THE OA: I’ve heard that early in your career, agents and publishers were trying to direct you toward a strict genre style.
DW: They were trying to. My first agent really felt that was the path for me. If you’re writing, and not excited by it, and getting some kind of interior pleasure out of it—that’s difficult to explain to people who haven’t experienced it—you really shouldn’t do it. In terms of a moneymaking profession, you can find faster ways of making money.
THE OA: Then you gravitated to writing about the great and mysterious Ozarks.
DW: This region is just not really well defined in most people’s minds. People don’t understand that you can go out in the woods and run into some stained-glass artist from Long Beach. Eureka Springs has got two or three classical artists who have chosen to live there for one reason or another. I mean, you don’t know what you’ll run into out here.
…THE OA: You wrote for quite a few years before garnering any recognition.
DW: I wrote for ten years for nothing. And I wrote almost every day. I kept going because I liked doing it. If you really don’t like doing it, it’ll show up pretty soon. I filled up boxes of stuff that didn’t go anywhere. But I needed to do that. And I don’t think of myself as an incredibly fast learner. I learned at the pace that I learned at. But I’m told that ten years is about right. I had to emotionally develop. It’s an emotional thing as well as a technical thing. And I had technique before I had the other. The emotional honesty is what really takes you further and further. It’s an evolving thing.
…THE OA: Did it take you some time to find your writing voice? Did it evolve or was there a moment when you felt like you achieved it?
DW: At Iowa, a friend of mine and writer, Leigh Allison Wilson, was sitting around with Katie one day, laughing at a story I was telling them, and Leigh said, “How come you never do that in your fiction? Your fiction is cold and hard and stone-faced and chiseled. That isn’t even who you are in your private life, you’re so different from that.” And Katie said, “You know what, that’s true.” That’s a comment from a friend that ended up being very influential. I don’t even think she knows how influential that ended up being.
[Illustration by Kate Oberg]