Local Artist Check-in: Kristen-Paige Madonia

Posted on November 12, 2014 by

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The richness of literary life in Charlottesville is astounding. There is, of course, the University and its renowned creative writing MFA program, which hosts readings throughout the academic year. There is the annual Virginia Festival of the Book and the Virginia Art of the Book Center, both of which are run by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. There are the numerous bookstores, the reading series at The Bridge, monthly storytelling by Big Blue Door, Tupelo Press Teen Writing Center, and WriterHouse, a nonprofit that offers classes, readings, and workspace. Because of this abundance, it’s no wonder that many writers call Charlottesville home.

In fact, it was at WriterHouse that I first met Kristen-Paige Madonia as a student in her short story workshop in 2011. In the years since I’ve known her, she has published her first novel, Fingerprints of You, finished writing her second, Invisible Fault Lines, and is now busy drafting her third.

Kristen-Paige Madonia

Author Photo Credit - Christopher Gordon

Photo Credit: Christopher Gordon

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? If not Cville, what brought you here?

I was raised in Martinsville, VA and have lived in London, Colorado, and California. I moved to Charlottesville six years ago when I realized I would never be able to afford a parking spot, a home-office, or a space to grow a garden if I stayed in San Francisco, where I was living at the time. Geographically, Charlottesville works well for my husband and me in terms of being close to family, plus it has a city vibe but is close to the mountains, which was important to us. But the real reason we’ve stayed is because of the vibrant art and music community in town and all the wonderful restaurants!

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the first draft of a novel, a project that is completely new and strange and outside of my comfort zone, which I love. I’m also finishing edits on my second book, Invisible Fault Lines, which will be published in March 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

When and why did you start writing?

It’s one hundred percent cliché, but honestly writing has always been the only thing I’m really any good at. If I wasn’t a writer, I have no idea what I would be. For as long as I can remember, I’ve invented stories and imagined worlds unlike my own. I was one of those kids who kept a notebook in their backpack at all times, always watching the world and writing down ideas. I read voraciously as a child and grew up listening to Broadway musical soundtracks. I still know every word to every song from A Chorus Line, Big River, Les Mis, Mame, and Phantom of the Opera, all family favorites. I’ve always been a lit nerd, a people-watcher, and an inventor of stories.

What writer influenced you most as a child? Teen? Adult?

I could never pick just one, it’s just impossible. As a child I loved Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, and then Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Blume, and S. E. Hinton as I became a teenager. Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Books — those were always a favorite, and eventually, in high school, I discovered Anne Rice, Tom Robbins, Jack Kerouac and the Beats, and Milan Kundera, who influenced me greatly.  Later, my literary inspirations included Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, John Irving, T.C. Boyle, and Jeffrey Eugenides.

What aspects of life excite you, stir your affections, fuel your passions, inspire your art? What influences your art?

Cover ArtMusic plays a huge part in terms of my creative process – I find a great deal of inspiration in song lyrics and the energy you find when seeing live shows. My husband and I go to a lot of concerts and music festivals, and I always leave with new ideas for future work. Same goes for road-trips and international travel; new places, settings where I’m not quite comfortable, I’m always inspired by changing physical locations. And reading of course, studying what works in other people’s writing, what makes me tick, what they’re doing right and wrong and how they’re doing it. I also try to spend a good amount of time outdoors, even if it’s just hiking for an hour or sitting on the deck to read, being outside always helps unlock any problems I’m facing in my work.

What do you want people to take away from your stories/novels?

At the fundamental level, I hope readers feel less alone after reading my fiction. I hope they are inspired to ask more questions about the world we live in, and, ultimately, foster greater empathy and sympathy for others.

Finish this sentence: Writing to me is…

necessary.

What does a day in the life of a writer look like from your perspective?

It varies for everyone, and you have to figure out what works for you. I have a son now, so there is no such thing as a typical day. I sneak in work while he naps and try to schedule his babysitter two days a week for three hours a day when I’m under a book deadline. To be honest, I’m still figuring it out — this whole parent-author thing. On a good day, I get a few hours of “writing” in, which may mean new words on the page but often means reading and revising the previous day’s work. I spend an incredible amount of time rewriting and revising.

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What does the not-so-distant future hold for you and your art?

I have a new book coming out March 2016, which I’m equally terrified and excited about, and I’m hoping to have the first draft of my next novel completed and in my agent’s hands by the time Invisible Fault Lines is released.

What publications or reading/speaking events of yours should we look forward to?

Because I’m in between books, I don’t have anything lined up right now in terms of events. I’m in one of those beautiful phases where I’m hiding out, keeping my head down, working on my manuscript, and storing energy for the launch of my new novel in 2016.

What are you reading right now?

No cheating? On my nightstand right now is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, The Isle of Youth: Stories by Laura Van Den Berg, the newest issue of The Writer’s ChronicleI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and two of my son’s favorites, Little Blue Truck and Trains Go.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to pursue a career as a writer?

Make sure you’re doing it because you have to do it, because nothing else makes you happy, because you’re a better person when you’re writing. Tell the stories that are important to you, the ones you’re afraid of and the ones that make you uncomfortable. Ignore the industry for as long as possible and focus on the art. Once the work is strong enough, it will find its way into the hands of readers.

Favorite place in Cville to… be creative?

I often brainstorm for stories and novels walking Monticello Trail – being outdoors does wonders for my work.

Favorite place in Cville to… see art?

The Bridge in Belmont is a favorite. I love the intimacy of the space and the events they put on are always a blast.

Favorite place in Cville to… grab a bite?

The Local – my neighborhood go-to.

Favorite place in Cville to… get a drink?

I love stopping by the tiki bar at La Taza during the summer, and for a nice glass of red wine when it’s cold out, The Alley Light is my favorite. The Whiskey Jar is high on my list, too.

Any other Cville favorites?

It goes without saying that New Dominion is one of my favorite shops downtown when I have time to browse for books, and after I’ve met a big writing deadline, I always make an appointment at Oasis Day Spa for a massage. There’s nothing like it.

Lastly… Describe yourself in 10 words or less.

Curious wanderer, distracted daydreamer, mother, wife and writer.

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