Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Split, Now Available in Paperback...and my interview with Carrie Link..
AN INTERVIEW WITH SUZANNE FINNAMORE
As many of you already know, I have a love that borders on obsessive with the book Split. What many of you may not know, is why. I have loved Suzanne Finnamore's writing since I first read Otherwise Engaged and later The Zygote Chronicles. She is a masterful, dead-on writer, and mercifully FUNNY.
And therein lies the major reason I love Split, she takes on a subject so not funny - being unceremoniously dumped - and makes you pee your pants while you're wiping your eyes with the deep truths and profound insights she has. Deep and funny. What's better than that? Nothing. Not if you ask me.
So, I was able to convince Suzanne to do a blog interview with me in honor of the fact that SPLIT is now available to order (paperback) on Amazon!
Get a cuppa, sit back and enjoy a funny and deep interview with SUZANNE FINNAMORE! The first part is a previous interview she did, then my questions immediately follow:
Q: ARE YOU WORKING ON A BOOK?
A: always and never. i cling to freelance advertising copywriting because
it's so much easier than writing, and i get to work with a partner in crime: my art director sean mullens or ken woodard.
Q: DO YOU WRITE AT THE SAME TIME EACH DAY?
A: yes. morning. in front of the computer. coffee with cream, no food.
digesting food requires energy and makes one sleepy.
Q: DO YOU HAVE WRITING ROUTINES, OR DO YOU AVOID THEM?
A: no. routines are necessary. writing is a habit. a vice.
Q: DO YOU EDIT AS YOU GO?
A: never, ever. just spew it all onto the page. the more flawed and
outrageous, the better. there's always time later to organize and
edit. in fact, rewriting is the real work of writing. i may rewrite a
single page 60 times. but that comes later. after i've got, say, 400
pages of messy, senseless bile.
the only thing necessary is to spell check at morning's end, after
you've spewed. otherwise, you'll forget what you meant to say when you
wrote "trghdllty ghyry tkissk"
Q: DO YOU WORK FROM NOTES?
A: yes. i write down everything as it occurs to me, or as i witness it. i slap it into files
on my desktop. i generally have 3 or 4 books cooking at once. the
strongest one will emerge in time. DIALOGUE is the most important
thing, i believe, it’s the engine of a book. inner dialogue or
caught-from-the-air dialogue. eudora welty knew this, updike knew
this. dialogue, if you overhear it or say it , must be captured word perfect
immediately. dialogue is never rewritten; dialogue is only cut or filled
in to capture meaning or further the plot. if i’m in a meeting and the
dialogue is fantastically perverse, i'll write down everything everyone
is saying. it's priceless; the best opportunities are always agency- wide
meetings or "brainstorm" meetings. really, all organized meetings are breeding
grounds for perverse and often hilarious dialogue. i also use dialogue
from my own emails... write
to a close friend and in the process you discover what you know or
feel about an issue or event. some meat of my books comes from emails
or phone conversations or meetings, and then i write the book AROUND
the dialogue; i include body language and gestures, the smaller the better. you must use what you know.
writers: we're vampires and grave robbers, is what we are. "journalists of
the human condition" is a nicer way to put it.
Q: WHAT ABOUT OUTLINES?
A: never, ever, ever. that presumes i know what will happen or what is
best at the beginning of the process, which i don’t. what i know is
nothing, except the subject matter of the book. it's best to retain
that innocence as long as possible. it's easier for me to deliver a
manuscript than an outline. even the word Outline smacks of fascism.
Q: WHAT ABOUT INDEX CARDS, ALA ANNIE LAMOTT?
A: sure. keep some around. always carry a pen and some paper of some
kind. ALWAYS. in the car is especially important. while driving, the
body is occupied and creative thoughts are free to roam exactly where
they should. keep a pen at hand, write things down at the red lights, or pull
over. never attempt to talk into a small hand held tape recorder: again, fascism and
pretense lives there, in those little machines: you will never transcribe them and if
you do, you've lost the gist. it’s blather and a lot of pipe dreams spoken aloud. it's
gaseous babble of the pissant.
Q: WHERE DO YOUR IDEAS FROM WRITING COME FROM?
A: i only write about what i know, what happens, and
what is making us live or die in the era we're currently in. i'd like
to be another kind of writer, but I’m not. if you're like me..and i desperately hope you're not, you have to know what kind of
writer you are; are you a storyteller, or are you a chronicler? decide.
And my questions:
1) For whom did you write this book? (You already told me, and it's written in your dedication, but I want that in the interview, because I love your answer, and don't hold back!)
When my husband left me and I was caring for our baby, I felt totally alone and depressed and there was NOTHING TO READ about divorce that would lift me or make me laugh. (There were only clinical, dry self-help books and impossibly silly novels about divorce, where the heroine is swept away by her Portuguese gardener, etc. It wouldn’t do). I decided within 2 weeks I would write Split: A Memoir of Divorce for all the abandoned wives and mothers, because it was a necessary tool for them to survive. And I’ve gotten a lot of mail from women who say I accomplished this, that it saved them. It’s a tremendous honor.
2) The raw honesty and pain in the book, is so noteworthy because so many books lack that. Was writing the book cathartic, re-traumatizing, or a mix of both?
It was mildly cathartic but it was much more work than anything else. I wrote the entire book as a novel and then was asked to rewrite it as a memoir. It was a long process and yes – many days writing the memoir felt like going back into a dark cave and excavating the past and then coming out feeling traumatize, ridiculous and spent.
3) Sorry, but I got to have you weigh in on the "memoir debate." What's your philosophy of what to tell, what to leave out, and "subjective truth?"
My philosophy is that you own your experience, as a writer. I left a great deal out of my memoir so as not rock the boat more than I had to in order to tell my story with emotional honesty. As far as I’m concerned, all truth is subjective where writing and even remembering are concerned. The moment you try to pin an experience down on paper, it becomes fiction, because you’re only telling your side of things and some of that will necessarily be subjective. Also, once a memoir is accepted for publication, the publisher’s lawyer will usually legally vet the entire manuscript, to avoid issues of slander and liable.
4) And in that same vein, do you wish you could go back and re-classify your first two books, Otherwise Engaged and The Zygote Chronicles "memoir," and/or Split as fiction? Having written both ways, which do you recommend?
Oh I much prefer fiction. One has so much more leeway with fiction, and there is no second-guessing involved. Otherwise Engaged contains a lot of fiction, it is primarily fiction, and based on my emotional truth of that year I was engaged. But apparently in terms of the prose and the dialogue, I wrote it so well/close to the bone, that everyone assumes it’s completely autobiographical. It is not. Nor is The Zygote Chronicles a memoir. It’s a novel about a woman who happens to be having a baby close to forty, as was I. There are some autobiographical elements, certainly. But the only “true” part is the delivery scene at the end of the novel – that was pretty much exactly how it happened for the birth of my son.
5) How did you decide to structure the book around the Five Stages of Grief, and do you find yourself still moving back, in and around all five, or are you pretty much staunchly placed in Acceptance?
My friend and mentor, Fay Weldon, told me that divorce is certainly like a death. That’s when I decided to section off the book into 5 chapters corresponding to the Kubler Ross Five stages of loss and death. It also gave the book some structure. And the arc of the 5 chapters/stages happily suggests the fact that divorce is a multi-stage process that passes… that its attendant grief and trauma is finite and can be quantified.
I’ve been blessed with Acceptance for many years, now. I talk to my ex almost daily; we’re good friends. And as far as romance, I’ve moved on. Boy have I.
5) In your Anger section you say you'll never marry again - still feel that way?
Of course not. That why it’s in the Anger section. People think and decide all sorts of radical things when they’re angry. It passes.
6) What's the one piece of advice you give to women in the grieving process - regardless of what they're grieving?
Find a grief counselor. I found a great one; she’s in Split and so is her advice to me. So if you read Split, you’ll get all the advice I paid $100/hour for, and you can get it in your bathrobe.
7) I know you said earlier that you are always and never working on other books, like four. I get that. Can you just give us a hint what you think your next (published) book will likely be about?
The Little Black Book Of Signals:
A Neanderthal's Guide To Knowing She Wants You
It’s a guide for men who have no clue as to the signals women send out, Also, women can read it and see what their signals are telling men, A hand-sized book.
After that? A novel about finding love after 40—via the Internet and so on. The heroine will be a cross between a Cyclop and Pollyanna.