To Live & Write in FLA- Sezin Koehler

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Sezin Koehler

Sezin Koehler  “Zuzu” has lived in 18 cities in 13 countries. That certainly makes her unusual but not nearly as unusual as what she writes. Her first novel, American Monsters, is a postmodern feminist horror story set in Southern California’s rave scene. Her second novel, Crime Rave, is a supernatural noir novel with feminist zombies and a smog goddess. Sezin is also the first person I’ve ever heard compare Marilyn Monroe to Frida Kahlo. If you can’t tell by Sezin’s head-dress, she, like me, is a Frida fan.

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How long have you lived in FLA?

I’ve lived in South East Florida since December 2011 when my husband and I moved to his hometown of Boca Raton after almost a decade living around Europe.

 

Where do you write and when?

I have a home library here in Lighthouse Point with my McGuyvered standing desk where I do most of my writing. I was tickled to learn that Ernest Hemingway, who wrote the majority of his novels here in Florida (Key West), also worked at a standing desk.

I write every day, but my projects vary. Sometimes it’s essays, journalism, or a variety of assignments. Other times it’s short stories or my novels, of which I have about 4 in the works.

I also regularly write in a journal most every day, which consists of brainstorming, random notes and observations, potential avenues for research and even everyday venting.

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 What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?

In a way I’m living my biggest failure at the moment, which is that I’m not making even close to even a minimum wage as a writer if I take into account how many hours I spend writing, researching, and pitching stories + how much I eventually get paid. It’s really testing my patience and my resolve to keep going on a regular basis. I think not being financially successful as a writer wouldn’t be such a big deal if I had a part-time gig of any kind with regular hours and pay, but living where I do has made securing that kind of work a singular challenge.

I also suppose that my biggest success is also my biggest failure: I’m an eclectic wordsmith who enjoys writing about a variety of different topics. My various pieces that have gone viral have been about such diverse issues it makes it difficult to build a following. Even my novels are genre jumping because I get bored writing in the same style for such extended periods of time. My lack of specific thematic focus is often considered a hindrance in today’s publishing world that requires a writer to pick a specialty and write mainly toward that.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?  Or do you have some personal writing advice to offer?

The best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received is from Stephen King from his brilliant On Writing: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” This is the piece of advice I give everyone who asks me about becoming a writer. Also, patience. If you don’t have time to read and you don’t have patience, you’re better of doing something else with your time rather than writing or trying to build a career as a writer.

Who is your Dead Dream Date and why?  (Literary or otherwise)

I’m torn between Frida Kahlo and Marilyn Monroe. Frida I relate with on so many levels, like producing raw art from places of deep pain and finding beauty in lifelong hardships. We would drink tequila straight from the bottle and share battle scars, emotional and otherwise. Marilyn Monroe is someone I’ve been fascinated with since I was a child. In the world of my novels, she never died and her daughter is one of my favorite characters. Marilyn fascinates me because, and in many ways like Frida, she gave a beautiful face to the world while there was so much pain, sorrow, and insecurity underneath. I’d just like to give her a big, warm hug and tell her I’ve always understood.

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6) Favorite cocktail or N/A drink and at what Florida bar?

There are only a handful of bars with outside seating in my area; I don’t live in Florida to sit shivering inside an arctic watering hole. 😉 One of my favorite local tiki bars Galuppi’s is actually tucked into the Pompano Beach Golf Club. I also enjoy walking over to our local Bonefish Mac’s here in Lighthouse Point. I always order a tequila neat, no lime, and a sparkling water on the side. See why Frida and I would get along like gangbusters?

Follow Zuzu on her social media accounts: Tweeting about politics, Facebooking about writing and culture, and Instagramming her growing collection of art and tattoos.

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To Live & Write in FLA- Stephanie A. Smith

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No need to give you a lengthy introduction to my next interviewee. Stephanie A. Smith has a diverse list of published books. She studied with Ursula K. Le Guin and she, too, has suffered through 1st vs 3rd POV. (I’m in that swamp right now! Send me help.)

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How long have you lived in FLA?

I have lived in Gainesville, Florida since 1990, twenty-seven years now. I moved here to take a job as a Professor of English at the University of Florida, after doing my PhD in American Literature at UC Berkeley. I was already a published novelist, with my first novel from Athenaeum in 1985. I was 25.

Where do you write and when?

I write every morning, every day, in the kitchen, standing up. I get up at 5:00, take the dogs out, make breakfast, take the dogs for a walk and am at my computer by 8:30-9:00. I write from 9-noon and then I usually quit to do other work. On the other hand, I am always composing scenes or rethinking what I wrote that morning as the day goes on, so I always carry a notebook to jot notes down. Sometimes, I give myself Sunday off.

What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?

I wrote a novel in third person and then entirely re-wrote it in first person for two years before I gave up on it entirely. I still have a version of it in hard-copy, but it doesn’t work in either voice. What it taught me was how to write first and third person properly.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received? Or do you have some personal writing advice to offer?

Best advice I ever received was from my college room-mate: find a living author you admire and try to take a class from them. I did this: I worked with Ursula K. Le Guin when I was 19, and she has been my friend and mentor most of my adult life. I learned so much from her about persistence, perseverance, literature and living the writing life. My own advice: never give up, no matter what. If you are a writer, you must write.

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Who is your Dead Dream Date and why? (Literary or otherwise)

I am a lucky person. I’ve already had my dream dates in real life with a. Ursula K. Le Guin b. Toni Morrison and c. Michael Cunningham. I’ve had lunch and/or dinner with all three of them. If I were to choose the dead over the living, it would be F. Scott Fitzgerald, sober. In every single case, because they wrote some of the most beautiful and moving sentences I’ve ever read. Wouldn’t mind meeting Marilyn Monroe out of sheer curiosity and because I’ve written about her.

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Favorite cocktail or N/A drink and at what Florida bar?

Classic gin martini, at any bar, although I love the bar at the legendary
Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach, where Fitzgerald belted a few back.
martini glassesPlease visit Stephanie’s website. I love her WordSmith videos and her encouragement to writers. Ask her a question in the comments section of this post. PSSSSST …. maybe about Le Guin!

See you back here in two weeks for another Florida author interview.