Amy DeBellis, author of our December fiction selection “Pit Stop,” chats about how long it took her to draft this story, when she knows something is ready to submit, and how the brain is like a sponge.
Can you talk a little bit about where your idea from this story originated? What sparked the idea? Or is it something that you had been thinking about for a while?
I’ve always been fascinated by in-between spaces (gas stations, rest stops, hotels), not only because of the creepy, slightly surreal vibes (think liminal spaces), but also because they provide an opportunity to pull a cloak over your true self. The people you meet at these places are often not who they appear to be. They could be making up any story about themselves that they want — and so could you. I also wanted to write about fear, and the weird, often paradoxical things we do when we’re frightened.
Tell us a little bit about the process—how long did it take you to write the story? What was revision like?
It took me a couple of days. I wrote most of it in a single evening, and then went back the next morning and completed it. After that, I took another day or two to read it through a couple of times and make minor edits. Most of these edits looked like substituting a different word, or deleting/adding an adjective here or there.
What is your favorite scene, moment, or line from your story? Why?
My favorite line is the last one. I actually thought of it pretty early on—it was probably one of the first lines I wrote in the entire piece. This happens to me a lot when I’m writing; the last line comes to me before I’ve got the other 90% of the story figured out. This is actually very helpful because it gives me something to work toward.
What do you do when you feel stuck in your writing? How do you work through blocks?
If I feel stuck, I read some really good books or short stories or poems. I never try to force it. I’ve had months where I’ve written nothing, and weeks where I’ve churned out piece after piece. Inspiration will come when it comes.
How did you know you were done with your piece? And when did you feel ready to submit it?
I knew I was done with it when I realized any change I could make would be making it different but not necessarily better. For example, I could change words around by substituting synonyms, but after a certain point, you’ve already chosen the best possible word. I think I started submitting it the same day that I finished editing it. Why wait?
If you could give writers one piece of encouragement or advice, what would it be?
Read as much as you can, particularly in the style that you want to emulate. I feel like so many writers focus on writing and being published and all that, but they neglect to read. The brain can act like a sponge: if you read a lot of incredible books and stories, that will absolutely leak into your own writing.