Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 year ago

Friends & Fictin with Marisa de los Santos

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Poet and bestselling novelist Marisa de los Santos joins the Fab Five to talk about about her latest novel I'D GIVE ANYTHING, as well as her writing process and the cross section of poetry and novels, the powerful women who have influenced her life, and her collaborative relationship with her writer husband David Teague. https://www.harpercollins.com/blogs/authors/marisa-de-los-santos

Welcome to Friends and fiction. Five best selling authors and the stories novelist Mary Kay Andrews, Christine Harmel, Christie Woodson, Harvey, Patty Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Munro are five longtime friends with more than 80 published books to their credit. In 2020 they created friends and fiction to provide author interviews and fascinating insider talk about publishing and writing and to highlight independent bookstores. Thes friends discuss the books they've written, books they're reading now and the Art of Storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Hi, everybody. It is Wednesday night, which means it is friends in Fiction Night and we're so glad that you're here because tonight I am hosting and we're going to welcome the astounding author Marissa Delos Santos. I am Patty Callahan, Henry. I'm Mary Alice Munro, America Andrews. I'm Christine Harmel and I'm Christie Woodson Harvey, and we have an amazing night in store. Tonight we're diving into the world of Marissa Delos Santos. We're going to hear about the cross section between poetry and fiction. We're gonna talk about where stories begin, where they come from and where we're going to gather around the warm bonfire of each other and talk about how do we get through these winter blahs? And of course, we're not gonna let Marissa get away without a writing tip. So, Marissa way before we dive in, we wanted to shout out Are amazing sponsor Mama Geraldine's and tell them Thank you so much, actually, just posted on Instagram. My boys love Wednesday nights as much as I do because we have dinner late. So that means that we get to have Mama Geraldine snacks before I'm a big fan of the gluten free aged cheddar cheese straws. That's what I was eating tonight. They were having the key lime cookies, which will loves because he gets to cookies before dinner. So what could be better than that s Oh, please don't forget to use the code Fab Five to get 20% off of your mama Geraldine's order. And, um, they're just the best. So if you haven't tried them, make sure you dio and welcome Marissa. You blew onto the seas. Welcome over. So glad you're here. So glad you blew onto the scene with and love walked in in 2005 and your new book. I'd give anything. Just came out this May, and we're going to be talking about it. But you're in Delaware right now, right? Is it freezing? Is it cold? It is. It is actually really cold. We've had a mild winter so far, and we haven't had much snow at all. There was some talk of snow now, but I think it went in some other direction. But it's cold and damp and that kind of cold that gets in your bones. So we're still spending tons of time outside, which is what we've done with our fear. Um, but we are bundling up really? Like four layers. I mean, my son, who's who's 21 wears shorts sometimes. But I wear multiple layers and, you know, £10 jacket e usually look like an Eskimo. So how are you getting through the winter blues? How are you? Do you get them? How do you beat them? Um, you know, this year is different from from other years. I usually spend I feel like as much time as possible in the winter in, um, my friend's kitchens. Um, while they cook talking glass wine. Ah,...

...lot of cozy monkey family, friends type of stops this year. Less of that. We are. But what? One thing that I think has really gotten us through, Um Thistle. And it's still even in the winter. Getting us through is just being outside as much as weekend long hikes. We have lots of beautiful green space, um, in Delaware and in just over the line in Chester County, Pennsylvania. So we've been outside Ah, lot on bond and nights by the fire pit under the sky are that's, that's, I think. What what gets us through always, But especially now when I can't be in my friend's kitchen while she makes spaghetti soft, we talk and you know, lots of cheese. I am eating lots of cheese, but yeah, that's the best feature of it. E Hmm. Well, I have to say for me, um, it's you're doing absolutely the right thing, Marissa, because the sunlight is such makes such a big difference. I suffer from what a lot of people called have, and it's called seasonal affective disorder. It's really quite common. It's they call it sad, which is, ah, seasonal. It's brought on by the change of seasons, so it starts, usually in the fall, and it goes all through the winter and it's different than winter blahs. It's more a. It's a mild form of depression, actually on. And so the best way to fight it is to get outdoors. Just like you were saying, Marissa, I have these full spectrum lights that you can put up in your office and turn on and sit under it and actually helps a lot. But just getting outside. And I think with Cove in so many of us are staying inside all the time. Now we're not going out like we used to just getting in the car and going somewhere. So you you gave the right prescription. Marissa, get outdoors and get that sunshine on you. Even if you go to the front porch and you sit on and a chair and read a book for a little while, Yeah, that'll help. It makes a huge difference. E think that saves saved us from, you know, strangling each other and a T home for much of the time. And, um and all of us just that that's what helps all of us. So we're outside. We're moving, not moving. It really doesn't matter. And the cold doesn't bother me as much as the gray. So if it's a blue Sky Day, I'm going to spend all day out there if I can, working out there, whatever, even if it's cold, Um, gray skies or what? Get me So the lights all around I can see how that would be a huge help. Yeah, well, I'm a Leo, and I find myself following the sun around my house looking for that. Looking for that? That splash of light with my laptop. I'm like a cat s. So I followed house with my with my laptop and all, you know, cozy in a corner with the sun splashing on me. But when it gets really dark and gray in Atlanta, especially in February, I get in my car and run away to Florida E which is a perfect segue into what I do. Which you guys, it's live in Florida all the time. E stumbled upon the secret. Don't don't all come at once, but I'm telling you, E realized Sean might just boot me off the broadcast right now when I say this. But you guys, it was like 82 degrees today. So we hate you. E mean, tomorrow it's gonna be, like, 65. So no, I e assume that sound was Mary Kay purring...

...like a cat? E. You know, honestly, I have a harder time in the middle of summer. I I love being outside and in Florida in the winter. This is the perfect time to do it. You know, we have some days like today that air 80. We have other days that air in the fifties, but the weather is usually very pleasant. Um, And in the middle of summer, when you guys are all enjoying the weather, I'm thinking, Oh, my gosh, I can't wait for the winter to get here. So it's a little bit opposite for me. Yeah, and I'm in coastal North Carolina, so we don't We don't have that many like freezing cold days, but we're actually supposed to get some wintry mix tonight. But I'm laughing at what everyone is saying because my husband called. We have this window in our third floor of our house, and he calls it my kitten window because it's always lights like it's just all the sunlight is there and I go on, like curl up and read, and, um but I think getting outside, like just everybody else said. But it will be like 65 I have on like, a vest and a parka and e came out for a walk this afternoon, and it was it was probably 60 and well, like to me. And he was like, People have climbed Mount Everest and less than what you have on E. I just I hate to be cold, so I'm with you. I was on a call with Meg this week. Meg is in the background listening to us, and she said, We're getting a wintry mix And then she said, There's no to sadder words tree mix. It's no funny. Okay, Marissa, we're going to talk about your book now. I give anything is so astounding and beautiful. It is the word I kept thinking about when I was reading. It was intimate. It was. It felt really intimate, like I was really peeking into these people's lives. I knew them. So I want you to give us your little elevator picture. Little summary of what the books about before we start talking, the book is about secrets that have been buried for a long time. 20 years? Um, it goes back and forth in time between when the main character is in high school. Eyes like 18. And it was a very has this amazing group of friends. But there's this tragedy that strikes on, did changes everything for her, and she keeps a secret for 20 years and that secret, she thinks she's like corn it out, burned it. It's gone. But it's not obviously that that that doesn't usually, uh, happened with it. So she on git interferes with her life, and it sort of takes her away not just from her friends from family members, but also from the girl that she waas. Um, this sort of adventurous, free spirited person who artistic and and puts her on a much safer path or what she thinks is a much safer path. When we meet her, she's It's 20 years later, late thirties, and her supposedly safe life falls apart. And as it does, this old secret emerges, and it really everyone has to reckon with it. You know, they all have to kind of, um, uh, figure out, you know, how do you live life when something that's been in the dark gets dragged out into the light. Um, so So that's it, I guess. In a nutshell. I'm really bad at Nut Shells, but I think that way, all our it was a really good nutshell way really kidnapped. That was an award winning nutshell. Way. Your first poet book was a poetry collection called From the Bones out. And then you made your transition into novels with Love Walked...

...in, and it was an amazing first novel or literally burst onto the scene. And I think that was 2000 and six, and it's the first of a Siri's. Is it? Four or five? Can't remember exactly how it's going to be. Four. It's okay now, the three notes. What's going Teoh is Yeah, the first two books I wrote were in that Siri's, and they're the main character named Cornelia Brown and then later the book. Before this one was called Al Beer Blue Sky, and that has Cornelia in it. But the main character is a girl named Claire, who is 11 in my first book, and I think 14 at the very end of the second book belonged to me. So what was wonderful for me is that I got to find out who Claire grew up to be, um, and spend time in her company again, and and I didn't know if I ever would, you know, And so, getting to do that with a gift. And now this book that I'm working on now has Cornelia is the main character, Andi. It's like, Ah, homecoming for me, you know, to be with people again. And I'm a kind of writer who the characters become extremely rial to me, extremely separate from me. Um, they're full fledged people in my mind. So I miss them. You know, I finished writing and it's, you know, there's a part of you I'm sure you all can relate. Like you're just like, yes, I'm done. But there's also grief like there's a bittersweet thing because I always miss my characters the second that book is off my desk. I have experience, and I know exactly what you're saying. Is that you you know them as real people outside. But what I'm sort of curious about is, as a poet, you went into novels. What prompted that decision to transition you know, it's funny that the word decision is I'm not sure applies so much here. I I was a poet, I think first, because I just love language. I think some writers come to novels or to writing through storytelling or through research or a love of history. You know, there are a lot of ways I think I came to writing through just a deep love natural love from his far back, as I can remember with words with language What? The music that they make almost separate from the meaning, the rhythm. I would fill black and white, you know, notebooks, composition books with just lift of words that I loved when I was a kid, I didn't keep a journal, really. But I just kept lists of words proper names, um, and I s o poetry, because poetry four grounds, that aspect of language, the music of language. I think that was a first natural fit. But, um, poetry for me always took this almost hyper intense kind of concentration where I am, you know, you could tinker with, like, four words for, you know, like four days when you're writing poetry and it's just this hyper intense thing. And then I had babies and they were really, really, um in many ways, terrible babies. People say good babies. Mine where the gold babies that are the opposite of that. I mean, I had board them, but they never slept. E lived across the street from an apartment in Philadelphia where my kids were born in an apartment building. That was a lot of elderly people, and these women would come and sit on the patio out there. And I would be in front of my house, sitting on my steps or pacing and trying to get my baby to stop screaming and eventually, like a little group of them. You could tell...

...they kind of discussed it. They came street to tell me, You know, we have. I have 10 Children and 95 grandchildren And what these are the worst baby E. What e didn't have the concentration, that crazy concentration, and we got it just got more and more diluted. Um, as you know, with these kids about a year old, um, this weird thing happened where I just started to hear this voice in my head. Um, that turned into my first person narrator But there was no story. I mean, it wasn't like I said, You know what? This poetry things not really working right now. I think I'm gonna try a novel. Um, as a reader, novels were always my true love. I love being immersed in another world. I love characters. Um, but as a writer, you know, it had always been poetry, but I didn't decide. I just had this voice in my head that evolved into a character. Not really a story, just a character. And then, as I got to know, her better bits and pieces of her story emerged. And then this other character emerged. Claire, who was the second? The child character. Cornelius, the adult. And then, you know, I just said, I'm going to write this down. I'm just gonna sit down. No pressure. Not, You know, I'm not writing a novel. I never wrote things that were longer than, like, three pages because I was a poet, you know, Um and and then I am at the end of like, at the end of the summer, I had maybe 60 pages or something like that, and I came down and made this huge announcement to my husband like, Okay, you know what? I think I'm writing a novel and he said, Well, okay, well, I figured, you know, like you are doing all this time, You know, um kind of crept up on me and it just happened in this really organic way. I think if I had to decide, I always would have run in the other direction, you know? I mean, I'm not. I'm in graduate school. If I had to write a 10 page paper, I was in a complete blind panic because it just felt like too much language. So and what I found and then I never really looked back. You know, I never went back to running the country because fiction scratches that word itch to, you know, And you all know this that, like, there are There are moments. There are probably paragraphs that I've written that felt like I was writing a home because important, really important moments. Like high energy, high emotion. It requires that kind of attention toe language, and that kind of like powerful or musical or whimsical or whatever it is. But the focus is on there, so I didn't miss poetry and my all my poet friends like howling right now. But I I personally I love poetry. I wanted to exist. I want other people to write it. But I found it was again. It was a homecoming, um, to to come to fiction, and so I just never look back. So you're poet friends? Probably think you went to the dark side. Welcome. Welcome. Well, it was funny because I never haven't written a poem since I started writing. Love walked in. And then I have the two friends who aren't poets, but they're dear friend here in Wilmington. And and one of them told this story about stealing plums from a plum tree in down the street from her and during cove it and on. And then my friend Sherry said, You know what? You need to write a poem about that. And I said, Well, you know, I don't really write poems. They're like, Oh, but you'll write this one...

...commissioning it. So I wrote a poem for the first time in since 2000. When I started, I guess it was like 2004. Um and yeah, it was weird. And then all my all my poet friends were like, Oh, we're going to start writing poetry again And I said E o kind of a one off e think we could put all those things things the pandemic made us dio You know, Marissa, you've been quoted as saying that your heroes were Among them are Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery and Helen Keller and Joan of Arc and Clara Barton. That is a big, great assortment of powerful women. Now I get the appeal of Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery, both of whom had beloved characters who wanted to be writers. But I wonder if you talk about the powerful women, the other powerful women who influenced your life and your decisions, Um, to be ah poet before you went to the dark side. Yeah, it's so interesting because those women, I mean, I'm a I was when I was eight years old. I think I was Clara Barton, um, for Halloween, so I would like E honey. And I'd say, I'm Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, and E was I would Jonah Harp. I was Florence Nike, but no one ever knew who I was, But I knew that it is really touching costume that you know what you are. But, you know, I just loved, um I think I just stumbled upon the right books at the right time. And I had librarians in my life Who So this girl, she likes books about women who do all the cool ground breaking things. And then I get to the library and there just be a stack for me on and And when I was a kid, I mean, I feel like I read a lot as an adult when I It's nothing compared to when I was a kid and I just lived in books. I really I tell my sister, who remembers everything about our childhood like I don't remember. I don't remember that person. I don't remember this person who lived next door to us for 15 years, but I remember all of these characters in the books. E felt like I was living in those books more so I feel like Joan of Arc was my friend. I can't remember the name of the girl who lived like two houses down, and I spent on e was good, but I don't know. I mean, I just think, you know, I I But the writing I really came to because I just love to see what happened when you put words up against each other and you know it. Zil What I love and a lot of the books that I love are books where I can point to sentences, you know, And And they have these sentences that I just wanna hang on my wall forever, you know, because they're just so, um and so I don't feel I personally don't feel like I crossed over because I feel like all of the things that I loved about poetry. I still get to play with the words like that. I still get to dio, um And when I write, I kind of right, like I write, wrote poems, you know, I write a sentence, I play around with it until it's just the way I wanted, at least in that moment, and then the next sentence just kind of grows out of it. And then I play with that one, and and if there's something wrong with a paragraph, like if I look, I'm like, there's something wrong with this the first thing I look at his rhythm. The second thing I look sound so I will say something like, Of course, this doesn't...

...work, because look at all those s sounds. It's like it's this. This paragraph is snake, you know, it's just pissing off. Or or it's so like, clunky. It's just all these hard, decent teams, clomping along so and then I revise accordingly. Um, so a lot of the process is the same. What's different and what's magical is being in the company of the characters, and that always feels like such an honor to me. Thio hang out with characters. Um, poetry was much lonelier for me. Um, so I can tell you that you have the framer hang your hat on its sentences all over this book. There are there, are there There's poetry all in it. But, you know, part of the reason we started this show was to support independent bookstores, and you chose one this week, and I am going to butcher the name of it, so I'm actually not even Why will hocus Ian Okay, awesome. Okay. Essen books in Delaware and all our listeners out there get 10% off on your books at the bookstore this week. But, Marissa, I want you to tell us why you chose this bookstore. What does this bookstore mean to you? Um, a lot of things. First of all, it's like one of the warmest places you'll ever walk into. You know, the first time I walked in, I felt like I walked. It was my 100th time walking in and people treat you. They find out what you're looking for. They find out what you like. It's a It's a great meeting place, not just for adults, but for kids. Um, they have an amazing Children's book section on bond, and they just It's just ah kind of place, you know, like you walk in, you feel immediately like someone put their arms around you and said, Come on, come in. You know it. Z And Rebecca, who runs it, is such a great friends writers because she thinks of this coolest events, Um, events that aren't just standing at a podium talking, but like we've done book bingo with my books. We've done just cool, cool stuff. She always has great, like food pairings with your book and and uses all sort of local vendors and artisans for the food. And it's just it's just one of those places that feels, as you may be able to tell them, just someone who loves things that I feel at home in and places and people and and that stores just that's the way it issue Walk in. It's It's like a homecoming, So I love it. It's tiny. It's a small wonder, like Delaware, That's our one of our slogans. Small Wonder and I feel like hocus in bookshelf. Is that also well, thanks for telling us about it. It's always better to hear it from you than to read. Read some kind of blurb about it. So thank you. It sounds like such a such a place and, you know, even just kind of the way you're painting it with your words. The way you paint everything with your words makes me want to come and embrace it and be there and experience it. E invitation accepted. We all want to see O s o Marissa, I wanted to ask you we've been talking a lot about your poetry and and the way you sort of inject that poetry and that poetic background into your novels. There were so many just beautiful lines in this book. Um, and they spoke so much of the deep love, the deep pain, the way we're all connected by that. And, you know, I write a lot about family, too, but I think I approach it from a clot. First words. Second perspective. So I kind of have the framework of the plot in place. I have the characters in place. I let...

...the story pour out of me, and then I kind of go back in and brush up the words. I'm curious. I guess I just love to hear a little bit more about your process. I mean, are you Do are you laboring over a paragraph a day? Are you, um, you know, does the music of it come to you first, and then the plot gets layered in. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? Usually it starts with a character, and, um, in this book, Jenny and her, um, alter ego, her childhood self. Zinni, um, came to me first, and I and I sort of live lived with her for a long time and got to know her and got a sense of her voice, which is extremely important. I think when I'm thinking about what a character will do is like how they will talk, Um, and how they associate things and look at the world. And Andi put that into language. So the voice, her voice was pretty one of the first things that I had, Um and that's often the way it goes. I live with characters. I know them. I know a lot of things about them that don't show up in the books. Um, because I feel like I have to in order to know what their story is. S o. I do that. And then bits and pieces of plot start to emerge. And when I first started writing, I would say for my first few books, I was flying by the seat of my pants. I was like, Let's write the first sentence and then see what happens after that, you know, And not, but not quite, because I would have certain major plot points kind of in my head. Um, And then I wrote two books for kids with my husband for middle grade books, and we alternated. So I'd write the girl chapters. 13 year old girl. He'd write the 13 year old boy chapters. But in order to do that, we had to plot it out first, right? Because much more than I was used to plotting. And so way wrote an outline, Um, for saving Lucas Biggs, which is the first book we wrote together. And it was also a complicated plot. I mean, there was time travel. If you want to make himself completely and saying Then write a book that has time, travel and travel s way had we had to have an outline. And then what happened after that is I became addicted to outlines. So onder what I loved about it was that it made me feel, um, when I came toe work, do my work for the day. It there was something in front of me apart from whatever the last sentence I wrote Waas and what I realized about outlines is so they're kind of illusory, right? Like you think I had this all planned out? I know exactly how it's gonna go. But you also in the back of your mind. No, this is probably not really how it's gonna go. But just having that in front of me, um, was great on De. So what I do now is I have the basic bare bones of the plot, and then I do a chapter by chapter outline, and I'm able to completely full myself while I'm writing the outline into thinking that this is exactly how it's all a bit Andi. Then, um, I and it's very reassuring. And then when I start writing, I write the way I described. I write a sentence, and it doesn't mean I don't go back later and change things. I haven't editor. We all of the editors who, you know, give us great advice. And so I do. But a lot of what I change is less the language, Um, and Mawr, my editor is amazing and gives me advice like you totally bailed out of this...

...moment like we need to think moment longer or it's good. I don't understand what happened here between you know, the time she got off the elevator and the time she was sitting on her couch like what happened to time there, And I say, of course, that makes makes no sense I'm right in time travel when I don't mean Thio. I think that but the language I am so weird about language and weird about my drafts. And honestly, what you describe and what a lot of fiction writers you know I know do is they bang out a draft, you know? They know the plot, they get the story out there, and then they they think about these other concerns and they and it and it works for them. And every time I write a book, including the book I'm writing now, I think, you know, I'm just gonna do that like, you know, I'm just gonna do it's gonna bang it out. I'm gonna get the story out there and it never happens. And then, like, I think I'm gonna do this. And then I look up and it's four hours have gone by and I've written a page and a half, and I'm still worried about you know, that the sentences air too long in the middle of the paragraph. You know, it's just, um at some point, I probably need to just accept it, but it doesn't make sense. Like I don't I tell people sort of, Ideally, you don't write a novel this way. You don't build a sentence by sentence the way you build a poem. Because if you make yourself crazy for 400 pages, right of manuscript pages, Um and so every time I think I'm not going to do that and every time, that's kind of what I dio. But I love Thio here when people say, Oh, I put a placeholder in here and then I moved on and I think that is brilliant and I want to do that. But I can't even tell you what the third sentences until I've written the second sentence. So how do you know how to write this section This dinner party scene? Because by the time I get there, that scene might not even exist anymore, you know? So how do I write? Um, so it's a very, um, 1 ft in front of the other, Kind of like one sentence in the next sentence in the next sentence, and and so people will ask you, how many drafts do you dio? And I say, You mean of like a sense e it? Because that's how it it just feels like rewrite rewrite. Rewrite. Okay, I can leave this alone. And now I know what has to happen in the next sentence for the next paragraph. But, you know, that's what makes you you. I mean, if you tried to write a book like I write my books, you wouldn't be writing like you anymore. So I mean, you found the way that works. And that's beautiful. That's wonderful that you do it that way. Thank you. Hi. Peace with it? Yes. Make peace with you. Good. Well, and so this just brings me. I mean, I just have to know this because I have talked about this on the show before, and I'm almost at this point again, so you could tell them, like, already stressed out about it. But I'd like, really strongly dislike line at its because I am not a poet by any stretch of the imagination. But the way that the words sound on the page are very important to me. And I, you know, read them out loud over and over again. The way once and it flows into the next one paragraph flows into the next, the rhythm of it. And it might not appeal to everyone, but it appeals to me. Eso When these lines that's come back, sometimes I'll be like, Will you change that word? And now I have to change like the next three pages, like three pages now don't work because that so I'm wondering like, do you even do you get line edits And if you do, do they make you crazy? Well, everything makes me crazy at first, So I get all the notes and the editorial letter, and I'm just, like, is all wrong, e No, this is crazy. And but...

...then I settle in and I recognize that. Okay, I get it. Um, yeah, I do get some line at us, and sometimes it's things like, especially in the early books, because I had just been writing poetry and, um, my editor would say things to me like you really can't describe the tree outside the window for four paragraphs like, That's not that's not moving the story along. But look at these senses. Things were so good later, but I do sometimes record. I mean, I have to realize that you can't. Sometimes you just have to tell a story, right, and it has and you'll need to. The sentences need to be right. But what makes them right is not necessarily that they're dazzling. It can be that they're clean and move quickly and get you for one point to the next. Um, but that's something I've had to learn. So sometimes my editor will say we just need to dial back these, um, you know these these analogies or we need to We need to dial back on the language here because it z drawing attention to itself. But this isn't a moment when we want Everyone said, Oh, something important happening because they're really just looking out the window S o e. Yeah, E. It's hard. Um, but I also have to say that so glad you're here A lot of times when I do take advice and my first reader is my husband and he could be tough, you know? And he'll just say pretty pretty pretty. But, you know, not a lot happening here like we need to. We need to find out what happens. You stopped us to the point where we're dying to know what happens. And then you start having you know, I love conversations so that I might have like them people talking to each other for like, 20 pages and you want to know what happens. So, um, it's usually I think that people are right and I settled down and I listened. But yeah, it's hard. It's hard to change those words that you put together. Okay, E and I 100% needs to be edited like a million percent, but it's still it just you get that. I love that description because it's like I'm laying in bed and I'm like, she's right. And if she's right, sdo right yeah, s 02 eso It's so funny the way we all have these different ways of writing, whether it's outlining, not outlining. And I think it's so interesting. Thio, try and take a peek to see where it might have come from with all of us. So you're the child of a general surgeon, you say from See Bouquet Booth, Philippines in the Philippines and a nurse. I was a nurse from Westminster, Maryland, so you grew up in Baltimore and Northern Virginia. But we love asking our guests this. I feel like it reveals so much about our writing life. What were your family's values around reading and writing when you were growing up? And how do you think that kind of shaped you into the poet and novelist that you are today? Um, my parents were really different when it came to reading. My dad was one of those, um, men who you buy him the big, like, Mohammed Ali biography, You or, you know, a book about politics or a book about history. And my mom was more like me. And it was one of those relationships, even when I was little, where she's handing me a book and saying, Just stop what you're doing. Read this, you know? And there was and she, um, reading. She really...

...valued reading. She valued writing, I think. When I decided to be a poet, my dad was like, Oh, no, I'm curious. Yeah, like, quiet about it. Um, but my mom, I think, was like, Yes. You know, I'm so glad you're just going to spend your days playing with words, because she could She got it. Um, but when I remember as a kid is, um, always having a book. And what I loved in my house was having a book while all this other stuff was happening around me. So I might be sitting at the kitchen table while my mom cooked when my dad got home from work when my little sister was like coloring on the floor and and being in the book. But also around the people I loved and around a lot of bustle and activity made me just feel so at peace and like, this is the way the universe should be. I should have a book and there's always stuff happening and I can jump into it or not. But I am in the middle of this just human, um, loving kind of activity. But I'm this still center, and I've got my book and, you know, all is right with the world. So I think that and always since I can remember, I have had several books happening at once, Like going at once and the characters the books I read as a kid. I still read, um, and they are my I guess there I'm a huge insomniac, so my books are my middle of the night friends and the middle of the night. I can't read something that's too new or exciting Or so I read the books that I read when I was 10. Um, and being in the familiarity of them and the friendships that I had with the characters when I was a kid, come back to me and it's just, uh I felt I feel like my family really fostered my ability to have a foot in both worlds, like always to have a foot in the world of fiction and words And the other foot e mean I wasn't a classic book. I had friends. I did sports. I was a swimmer, you know, I did all this stuff, but I, um I kind of got to live. Walk that line between fiction, which is very real to me and reality, and everyone gave me permission to do that. So that was That was good. That was good for me, is what I That's what I needed. And I think that's what we're still doing. All six of us sitting here right were straddling this fiction world in this real world, and sometimes we fall off that balance being for sure. Yeah. One of our favorite parts of the weekly show is hearing a writing tip from our guests, and we're gonna pretend it's for our viewers. But all five of us have our years to the screen, so we'd love to hear. I mean, you've given has so many already tonight. I'm trying not to take notes. I'm gonna go back. So but give us a writing tip. Well, I think the thing that I've had to learn and I sort of have to learn over and over again. So it's my writing tip to myself repeatedly, Is that above all I have to listen to my characters that, you know, I have this sense everyone thinks a writer just takes up, make stuff up, and it all comes through them and they get to do what they want, right? You author, an author is an authority on what happens and they get to call the shots. But what I found is that when I'm trying to manipulate...

...things when I'm trying to make characters do what I planned for them to do. For example, um, I'm at my weakest as a writer, and that's a big job is to kind of pull back and listen to my characters. There's a moment, for instance, and I'd give anything where, um, the main character goes to the house of this man who she is starting a relationship with. And I thought what was gonna happen is that she was gonna ask him this really hard question. And, um, because she needed the answer. And she was gonna be brave, and she was gonna ask him, and she was just gonna live with the consequences of whatever he said. Um, and when she got there, she gets to his house and she sees his daughter's hair bands around the door knobs and she sees, you know, his his dog bed in every room of his house. And she, um that is all the pictures of his of his kid all over his bulletin boards. And he recognizes, like, I know this man and I don't have to ask him this so she doesn't ask him, but a lot. That scene that was a powerful scene. So it was so great. It was hard, though, because then I had to change everything that happened afterwards. What? They were gonna have a fight, and then they didn't have a fight because she didn't ask this question. And then I thought, Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You know, you guys need to fight because I have a whole plan based on that on they didn't. And when I tried to force them to fight, it was just not right. You know, when you write something and you're just like, yeah, this is what needs to happen. But it's not the right thing. So what I would say is, trust your characters sometimes even more than you trust yourself and your plan. Because once you put them, bring them to life and put them in motion. Um, you have to trust them, and you have to listen to them. So sometimes relinquishing control, um, is what will yield the best. Your best work. Um, even though, like me, I like to control. I'd love to. I'd love to rule the world and control everything, but as a writer, you can't. You need to let them rule their world. Um, so that's my tip. And I have thio that pretty much every day, so thank you. Great. Thank you. That's such a great tip. And we especially if we make an outline, we're like, I took the time to make that outline and they get in that fight. I lost my characters around quite a bit, though. Sometimes I say I get back on that road map, start driving. I know I don't get way out. She's got her roller out. Listen, missy way. Keep talking about how much we love your book. Tell us a book you recommend or just love right now, something you're loving. Well, the sad thing about this whole year has been that when I've had abundant time to read, I've had so much trouble reading. And usually I am not a fast rate are always because I like to take my time. But I am prolific. I'm always I'm reading four books at a time. I'm gonna have struggled so much. And I think there's just in out the outside world, the world outside my house and in my imagination. And my, you know, it is has been pretty chaotic, as we all know on a lot of different ways. Um, and I have had so much trouble reading, so books that I have been able to read and become immersed in are really precious...

...to me this year, and one of the ones that really I read straight through and savored every second was one called anxious people by record Bachmann and I just it waas if a book can be kind, this was a kind book. I just felt like this is what we need. This is a bomb. You know, this is a B l a l m not b o m b e. It was just It just wasn't just soothing, though. I mean, it was funny. It was hard to read at points. It was sad. Um, it was entirely, uh it was character driven, But it also had something that I loved personally in a book in, um, I love mysteries. I love murder mysteries. Um, and I think that all writers maybe can learn from murder mysteries to kind of how intricately there plotted. And I even though I talk about character and I talked about language, I love plot. You know, I'm not usually a person who loves these gorgeous books that are nothing happens it or not a lot. I love when stuff happens and I love mysteries. And when I felt about this book is that it was plotted and put together like a mystery even though it wasn't strictly a mystery. And so that really just kept me reading. You know, I wanted to know what happened to these people. I loved all their back stories, and it was funny. It was beautifully written, but mostly it had the kind of heart that I needed to touch. Like I needed to be in touch with that kind of generous full, um, in this time of, like, craziness. So I can't recommend that book highly enough. I loved it. I had never read a book by him. So then I had to go back and read others. But that was really, um, to me, just radiant. I just loved it. Oh, thanks for telling us. I think a couple of us have read it, but I haven't, but it is on my list, so thank you. Okay, we have a few announcements, but everybody out there stay with us because you don't want to miss the final question we have from Risa from one of our viewers and readers. It's a good one. Uh huh. Well, I'm excited to host next week's episode on February 3rd with an Napolitano and her book. Dear Edward was a big buzz book. When it came out, it was on the Today show's Jenna pick, and the whole literary world was talking about it. So that's next week and check out the friends and fiction winter schedule. We're having some amazing guests, including Patty's exciting launch for Surviving Savannah, which we're going to celebrate very excited and 99. And I need to remind you that this week's bookstores hockey season book in Delaware as our featured independent bookseller of the week and you get 10% off this week on Marissa's I'd Give Anything and I'll Be Your Blue Sky as well as on recent and upcoming books By the five of us. The featured books are already marked down 10% in their book shop dot org's Shop. So hop on over there and add some books to your cart. Yeah, were also so excited about adding some additional podcast content soon. So Patty and I just had the opportunity to talk to Michael Farrow Smith, who wrote Nick and Rachel Hawkins, who wrote the wife Upstairs. And I'm telling you, it was such a good conversation with both of them. Eso that podcast should be live any day now. We're so excited about it, and we have some other great stuff coming down the pipeline to so you can find that link under announcements on the Facebook page. And also, we wanted to remind you, don't forget to join the Friends and Fiction Official Book Club this month. They're actually reading The Winemakers Wife, which was my 2019 novel, So I'm...

...popping in regularly to talk about it and answer questions will be meeting about it on February 15th. It was just a great book. It's run by Brenda Gardner and Lisa Harrison, two of our members, and you can find that link under announcements to It's a really active, great group, and I just wanted to say thank you again to Mama Geraldine's are amazing sponsor and just remind everyone to head over to their website and used the code Fab Five to get 20% off of all your online orders. It's a perfect time to stock up, and, as they say, snack on. You'll e. All right, Marissa, One more question. This came from one of our view is named Natalie Fairchild, and she said in a previous interview, You stated that you reconnected with Philippines, the Philippines, later in your life. Your dad was from the Philippines. Have you ever thought about writing some type of historical fiction novel about events that took place there? I want to know, too. It's not just not well. I have the Philippines in a book I and it was really it felt, um, like such an honor. This is my book falling together. The characters. I didn't even know this when I started working on it, but they ended up in the Philippines and I loved every second of trying to do justice to this place that my father was from that I had only visited, Um, but oh, you know, describing the fruit ends and the way the street smelled and, you know, the fighting cocks running around people's yards. It was just a privilege to do that. I loved it. Um, the thing about historical fiction is that I am not someone I no writers who have to stop themselves eventually from doing research because they just love research. And for my books, um, I find that I just do enough research to make sure I don't get anything glaringly wrong. So if I'm writing about the sixties, I'm writing about now. I've written about the fifties, and I just wanna make sure I don't have something totally anachronistic or, um something that someone's going to read and say, Okay, she just totally lost me. No credibility because, you know, whatever it was wasn't even invented at this timer. So But I don't love research, so I would love her. I love him to read historical fiction, but I can't envision myself doing that because, um, I just don't It's not the thing I love about writing. You know, the thing I love about writing isn't free for. And I find that my friends to write historical fiction, they get lost in that the way I get lost in, you know, developing character. They get lost in that, too. But they you know, they and I just I don't as of yet. I mean, maybe I maybe I will fall in love with it. I'd love that, but right now I'm just not sure that that is something that I'd be good at because I think you have to be passionate about the research part to be really right. Good historical fiction so well, Research, rabbit holes or places that Kristen and I and Christie a little bit to have completely way Wonder why the book is late Because way went looking for the name of 1942 food and ended up, you know, six hours later. Marissa, thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for talking about poetry and where your stories begin. And I love the way you describe how you like how words rub up against other words. Um, it has been a pleasure having you. Thank you so...

...much for coming. Well, it's pure joy for me. Thank you all. And I'm so like jealous that you guys get to hang out together virtually thathe ending text string. Two paths will text you and then you'll be like I'm done with Run out or stay put and click on how Cassie and Books. And by I'd give anything, preferably a signed copy. Join friends and fiction on our Facebook page on our website. Give our podcast. Listen and don't forget we're on Instagram too. And thanks for joining us back. Thank you. Oh my gosh. She's amazing. What so huge that she wants to hang out with us, and I was actually thinking, You know, I really just wanna have a glass of wine and just put my hair down and talk to her because she is. She just keeps going. She got so much to say. She's amazing. It was such a different way of thinking about writing a book. I love it, I mean, and it shines through in her work. Just that beauty with the words It's amazing Hit. That's why I love that question. I'm glad we snuck it in there about your childhood because she approaches words and stories so differently than we dio Go ahead. E. I was dying to ask her about the books on her night stand because she's an insomniac, and she says she keeps her childhood books on her night stand. So I'm dying to know maybe we should ask her to take a picture of the booth E. I'd love to know what she's reaching for in the middle of the night, you know, that was such like a light bulb moment for me, too, because I'm writing a 15 year old right now and I haven't I haven't done that like from the voice of a protagonist before, and I was just thinking about really tapping back into that. It's like, Duh, I should be reading a teenager. It really does. When I was to work with the middle Good is to read a lot of that fiction that voice very, very different. And e think my favorite moment was when she said and I really got it, how she was a part of the family while they were all reading and she was in her book. I mean and I love that from everyone sitting in her room reading, You know, everyone's in their own world, but you're not alone. E thought that really precious. You know what I was thinking when she said that? I'm glad you brought that up, Mary Alice. I was thinking the books, the melody and everything going on in the background is the harmony, and they have to work together. So like to make that reading experience what it was. I loved that idea, too. I'm glad you mentioned that. Meanwhile, my family was just going Patty, get your nose out of that book. A batty doing is here in the real world and I'm like saying you're more interesting than Nancy Drew. No, I'm not doing That was another one of those lightbulb moments for me. We have a lot of construction going on in my house, and it is like it z crazy. Like it's so loud in my house all the time. But I people walk in the house and they're like, How are you sitting here writing in this and I'm like and what I don't even And I really think it's because, like being a kid, I would read all the time with everything going on that it's like translated into my adulthood or something. Yeah, I think you're right. You're right. You're noise. Silence is I'm sure e don't have anything on like I'm just sitting in my dining room like e used to write. I wrote for years in a newsroom. I mean, I was writing newspaper story, but, you know, and that was back. I started in the day when, you know, you were in a room full of people with Selectric, IBM, Selectric, typewriters. My first job. I sat right in front of the at the Savannah Morning News. I sat right in...

...front of the wire room where all the the news wire machines were so you would hear them clattering all night long. And then when a big story came across, the bells would rang. Um, and so and you heard people on the phone and I just got so so used to it, um, so I can write when there's stuff going on around me. I just sort of I sort of tune them out. But you know, when I think when I really have to get down to it where it's just me in the world of the book e need just I just need I need to be in that world on my head needs to be in that world. Then that's when I have to run away. Yeah, My unfortunate thing is that I really, really like to do that at like two AM, and that does not for a functional life make you know, especially with E. It's just unfortunate reality that that cannot happen so much. We can't get precious about our alone time like, Oh, I can't write unless I have these seven things around me. E. O. Especially during a alright. Speaking of things around me. I have todo fun. So we owe a great nursing e. Think they should invite Bachmann? But I want that book is really a good book that she was. Uh yeah. Good night, everybody. Bye. Good night, everybody. And it's gonna walk. You've been listening to the friends and fiction podcast. Be sure to subscribe to the friends and fiction podcast wherever you listen. And if you're enjoying it, leave a review. You can find the friends and fiction authors at w w w dot friends and fiction dot com A swell as on the Facebook group page. Friends and fiction come back soon. Okay? There are still lots of books, writing tips, interviews, publishing use and bookstores to chat about. Goodbye. Wow.

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