I walked into the elevator of One Toronto Street with my big-girl boots on, my
very professional notebook full of flowers, and my advanced reading copy of Wild Girls tucked under my arm. My heartbeat was surprisingly calm as the elevator doors opened and I stepped out onto the third floor; inhaling all that is the office-space of Double Day Canada, Knopf Canada, Random House Canada, Vintage Canada, Anchor Canada, and Seal Books.
I could feel the camaraderie of book-loving people as I spoke to the receptionist. Within minutes I was greeted by (the lovely) Lindsey Reeder and before I knew it I was in the boardroom sitting across from Mary Stewart Atwell, author of Wild Girls. I recently reviewed her novel here and couldn’t be more thrilled to meet her.
I tried to write down her answers word-for-word but I soon become so engrossed with our conversation that I couldn’t get it all down! So here is the best of my interview with Mary Stewart Atwell.
Where did the idea behind Wild Girls come from?
Mary Stewart Atwell wrote a version of this novel in her mid-twenties but it didn’t have the Sci-Fi or Fantasy elements that it has today. That version didn’t go anywhere, until she met her husband who was working on a film with a Sci-Fi element to it. His work inspired her to go back and add something different to the Wild Girls – a story about girls acting out in a more metaphorical way.
What was the process from manuscript to agent to publication like?
She admitted that the whole process came with a few bumps. Her American agent scooped up her manuscript in 2010 and really believed in it – she just wanted the ending changed. The novel took four years from manuscript to publication – I don’t think many people realize the time it takes to put a published novel together.
What is your writing routine like?
Mary told me how much she likes having a routine and being organized when it comes to her writing. Most days she drops off her son at day care and allows for a few hours of writing. She is no stranger to the fact that some days won’t allow for a lot of writing but she takes each day as it comes.
Many writers seem very quiet and shy when you meet them (or as far as stereotypes go), are you shy?
Mary Stewart Atwell said that she’s always been shy and very observant. She likes to sit back and listen to people before she speaks – this is a great thing for every writer to do since it helps generate realistic dialogue in your writing. She also admits that when it comes to fun things like readings, interviews, and book tours, she had to develop a certain persona to allow her to put herself out there.
Back to Wild Girls – can you tell me more about Mason, Clancy, and the sex scene? *SPOILER ALERT*
Mary Stewart Atwell knew that Mason would never be a long-term romance possibility for Kate – he was always in despair. Mason and the role he plays in this novel effected Mary; she felt bad for him and his impending fate. It’s easy to get emotionally attached to your characters, whether writing about them or reading about them. Clancy, on the other hand, is definitely better as an adult and longterm boyfriend. At this point I interjected and squealed, DID KATE DELETE CLANCY’S MESSAGE? Mary laughed and said she left that part up to the reader. Wild Girls ends with an epilogue and no room for a sequel – something I was truly happy about. The epilogue gave closure to the novel and left a little breathing room for the reader to finish the story themselves. As far as the sex scene goes, Mary admitted that she had never written one before. She wanted to keep this one tasteful and more focussed on Kate’s awkwardness and the imperfection that comes with the “first time”.
What are you working on now?
Mary is writing a literary fiction novel about a woman who has a great career as a novelist but is very well-known for being a feminist too. Her daughter runs away and she spends her time tracking her down. It’s mostly about mother-daughter relationships and how difficult it is for a mother to let go of her expectations.
I wish I had thought to record the interview – my little summary can’t even shed light on the witty, humble, and sweet personality of Mary Stewart Atwell. It was a joy talking to her and from a writing perspective I truly learned a lot. One thing she said that I really took to heart (as an aspiring writer) is,
“You can’t just write a book and pat yourself on the shoulder. There is always a way to make your book better and you have to be willing to see that.”
Thank you, Mary, for making my first author interview a fun experience. I look forward to your next novel and I hope our paths cross again. And a huge thank you to Lindsey for making this happen and for telling me to just be myself and forget my nerves; I think that’s why the interview went so well 🙂
P.S. Mary, if you ever plan on teaching a Creative Writing class in Toronto PLEASE let me know.