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Liana Metal
Interview with a fiction writer
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Meet Rhea Aquilo, a new novelist.

How and when did you get started as a writer?
I think I got started as a storyteller before I was actually able to write-telling stories to my younger brother who was quite close to me in age, and then in first grade, I remember being given a "ditto" with a line and being told to make a picture. When the picture was finished, we stood in line and told the teacher a story about the picture which she wrote under that picture, then wrote "Original Story" on the top of the page. Years later, when I was in 5th or 6th grade, I remember looking up "Original" and by then I had written, and read, many stories. Obviously the 1st grade experience made an impact.

How do you usually find your ideas

 For me, there are infinite possibilities in the roads not taken, the doors not open, and the "what ifs" one encounters every day-what if I had been on the highway five minutes earlier when that truck driver made the error, what if I had been the one in the elevator alone with, say Hillary Clinton-what might have been said, asked, done? Also when my friends or acquaintances tell me about other people in their lives, I have a spontaneous idea of what they look like, sound like and a possible fleeting history. If later I chance to meet those people, I've been disappointed that the real person hasn't lived up to my imagination of him or her.


Did you ever get any rejections

They are the rule, not the exception.


If yes, how did you react to them?

 Depending upon the season, the phase of the moon, and what else has happened to me that day, I react with anger, disgust, or a shrug and an unspoken "well, back to the drawing board" attitude.

Tell us about your book.

What inspired you to write it?

 A conglomeration of many, many roads not taken, people not encountered and situations that turned out differently, in combination with the spunky irresistible character of my real-life sister's personality. She takes many risks, both in speech and action, that I have not taken, probably never will take. My idea of her made the perfect heroine to go down all those roads not taken.


How long did it take you to write it?

It took two years of thinking, walking around looking at things, and writing other things-essays, papers for school, journal entries. And then six months of typing, a break two months of revision and then-after several rejections-a re-editing and cutting out of some parts of the book to bring it to its current incarnation. I can't do that math, but about six months of writing, then a year of rewriting, revising, rereading and editing.


What are the major challenges that you have faced in your career?

 I guess THE major challenge was believing that I had something to say, something that people would find relevant or entertaining. Once I cleared that hurdle, the next, and continuing challenge is finding enough uninterrupted time to write. I also teach and that involves a different type of writing and research, so finding a comfortable balance is an interesting and ongoing issue to be confronted.


Has the Internet helped you in your writing career? How? 

I find that often the internet is more a source of distraction and time consumption than it is a supportive tool. That said, my next book involves a historical event, and I have also found that the internet is a quick, graphic, and varied source of research.


What do you advise new writers to do? 

Write, write and then write some more. It may sound clich, but the only way to hone a craft is to practice that craft. The more I follow that advice, the better my writing is and the closer I am to starting and then finishing each project.  A second piece of advice is: have people read what you've written. Writing is a solitary occupation. We writers can get into our own heads, which is fine to a point. However there comes a time when another must read what we've written-if only so that we can see whether (and how) what we've been trying to say has been grasped by our audience.


Chicklit with an edge!
Read Rhea Aquilo's premiere novel All My Relations today.
Available at Barnes & Noble online at
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