Interview With Author Dr. Lindsay Sproul

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m Lindsay Sproul, a creative writing professor originally from Massachusetts, living in New Orleans. My debut novel, We Were Promised Spotlights, is a queer coming of age story which follows Taylor Garland’s last year of high school in small town Massachusetts in the year 1999, from the time she is voted homecoming queen in the fall until graduation, when she decides how to come to terms with her sexuality and whether or not to leave home. 

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

Beyond my writing community from graduate school and writing residencies, I find the most inspiration from my students. Their honesty, humor and courage in class challenges me to be honest in my own writing. 

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

The biggest mistake anyone can make is being afraid to finish, and being afraid of failure. Chances are, two or three drafts will be “failures,” but writing through the parts of the book that don’t work ultimately leads to the right answers—or, at the very least, the closest a novel can be to its best version.

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

This part of the process, at least with my publisher (Putnam/Penguin) was up to marketing and cover designers. Though, my editor did end up using my original title, which comes from a line in the book. One thing my students find surprising is how little say writers have in terms of cover art. 

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

I try to be grateful that even if a reviewer didn’t like my work, they still took the time to read and review it. 

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

If I knew starting out that I would go through six drafts, cut major characters and write five different endings, I would have been surprised. My editor is very hands on, which resulted in a much tighter final draft. I’m also surprised at how intimate the relationship is with my editor. 

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

Because I have no background in Young Adult Literature, I wasn’t used to that style at first. However, I learned so much about plot. While my book is still quiet on the plot front, immediacy is something I wish I’d valued more before I turned to YA. 

What role do emotions play in creativity?

My dissertation advisor, Robert Olen Butler, would say everything. In my classroom, I encourage my students to write from an emotional place rather than a theoretical or idea-driven one. That was the most valuable thing he taught me.

Do you have any creativity tricks?

Sometimes, I write down the things I don’t want to admit even to my therapist or partner. Then, I try to reach into my memory and find where those thoughts and experiences originated. Usually, I notice that they came from a time in my life when a change occurred. I aim to write about the things I don’t want to admit, or things I’m embarrassed to feel. Probably, somewhere in the world, someone else shares those feelings. 

What are your plans for future books?

I’m working on my second novel, which is also under contract with Putnam. Right now, I’m still figuring out who the narrator is and what her desires and fears are. 

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

Before I was a writer, I was a dog groomer. My favorite travel destination is Iceland. And, I just read the Harry Potter series this year—twenty years behind. (Already suffering from Post-Potter Depression!) 


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