I’ve been invited by writer, performer and activist Nikki Patin to participate in an interview series called The Next Big Thing in which authors talk about their work. (Thanks, Nikki!) You can check out what Nikki’s up to at nikkipatin.com. Since I’m kind of new at this interview thing, I’ve asked my friend Lindsay to weigh in. Welcome, Lindsay! Let’s go!
What is the working title of your book?
The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures
Where did the idea for the book come from?
The catalyst for The Saltwater Twin was an essay contest I entered that resulted in getting published in Glamour magazine, a slightly harrowing photo shoot, two fancy lunches and some interest in my work from literary agents. Oh, and probably my favorite part: many wonderful letters and comments from readers. I liked the experience of writing the essay (my first foray into the genre), and I thought it would be interesting to keep going. I conceived of a collection of linked essays that slid back and forth in time to form a kind of memoir.
What genre does your book fall under?
Creative nonfiction. Personal narrative essay. A roundabout memoir.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie adaptation?
Maia: Oh boy. This is a hard question because the book spans decades and there are loads of characters. They would need to cast at least two really good dog actors.
Lindsay: Because your book chronicles your life from childhood right up to the present you have the fun task of casting yourself at every stage of your life! I’m going for Kristin Wiig as Present Day Maia because a) she looks a lot like the real Maia and b) she’s funny, smart, sexy and dorky all rolled into one—just like the real Maia. I really wish we could time travel and cast young Jodie Foster as young Maia because what woman wouldn’t want to envision her child-self as Jodie Foster? I’m not talking Taxi Driver Jodie Foster, I’m talking Freaky Friday, Becky Thatcher Jodie Foster. That Jodie was cute and charming but also had a husky voice and tomboy strength that makes you feel like she could handle any challenge you throw at her. That Jodie makes you feel like she could do justice to the upheaval of your childhood onscreen while magically, transcendently protecting your real child-self. But since Jodie can’t play that part anymore, I am suggesting Quvenzhané Wallis.
Maia: Ooh, now I need to have a Jodie Foster movie night. Remember when she starred with Scott Baio in Bugsy Malone? Anyone?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures is a collection of essays about survival, fear, redemption, love, religion, art, boyfriends, girlfriends and dogs. It’s about the way we make myths and meaning from our lives and forge our identities through story. (I know that’s two sentences. Just pretend I used a semicolon.)
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be represented by an agency.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’m in the midst of the process – hopefully the beginning of the end of the midst or at least the end of the middle of the midst. I started in late 2011. It will be done this year, so help me sweet baby Jesus.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Maia: This is a frightening question. I don’t want someone to say, “I knew Author X. Author X was a friend of mine. Maia Morgan, you’re no Author X.”
Lindsay: Since Maia won’t say it, I’ll say it. Mary Karr or Jeanette Walls or Carlos Eire—but mostly Mary Karr in the way she uses memoir to ask big questions that go beyond anecdote, beyond recollection. Did I mention I am Maia’s friend and some time ago I designated myself as her Biggest Fan? As her Biggest Fan I compare her to Willa Cather and William Faulkner and Toni Morrison and Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer. Why? Fuck Norman Mailer—that’s why!
Maia: Hey, Mary Karr was one of the judges in the Glamour competition (along with Jane Smiley, Julia Alvarez, Jennifer 8. Lee and ZZ Packer), and I was a little bit over the moon at her (and all of their) recognition of my work. Also, I recommend acquiring a Biggest Fan like Lindsay. It is very rewarding.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I think my work with Tekki Lomnicki’s theater company, Tellin’ Tales, was the initial spark for The Saltwater Twin. Tekki is a disarming, engaging monologuist who writes unapologetically, hilariously and poignantly about her life. Some years back, she invited me to write and perform a monologue for a show called Body Language. It had to be a story from my life that dealt with body image, and it had to be true.
I came up with a piece called “Looking at Naked Ladies” and continued to write and perform with Tekki for several seasons. I liked her assignments: write about therapy, write about sleep, write about an epiphany. In The Saltwater Twin, I followed that model: write about friendship, longing, rescue, pain. Each chapter, like each of the monologues I wrote for Tellin’ Tales, is a little research project in which I investigate my own experience along with other things related to the topic at hand. In addition to writing loads of new material, I’ve reconstructed those monologues into essays. That first piece evolved into chapter 11, “Eve and Other Naked Ladies.”
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I’m almost positive it will make you laugh and also cry. You like laughing and crying, right?
And now, may I introduce you to some wonderful writers and possibly the Next Big Thing…
Ruiyan Xu’s novel, The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai was called “A beautifully executed, moving debut about the articulation of love” by the Times of London. Plus she makes delicious garlicky broccoli and is a snappy dresser. Visit ruiyanxu.com or look for her page on the Facebook.
Barrie Cole is a dangerously brilliant and madly prolific writer, performer and playwright. Please check out her stylings at barriecole.com.
Lindsay Porter is pretty sensational. She has more ideas in her whip smart brain than almost anyone I know. You can visit her at chimeragirl2010.
I have a poster from an Eiren Caffall show in my dining room. She makes music and writing which you can experience at eirencaffall.com, and she blogs about environmental and spiritual issues at Tikkun Daily.