D-Lit Questionnaire: Lisa Mattson
I've known Lisa Mattson, author of Exes in My Glass, for several years now, not as a writer, but as the genius Director of Marketing & Communications at Northern California's Jordan Vineyard & Winery. From her work on the Jordan Journey Blog, to award her award-winning videos, Lisa is a creative force to be reckoned with. Knowing this, you can easily imagine that I was thrilled when her book made its debut.
Recently, I was lucky enough to pin Lisa down and have her take part in the Devour Lit Questionnaire. So, go, pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine and take a read!
DL: If you could sum up the reason you became a writer in one word, what would it be?
Honestly, I didn’t really choose to become a writer. It always came naturally to me. I started writing poems in middle school. It’s a creative outlet that brings me joy.
To write, all you need is your mind and a blank canvas. It’s very rewarding to build a body of work from stringing together letters, words, ideas that flow freely from the mind. There’s no real “start-up costs” for a writing project other than a computer. Carpenters wish they could be as lucky.
What do you prefer to read fiction or non-fiction?
Depends on the time of year. I prefer to get lost in novels while on vacation (usually chick-lit or murder mystery genre), but my monthly reading is purely non-fiction. I enjoy reading food, wine, and travel magazines, and as a former news reporter, I always appreciate a pithy news piece, regardless of topic.
What is one bookstore you enjoy visiting, and why?
My favorite bookstore is Copperfield’s in Healdsburg. They host author events with wine tasting in the back, and there’s always a fat cat roaming around the store. It’s also steps away from two of the best bars in Wine Country.
What books or other mediums have been particularly inspirational to you? Did they directly or indirectly affect your work? Why?
Everything I read, everything I watch is a possible catalyst for inspiration. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book, magazine, blog, TV show, movie, YouTube video or an Instagram post. My creative mind never rests unless I’m watching Law & Order: SVU. I recently read the novel Bittersweet, and the way the author wrote about restaurant life from a young server’s point of view gave me lots of ideas for how I would edit and revive a chapter from The Exes in My Glass that I cut before the release. My book would have benefited from more waitress life scenes. That’s a regret I have after reading Bittersweet. Sometimes I’ll read a magazine article, and the structure of the piece will give me an idea for how I could use a similar outline for a Jordan Winery blog post on a totally different topic. Other times it’s just a great sentence in a book, such as this one from Dan Dunn’s Americano Wino: “If anyone was equipped to deal with his brother’s dead body getting pulled out of the water six days later, it should have been me. Still, at 40, this latest middle finger in the eye from the universe dismantled me like nothing I’d experienced before.” Use of the word “dismantled” when describing his emotions stuck with me. It reminded me, as a memoirist, it’s important to balance losing the reader in a scene and providing perspective, insight, and hindsight. I also get video shot ideas for my day job from watching YouTube, Chef’s Table and Anthony Bourdain shows.
What emotion do you find is the most difficult to write and why?
Anger. It’s easy for your voice to turn sour, and your readers will get turned off. I made this mistake with the first draft of my book.
What do you believe are your responsibilities as a writer to your readers?
Entertain and enlighten.
Are you a disciplined writer or a habitual procrastinator? If the former, how do you keep yourself focused? If the latter, what are your favorite procrastination tactics?
For my personal writing, I’m more disciplined. My creative mind is its sharpest early in the morning, so I usually write from 6 or 7 a.m. on weekends until my husband wakes up. That might mean three hours of writing time each day. At work, I’m more of a procrastinator. It’s easier to get sucked into emails or be pulled into ad-hoc conversations with co-workers. I really have to carve out time for Jordan blogs. My best writing for work usually happens on airplanes or at home where I can focus.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer and why?
Sixth grade career day. I noticed that I wanted to be a writer. Not sure why.
If you could be a character in someone else’s book, who would it be?
Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. I think it would be fun to travel to different countries for a year trying to better understand myself. I’m just not interested in the gaining weight part.
What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
What are you 5 favorite words?
I don’t have 5 favorite words. I have 5 least favorite words:
Bae (as in baby)
I guess those words annoy me because they are trendy and overused.
Is there a genre you haven’t attempted, but would like to? If so, what is it and why?
I’d like to write a self-help book on relationships, even though I have no professional credentials in psychology, marriage counseling, etc.
What are the best conditions for you to write in?
Crowded airplanes or deserted beaches.
Who is your favorite character that you’ve written?
Since my book is a memoir, the guys aren’t really characters though I did change physical appearances, names, and other identifying factors. Writing about the bus boy I dated in Miami was probably the most amusing.
What are the last three books you read?
Wine & Words
What is a quality you prize most in a character?
The ability for any character to be funny at times regardless of the situation.
Would you describe yourself as a diligent writer or a do you work best under pressure pushing the limits of your deadline? Why?
I’m more diligent with personal writing, as noted above. Need deadlines at work because I wear so many hats, not just writing.
What pushes you to be a better writer?
What author’s work speaks to you?
Elizabeth Gilbert, Jennifer Weiner
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What is next?
If I’ve learned anything from writing and self-publishing a book, it’s that trying to promote the book while working full-time as a winery marketing director is next to impossible. Putting in a few hours each weekend is not enough, and that’s all the time I have to give.
Click here to check out Lisa's book, The Exes in My Glass.
Lisa has produced several videos during her time at Jordan, but this one will always be my favorite.