Today, we have an interview with Sheana Ochoa, the author of Stella! Mother of Modern Acting. With the book releasing in April 2014, this interview gives insight into the author’s work — a must-read for those interested in twentieth century art and culture as influenced through the work of one of acting’s most dedicated luminaries, Stella Adler.
So, what exactly do you write?
Whatever inspires me. I’m not married to any genre. In fact, the project decides the form it takes. I have a story idea right now that I see cinematically. It has to be a screenplay. If I have a visceral response to something personal or something going on in the world, it usually comes out as a poem, immediate and to the point. Obviously, Stella Adler needed a biography. I did think about writing an historical novel of her life at one point, but I also had to consider why I was writing the book. Itwas to reclaim her legacy. It had to be a biography.
How would you describe yourself in a short third person bio?
She’s working on herself.
What made you initially want to write? Has your motivation changed since then?
I gravitated toward books at an early age. There wasn’t much supervision at home, a latch-key kid, you could say. The world ofbooks kept me safe inside their world. Going from reading to writing was a natural progression for me as a girl. As an adult, the motivation has changed. I still write for the security and self-esteem, but there’s a larger purpose: that of helping others. My writing has to have universal themes and messages. I could never write “fluff.”
What do you think is the most important part of writing?
Discipline. It disciplines the heart, mind and soul.
What is your favourite part of writing?
I hate it, are you kidding? It’s tough! It’s excruciating. It’s deflating. Once you have something “finished,” you find something wrong with it. Writing is horrible.
Tell us an interesting fact about you.
I’m a Single Mother by Choice. I wanted a child and I wasn’t getting any younger so I decided to have one on my own. Most women who do this are educated, not working class. So, the majority are white. And they want white donors. And they have a difficult time choosing someone out of hundreds of options. I’m half Mexican. My criterion was that the donor be Mexican, and at the particular sperm bank I went to there was a whopping six to choose from. It made the process much easier.
Do you have a day-job, (other than writing)?
I edit other people’s work.
Do you prefer a physical book or an ebook? Why?
Physical. I prefer the physical over the virtual with everything: sex, conversation, books.
Tell us about ‘Stella Adler’s Biography’.
That’s a novel in itself. I think I might write it someday. It started with her father, the King of the Yiddish stage, Jacob Adler. I was drawn to him, as every woman of his era was. As Stella was. Her second husband, dean of theatre, Harold Clurman, said that “All Adler’s children were in love with him, incestuously in love with him.” Jacob Adler already had a biography so I moved on to Stella.
How has writing changed your life?
I’ve always written so I don’t have a previous life to compare it to.
Is there a particular form, style or genre that you’d like to have a go at writing? Why?
See the answer to the first question.
Favourite book and/or author(s)?
I lean toward the Russians; Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky and works written in Spanish: Cervantes, Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But that’s because I was a literature major and they didn’t teach women. Since school I have found favorite books and authors that happen to be women like Anne Proulx’s “Accordion Crimes.” It’s difficult to outwrite Proulx. I also love Alice Munro and I fell in love with Tea Obreht’s breakout novel, “The Tiger’s Wife.”
Do you think it’s necessary to have a degree (of any sort) in order to be a successful author?
Absolutely not. Writing is learned and honed by writing and, of course, reading.
What would you say to those who want to become a writer? Any advice?
Write every day. Read everything from thrillers to biographies to Op Eds. Don’t do it for money. Do it for love.
Thank you very much for your time.
Find out more: http://stellaadleralifeinart.wordpress.com/