"Q&A With Paul Wolfe"
Book: The Lost Diary of M
Author: Paul Wolfe
"Paul Wolfe has written in virtually every medium, from fiction and advertising to songs and plays. As an advertising writer and creative director, he was named Adweek Magazine Writer of the Year twice, penning award-winning campaigns for brands such as Levi's, BMW, Volvo, and JP Morgan.
As a young songwriter, a song of his appearing in the folk song magazine Broadside sparked Bob Dylan to write in that same magazine: "I've never met Paul Wolfe but I'd like to. He has an uncanny sense of touch." Wolfe's early sojourn as an architect-led to the events that inspired Postcards from Atlantic City. His films and blog/essays can be seen at paulwolfeideas.com."
1. How did you come across Mary Pinchot Meyer’s diary and what made her story so intriguing to you?
I came upon the story of Mary Pinchot Meyer in a magazine, which led me to the two non-fiction books about her.
That she lived at the vortex of history -- the Cold War, JFK, LSD, CIA, the assassination -- and all these myths surround a diary that never surfaced, gripped me. I was driven by the idea of writing her lost diary for her.
2. What was your writing process like for this book, “The Lost Diary of M”?
I have no orderly or routine method for writing. I was pulled along by Mary’s voice, which I seemed to channel, and wrote when the inspiration hit me.
I would immerse myself in history and facts, though they are actually scant concerning Mary, and then incorporate, embellish or invent them as I transformed then into her diary. Most of the novel I just made up.
JFK was virtually isolated against the entire political establishment. The Joint Chiefs were against him because he wasn’t aggressive enough toward Russia.
The CIA hated him because he wanted to check their unlimited power. The Military-Industrial Complex found him bad for the weapons business. He held out against WWIII!
4. “The Lost Diary of M” begins with the epic line, “If you are reading this, I am dead.” What made you want to choose this particular line as the pacesetter for the book?
Perhaps coming from an advertising background, I know you need to grab the reader and never lose them. Boredom is the worst tragedy. That opening line sums up this diary.
Mary is alone in an ominous and increasingly dangerous world, with no weapon except her ability to record the truth in a diary which, as she suggests at one point, no one will probably ever read.
I think Mary was a liberated woman before the concept existed. Coming from a radical, though wealthy family, she was a fervent peace activist, a sexual and psychedelic explorer, and an abstract painter.
I don’t think she worried about “a woman’s place,” even though the brilliant, artistic and highly educated wives and women in her circle were mostly related to playing women’s roles. Mary lived according to her wits and appetite for life.
6. After writing this story, how would you explain the Kennedy “Camelot Era”?
On the surface, the Kennedy presidency was a celebration and cultivation of the arts, of intellect, of dignity to the presidency, of an idealistic belief in the power of government, and a youthful optimism about the future.
The terms “Camelot” and “the best and the brightest,” have come to signify both a literal truth, as well as an ironic comment on the darker side and failed promises that lurked beneath the glamour of Jack and Jackie.
7. Do you think Mary and JFK were ever in love?
One of the fascinating things about Mary is that not that much is really known about her. There is certainly no record of her day-to-day life. So I was free to invent and imagine her life and create a voice for her.
That is more important to me than “facts.” There is some evidence that she and JFK were together in the manner I depict in the novel, but we’ll never really know.
8. What element of Mary Pinchot Meyer’s legacy do you hope lives on?
I think in the pages of her “diary,” I captured the bold and feisty spirit of a woman who continued to make her own way in the face of personal, political and societal forces that continually tried to stop her.
9. Legendary musician, Bob Dylan, once stated about you that he “never met Paul Wolfe but I’d like to. He has an uncanny sense of touch.” What did that mean to you coming from him and who are some of your artistic inspirations and why?
I was a very young songwriter when Bob Dylan wrote that about me in a folk song magazine. At the time, I didn’t just worship Bob Dylan. For many like me, he was the air I breathed. I think it wrecked my life!
Generally, I think he broke down all the boundaries between high art, popular art, low art, poetry and hip, bohemian culture. What may be most inspiring about him is his fearless, fierce expression and transcendent eloquence.
10. What is the best advice you have ever received on happiness?
It comes strictly from the inside, rather than from outside circumstances. Meaning you have the ability to be happy no matter what is occurring around you.
11. What is your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
I don’t believe there’s such a thing as writer’s block. Isn’t that liberating? There’s no such thing as speaker’s block, is there? If you have nothing to say, you don’t talk and you don’t worry about it. Here’s the best thing about writing I ever heard.
A student went to a famous literary critic and professor and said: “I’m struggling to know if I should be a writer. Do you think I should become a writer?” The professor answered: “I don’t know. Do you like sentences?”
12. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
Yes. I feel compelled not to waste time or talent. And the best way to avoid wasting time worrying about the success of “The Lost Diary of M” is to work on my next one!
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