Friday, August 23, 2019

The wondrous Marcy Dermansky talks about VERY NICE, writing and not writing, and getting more celebrities like SARAH JESSICA PARKER to read her book.

Marcy Dermansky is really one of my favorite writers. I went nuts for Bad Marie, and she's also the author of the critically acclaimed novels The Red Car, and Twins.  And her new novel, Very Nice, about MFA writers, bad behavior, sex, sun, and more is being so widely praised it needs its own TV station. (I'm not sure what that means but I wanted to write it.)

Bad Marie was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writer's Pick, a finalist in the Morning News Tournament of Books, and named one of the best novels of the year in Esquire.Her first novel Twins was a New York Times Editor's Choice Pick. 

Marcy has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and The Edward Albee Foundation.  She is the winner of the Smallmouth Press Andre Dubus Novella Award and Story Magazine Carson McCullers short story prize.  Powell's Bookstore named Marcy a Writer to Watch Out For.

So now let's rack up some of the raves that her new novel, Very Nice, is racking up:

 “A story of sex and intrigue set amid rich people in a beautiful house with a picturesque swimming pool… This is a more serious book than it might seem at first glance. It’s like she’s served us a cupcake that turns out to be nutritious. I won’t spoil the book’s conclusion, not because I dislike spoilers but because I’m in awe of it… Okay, one spoiler: The last word of the book is ‘laugh.’ I bet you will.”
–Rumaan Alam, The Washington Post

“This is a vicious little novel, smart, efficient, mean, full of terrible people behaving terribly, incisive observations about a certain class of people pretending they had no hand in the state of the world. Writers don't come off too well, either. Absolutely delightful.”
–Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and Hunger

"If you are looking for a smart yet wacky summer diversion, a sendup of PC pretensions, a book that will make you both laugh and gasp out loud, dive between the enticing aqua covers of Very Nice."
Marion Winik, Newsday"A messy, sexy, super fun drama that unravels over the course of one summer… Impossible to put down."

"This darkly funny book vies to answer the age-old question: Just how huge is our collective appetite for tales of male novelists behaving badly? Uproarious."
Entertainment Weekly

“Sly, deceptively simple and thoroughly seductive... Bouncing between points of view, Dermansky confines herself to snappy, brisk paragraphs and short sentences, with much of the psychic action between the lines. Her sharp satire spares none of the characters and teeters brilliantly on the edge of comedy and tragedy.”
 —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

 “Subtly riotous… Dermansky has cultivated a style marked by humor so dry it threatens to ignite on the page. The assured deadpan prose belies the characters’ chaotic inner lives. It’s a precarious balance, but Dermansky uses deft plotting and absurdist ironies to both shock readers and probe psychological nuances… Very Nice is a wickedly fun and emotionally potent farce about the often-frustrating fluidity of our relationships to one another and ourselves. Along the way, Dermansky skewers Wall Street and the Iowa Writers Workshop—students “tried so hard” and “wanted so much praise”—but her real battleground is the beating heart.”
–Michelle Hart, O Magazine
"This [is a] sexy summer novel, in which writers and other deviants (including multiple poodles) swim and sleep together and get jealous and go about their tragicomic lives. What else is there to do, after all?"
Lit Hub

“A sardonic skewering of self-aggrandizing MFA programs, investment banking, and ‘nice’ wealthy suburbs that tend to have seedy secrets bubbling right underneath their shiny veneers.” 
"Fans of situational comedies and rom-coms should pre-order this hilarious novel from Marcy Dermansky… It features a small cast of wickedly funny characters and a plot straight out a Shakespearean romance."
The Today Show

"Very Nice is so sexy and reads so smooth that I was utterly addicted. Trenchantly observed and darkly funny, it will stick with you long after you finish its final, ferocious sentence."
—Maria Semple, bestselling author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? 

 Thank you for letting me pester you with questions, Marcy!

I was so knocked out by Bad Marie, and Very Nice knocked me out even more. (Not to say that I didn’t also love The Red Car and Twins. I did.) Did you find that when you were writing Very Nice you used lessons you had learned from Bad Marie—or do you, like me, have writers’ amnesia, where everything is brand new every time?

Thank you! I think anyone who had read all of my novels should collect bonus points and they should add up to something special. A new car. I could send you a poodle card. I made a painting of Princess the poodle and it now a beautiful thank you card. This is a serious offer.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I have learned anything from one novel to the next. I must have writers’ amnesia, just like you. Because beginning is always the most daunting part to me. And what you wrote in one book is meaningless in the next. I am also at my happiest when I am in the middle of a novel, typing typing typing.

I always want to know what was haunting a writer into writing a particular book. What was haunting you?

Very Nice started as a short story, what is now the first chapter of the novel. A student who seduces her professor. I have always been interested in this subject -- it’s icky and strange, the power dynamic and I think it happens all the time. Or used to. So I wrote the story, also titled Very Nice, finished a draft in two sittings, and then I was done. I hate that. And so after I polished the story, I kept going, switching POVS, and all of a sudden I was writing a novel. I hadn’t planned it.

Your writing’s been lauded as sexy, funny, super smart. So while you are writing, are you aware of this? Do you make yourself laugh, or is this very serious business for you, getting everything right on the page.

I am so unaware of what I am doing while I am writing. It’s nuts. This book is so full of sex and I don’t think I was properly understood this until after the book was published and I had to pick scenes to read out loud. My father always told me to put MORE sex in my book. That sex is what sells. He died while I was writing the book and I think I had his advice somewhere in the back of my head. I really was writing this book for my Dad. I had been with him at hospital when I got a call from my agent, telling me how much he loved the pages I had sent him. I hadn’t been expecting this response and it was so great to have good news to give my father and so I told him and he was thrilled. I know he would be pleased, about all of the sex in Very Nice. Funny, right? I finished the book quickly. I think it was my distraction from grieving. I read that Elizabeth Gilbert did the same thing with City of Girls.

I don’t try to be funny. If I tried, I don’t think it would happen. I am aware of moments writing when something clicks, when a sentence comes out just the way I want it, or a chapter ends with the perfect line, and I feel glee. Or a coincidence happens – like when Zahid, the writer, and the character of Mandy, the pilot, meet on an airplane – and neither of them is aware of their connection to each other. I think that is why I write. I am not about perfection and agonizing. I don’t want to spend three hours on a paragraph. I want to write it in five minutes if I can. Not that that always happens.

The agony for me, really, is when I am not writing. The procrastination can be insane.

So much of Very Nice is about race, money, AND a mother-daughter love triangle. But not only do you have myriad themes, but myriad characters. How did you keep track of the structure? Do you map everything out or do you just hope the Muse is there to help?

It definitely got complicated with five POVS but the abundance of POVS also gave me a built in structure. Rachel (student), Becca (mother), Zahid (writer/professor), Khloe (subletter/twin sister of Kristi, Zahid’s best friend). And then repeat. Finish the cycle, repeat. On two occasions, Jonathan (father) bursts in; it’s good that I can break my own rules. Sometimes when the story got complicated, I would find that I would have to move backwards, add things, fix things, so that the plot made sense. I never write straight to end  but constantly revise as I go.

What’s obsessing you now and why?

Right now, summer is ending, and I only have so many more days left to swim outside in the public swimming pool. I will have to stop what I am doing and make sure I get to the pool to swim my laps outside.  

I also try to stay abreast of current events and somehow not be obsessed. I truly don’t want to be obsessed with the 2020 election while at the same time I want to work hard for the only possible outcome. I don’t want to forget about immigrants in detention camps when the story is no longer front page news. I want to keep protesting and donating money and calling my reps and get a Democrat into the White House because, wow, it is bad out there. I have also had some readers on Goodreads say they wish politics hadn’t made it into Very Nice, but if I am thinking about the state of the world, so are my characters.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

What celebrity just endorsed your book on Instagram? Why sure, I can tell you that. Sarah Jessica Parker. OMG was the first thing I thought and I don’t say OMG. I was at a book club the day I found out and I told the group and they started to spontaneously applaud, as if I had won an award. It was nuts. It also makes me think about how much we revere celebrity. Now I want more celebrities to read VERY NICE.

1 comment:

Linda K Sienkiewicz said...

Marcy, you are a celebrity!