Please help me welcome today’s Wednesday’s Guest, Marie Flanigan, a freelance writer in northern Virginia. She writes video game and book reviews as well as the occasional blog post for The Motley Fool. Her first novel, One Big Beautiful Thing, was released in May. We will have latte’s from the coffee shop in town, so pull up a chair and join us.
Welcome Marie. My first question has to do with how well you handled the issue of grief in your story. Did you draw from experience for that?
I have never lost a significant other like Kate lost Robert, but I have lost friends and family and I have been close to friends and family who have lost significant others. It’s a gut wrenching thing to watch and it’s confusing, because you have your own feelings of loss, which have to be set aside to help the other person through their much more significant loss. The aftermath of death is so painful and no one is really prepared for it despite the fact that we all have to go through it. Pretty much anything I find challenging or interesting or painful in my life eventually ends up in my fiction in one form or another.
You also seem to understand the mind of an artist. Do you have a background in visual art?
Sadly, no, but my sister is a wonderful artist as is a very close friend of mine, who actually did the cover of my book. I based a lot of Kate’s feelings about art on conversations with them and other artists I’ve come in contact with over the years. I really respect artists of all types. It’s a tough task to put your work out there to be judged, knowing that everyone is not going to like it, and possibly no one will appreciate what you’re trying to do.
Kate is such a wonderful, conflicted character. Was she hard to write?
Aspects of Kate’s personality were definitely hard to write, if only because I’m so different from her, that I have to separate decisions I would have made from decisions she would make. My parents, unlike Kate’s, are still married and are wonderfully supportive of me, so I started with higher self-esteem than Kate did. I’m more confident and more decisive. I’m also less impulsive and less adventurous. People close to me have overcome some of the same difficulties Kate has overcome and I have tremendous respect for that.
What other creative things do you do?
I’ve attempted to do many other creative things. I tried to learn to play an instrument only to discover I’m basically tone deaf. I’ve tried my hand at painting. I went to a class recently with my sister-in-law, my sister, and my niece. We were supposed to paint a butterfly on a branch, but that was too complicated for me, so I painted one of my dogs eating a butterfly. Had I been twelve-years-old, that painting would have shown real promise. I did some acting in high school, but my monologues ended up taped all over the stage, because I’m not very good at memorization. I was good at improvisation though, which I eventually realized meant that I’d rather write the script than act it out. Writing is pretty much it for me creatively.
We can’t be working all the time. When you are not, what do you do for fun?
I’m a hangout person. I like to sit around with friends, family, strangers, whoever and talk and eat. Whether I’m doing that on my own back porch or at the beach or in a foreign country doesn’t matter. People are what I find most interesting and talking to them is what I enjoy most.
So when you are back to work, where do your stories begin? With character or plot?
Character. Always character. Character makes or breaks a book for me. If I like the characters, I can forgive a lot. If I don’t like the characters, the most well thought out plot won’t hold my interest. If you have interesting characters, they can be doing just about anything and it will be fun to read.
As writers we draw from people and places around us. Tell us what you like best about where you live.
The diversity really appeals to me. We live in one of the most ethnically diverse places per capita in the United States and I love it. I love interacting with all kinds of people from all over the world and I love all the different kinds of restaurants and entertainment that are available to me because of that diversity.
Many writers share their workspace with a dog or a cat, or more than one dog or cat. Do you have a pet?
My husband and I have three dogs: a twelve-year-old basenji, a seven-year-old border terrier, and a two-year-old miniature pinscher. They are probably too spoiled but at least they’re small. The miniature pinscher is my travel buddy and the one that goes out to my writing studio with me and keeps me company while I work.