Smoking With Maryanne Stahl

Read the Story March 15, 2004

You’ve published two novels. Care to talk a little bit about what the whole process of getting published was like?

Sorry, I’ve blocked it from memory.

Actually, I was unusually lucky in that my agent signed me on the basis of only 7 chapters of my first novel—largely a matter of right place/right time. Still, the process of sending out a ms. is grueling. One has such hopes—a bidding war! a blockbuster film! the National Book Award!—and then, all too often, such disappointment as the rejections roll in. I decided to revise—add a few scenes, polish a bit—after the initial responses were “Well written but too quiet”. (I still don’t know what an appropriately “noisy” book is. One with a lot of helicopter crashes, I suppose.) After my revisions, we sold the thing almost right away. Again, a combination of luck and right place, etc. New American Library (part of Penguin Putnam) had just begun a women’s fiction imprint (Accent) and “Forgive the Moon” was selected for that program. But my editor told me that, had she received the ms. six months earlier, she wouldn’t have been in a position to buy it; six months later, and she probably wouldn’t have needed it.

You also work a great deal in the visual arts. How does that influence your writing?

Well, I’m a visual person; I think visually. My dreams are pretty rich (aka, weird), and all that. I’d like to think perhaps my visual sense comes through in the images and physical details of my work.

The other part of it is that visual art gives me an alternative to writing. I experience verbal and non-verbal phases: times when the writing comes and times when it doesn’t. Making visual art is a kind of release and respite for my brain.

How has working as an Editor at InkPot/LitPot affected your writing?

Editing, like teaching, has helped hone my critical eye, but the danger is that one can let the critic-on-the-shoulder wield too much power. I’m a “contributing” editor now and that means that Bev (publisher of Lit Pot) is really easy on me, work-wise. She does a fabulous job, doesn’t she?

Yes, she’s awesome. How do you feel about Flash versus other literary forms?

I love flash! I love all immediate gratification, and I love forms (like poetry) where language is compressed. It’s perfectly suited to the ‘net.

Family plays a huge role in your novels. How much of that is driven by your own family?

Let me think. All? None? Somewhere in between?

And finally… boxers, briefs, or boxer-briefs?

Jim wanted me to say “Depends” (get it?), but I prefer nothing at all.

About the Author:

Maryanne Stahl has published two novels and a bunch of other stuff. She's a contributing editor at Ink Pot/Lit Pot. Check out her website at http://www.maryannestahl.com.