever read. You will root for him, cry with him and laugh your head off at things he says. You will definitely not be bored, I promise.

Interview with Patricia Wood, author of Lottery

I came to know about Ms. Wood and Lottery from having seen her as a regular commenter on Miss Snark’s popular writing blog. There she would be seen commenting as Orion, the name of her 48 foot sailboat that she lives on with her husband and her two cats. Originally from Seattle, Washington, Ms. Wood has served in the Army, worked as a medical technologist, taught marine science to high-risk students and is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Hawaii.

After writing three novels which only collected rejections, she wrote Lottery over a three month period last year. In her own words she says, “I was consumed.” As luck would have it, she sent an e-query to top agent Dorian Karchmar, a literary agent with William Morris in New York. Ironically, Ms. Karchmar states that “most of the time I’m so busy, I don’t read email queries.” But Ms. Wood’s email arrived on a slow summer day and the rest of the story is pure magic.

After reading Lottery, I had to email Ms. Wood and let her know how much I loved her book and was happy to receive a very quick, warm and gracious response. When I decided that Lottery would be my first ever Book Review on my blog, I asked her if she would be willing to provide a short interview for my readers. Even though she is six hours behind me, I got a quick response that said “What a delight!” and we were off! I hope you all enjoy the interview.

E - Aloha Pat! Are you on your sailboat right now?

PW - Yes. I have just finished packing for my trip to the mainland for readings and signings.

E - I think it is so cool that you live on a sailboat. How long has it been since your residence was on land?

PW - Four years

E - It is amazing that you have access to technology even on a sailboat, but is there anything you miss about living on land?

PW - Not usually - I get a small twinge when I remember my beautiful gourmet kitchen and if I want a bath I go to a hotel.

E - So you have all the comforts of home, even pets on your boat. I understand your two cats are your muses, but they aren't housecats, they are sailboat cats, right?

PW - They didn't use to be but they are now! They got acclimated quite well.

E - Do they ever leave the boat?

PW - Not intentionally, only accidentally.

E – When they accidentally get off the boat, do they suffer from sea legs?

PW - No, but they get wet!

E - So we all know the weather is beautiful on Oahu but when you do get bad weather, how does it affect your routine as a writer living on a sailboat?

PW - I close the hatches and am snug as a bug in a rug. It's quite cozy.

E - You wrote Lottery in three months. But it was eight hours a day for seven days a week. How hard was it to commit to this schedule? How long was your editing process?

PW - It was often 12 to 18 hours a day and it was a first draft - and quite a shitty one at that! I did a couple passes through to fix grammar and spelling and by the fourth pass the skeleton of the story was closer to what Dorian (my agent) saw.

E - Did you have a critique group or readers review Lottery for you and what do you feel is the value of a writer's group?

PW - I've never been one to join groups. I know people swear by them but it has to be the right group. I think readers are better than writers. I have a large pool of beta readers. My friend author Paul Theroux read an early draft and many cruisers from my harbor (marina) read various versions.

E - But you were part of a large online writing community. You were a regular over at Miss Snark's popular blog where I first saw you as Orion. It was real neat to see you thank Miss Snark in your acknowledgements. When you got published, did Miss Snark ever get in touch with you?

PW - Miss Snark ROCKS. She sent several very nice emails congratulating me and did call me when I went to New York. The number came up unknown. It was magic! I owe her so much for all the guidance in her blog and the support the blog has shown me. They were all there from the beginning.

E - She called you? So do you have any idea about her real identity?

PW - No clue at all, but I suspect she has moved on. I read in People magazine recently that George Clooney hired a new maid with amazing literary taste. It could happen...

E - He would be a lucky man, then! As fans of her blog, we all know what we got from her; great no-nonsense advice and a community of writers just like us. Now that you are a published author, when you look back at Miss Snark's blog, what do you think you gained from it the most?

PW - The fact that this business is subjective. The fact that if more writers just sat down and finished their novels they would be more successful. You need to write, write and write some more. That hiring a book doctor or an outside editor is not necessary and that perseverance is the best quality to have.

E - One of the things that I've been so impressed with is how altruistic you have been to your fellow writers. You have a blog where you've given so much insight to the publishing process and you also are a vibrant presence on the Absolute Write forums where you provide a lot of great information and advice to newbies. I love that you have become like a Mentor figure now that you are a famous author, but what makes you do it?

PW - HA! I'm a know-it-all? Actually I am a teacher. Have always been a teacher and love to teach. I will be going to the University of Hawaii next Friday to talk to creative writing students. It is pay-back for the help I have received from generous authors like Paul Theroux and Jackie Mitchard.

E - So are you working on a new book and is there any information you would care
to share about it?

PW - I am ALWAYS working on another book. I have three finished manuscripts and am outlining other projects. My agent and I are giving a great deal of thought as to what will follow Lottery. Of course there is the paperback of Lottery that will come out next summer (08).

E - Lastly, there is so much advice that is out there, sometimes contradictory, but I would love to know what would be the one piece of advice that you think is really important or overlooked that you would give to aspiring writers about fulfilling their dream?

PW - WRITE. Finish your novel and start another. READ. Write. Read. And WRITE some more. Oh yeah... and make sure you write.

E - Thanks so much Pat for chatting with me about Lottery. You are awesome!

PW - Aloha and Mahalo! Writers are welcome to email me with questions at


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interview, Ello. As a grad student at UH myself, when I heard Patricia's story it fueled my writing / publishing fantasy quite a bit!

Patricia, if you know of any tricks to get a parking space at the Ko'olina lagoons after 9:30, please let me know.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the heads up about this!!! I saw a review of lottery some weeks ago at Anti-wife's blog (sorry, don't have the link handy, but it's at the top of my blogroll if you want to look)

This one is already at the top of my to buy list (actually, as soon as my review payment for the last one comes in - they pay me in amazon gift certificates which is a wonderful way to keep my literary habit from being too pricey)

Great review and I especially loved the interview. It's always fun to hear a great first publishing story, and from what I hear Patricia deserves all of the success in the world...

Oh, and Patricia, if you're reading, thanks for the extra inspiration!

Anonymous said...

This was fantastic and so inspirational. I was up early this AM brainstorming and doing my "card sorting" thing. I'm supposed to be doing research now...but I had to see your latest blog first. Although, your blogs have opened up a brand new world for me and they are quickly become a place for me to learn and resist the urge to give up. Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ello! Hi Patricia! I'd be curious to know if Patricia still writes with that kind of obsession or was Lottery a special one-time thing?

Anonymous said...

i have been dragging lately, but the inkling is there. this post, this interview, gives me hope. thanks to both of you.

Anonymous said...

Nice interview on both of y'alls part.

I enjoyed it very much.

Anonymous said...

This is cool. What a coup for you. And a fine interview. Her advice is right on.

I have not read this book, although I've heard great buzz about it. I'll have to look for it next time at Borders.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like Forest Gump, but Lottery sounds amazing, and I keep hearing its an awesome book.

Besides, Patricia lives on a sailboat. That's the coolest thing. DH wants us to live in an RV. He's wearing me down ...

Anonymous said...

During and after reading Lottery, I was the one who felt like an emotional jackpot winner!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for everyone's comments! Pat was wonderful to interview and I hope to spread the word all over the internet to buy her book cause it is really good!

Anonymous said...

dear ello:

i came to your blog through carleen brice's. what a great interview--thank you for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

Hi there! Great interview. I have read some of the reviews on this one and will have to add it to my 2bread pile.

Thanks for dropping by my site to!

Anonymous said...

Lovely interview. I'm off to Maui next month and now need to find out about Ko'olina lagoons! Patricia is living the dream. K.

Anonymous said...

Great interview and great advice from Pat. I've got Lottery sitting here, waiting to be be read in my TBR stack -- can't wait :)

Anonymous said...

Pat's an amazing person. I saw her yesterday at the Everett Public Library doing readings and giving a talk about her book. Her enthusiasm is contagious. If you have the opportunity to see her in person, do it!

Great interview Ello!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me about this book. I saw it on Miss Snark's site before it came out and forget to look for it.

Anonymous said...

ALoha all!
Thanks for all the kudos! Please those of you who read lottery email me and let me know what you think-
Keep in mind it was 3 months for the first draft -- but It was another four months of tweaking before representation. From start of first draft to D & A then final copyediting by the publisher - it was 14 months

Anonymous said...

FIrst off, I am not a writer (nor even an avid reader anymore); however, my wife told me about this blog so I checked it out as my first and only blog ever!

Yes, she is the aspring writer in our family and in the final death throes of revisions before she starts to "query" her book.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks to both Ello and Patricia. Ello, given your raving review of Pat's book, I am going to borrow my wife's copy tonight and start reading it right away. I have to admit that having finished my review of my wife's most recent draft, which I thought was absolutely terrfic (completely objecitve statement), I found myself craving something else good to read! So Ello, thanks again for giving me something to scratch my infrequent reading itch.

Patricia, I want to thank you for being so magnanimous in sharing your thoughts and experiences with Ello and her other viewers. I think it is wonderful that you are giving back to the writing community and giving so many (including my wife) that little extra boost of motivation to keep perserving.

Quick question, Patricia: Although my wife is almost finished, I've urged her to put off starting to write her other story ideas until she at least completes her first manuscript. Based on your interview responses, it appears you do the same, i.e., complete one before starting the next.

So I guess my question is what are your thoughts on working on more than one story at a time?

My apologies for my somewhat long winded comment (it's like a K-tel commercial, "Wait! There's more!), but I will finish my entry with another thanks to Patricia - now I have real ammunition to throw at my wife so I can pursue my dream of becoming a fishing guide (yes, Travis Erwin, you can be my first customer . . . paying customer that is).

. . . so while I'm putting my customers onto big Rockfish and Bluefish, my wife can be typing away in the cabin uninterrupted (unless I need more chum or bait).

Keep on writing everyone!
Da' Man

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview, Ello and Patricia! Lottery sounds wonderfully creative and fresh. I'm adding it to my list. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Ello! That's really cool that you got to interview Patricia. AND you made it really interesting too.

The fact that you got this interview and then make mention of how Patricia's MS came through via E-query goes to show I think that the internet is fueling writers and allowing them avenues of communication not previously possible.

In other words, a good write!

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all for coming by and commenting! And for all those who didn't comment, thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Hey Ello -

Fantastic interview with Patricia Wood. I haven't read "Lottery" yet, but it is on my to-read list (along with about 20 others--sheesh, will I ever have time for my own novel??).

Anyway, thanks for visiting my blog. I live in Tucson, AZ now, but spent many years in the D.C. area. Love it and miss it (occasionally, especially during football season).


Anonymous said...

How did I miss this? And now I know our connection--through Miss Snark! I loved, loved, loved Lottery, and love Pat as well. Like in your interview when you said, "Miss Snark called you!?" I got that same feeling when I received a phone call from Ms. Wood!!! SHe is awesome!

Anonymous said...

oh, and love the thing about George hiring a new maid with literary tastes!

Anonymous said...

I think George Clooney would be Miss Snark's male-maid, not the other way around. :-)

I nearly fell out of my chair when Pat said Miss Snark called her - I'd have a heart attack and die from the excitement if Satan's agent ever called me.

What I found most interesting about the interview is when Pat said: "I think readers are better than writers." In many ways I believe this too, which is why I belong to a book club - readers have quite a different approach to a book than writers do.

Good interview, Ello! Keep 'em coming!

Anonymous said...


Search This Blog