Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The divine Meg Pokrass interviews Marcy Dermansky, who talks about Bad Marie, Twins, swimming and why she put a standard poodle in everything she wrote

Huge thanks to Meg Pokrass for interviewing the sublime writer Marcy Dermansky. And huge thanks to Marcy for allowing herself to be interview.

Marcy Dermansky is the author of the nov­els Bad Marie and TwinsBad Marie was a  Barnes and Noble Fall Discover Great New Writers pick. Time Magazine pro­nounced Bad Marie “irre­sistible.” “Deliciously wicked,” pro­claimed Slate. “Bad-ass,” said Esquire Magazine, nam­ing Bad Marie one of the top nov­els of 2010. Marcy’s short fic­tion has been pub­lished widely in lit­eral jour­nals and antholo­gies, includ­ing Salon.comFiveChaptersMcSweeney’sIndiana Review, and Fifty-TwoStories

What is one (or more) of the loveliest things you have ever seen?

The ocean. Waves breaking. I am taken by the all of the it: the sand, the water, the sky.  Also, my daughter Nina, who is three.

You like to swim. Please talk about the connection between swimming and creativity, if such a connection exists. 
I love to swim. I love how quiet it is underwater. I am a lap swimmer, though I am not a terrifically fast swimmer. I love how I feel in the water: weightless, happy.

I do believe in a connection between swimming and creativity. For the most part, I don’t think anxious thoughts when I am swimming laps. Ideas come to me unbidden. Swimming laps, I feel more optimistic.  Everything seems possible. It is almost like an electric switch that flips on. One day, I want to do join one of those polar bear clubs and try swimming in the ocean in the winter.

I was swimming a lot last summer, and through into the fall. I’ve been living in Germany for the last year and a half and have access to a wonderful outdoor lap pool, which closed in October. Since then, I have stopped. I don’t swimming in a crowded lap lane, or even worse, swimming laps in an open circle, passing the old swimmers and the talkers, getting passed by the fast swimmers.  So it’s been months. I have gotten more writing done because I’ve had more time to sit at my desk. It’s great that I have been writing more, but I don’t feel as good about the writing as I do when I am swimming. I also miss those random bursts of optimistic thoughts. I miss the water. 

Most writers talk about how much WHERE THEY LIVE inspires or influences their writing. Please talk about how WHERE YOU LIVE does not affect your writing. What remains the same no matter where you live when you are writing?

I have lived in many places that I have never written about it. Right now I live in a small city in Germany. This actually feels like a big thing to admit in an interview. If you were to look at my Facebook page, you will see that I have no current address listed. It is as if I am floating in space. Most people assume that I still live in New York. Many people, in fact, think that I am in Brooklyn, because if you are a New York writer, that is the place to live, but I used to live in Queens. 

In some ways, I have to admit living in Germany has been good for my writing. This year, Nina started a free German kindergarten, which is actually preschool, and I get almost four hours a day to write.  So, I have been writing. I have been working on a novel that in some ways is all about living in Germany. The main character is trapped on a spaceship, hurtling through space -- which is an awful lot what my life has felt like. 

What themes obsess you? What themes entirely turn you off?

For a long time, I put a standard poodle in every thing I wrote. I recently deleted a standard poodle from my manuscript, deciding that the poodle was a distracting detail. I often send characters to Hawaii to go snorkeling, though I have never gone to Hawaii. 

I don’t think in terms of theme when I write. Often, my characters tend to grapple with envy. I must be obsessed with this. The other day, opening Facebook, a successful writer posted a picture of her living room: “So so so good to be home,” she wrote.  Suddenly, my whole life suddenly seemed shabby in comparison.

How does raising a kid inform the way you see the world? 

The whole world has changed for me. I think all the time about the books that Nina likes best.  I can recite the entirely of Slinky Malinki, a book from New Zealand about a mischievous cat. Nina laughs so easily and sometimes, she is just as quick to cry. Mainly, she is happy. There are gazillion things in my life that I can find to complain about, but Nina loves her life. She is energy. She is fun. She will also want to get out of the bed in the middle of the night, to look at the snow outside her window. I might want to be sleeping in my own bed, but I indulge her: pull up the blinds, let her climb onto the windowsill and look. I’ll have this moment of wonder, my arms around Nina’s small body to make sure she won’t fall, looking at the snow. It feels like my job to keep Nina happy and in doing so, I have to be happy too. It’s not made up happiness. It’s real. She is really, really good for me. 

What are the occupational hazards of being both a mom and a writer?

Not having enough time to write. Being too tired to write, when you finally do having the time. Sometimes, not having enough ambition. Being content to hang around and play.  

How much impact does your own childhood have on your writing?

It seems like when I don’t know where a character is from, the fall back is always New Jersey. I, of course, am from New Jersey. In my new novel set in outer space, I write about New Jersey. Memories from my childhood kept slipping in. For the most part, I don’t actively sit and think about my childhood, but I think it is also everything, who I am. My brain often feels like an enormous trunk, overly crammed with details. I don’t even know what it is in there, until I am in the middle of a sentence, and I pull something out. 

What is the strangest thing anyone ever said to you as a writer?

My father always tells me that I should put more sex into everything that I write. Though he has said this for as long as I have been a writer, this comment continues to bug me. I also know that he is probably right. I want to sell more books. That said, there is not enough sex in my new novel. 

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