Mary Kubica is going to keep you up at night. Her newest, PRETTY BABY, begins with a woman in the rain, seeing a young homeless girl holding a baby. Got you, yet? She's also the author of The Good Girl, and she's just signed another contract for two more books. I'm thrilled to have her on the blog. Thank you, Mary!
I always want to know what sparks a book? What question was haunting you that propelled you into this particular story?
I began writing Pretty Baby shortly after I sold my debut novel, The Good Girl, to MIRA in a two-book deal. I’d love to say there was some great inspiration for the book, but what I remember is this: being slightly terrified by the prospect of writing a second novel, and not feeling convinced I could do it. I spent a tense afternoon trying to no avail to summon an idea (any idea!), when suddenly an image of a young, homeless girl popped into my mind. She was standing in the rain, and, in her arms, there was a baby. I had no idea who she was or what her story would be, but whatever it was, I knew this girl was at the core of my second novel.
The basic premise of your novel is so fascinating--a woman tries to do the right thing, and it ends up becoming a tense psychological nightmare. There’s a whole web of lies and denials. Why do you think that what was Heidi’s greatest strength becomes her weakness--and do you think this is often the case?
Heidi is a wonderful, compassionate woman. She will do anything for anybody, regardless of whether or not it’s the best decision to make, and in the case of Pretty Baby, she puts the needs of a complete stranger before that of herself and her family. By trying to do the right thing, she ends up doing the wrong thing and yes, her greatest strength – being an overly charitable human being – becomes a weakness when her family is left exposed and in a vulnerable position. For Heidi, she is so focused on helping those in need that she doesn’t see the potential threat of the situation. She tries hard to see the good in people and, in turn, overlooks the bad. She is a kind, decent woman, who makes an emotional rather than logical decision, and it gets her in trouble. I think many of us are driven at times by emotion rather than logic, and like Heidi, this can get us into trouble at times.
I deeply admire the structure of the novel, how you keep the tension garrote-tight, and the characters’ psychologically gripping. What did you know when you started writing this book, and what surprised you?
All I knew when I dove into Pretty Baby was the very basic premise: a woman stumbles across a young, homeless girl waiting with a baby in the rain. I had no idea who all the characters would be, or how their story would unfold. What surprised me the most were the changes the characters would undergo throughout the pages of the book; who they seem to be at the beginning of the novel, is not necessarily who they will become. I love to create complex characters in my novels, and the characters are Heidi, Willow and Chris are quite complex.
What kind of writer are you? What’s your daily writing life like?
I’m an early bird, for one. My most productive writing comes very early in the morning, around 5am. I spend the morning hours writing before the computer with my first cup of coffee: my favorite time of day. I am not someone who outlines, but prefer to dive right into my manuscripts and figure it out as I go. I need some time to get to know my characters and their motivations before I can put together the pieces of the storyline. This is one of the parts I enjoy most about storytelling, especially as an author of suspense: figuring out the details, and how I can throw those big surprise twists into the narrative for the reader to discover.
What’s obsessing you now and why?
I’ve signed a new contract with MIRA for a third and forth book, so these days I am editing the third and writing the forth. Writing is the kind of career that you can never quite pack up at the end of the day and tuck away until morning. The characters like to haunt us authors at all hours of the day and night, and so I find that I’m always obsessing with my characters and their lives, whether or not I’m actively writing. I’m also, of course, busy promoting Pretty Baby, which is so much fun, getting to travel around and visit with readers. One of my favorite parts of the job!
What question didn’t I ask that I should have?
These are such great questions, Caroline. Thank you so much for including me! The one thing that I’d love to add is how warm and welcoming the writer community has been to me. This was something I didn’t expect, but am so grateful to have discovered. In the last year or so, I’ve been able to connect with so many authors who have helped guide me through the journey, and I feel extremely fortunate for these connections and friendships.