I first encountered the work of Maria Semple after reading about her first novel, This One Is Mine, on the Three Guys One Book blog.  One of the Jasons (Rice, I believe) took issue with how girly the cover of the paperback was; the cupcake suggested chick lit, he wrote, and this was not chick lit.

Jason was right, but he didn’t really prepare me for the extraordinary experience of reading that book.  It had everything: it was well plotted, populated with fascinating characters, funny as hell, and so moving that I cried at the end.  I loved it so much, I taught it in my creative writing class a few weeks later.

So it was with great anticipation and excitement that I found that the brown envelope in my mailbox contained a galley of Semple’s second novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?.  I set it on the table, went to the bathroom, and came back to find that my wife had already snagged the copy and was outside reading it.  She tore through it in a day and a half, during which I had to endure her random laughter and gasps of  “Oh, this part is so good.”  I did the same.

And so, apparently, did Jonathan Franzen, not the easiest dude to impress.  Here’s what he wrote: “The characters in Where’d You Go, Bernadette may be in real emotional pain, but Semple has the wit and perspective and imagination to make their story hilarious. I tore through this book with heedless pleasure.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

And now, without further ado, here’s my interview with one of my favorite writers, the ever-fascinating Maria Semple.

David stood at the sink, a pine forest to his left, the Pacific Ocean to his right, and cursed the morning sun. It beat through the skylight and smashed into the mirror, making it all but impossible to shave without squinting. He had lived in Los Angeles long enough to lose track of the seasons, so it took glancing up at CNBC and seeing live images of people snowshoeing down Madison Avenue for it to register: it was the middle of winter. And he determined that all day, no matter how bad things got, at least he’d be grateful for the weather.

I’ve considered Maria Semple a friend for many years.  So I jumped at the chance to interview her.  One rainy afternoon, I took my laptop to her loft in Seattle and we settled in for a chat about her novel.


Let me start by saying that This One is Mine is brilliant.

Finally, someone who gets what I was going for.

(We share a laugh.)

JE: Further proof that I read women authors: In addition to great recent releases by Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart) and Tatjana Soli (The Lotus Eaters), I wanted to take the opportunity to plug the paperback release of Maria Semple’s excellent west L.A. novel, This One is Mine (see JR’s coverage and an interview with Semple, here).

Maria is a badass. How many people would walk away from a lucrative television writing gig (for such shows as Arrested Development) for the opportunity to toil away in the dying business of novel writing? Maria did just that. How many people would buy you two strollers, a baby seat, buy you a splashy dinner every single time you saw her, and give you a thousand bucks when your royalty check was late? Or offer the use of her house for as long as you needed it? Maria has done all of these things for her writer friends. And my karmic radar informs me that she will be rewarded for this decision with big sales for the PB of “This One is Mine.”

Just because Maria is such a doll, and just because this book jacket is kinda’ dainty, don’t think for one second that “This One is Mine” is not deliciously nasty and totally hilarious– way better than Arrested Development. If you missed the HC release, snap this one up, kiddos.