The Interview: Patricia Steffy
KB: Welcome to Kissing Bandits Blog! Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Thank you for having me here!
Five years ago (can’t believe it has been that long already) I left my analyst job for a major corporate law firm to go looking for something else. I had been there nearly 17 years, and I decided I wanted to pursue something with actual intention. I was already writing in my spare time, and I had been doing some indie film producing. Finally, I took the leap and quit. I’m now a full-time author, screenwriter and travel writer living in Los Angeles and looking for ways to make my stories (and the stories of others) touch people.
“My Letter to Fear” was my first completed project following the break with my old life.
KB: Tell us a little bit about your most recent release.
“My Letter to Fear” is a collection of essays based on interviews with a group of women from around the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia. The idea was sparked after a conversation with a therapist friend of mine who told me about a letter-writing technique used in therapy. Basically, people write letters to whatever issues they are dealing with at the time: anxiety, depression, loss, addiction, fear, etc. I started to wonder what I would say to the issues that I was dealing with at the time (major life changes) and what my friends would say. The interviews grew from there as the initial set of questions was refined and then spread by my friends to their friends and family and so on. There were no restrictions on ethnicity, age, sexual preference, etc., and in the end, the group was quite diverse. I wanted to see if there were any universally relatable issues. It turns out, the answer was “Yes!”
The collection is by turns funny, ridiculous, heartbreaking, frustrating and hopeful – much like life. It covers issues like beauty myths, aging, unmet life expectations, dating, addiction, abuse and rape, among others. It’s about starting over, and it’s about strength.
Pieces from the final collection were presented as part of a staged reading with some really fabulous actresses. You can see clips of it here: http://www.patriciasteffy.com/showcase/
KB: What was your defining moment as a writer?
There have been two staged readings for the book – the first was when the book was largely pieces from a blog I was writing and the second was after 40-45 more had been written and “My Letter to Fear” had just been published. While I felt accomplished getting the book published and sent out into the world, I can’t quite describe the power of seeing people react to my words at those readings. Hearing people laugh, seeing the tears, watching the nods of understanding – those things were not only encouraging but an example of how my words could actually impact people.
Similarly, I wrote a 10-episode comedy web series called “Dating in LA and Other Urban Myths.” We filmed a sizzle reel for it, and again that rush of seeing my words come to life around me was pretty incredible. You can see it here: https://vimeo.com/77469627
KB: What made you want to become a writer?
I feel like I’ve always been writing in some ways. I distinctly remember writing what is now called “fan fiction” long before that was a thing. But even with that, I didn’t really consider doing anything professionally until around 2010. I had been writing a blog, but not under my own name, and a friend of mine was reading it (not initially knowing that I was the one writing it). When she mentioned it, and I fessed up about writing it, she immediately suggested that there was a television or web series in it. It took a little while for me to get used to the idea, but eventually the scripts started coming for it.
Once the idea of really being able to communicate ideas and stories to a larger audience took hold, there was no looking back.
KB: Pick out one of the best lines in your essays. What do you love about it?
There are so many, but this one always grabs me:
“Well, the good news is at 24 people are still worried about your self-esteem. If you complete any task before 25 people will refer to you as precocious. After 25 the only things you’ll be precocious at is death.” From Perspective in “My Letter to Fear”
The line seems emblematic of so many of the issues women struggle with when they look at their lives and compare it to the expectations they had for their lives at a younger age. It’s also an interesting perspective on life. If you feel that you are struggling, you read that line as a rather grim truth. If you feel successful, you can wryly appreciate it, but you know that you still have choices, options and opportunities in front of you.
KB: What are your top three guilty pleasures?
Can I list chocolate for all three of them? No? Let’s leave chocolate at the top of the list.
For the second, I will admit to having a strange obsession with HGTV and those “Tiny House” shows. I love watching how they design these very small spaces to fit so many different purposes. Ingenious! Of course, I also like to believe that I could live in that space with my boyfriend without going insane. That might be optimistic.
The third one probably involves wine tastings. I didn’t really find a love and appreciation for the complexity of wine (or the wine-making process) until 2009. I now belong to a wine club where I’ve learned so much and had such a good time with friends doing it!
KB: What kinds of female characters do you prefer to write?
I love exploring flawed characters. I create female characters with struggles, and not all of the feelings they express are noble. Perfect people with perfect responses don’t move me nearly as much as people who flounder and then get back up again.
What I think is interesting is that writers will often get push back from people when the main female character does some questionable, even unlikeable things. This seems less true when you create anti-hero male lead characters. To my mind, if the character is interesting and the story is compelling, I’m still going to want to see their journey, even if I don’t always applaud their actions.
My Letter to Fear by Patricia Steffy
Over the course of two years, Steffy conducted interviews with the fabulous women around her and their equally fantastic friends. She put no restrictions on age, or ethnicity. They just needed to be willing to answer some questions. The questions covered a variety of topics, including aging, body image, abuse, rape, addiction, confidence, loss, beauty myths, and fear. Steffy asked them about the expectations they had for their lives when they were very young versus their current realities as adults. She asked them to tell her the best things about themselves (a question which was surprisingly difficult for people to answer) and the worst things. Those answers—the funny, the heartbreaking, and the hysterical—and her own experiences became the basis for these essays.
From Pieces of Her
After a particularly bad week, she startled at the image before her in the mirror. There had been a flash, something fleeting and unrecognizable. It was her, but not. She was cold and in pieces—a sort of marble statue that had become smaller and more marred with each lie she told, each one she accepted. And somehow she knew that the lies she had told herself had done as much damage as the lies she had told others. …
In addition to the war on pubic hair, do the women of Los Angeles now have to wonder if the color of their anal ring is pleasing? Should we be shooting for pearl, or something so white that the glow can be seen from space? “Roger, Houston. We can see the Great Wall of China, the San Andreas fault line and some girl’s anal ring.” …
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Patricia Steffy attended Kenyon College and American University. She is a recent refugee from the corporate world where she worked as an analyst for a law firm for more than 16 years. An escape plan started to develop as she pursued her interests as a writer and producer through Circe’s World Films. She has been involved in co- and exec-producing a number of feature and short films ranging from broad comedy to psychological drama, including the award-winning short Touch. She is currently developing Dating in LA and Other Urban Myths as a web series. The series is based on her long-running blog of the same name.
Pieces from My Letter to Fear were featured in a one-night only special showcase event. The showcase was directed by Danielle Turchiano and featured readings from Nikki DeLoach (Awkward.), Lesley Fera (Pretty Little Liars), Stevie Lynn Jones (Crisis), Jen Lilley (Days of Our Lives), Roma Maffia (Pretty Little Liars), Dennisha Pratt (The Sunny Side Up Show), and Carla Renata (Hart of Dixie). You can see excerpts from the readings here: http://www.patriciasteffy.com/showcase/
Book Buy Links
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Patricia Steffy will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.