Friday, 22 February 2013

Interview with Rita Arens

Friday, at last! Hooray! Let's kick off the weekend with an interview. Author Rita Arens is here to talk about her novel, THE OBVIOUS GAME.

Welcome to We Do Write! Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Rita Arens. I blog at Surrender, Dorothy (, I'm the senior editor at, and in addition to THE OBVIOUS GAME I edited a parenting anthology called SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK, which came out from Chicago Review Press in 2008. I am married and have one daughter who is eight. I live in Kansas City.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing bad poetry and short stories when I was in elementary school.

Tell us about THE OBVIOUS GAME. What’s the story about? 

Ultimately, it's a coming-of-age story about a girl with more than the usual set of obstacles. Her mom has cancer, she's got a best friend with a mean streak, she's falling in love and she's facing an eating disorder. THE OBVIOUS GAME follows her for a school year as she figures out how she's going to handle her problems.

How did the idea of the story come to you? 

The novel is semi-autobiographical. I had a mom with cancer and an eating disorder. The tricky part for me was making this NOT be my life story. I wanted to write about those issues, but I wanted it to also be fiction. I had no desire to write a memoir. So I took concepts I wanted to write about and re-imagined them happening to someone else who would deal with things differently than I did.

Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

I had beta readers. I rewrote THE OBVIOUS GAME at least eighty-seven times and continued editing it up right up until InkSpell made me hand it in.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am a plotter. I need quite a bit of preplanning before I sit down to write or the writing session feels extremely unproductive and I get panicky. I don't have very much time to write because I have a family and a full-time job, so when I do sit down to write, I need a solid three-hour chunk and a pretty good idea of what the scenes I'm going to write are going to be about.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Unspecific rejection. I love writing, and I like re-writing and editing based on constructive feedback. This novel is so much better than it started out being because I had a lot of agents and editors and beta readers be very specific with me about what wasn't working. What I don't like is vague rejections that don't offer any clue as to what didn't work for the reader. I'd rather they said, "I stopped reading on page 37." Then at least I could look at the first 37 pages and try to guess at what was not working. I take reader feedback very seriously.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Headphones. I have a really hard time writing without them, even if no one else is around while I'm writing. I think it helps me feel more in my own little world to have the music directly in my ears.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Flight. I hate driving.

What's the weirdest thing you've googled?

What haven't I googled?

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: obviously, velociraptor, and serious.

No serious velociraptor would eat that, obviously.

Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...

reading. Reading makes me a better writer, and I read a lot.

Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

My husband and daughter are my biggest supporters. My eight-year-old daughter made me a bookmark that said THE OBVIOUS GAME a few weeks ago. She knows she's too young to read this novel, but she's so interested in the steps involved in the writing and publishing process. My husband has been through the publishing wringer with me before and is so understanding about how hard it is and never makes me feel stupid for persisting. And thank you! The people who are using their little corner of the Internet or writing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and Shelfari and everything else will make or break this book. It's very difficult to be heard amidst all the books coming out every month, and I can't thank everyone who reads my book and talks about it enough. Word-of-mouth referral is everything to an author.

And finally, where can people find you and your book online?

At my website,!


Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview. Rita's book sounds interesting. And interesting that she only needs beta readers. I loved learning about her writing schedule. Thanks for sharing this.

Stuart R. West said...

Hey, Rita! Your book sounds pretty compelling! I, too, am an author who lives in Kansas City! I set my first pubbed YA book in (basically) Overland Park, Kansas! Always nice to meet fellow writers in the KC metro area.