Portland-based writer Kate Christensen made her debut in 1999 with her novel “In the Drink.” She is best known for “The Great Man,” her 2007 Pen/Faulkner Award-winning book about art, self-actualization, and the sex lives of the elderly. Her most recent book is “Blue Plate Special,” a memoir of food and other appetites.
CAN GET THERE FROM HERE: I left New York in 2009 when I fell in love with someone who had a farmhouse in New Hampshire . . . Portland, Maine, felt like the inevitable place for us. We finally got a house in November of 2011 . . . In Brooklyn, I had a studio outside of the house. That was when my life was a lot crazier. But now it’s so calm, I can just come upstairs with my coffee in the morning [and work].
LUCKY CHARMS: My little setup for writing includes all my little amulets, all these little beautiful things, which are good luck [and] imbued with the power to help me write. They’re on the bookshelf right by my desk so I can see them . . . They’re all smaller than a square inch; that’s my size requirement. I’ve collected them over the years, and I don’t remember where I got some of them. They’re all beautiful, and they’re all odd little things. There’s a little pink Japanese owl I stole from a restaurant. It activated my inner klepto — shame on me — but I had to have it and have had it for many years. There’s a mute from an old violin, and a piece of amber, and an old medicine bottle that looks like it’s made of mother of pearl, and a pillbox, and a shell, and a little Buddha or elephant god. Over the years, I’ve had a rotating cast of amulets. They rotate in, and then I give them away when I’m done with them.
DELAYING TACTICS: I procrastinate all morning. That’s when I get my office work done and answer e-mails and see what’s on the Internet and do laundry. It’s really hard for me, every day, to confront my writing. It never gets easier over time. I walk my dog at 11, and then I come back and start to panic because the day is getting old and I haven’t written yet. I don’t know why it surprises me every day, but I think I’m going to write in the morning, and I usually don’t get down to it until around 3 o’clock. That’s when panic sets in: If I don’t do it now, I won’t have done it, and I’ll hate myself. I was just talking to my boyfriend about how the fear of failure is so much stronger than the fear of success for both of us.
FALSE STARTS: I’m concurrently writing two books, and they’re both due imminently. I know there must be a reason I’m writing them both [at the same time]. One is a nonfiction book about food in Maine that’s kind of a memoir . . . and the other is a novel that doesn’t have a name or a shape yet. The early stages of a novel are so [hard]. I make about four false starts, and often these false starts can be as much as 125 pages. Finding my way into a novel is always half the battle.
BOOKSPIRATION: I have my books on a shelf that I can look at for inspiration. I had them in boxes in my cupboard, but I found that it’s nice to look up and see them, especially when I think I can’t do this. There are times when I feel just as flummoxed as I did when I was writing my first novel. It’s nice to look up to see the things I’ve actually finished and published.