On this weeks Ask the Author I have Amy McNamara, the author of Lovely, Dark and Deep, for you guys. Back in February I reviewed, and loved, her novel so of course I had to go and ask her if she would be willing to do a interview. She was!
Here is her book and her answers:
Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara
Published: December 3rd 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 342 Pages (Paperback)
Buy it: Book Depository
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Wren Wells is trying to outrun the accident that killed her boyfriend and wrecked her plants to live a normal life. Instead of going to college, she retreats to her father's isolated art studio. There, in the remote northern woods of Maine, she meets Cal Owen, a boy who wears his own hurt like a badge. But when their connection threatens Wren's hardwon isolation, she has to choose: open up her broken heart or join the ghosts who haunt her. (goodreads.com)
Interview with Amy McNamara
1 - Lovely, Dark and Deep deals with loss and deep grief, was there ever a point during writing where you had to take a step back and let the story sit for a while just so the emotional state of Wren wouldn’t also spill onto you, or were you able to clearly separate your own emotions from those of Wren?
To a certain extent, writing, like reading, offers you an escape. I wrote Lovely, Dark and Deep a few months after the death of a friend. The novel came pretty fast and whole. Wren’s story and my experience share no specifics, but I was mourning while I was writing. I think living in Wren’s world and writing about her loss was, at the time, easier for me than living with my own. Her grief allowed me some distance and perspective on my own and I’m sure, in some way, guiding her through it helped me navigate as well.
2 - Throughout the book we get to see a lot of descriptions of the landscape of Maine, which seems to almost reflect the way Wren is feeling and what she is going through. How important was the accuracy of the landscape for you and how did you manage to articulate it so beautifully that even someone who has never been there can really imagine it?
Well, the life of the imagination knows no bounds, so “accuracy” is only as important as it is to be accurate about the imagined world. I have a funny relationship with Maine. It has held an almost mythic place in my imagination since I was very young. I learned about the state in grade school and I remember thinking it was a lot like my own. I grew up in Minnesota, another northern, cold, heavily wooded state, but where Minnesota is landlocked, Maine has the Atlantic. I love the water. Maine became an imagined setting for me then. I didn’t set foot in the state of Maine for the first time until about a month after I finished the first draft of my novel. I asked myself the “accuracy” question and decided it would be worth a road trip to check it out. I was happy to find it was much as I’d imagined. Of course, thanks to the internet I’d already seen Maine in images, but that little weekend road trip was a thrill. I kept expecting to see Wren or Cal going by in another car.
I think the instinct toward pathetic fallacy (humans attributing emotional qualities to the natural world) is a strong one – it’s certainly reflected in all the arts – the desire to find our own emotional weather mirrored in the world around us helps us to locate ourselves.
3 - Do you believe in karma or fate?
Hmm… karma or fate? I believe that what you put out into the world comes back to you in the sense that we’re all making the world we live in. Fate’s another question – I can be superstitious but I tell myself I don’t really believe in it – that said, how much difference is there really between practice and belief? Maybe what we practice reflects our beliefs in so far as our actions are really who we are? In that case I guess I believe in fate (or maybe I’m about to drop all my weird superstitious habits).
4 - How long did it take you from first idea until publishing deal? And how many queries did it take until you found 'the one'?
I wrote Lovely, Dark and Deep over three fairly intense months. I was extraordinarily lucky with acceptance and publication. I found my agent, Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger, right away. She’s the best and the book sold quickly. I know this isn’t a typical experience. I’ve been writing poetry for years and haven’t found a home for my manuscript yet. I’m no stranger to rejection.
5 - While writing, do you need silence and some separation from the outside world, in terms of silence: no phone, no music, and no internet, or do you listen to some kind of music or need background noise?
My writing routine varies depending on what I’m writing. Silence, noise, research, any and all of that depends on the work at hand. Anytime I’m stuck, I go running. Movement helps me kick open mental doors.
Poems require a different kind of concentration than fiction. I can listen to music when I’m writing fiction, I have to have it quiet for poetry. For both, I need to be alone. Sometimes it’s as easy as shutting myself away in a room, other times I need a longer stretch of uninterrupted time, so I go away. I’m leaving tomorrow for Paris and a month-long residency. Now that my kids are beyond their babyhoods I can leave them for little stretches of time here and there. It’s been great for my writing.
6 - What do you like to do as a means of stress relief or relaxation?
I run. I bake. I take care of the people I love. We’ll have friends in for dinner. Reading always works: fiction, poetry, the newspaper, art criticism, science articles, philosophy, cookbooks, the shampoo bottle, whatever I can get my hands on. I also love to watch television, movies, listen to music. I immerse myself in story.
7 - What is your writing routine? Do you have a specific amount of words you try to write each day or is it more of a ‘writing when inspiration hits’ type situation?
I don’t really have a writing routine. I write any and all the time I can and as much as I can. There is nothing more thrilling than a pen or pencil in hand and fresh page. I like to write first thing in the morning and just before I fall asleep at night. If I sit down to write midday, I often find my way back into whatever I’m working on by taking it out with me for a run or a walk, first. I don’t really believe in inspiration. I think writing begets writing. If you wait for inspiration, you’re only going to get good at waiting. I’d rather write and write and write until something comes together.
About the Author
Amy McNamara is the author Lovely, Dark, and Deep (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) and a manuscript of poems, the new head chronometrist. Her poems appear in a wide variety of literary journals and have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is married to the artist Doug McNamara and they live in Brooklyn with their two children.