Hello Tall Poppy Readers! Today, we get to know one of our Tall Poppies a little better. Sonja Yoerg, author of HOUSE BROKEN and MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE, stopped by to share a little about her year.
It’s almost 2016; how in tarnation did that happen? The year’s blown by so fast for me, probably because I had my first two novels published, HOUSE BROKEN in January, and MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE in September. Can I take a nap now? It’s been a fabulous year, and being a Tall Poppy Writer has been a huge part of it. Happy holidays, everyone, and wishing you all good things in the coming year!
Tell us about your book’s title.
The working title was The Trail. I know, not exactly inspired, but it did have simplicity going for it, and it held echoes of The Road, by Cormac McCarthey, which isn’t at all similar, but a damn good book. I thought about better titles for months, filling up a gigantic whiteboard with ideas. For a while I was in love with A Hole in the Sky, but it didn’t work out between us. I desperately wanted the word “star” in there—e.g., If a Star Falls, but they all sounded like titles for a book set in Hollywood. The process was driving me bonkers. Why did I obsess about it, you might wonder, when publishers usually end up changing the titles anyway? Well, I had titled my debut, House Broken, and wanted to make it two for two. It was a point of pride.
The title emerged, as it should, from an understanding of the book. I realized my main characters, Liz and Dante, would never get out of the mess they were in unless they found middle ground. And since they were in the middle of nowhere, the place for which they were searching had to be The Middle of Somewhere. The moment I said it aloud, I knew it was the one.
Talk about one thing that’s making you happy right now.
Food always makes me happy, and cooking is my antidote to writing. Creating a novel is such a drawn-out endeavor and I’m an impatient person, so it’s gratifying to be able to make something, enjoy it and be done with it, all in a couple hours. Lately I’ve developed an obsession with sourdough artisan bread. My daughter told me how to make a rye sourdough starter from flour and water. She calls hers Ryeley and mine, being a bit Southern, is Rye-Anne. I’m fascinated by the variety of tastes and textures possible with simple combinations of flour, water, salt, and the occasional seed. These breads take a long time to make—it starts the night before—but little hands-on time, and the loaves have been just fabulous. There’s a lot of terminology (banneton, polish, autolyze, oven spring) and technique (envelope folds, boule shaping, retarding), perfect for a geek like me.
Where do you love to be?
Outside. I grew up in Vermont, which I think we can all agree has some lovely outsides. My father was a tennis pro, ski instructor and a mountain climber, and neither of my parents could stand to have us lazing around inside. In the summer, my mother used to push the three of us out the door in the morning, making it clear we weren’t to return unless we’d severed a limb. Well, okay, we were allowed a pit stop for lunch, but then it was back to the fields, the woods, the river. I learned to walk with skis strapped to my boots.
I’m addicted to fresh air and natural beauty. While partial to the mountains and rivers I was imprinted on, I love to explore all variety of landscapes, the wilder the better. My husband has the same hankering, and we are working our way through a list of places. Recently we’ve traipsed over the Pyrenees, and the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, and only a few years back, we hiked the 220-mile John Muir Trail, which became the setting for my latest book.
Share something that’s always guaranteed to make you laugh.
It’s not hard to get a laugh out of me—Mel Brooks films, slapstick, fart jokes—they all work for me. I was listening to a radio interview the other day with Bob Manikoff, the cartoon editor for The New Yorker. He was explaining about different types of humor, how some people only enjoy jokes that are realistic, while others prefer more open jokes. As example of the latter, he mentioned a recent cartoon called Paninis of the Old West. Because it was radio, I didn’t actually see the cartoon and he didn’t describe it, but the concept had me giggling for days after.
One last laugh: Kaspar Hauser’s Spicy Pony Head. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPsII0V-8Y0
Do you have any phobias?
Styrofoamophobia. I kid you not. One squeak and I’m done for.
Thanks for stopping by Sonja! You can learn more about Sonja and her brilliant books at one of the many internet corners that she visits.
Sonja Yoerg, author of House Broken and Middle of Somewhere, earned her Ph.D. in Biopsychology from the University of California at Berkeley. She also published a non-fiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox (Bloomsbury USA). Sonja lives in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.