Marcy, why did you write a book about an unsympathetic character?
Is she? I love Marie. I did not not love her for a second. Yes, I am well aware of all the bad things she does. Passing out, drunk, in a bathtub with the two-year-old girl she is supposedly taking care of. Having sex with the girl’s father. Running off to Paris with him and little girl, subsequently trashing the life of her former best friend — mother of said girl, wife of the philandering French novelist husband. Marie does bad things.
But to be fair, there are extenuating circumstances. Climb into Marie’s head and everything she does makes sense, seems reasonable. At least to me. I was always on her side.
I know that there are readers who will have problems with Marie and this makes sense to me. But a lot of these same readers come around to care about and root for Marie, despite themselves. Recently, I was asked this question at a Q&A after a reading, and a friend later told me that she was confused. Like me, my friend found Marie to be a wholly sympathetic, likable character. I felt such relief, gratitude even. Reassured that maybe I am not that twisted. It is important to have friends.
Why do you write books at all?
I have asked myself that question, more than once, especially in the long stretch of time between TWINS and BAD MARIE. I guess I can’t think of anything I love to do more than write. I love to swim. I love to eat. But I require breaks in my leisure activity. I need to feel, somehow, that I am getting work done. I have a work ethic. I love to work — when it is work that I love to do. In a workshop during graduate school, Mary Robison once said that there is no drug better than actual writing. I never forgot that, because I had never experienced such a creative high. But I agree with her now.
What is your next book about?
I have a mandatory downtime in between writing projects. For the official record: I don’t have a coherent answer for that question. I will try to heed the writing advice of my father who says: “More sex.” But I might disregard that advice, too. In general, I don’t like to discuss my writing as I am writing. Maybe that is superstitious. But I worry about writers who announce their self-imposed deadlines and post daily word counts. I do believe you can jinx yourself.
Marie loves escargot. How do you feel about them?
I also love them. I ate escargot for the first time, not surprisingly, in Paris on a weekend trip many years ago. Ten years ago. A long time. It thrills me how I can take this brief snippet of a memory — the joy I had eating a new food for the very first time — and put it into my fiction. Because I had no idea at the time that I would use it. Which reminds me that I should travel more. Not just for the sake of pleasure, but because the more places I go, the bigger a reservoir of seemingly insignificant details I will have to choose from.
I’d like to add that I am always writing about food. In Bad Marie, I catalog in great detail the foods that Marie eats and what she hopes to eat next. In my own life, too, I am constantly thinking about my next meal. I have to restrain myself from posting details about my meals on Twitter. Occasionally, I do.
Marie calls Caitlin, her young charge, Caty Bean, and sometimes, affectionately, Silly Bean. Where does that come from?
Bean is actually a term on endearment that gets passed along freely in the Dermansky family. My sister refers to me as My Beanhead Sister. To be clear: I wrote this book first, about a woman who kidnaps a baby. Then I had a baby. I realize now that there are so many more variations of the nickname Marie could have taken advantage of. Beanhead, Baby Bean, Clean Bean, Smart Bean, Sweet Bean, Lima Bean, Bean Bean, Cutie Bean, Beanzer, Little Bean. I could go on.
How do you feel about this interview with yourself?
It’s been fine. I have felt the need to censor myself; I have censored myself. I have revealed no secrets that I feel uncomfortable with. I sort of wish I had asked myself about my theory that this country would be a better place if we built more swimming pools. There would be more jobs (contractors, lifeguards, swim teachers) and a much happier population at large.
Also, I had a fresh pot of French Press coffee on my desk while working on this, oatmeal and dark chocolate cookies to go with the coffee, good music playing, my husband out of the apartment with the baby. They are watching the World Cup in a bar. Germany is losing. The air conditioning is turned on high. I will save this document and set out to meet them.