Book: When You Read This
Author: Mary Adkins
Mary's debut novel WHEN YOU READ THIS (HarperCollins) is available now in eight languages. She is a storytelling trainer with The Moth, a graduate of Duke University and Yale Law School, and co-host of the podcast I'M STILL HERE! about making art after kids. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and the Atlantic.
1. If you don’t mind sharing, what can we expect from your upcoming play “Paulette”?
It’s a southern comedy about a mother coming to terms with a daughter-in-law transitioning to become her son-in-law. It’s set in North Carolina and is full of zany southern women.
2. Can you talk about your publishing process for your new book “When You Read This”? How easy or how hard was it for you to get this particular book published?
I pitched it to literary agents for a couple of years before I found mine. I got lots of no’s, but encouraging enough no’s that I didn’t give up. This isn’t to say I pitched every day—it’s more, you revise for a few months, then pitch in a batch of 5-10, then wait. I probably pitched 60 agents before I found Claire.
Then she and I worked together for over a year on the manuscript before we submitted it. Once it was submitted, things moved fast, relatively speaking—it went to auction and sold within a couple of months.
3. Where did the idea for “When You Read This” come from? What made you write it in this unique style?
There’s a question Iris asks at the beginning of the book: “This whole time, I thought my life hadn’t started yet. Turns out that was my life. I have six months or so to make that okay somehow.” Personally, I was really interested in this question of how you make sense of a life that feels like it wasn’t lived, and so I explored that through fiction.
I wrote it in emails because I thought that sounded like a fun challenge—to tell a story solely in correspondence—and because my writing group, which had read earlier drafts in prose, said that the correspondence was where these particular characters really came alive. I realized I agreed!
4. You did a great job of balancing humor and sadness, as well as love and heartbreak in this story. How challenging was this to do?
Thank you. Is it weird if I say not that hard? I think because humor and heartbreak are intertwined for me.
5. Could you see this story adapted into a movie, and if so what would be your dream cast and director?
Fun thought experiment! It does feel cinematic to me. I’m terrible at casting so I’m going to bail on the second part of this question. I’ll leave that to the casting director when this dream day comes! :)
6. How did your personal life experiences help you write such a heartfelt story?
I lost a friend when she was very young, just at the beginning of a bright, thrilling career and future. That experience was not too far below the surface for me as I was drafting.
7. What is your best advice to a struggling aspiring author currently working on their first novel?
Get feedback, but don’t rewrite an entire draft based on what one person says. Always get a second opinion before you do a major overhaul of anything.
8. What’s the best book you have read in the last year?
The Immortalists. I loved it so much.
9. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
Commit to writing for 5 minutes, then check in with yourself. If you feel good, write for 5 more. Do this—write in 5-minute spurts you can manage to commit to—until you get your groove back.
10. This is a phenomenal debut novel, do you plan on writing books in the future?
I’m currently working on my second novel PRIVILEGE, which will also be published by HarperCollins, probably in 2020. It’s about a sexual assault on a college campus, told from the perspective of three women: the victim, the accused’s advocate, and the girl he’s dating.
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Facebook: Mary Adkins, Author
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