First Book: Deanna Fei On “A Thread Of Sky”
April 23, 2010, 2:19 pm
Filed under: Books, Firsts | Tags: , , , , , ,
Deanna Fei author of A Thread Of Sky

Wordsmithing woman warrior Deanna Fei

Emotional vistas! Filial summits! Deanna Fei’s first novel A Thread of Sky follows six women as they traverse China, history, and their hearts on a family vacay. Filled with nuanced, honest characters and vivid storytelling, there’s a reason why A Thread Of Sky has been named an Indie Next Notable Book and The Chicago Tribune sez, “this summer, no smart woman should leave on vacation without it” — it’s brillz!

We interviewed Deanna for the deets on her debut (which has  gotten support along the way from – holy resumes! — no less than the Fulbright folks, the New York Foundation for the Arts and a Chinese Cultural Scholarship).

Here are key firsts from writing her first book…

Tell us about…
…the first sentence of “A Thread Of Sky.”
“The first sentence of the novel, as it exists now, came to me whole, as soon as the first scene of the novel came to me. I don’t think I ever edited it. But that scene didn’t come to me until maybe a year into the process. I don’t think you should ever try to write a novel thinking that the first sentence you write will be the first sentence of your novel. Chances are, it’s a shitty sentence. Chances are, the first hundred pages that you write will eventually get tossed out. But you have to write them. That’s the only way to start.”

...your first published piece.
“It was a short story called “Contact” about a teenage girl getting sexually assaulted by two men on the subway, published when I was fifteen in Susquehanna University’s “The Apprentice Writer.” I never showed it to anyone, but I kept it on my resume for a long time.”

…your first novel idea ever.
“I had a lot of novel ideas as a kid, so it’s hard to say—but my best guess is that it was a Sweet Valley High rip-off, complete with characters named Crystal and Vanessa with golden hair and sapphire eyes.”

…the first thing you did when you found out you sold “A Thread Of Sky.”
“I just sat in my kitchen. I needed a moment. Then I called my husband, my mom, my dad, my older sister, and my younger sister. And then I went to work. I spent the rest of my day visiting my GED students in a trade school — carpentry, plumbing, and beauty-salon classes. That part of the day felt vital.”

…the first thing you do when you sit down to write.
“Ideally, I shut the door, silence my phone, put on noise-canceling headphones, and turn off the Internet. But sometimes I dive into gossip sites first. I love reading about celebrity scandal. When you think about it, those stories are pure character and plot. They clear my head of any personal things I’m going through and prepare me to immerse myself in the lives of my characters.”

…your first stumble writing “A Thread of Sky.”
“I don’t think I ever stopped stumbling. For me, that’s just how writing goes. You stumble around until something clicks and you take flight. That lasts for a few words, a few sentences, maybe even a few pages. Then you land on your ass and start stumbling around again. That’s why revision is so crucial. That’s when, as Annie Dillard writes, you cover your tracks.”

Have you read A Thread Of Sky? Are you wrangling with your first book?

Tell us about it!


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