Mo Daviau broke into the literary scene with her quirky, exciting, and compulsively readable novel EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE. NPR called it a "bittersweet, century-hopping odyssey of love, laced with weird science, music geekery, and heart-wrenching laughs...a wise, witty, whipcrack sci-fi romp about how our passions can both lift us up and hold us back."
When Karl Bender, a thirty-something bar owner, discovers a time-traveling portal in his closet, he and his best friend build a business around sending friends back in time to attend their favorite bands' concerts. This funny and endearing debut novel also asks a profound question about what we would do if given the chance to rewrite our past. EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE just released in paperback and is the perfect gift for the literary fiction reading, music-loving, time-traveling enthusiast in your life.
Tell us the story behind the story. How did EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE come to be?
I started Every Anxious Wave in 2010, on a night where I was home alone and decided that every life decision I had made as an adult had led me to despair and ruin. Which wasn't true, but let's just say I was depressed. I had this idea that if I cranked up one song loud enough--in my case it was "Sally Wants" by the band Henry's Dress, I could bend the space-time continuum and propel myself back to 1995, where I would make entirely different choices. That, of course, didn't happen, but I did start writing the novel that night.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE?
Continuity. In writing something very long over a span of years, you are going to make many continuity errors. Changing hair colors, location, where the characters are located in a room. I made many of those. Fortunately, I had good early readers to catch such things.
What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?
True love will find you in the end. Which is also a song by Daniel Johnston.
Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits?
I never outline. I spent a decade of my life doing improv comedy in Austin. I approach writing like I'm doing a very long improv scene in my head by myself. I do take notes, though, and I make a point to show up to work on the novel at the same time every day. Mostly persistence, and allowing myself a lousy day at the office every now and then.
What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?
Literally on my nightstand right now is my favorite relationship self-help book, How to Be an Adult in Relationships by David Richo. He's a Buddhist psychotherapist, and this book helps you be more empathic in your relationships. It's a wise book, and one I tell people about often. I just finished The Narrow Door by Paul Lisicky, which I recommend to everyone who has friends and loves them.
Which authors inspire you?
Lidia Yuknavitch. It's hard to be around her and not burst into tears. She lives in Portland, too, and I took a workshop with her a few weeks ago. Her approach to just loving yourself, as hard as it is, on the page, is stunning. She was very kind about me sloppy-crying on her shoulder at the end of the workshop. And though she's been gone for a while now, Grace Paley and her activism and her wisdom and the way she wrote of the complex emotional lives of mid-twentieth century women. Her short story, "Goodbye and Good Luck," is a masterpiece.
What have you learned from this experience?
That you can write an entire novel and see it all the way through to publication, and then sit down to write another one and find that there is no muscle memory from writing the first. Writing the second one has been surprisingly difficult. Maybe it's just that I'm putting more pressure on myself this time around.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Seek out support in your writing while consciously avoiding the tendency to give others too much influence over your work. Take a class, start or join a critique group, apply for that MFA if it is not a financial burden to do so. Find your people, but make sure you're still you when you write.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Trust your gut. It's an in-born mechanism that is essential to survival. And your gut is usually correct.
What are you working on now?
A new novel. This one is a romantic comedy inspired by a trip I took last year to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. I'm sort of obsessed with relationship advice and gurus right now, so this book explores the somewhat dangerous idea that someone else knows you better than you know yourself.
Joan Didion famously explained that she writes "entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear." Why do you write?
I've been writing since I was eight. I don't know what else I'd do with myself. I love words. The English language is an imperfect medium for art, but those words are what I have and what I do best with. I'm still figuring a lot of things out in life--love, empathy, passion, creation--and its nice to have other people as readers, if their journeys somehow dovetail mine. I'm always on the lookout for kindred souls.
MO DAVIAU was born in Fresno, California and proclaimed her life goal of publishing a novel at the age of eight. Mo is also a solo performer, having performed at storytelling shows such as Bedpost Confessions and The Soundtrack Series. She is a graduate of Smith College and the Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan where Every Anxious Wave won a Hopwood Award. Mo lives in Portland, Oregon. Every Anxious Wave is her first novel.