We all want someone to talk to, who understands us, and maybe that’s why generations of writers, readers and searching souls have responded so strongly to Rainer-Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. We’ve asked some of the brightest stars today to either answer questions drawn from the text or write a letter to their teenage selves. Today, we have Daisy Whitney, a new media producer, reporter, and the author of The Mockingbirds, a gripping and emotional debut about a secret society at a boarding school that defends a high school girl when she is date-raped in her junior year. We love Daisy’s honest and unflinching approach to challenging (and frequently avoided) subjects. Here are Daisy’s answers to some eternal questions.
Why must you write? What would you do if you weren’t a writer? (Or, what was the best job you had before becoming an author?)
I write because I believe in the suspension of disbelief like it’s a religion. When I read a great book, I can see it, I can picture it and I feel like the characters are real. I want to do my best to give that same experience to fellow readers because I know how powerful an experience it is. If I weren’t a writer, I’d be a Broadway star! Since I can’t sing, dance or act, that would be a problem.
What two books do you find indispensable? Who has given you the greatest experience of the essence of creativity, its depths and eternity?
My favorite book of all time is A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean because it has so much to say about being human, about how we communicate with each other, about how we fail each other and how even as we fail each other, we still rise up and do our best for the people we love. For instance, these lines I can read over and over because they capture what it means to connect and to not connect with another person: “Help is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willing and needs it badly…So it is that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed. It is like the auto-supply shop over town where they always say, ‘Sorry, we are just out of that part.'” I also love Tim Ferris The Four Hour Work Week because the essence of that very practical, very prescriptive book is that what matters most is how we live, not just the work we do. It’s the time we spend doing what we love. For me, applying some of the principles from Tim’s book gave me the time I needed to be with my kids more and to write more.
If you could not send a reader all of your books, which one would you recommend first?
Since I’m a debut author, I hope everyone will read my first novel THE MOCKINGBIRDS!
Where is the place in which you most love to write?
In the quiet. I can write anywhere – train, plane, coffee shop, home, in bed, at the desk, parked on the side of the road, on a bench, in a conference, in a hotel room. The location doesn’t matter – what makes a place most enjoyable to me is the quiet. Sometimes if I write on a plane or a coffee shop, I create the “quiet” with music – meaning I listen to music to drown out the sounds of conversation and that makes the place “quiet” to me.
What is the value of solitude to a writer?
The world!!! I love alone time. I think all writers do. Because that’s when you can read, when you can write and when you can work out the storyline. It’s also the time when you are closest to your characters and can truly listen to them.
What advice would you give to a young person, or your younger self, about love?
Go for it! Don’t hold back! Live passionately, love deeply and live without regret!
What is the value of sadness to a writer?
Sadness sucks, but as a writer I suppose every feeling is useful because it can help you understand your characters better and therefore better connect with your readers.
What book, story or poem brought you greatest comfort as a teen?
I read Gone with the Wind many times! I dressed up as Scarlett O’Hara for Halloween one year. I so wanted Rhett and Scarlett to have their happy ever after. Also, I loved anything by Judy Blume or Laura Ingalls Wilder. They were the writers whose works I devoured when I was younger because their stories were transportive and their emotions true.
In closing, what single best piece of advice would you give to a hopeful young writer, in a sentence?
Keep pursuing your dreams relentlessly because when you do they have a funny way of coming true.
You can find Daisy online on her website or on Twitter @DaisyWhitney.