A few years ago, I had lunch with a girlfriend of mine. We ate pizza and played with her then-only son. Halfway through lunch, she gave me a funny look.
"I have to tell you something," she said, like it was going to be earth-shattering.
I love a good secret, so I grinned. "What's up?"
"I wrote a book," she said, and I swear that's when my
Real people, like my friend, could write books? WHAT?
Well, of course I wanted to read it, and of course I loved it. I was honored to be one of her earliest readers, and from her I learned the basics of how the publishing world worked, and, honestly, the meaning of the words "query letter." Had it not been for this friend, I'd never have written a book.
So...fast forward three years. She got pulled away from writing by the birth of her second son, but now she's back in the game. Saturday marked the release of THAT book, The Indigo Bunting, by Marissa Virtuoso.
The Indigo Bunting is a love story at its core. It's also a ghost story. Trust me, if I had a dollar for every time Marissa and I have sat around swapping ghost stories...I'd be a little richer. She has that creepy aesthetic I love in an author, and her book reflects it beautifully.
Today I'm happy to have Marissa here on the blog. Read on to learn more about the genesis of her writing career, and the chaos of balancing writing with two growing boys.
LR: First off, congrats times a thousand on the release of your first novel, The Indigo Bunting. Novels never come without hard work and (occasional) heartache. Tell me, what was the most surprisingly easy part of writing this book?
MV: Thank you! And thank you for having me on your blog! I’m so excited! The easiest part of writing this book was actually writing it. I started The Indigo Bunting a few weeks after I had my first son when I was so overwhelmed with joy, fear, frustration, love, that I was an emotional wreck. I don’t mean to make it sound like it was a bad time in my life, it was the exact opposite –it was wonderful, the best. But it was a whirlwind of foreign emotions that at times, could be really heavy. Writing was the one thing that brought me peace, and control. When I wrote, I didn’t even think about it, it just flowed. Editing was the hard part!
LR: I’ve read it, and I love it. It’s a fun, sad, haunting look at a young woman, Harper, who can’t let go of a really tragic past. Where did Harper come from? Was she based on anyone you’ve known?
MV: I’ve known little bits of Harper in a lot of different people. I’ve never dealt with anything close to what she has but I’ve always been really interested in how people deal with pain and loss. After someone has gone through a tragic event, it can change everything about them and steer them into a completely different direction. I’ve watched this happen to other people and it’s amazing to me when someone comes out on the other end and they’re OK. I guess a part of me has always wondered what I would do if I lost the things most important to me. I hope I never find out.
LR: In the paranormal world these days, we see tons of monsters – zombies, vampires, werewolves. You took your story in a different direction, with the inclusion of a very vivid ghost-world. Why?
MV: I love a good ghost story. The idea that our loved ones are still with us, is both comforting and scary. Who’s to say they’re not giving us little nudges or signs, helping us out along the way. There’s so much energy in all of us, where does it go when we pass on? I like the idea that maybe my grandmother is keeping me safe. I’m not sure if I entirely believe in ghosts but I do know that anytime someone in the room tells a ghost story, my ears always perk up.
LR: Jack, Harper’s fiancé, has a terrible end to his life. Did you set out hoping to redeem him? Do you think he actually IS redeemed, by the end?
MV: I love this question! No, I didn’t set out to redeem Jack but I wanted to show that Jack was a good person who made some bad choices. At the same time, I also think Jack is selfish. When I was writing Jack, it was more about how Jack didn’t think through his actions. He didn’t consider the consequences to what he was doing. I think Jack was trying to redeem himself, up until the end, at least. But at the very end, was he just being selfish? I don’t know. I’d love to hear what you think.
LR: What’s something you’d love potential readers to know about Harper, Jack, or anyone else in the story?
MV: Harper loved to sing and dance. Not in any formal, trained kind of way, but in more of a dance-around-the-kitchen-on-a-Saturday-morning kind of way. You don’t really catch her doing it in the book. She also secretly wanted to learn how to play the guitar, and in another life, she would have been a groupie. Harper was a free spirit but everything that happened to her, tied her down. Part of me is sad that I didn’t write more of her when she was in a happy place. I think Harper would have been a lot of fun to be around if she had not lost Jack.
LR: You’re mother to two young boys. When do you find time to write?
MV: Sigh. At night. I always write at night after the boys are in bed, much to the chagrin of my husband. I have to give him credit though, he’s very patient with me. When I write, I tune the world out, including him. It’s hard to find time to write during the day. I used to write during nap time but now that nap times are hard to come by, I usually only have time to write when the house is quiet. I catch myself thinking about my books all the time, though. I’ll be washing the dishes but in my head, I’m plotting.
LR:When you were a kid, were you a compulsive reader? What did you like to read, and did you have any childhood literary crushes? You know…those boys you wished were real?
MV: I read a lot growing up. I remember sitting in the back of my parent’s car during road trips reading those Choose Your Own Adventure books. I loved Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden...the books all little girls love. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with reading anything about the Kennedy’s. I read these incredibly long, detailed books about Kennedy’s assassination. I’m not sure what kind of phase that was. I don’t recall ever having a literary crush, but I’m sure I did.
LR: Favorites time!! Favorite movie(s)?
MV: I have so many! I love stories that either leave your heart aching or really happy. Some of my favorites would have to be Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment, Father of the Bride, The Notebook (I know, super cheesy, right?) But to be completely honest, my all-time favorite movie, that I could watch 100 times and probably already have, is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
LR: Favorite book(s)?
MV: This is too hard to answer. I do have one book that always stands out to me. When I was eighteen or nineteen, I read Wally Lamb’s, I Know This Much is True, and fell in love. It was the first book I read as an “adult” and it made me think differently about relationships. I love a book that will change the way I think. This was the first book that did that for me.
LR: Favorite band/album(s)?
MV: I love Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, Ray Lamontagne, The Black Keys. But my very, very favorite is Van Morrison. I can always listen to Van Morrison.
Thanks, Marissa, for coming by today! I always enjoy a good author chat!