Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Interview with Maria Murnane

Last week, I posted a review of Perfect on Paper, the first novel by self-published author Maria Murnane. (Here is a link in case you missed it.) I've since exchanged a couple of emails with her, and am thinking about inviting her to move to Iowa to be my new best friend - seriously, I think we would get along. Today, I have the pleasure of hosting an interview with her about writing, her inspirations, and how the heck she ended up in Argentina for a year. Here you go!

Hi Maria! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions. I really enjoyed Perfect on Paper, and look forward to getting into your head a little bit about the writing of this great novel.

It’s my pleasure! Seriously, thank you for having me. =)

What made you first decide that you wanted to write a novel? Is Perfect on Paper your first attempt, or are there others lying around in your closet, waiting to be discovered?

I guess you could say about eight years of working and being single in San Francisco was what really motivated me to write this book. It just got to the point where I had so many funny stories running around in my head that I needed to do something with them. So one day I finally did, and yes, this is my first novel!

Waverly Bryson is such a great character - I believed in her from the beginning. How much of Waverly is drawn from real life - yourself or others - and how much is your own unique creation?

Hmm, I could try to pretend that I made her up entirely, but to be honest Waverly and I are nearly one in the same, at least in terms of personality (my friends all say that reading “Perfect on Paper” is like listening to me talk for 320 pages). Just like Waverly, I tend to care too much about what other people of me and of what I’m doing with my life, and I’m always making random observations like she does in the book and in the Honey notes. I also tend to stick my foot in my mouth when I get nervous because I can’t think of the right thing to say. And I really love to make people laugh.

In other ways, however, Waverly and I are very different. My family situation is a good example of that—my parents are happily married and are extremely supportive of me, and I have two sisters and a brother who are awesome, as are their spouses and kids. Waverly missed out on that, but I felt it made the story more interesting to have her as an only child with a less-than-perfect relationship with her dad. And while Waverly doesn’t like sports at all, I play soccer five times a week!

Do you have a favorite character, or are you like my mom and love all your children equally?

Ha ha ha, moms are good at that! (In my family my siblings and I always say that we each secretly know we are the favorite child.) In my book I think Waverly’s friend Andie is my favorite character—she’s not based on anyone I know in particular but is sort of a combination of several friends of mine. I guess you could say she’s the kind of friend I’d love to have—she doesn’t care AT ALL what anyone thinks about her and just lives her life the way she wants to live it. Sometimes I wish I could be more like that. Actually, I always wish I could be more like that.

Do you enjoy the writing process? Are you a fast writer, or do you spend hours on each paragraph?

Yes, yes and yes. I get it down on paper fast, but then I edit to death.

I appreciated your inclusion of the message that women need to stop worrying about other's opinions, and find value in themselves. Did you plan to write that from the beginning, or did it find its way into the novel as the writing progressed?

Hmm, that is a very good question. As I was writing the book, after a while it sort of took on a life of its own. I didn’t consciously think about it at the beginning, but I think that message was a natural part of Waverly’s growth. I actually reread the book last week for the first time in a while, and that message really stood out to me as important to remember, even now. I still tend to worry too much about how I think my life “should” be like instead of just living my life as it really is. I often tell my friends that no one is keeping score in their lives but them, so they shouldn’t worry about what other people think--- but then I forget to do that for myself!

Are there other media outlets - movies, music, art, etc - that especially inspire you as you write?

Music sometimes inspires me to write poetry when I am sad—but that is a different topic entirely, and I don’t have plans to publish my poems anytime soon! =)

What are three or four novels that you'd consider your favorites, and why do they make the list?

Here are four that I loved for very different reasons:

1) The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand—for its fundamental message of “think for yourself”

2) Beach Music by Pat Conroy—for the beauty of the storytelling

3) Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett—historical fiction that taught me a lot while also keeping me interested in the story

4) McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland by Pete McCarthy — probably the only book I’ve ever read that literally made me laugh out loud many times (not a novel, but I loved it!)

How in the world did you end up in Argentina playing soccer?

Well, to be honest it was because I hated my job. I worked for a PR firm in San Francisco, and while I really liked the people I worked with, the work itself just wasn’t making me happy. A lot of PR agency work is about justifying your existence through plans and reports, and a lot of it is about rejection by reporters who just don’t want to hear about your clients, but you have to try because that's why the clients pay you. So put those together, and it just wasn’t a lot of fun. It wasn’t fulfilling intellectually or emotionally, and I just didn’t feel like I was doing anything that MEANT anything. So one day I quit, with literally no idea what I was going to do next. Literally no idea. Scary, but that’s how miserable I was. I just couldn’t take even one more day of high-tech PR.

A few weeks later I went to Thailand and Cambodia with my friend Katie for a couple weeks, and while we were there we met an English woman named Clare who was traveling around the world, by herself, for six months. She’d been laid off and figured she’d take advantage of the chance to see the world, and since she was single she had decided to do it on her own. I was so impressed by her because I’d never traveled anywhere by myself—it just seemed so, well, so grown up!

Anyhow, after I got back to San Francisco I decided to follow Clare’s lead and go to South America by myself. All my friends were working and had no vacation time, so I bit the bullet and bought a ticket on my own. My plan was to fly into Buenos Aires (Argentina) and fly out of Santiago (Chile) 2.5 weeks later, figuring out a travel plan along the way. I literally didn’t know one person in the entire country when I landed in Argentina—no one. It was a complete 180 from how I’d lived my life to that point.

Two weeks later, I was still in Buenos Aires. I loved it there! The word I kept using to describe how I felt there was “comfortable.” I just really liked it, and I was having a lot of fun speaking Spanish, and I wasn’t ready to leave yet. So I told myself that if I could find something to do there, I would stay for a couple months. Then I ran around town for an entire day until I found a company that would hire me a few hours a week to translate magazine articles from Spanish into English for the “Hilton Moments” magazine for the big Hilton hotel in Buenos Aires. So I said cool, I’ll stay for a couple months!

Then I started asking around about where I could play soccer during that time (I mentioned above how much I love to play), and I ended up training with the women’s team at RiverPlate. After a couple weeks the coach asked me if I’d like to stay for a full year and sign with them to play legally—I even had to get a work visa so I could get paid! It was random and crazy and a completely surreal experience—I was on TV, on the radio, even in the newspaper. A few times we even had to sign autographs after games.

So anyhow, while I was down there I also wrote the first draft of what would eventually become “Perfect on Paper.” It was definitely the most interesting year of my life…so far.

There has been a lot of conversation in the book blogging world recently about self-published authors, and a lot of bloggers have chosen not to review books if they don't come from a big publishing house. As a self-published author, what is your response? Is there anything you'd like to say to the book blogging world?

If anything, I’d like to thank the book blogging world! You guys have truly been great to me, SO great, and the extremely positive reaction to my book has been incredibly validating after all the rejection I experienced when I shopped it around a couple years ago. With all the positive reviews out there now, I am very hopeful that a publishing house might pick it up. Fingers crossed… and for anyone who wants to help me in that effort, there are three key things they can do:

1) Write a review on Amazon:

2) Become a fan on Facebook and write something on the wall (you can use the "share with friends" link here too if you want:

3) Post a comment on my Web site:

Doing those three things would be fantastic—so thank you in advance to any of your readers who take a few minutes to help out!

Thanks so much for letting me pick your brain for a while. I wish you much success with Perfect on Paper!

It was my pleasure Elizabeth-- really! Thank you so much for your interest in my book and in Waverly—fingers crossed that we get to read about more of her adventures in the future. I know I would certainly love to write about them! =)

See - isn't she fun?? Here is a link to her website, if you are interested in learning more about her, or leaving a comment. If you haven't had a chance to read her book yet, I encourage you to pick it up - it's really a lot of fun. Thanks so much, Maria, for taking the time to let us get to know you a little better. (And, if you are ever in Iowa, seriously, let's go out for drinks!)


Anonymous said...

Great interview. I've been reading good things about this book.

Anna said...

What a wonderful interview! Murnane comes across as a sweet person, and now I really want to read her book.

Diary of an Eccentric

Allison said...

I am about half way through this book and LOVE it...I'm on the tour for this book and will have my review up on Tues Dec 16th..check it out

Great interview with the author!!

Literary Feline said...

I enjoyed reading the interview very much. Maria sounds like a great person. I love that she quit her job without a safety net and was able to take a job doing something she loved for a year. I am not sure I would ever be quite that brave.

The Giveaway Diva said...

I liked the interview that you had witht he author~ this sounds like a great book

LeahV said...

Okay -- if you haven't already put that other book in the mail for me, you simply MUST include a copy of this one as well (if you are willing to part with yours for awhile). I love your book blog!

Elizabeth said...

Leah - the other one is already on its way, but I'll send this one as soon as my other friend gets done with it.

Everyone - it is a really fun book, and Maria is great. Go get it!!