Thursday, February 07, 2013

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Missy Marston

As explained in her National Post Afterword columns, Missy Marston loves Margaret Atwood, aliens and Donald Sutherland. Her first novel, The Love Monster, is an ode to all three. She has been called “an irreverent Canadian” by Commentary Magazine and “weird, funny and moving” by The Globe and Mail. She is fine with that.

She blogs:

And tweets @missymarston

1 - How did your first book change your life?
The thrill of seeing The Love Monster in print was profound. It was the first evidence that my long-held belief that I was a writer was not just a fantasy. It felt like the universe was giving me permission to write another book.

The book also came at a point when my life was already changing: my oldest son was leaving for university. I was very lucky to have this giant thing come into my life as I was facing the beginning of the end of parenthood being the main focus of my daily life. I am not sure how I would have coped otherwise.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
The honest answer is probably that I received praise from teachers for poems I wrote as a child, which made me want to write more poems and read more poems. Then I was hooked. I have always loved the economy and daring of poetry.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
My first book took me six years. (I was raising kids and working full time. And losing faith in the project about once a month.) I hope my next one doesn’t take as long.

I tend to write from beginning to end – not in bits and pieces – and then make additions later, where needed.

4 - Where does a poem or fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
When I started writing The Love Monster, I knew it would be a novel. I knew how the story would begin and end. I knew who the two main characters would be: a bitter, divorced woman named Margaret Atwood (no relation) and a lovesick green alien. The rest came as I wrote.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love doing readings but they make me nervous as hell. But, I always feel great after. It is very encouraging to meet people who have read and enjoyed your book.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
The question I was trying to answer with The Love Monster is simple: How can an adult human being be happy? What is the method?

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Different writers have different roles. I wanted to make people laugh and to suggest that redemption is possible. That love, music, art, and a positive attitude can save you.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Editing is tough and humbling, but some of the best writing in my book was a result of the prodding of my editor, Andrew Steinmetz

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Assume that most things are more complicated than they appear. 

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction to non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
It seems that poetry was what I wanted to write before I had kids and fiction is what I wanted to write after. I don’t know why. I just write what I feel like writing.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I try to write one day a week. Typically, I start by editing the last few pages I have written and then I try to push the story forward. On a good day, I write a thousand words. The best days, I am alone in the house, have an early start and a thermos of tea. No phone calls. No e-mail. No facebook.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Walks, baths or housework (especially folding laundry). Something that requires no thought but takes me away from the task at hand for a while. Works almost every time.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Apples rotting on the ground. And that springtime muddy, swampy riverbank smell.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
The Love Monster is packed with artists of all kinds: Lou Reed, Prince, Warren Zevon, the real Margaret Atwood, Donald Sutherland, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The book would have been impossible without the influence of music and visual art on my life. It is certainly about those things and their power to heal or at least distract.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I have a number of heroes: Martin Amis for combining humour with the sad and serious reality of human life, Joyce Carol Oates for pace and terrifying emotional truth, Salman Rushdie for knowing absolutely everything, Ian McEwan for sheer wizardry. Margaret Atwood for being what I always wanted to be when I grew up.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Witness the birth of a child. Obviously, I was there for the birth of my own kids, but I was not in my right mind.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
Let me answer a different question. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would make my husband stay home with me until we learned to play and sing every song on Tallahassee by The Mountain Goats. I would love that.

I would also write books, of course.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Writing has always made me happy.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis. His best yet. Which is saying something.

Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson. Like beautiful time travel.

20 - What are you currently working on?
A new novel. About teen pregnancy, dangerous driving and sea creatures.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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