It’s my pleasure to welcome award-winning author Marilyn Brant as the special guest blogger at Thoughts in Progress today.
Marilyn has been busy with the Sept. 28 release of her book, FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE. She stops by today to talk about her writing and the book. In addition, Marilyn is offering a signed copy of FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE to one lucky visitor who comments on her post between now and 8 p.m. next Thursday, Oct. 14. Be sure to include your e-mail address with your comment, if it’s not included in your profile. Marilyn will also try to stop back by during the day so if you have any questions for her. Now for some questions for Marilyn.
What’s the premise of your latest novel, FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE?
Each Friday morning at the Indigo Moon Café, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara meet to swap stories about marriage, kids and work. But one day, spurred by recent e-mails from her college ex, Jennifer poses questions they've never faced before. What if they all married the wrong man? What if they're living the wrong life? And what would happen if, just once, they gave in to temptation…? Soon each woman is second-guessing the choices she's made -- and the ones she can unmake -- as she becomes aware of new opportunities around every corner, from attentive colleagues and sexy neighbors to flirtatious past lovers. And as fantasies blur with real life, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara begin to realize how little they know about each other, their marriages and themselves, and how much there is to gain -- and lose -- when you step outside the rules.
What was your favorite scene/chapter from the book?
One chapter I had a lot of fun writing in FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE was an adults-only Halloween costume party in the middle of the book. It made for a long, complicated chapter (I felt as though I practically had to choreograph it), but it’s a major turning point in the story for all three of the women. Some very serious things are happening in regards to each of their marriages, but those dramatic moments are juxtaposed against an absolutely absurd party setting, which made laugh whenever I tried to visualize the event.
What was most important to you in the writing of this story?
I’m always trying to be honest about the complexities of human emotion, particularly in regards to relationships. I would say with FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, the biggest issue I wanted to explore was not so much the concept of “cheating” as a theme but, rather, the far less titillating subject of “choosing.” That a woman can really only be in a relationship fully -- marital or otherwise -- once she understands how and why she’s chosen to be there. That she has to look closely enough and listen deeply enough to know who she is and what she wants. And that in every romantic relationship or good friendship, she chooses over and over again (either consciously or unconsciously) whether she wants to stay. I believe that’s true of all of us, and I wanted my characters in this story to move from unconsciously living very unexamined lives to consciously, actively making a choice about where they were headed.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
From conversations I overhear, things my friends tell me, funny stuff that happened in my family, incidents I’ve observed out in public, stories I’ve read in books or seen on TV and those endless “what if?” questions writers always ask themselves.
What got you writing contemporary women's fiction?
I love reading contemporary women’s fiction stories -- both dramatic and humorous. They were not only what got me into the genre, but they were what inspired me to be a writer in the first place. Aside from a lifelong love of classic Jane Austen, I really enjoyed the domestic dramas of Sue Miller, Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg, as well as the lighter touch of Pamela Redmond Satran, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Susan Wiggs and Jane Porter. I wanted to find a way to merge the relationship themes explored in my favorite novels with my own humor and writing style and, hopefully, be able to write stories that would resonate with other women.
What's your favorite thing about being a writer?
Getting to do something creative every single day! Truly, that’s been such a gift. Even when the plotting of a scene is giving me fits or the synopsis doesn’t seem to make sense at all…I love knowing that I have a place to play with these characters and storylines. My hope is that by writing about women’s dreams and experiences as honestly as possible, I might get closer to helping readers recognize truths about their own lives. It was this sense of “recognition” that my favorite novelists gave to me, and I'll always be grateful for that.
What is your process? Are you a night or day writer? A pantser or plotter?
I write during the day (when everyone is out of the house) and late into the night (when everyone is asleep) in my home office -- a messy place, cluttered with stacks of paper and towers of books, but also a very nice window overlooking our backyard. Sometimes I’ll write at a local coffee shop -- either with my laptop or, most often, just by hand on notebook paper -- and that has the advantage of endless cups of coffee and occasional snacks. As for my process, I’m a very slow writer. It’s rare that I can draft more than a page or two in an hour. I obsessively reread and wordsmith before moving on to the next scene, which in no way means that I don’t also revise again (multiple times) at the end of a manuscript. It takes me about 9-10 months to completely write a women’s fiction book from start to finish. I plot loosely, trying to outline the basic action of a scene, and I LOVE Blake Snyder’s “beat sheet” for an overall plot arc. But when I actually draft a scene, the narrative details and dialogue are all spontaneous. So I guess I’m a plotter-pantser mix. A plotser?!
What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel published?
Don’t follow trends just because you think it’ll be an easier sell. And write the books that fit your voice. If what you love writing happens to be a hot-selling genre, great. If your writing voice happens to be perfect for the genre you want to write in and love to read, that’s awesome, too. But -- if not -- write long and hard enough to find what DOES fit you and your style best. Because then, even if it takes longer to make that first sale than you expect, you’re writing the kinds of stories you most enjoy, and that passion has a way of working itself into the projects you’re creating.
What's next for you?
I’m in the process of beginning blog tours, library visits, book-club chats and other public events featuring my second novel, FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, which is a Doubleday Book Club and Book-of-the-Month Club selection for October 2010, as well as still doing some fun Austen-related promo for my debut novel, ACCORDING TO JANE. I’ve just turned in my third novel, tentatively titled THE GRAND EUROPEAN (due out from Kensington in October 2011), which is a modern “A ROOM WITH A VIEW”-like travel adventure. It has characters who play chess, Sudoku and Mah-jongg, eat lots Italian gelato and linguini, and spontaneously sing Andrew Lloyd Webber songs and other musical-theater selections. Finally, I’m starting the writing process all over again for my next women’s fiction project, which I’m really excited about… I’ll, hopefully, be able to share more info on that story soon!
Marilyn, thanks so much for sharing this with us today. Thinking “what if” does lead one’s mind in so many directions. Best of luck with FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, as well your new adventure too.
For more on Marilyn and her writing, be sure to check out her website at www.marilynbrant.com
So, now ‘what if’ about your life will you ponder today?