I’m really excited to share my first interview of 2019! Coincidently, it is one of my all-time favorite writers: Marcy Dermansky.
I read Bad Marie for the first time a few years ago. Drawn to the title and the cover art, I soon found myself rushing home from everyday life to read it. Marie is a flawed, vulnerable, and impulsive character, which is my favorite type of women to read in fiction. I promptly read The Red Car, Dermansky’s other novel, which also found its way on to my favorite list with another realistic, passionate female character trying to figure out her life and navigate through her desires. I can’t recommend these novels enough.
Which is why I was absolutely thrilled that Marcy Dermansky responded to my email and agreed to this interview! We talk about character development, point of view and her new novel, out in July.
Let’s talk about “Bad Marie.” What drew you to the idea of having a “bad” or seemingly unlikeable character who makes some questionable life choices? As a writer, this seems like it would be a fun challenge. Did building the character of Marie flow naturally for you?
Marie came easy to me. This book started with the image of Marie in the bath tub with a little girl and a glass of whiskey – and it went from there. She was bad from page one.
I had also seen a very arty French movie where a young woman who sleeps with a man she meets at a disco. They instantly fall in love. And then the next day, the next day, he robs a bank. She runs off with him. I kept thinking about what it would be like to be that woman. And she becomes Marie.
Marie is actually one of my all-time favorite characters because I love reading about the flawed and unapologetic, especially women. Do you think it's important to showcase all types of women in your writing, even the unlikeable? Why?
I am so glad you love her so much. I do, too. I liked Marie from the start. There was a never a moment when I did not like her or find her unsympathetic and I think that is maybe why I could write a character who runs off with someone else’s kid and keep the reader turning the pages. I also knew that no harm would ever come to Caitlin. I suppose the reader didn’t know that – but that makes for good suspense.
I think it is sort of a strange question in a sense: the likeable character. Let’s say you had a character who never did anything to upset a reader. They would be so boring.
Do you think you would ever write a novel from the perspective of a man? What are your thoughts on writing from the perspective of the opposite gender?
I wrote three novels all from the female POV, but with my fourth book, my new one, VERY NICE, I write from the perspective of two men. And three women. Lots of different points of view. It was so much fun. It wasn’t hard to write. I was surprised. I just channeled the voice of whoever I was writing. To some extent, every character in every book I write is a little bit me. My mother once told me that is the same for the people in your dreams.
In your novel, “Twins,” we move back in forth from Chloe’s perceptive to Sue’s. What were some of the challenges you encountered when writing two points of view? What was your favorite part about it? Did you favor one twin over the other?
“Twins” was a first novel. It started from Sue’s POV and I did not know that I was going to write Chloe at all. And then I got stuck. The best way, whenever you are stuck in your writing, I think, is to switch POVS. You learn so much about all of your characters. Sue was very much my favorite, I was all team Sue, but then, once I started writing Chloe’s voice, I started caring about her, too.
I read that your first draft for “The Red Car” only took you six months to complete. What do you think it was about this story that allowed you to write it in such a short period of time? Do you think writing needs to be difficult, with outlines and extensive planning? Or are you more of the idea that it should flow naturally?
I wrote The Red Car quickly but there was a long time in between books. Six years. When I was taking care of a baby and sort of struggling to find the right story and so I think that partially explains the speed when I finally found a story that clicked. Also, the book is short.
I find for me that one of my greatest difficulties is starting. What do I write about next? That is hard. There is this idea that writing itself has to be hard. That you have to struggle and write draft after draft after draft and tear out your hair. And that certainly can be true, but it also doesn’t have to be. I personally don’t plan extensively because I like to be surprised; I know it is very different for other writers. I don’t think there is a right way.
What can you tell us about your new book, “Very Nice,” out in July of this year? (P.s. I’m so excited)
Yes, it comes out on July 2, 2019! I am so glad you are excited. Me, too.
This book started with a short story about a student who has an affair with her writing professor. Like I mentioned earlier, I was having fun with POVs in this novel, so in the second chapter, I write about the mother of the student. Chapter three: the writing professor. And then, before I knew it, I had a love triangle. Something I have never done before. Melodrama. I really went for it.
Without even meaning to, I also ended up writing about politics. It’s a contemporary book, so the characters are thinking about current events – the outcome of the presidential election, the MeToo movement, guns in schools. It’s all in there.
And I go back to standard poodles. There was a poodle in Twins, too. In real life, I have become more of a cat person and maybe that will be reflected in new material.
What writers have made the biggest impact on your life? Do you have a mantra or piece of advice that helps you through writer's block or a creativity lull?
I love so many writers. When I was younger, I used to read compulsively, everything I could get my hands on. I have slowed down lately, I probably watch too much TV, but I think the more you read, the better.
I started The Red Car as a writing exercise, imitating one of my favorite writers Haruki Murakami. And then, okay, I will list some others: Joy Williams, Frederick Barthelme, Mary Robison, Deborah Eisenberg.
Can you speak about your writing process? Do you have special rituals or a specific routine?
I like to write early in the day. Before everything else. After getting my daughter off to school. Before doing my editing work or stupid errands that need to be done or cleaning up. Though, sometimes, I exercise first. That can also throw me. I feel like if I write first thing, then I feel virtuous all day. And if I wait, then I feel bad. Sometimes feeling bad about oneself is the perfect motivation.
Otherwise, I am not that fussy. I wrote most of my last novels in cafes. You give up a lot of control writing that way. The café can be crowded, there can be bad music, annoying people, etc., but I find that it is good for me to get out of my own home. Where something will almost always distract me.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished The Other Americans by Laila Lalami. It’s coming out in March. It’s another novel with many different points of views. While the plot focuses on solving the mystery of a man’s death, there was an unlikely romance that I found incredibly compelling. I was just rooting and rooting for her characters, which made me turn the pages.
Marcy Dermansky is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The Red Car, Bad Marie and Twins. Very Nice will be released on July 2, 2019.