Interview: Marcy Dermansky
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Current Song: More Than Melody by Anna Nalick
Chloe and Sue may look alike, but they certainly do not act alike. They are the narrators of Marcy Dermansky's debut novel, Twins. The story follows the girls for five years. A lot can happen between the ages of thirteen to eighteen - and a lot certainly does happen to Chloe and Sue. Read my full-length book review.
The New York Times called Twins "(a) brainy, emotionally sophisticated bildungsroman-for-two." What a great compliment! (Not to mention the name of my book site - Always nice to see that someone else knows what it means!)
Thanks! I have to admit, I was thrilled with that Times review. Still am. I love praise from high places.
I also love that your website is called bildungsroman. It's a beautiful word, such a fancy, smooth sounding alternative to coming of age -- a genre, I have to say, which never fails to move me. I want to be eighty-years-old and still reading coming of age stories.
When I was a teen, I read whatever I could get my hands on: young adult books and adult fiction. I believe it's a big mistake to keep teenagers away from books that deal with real issues: drugs, sex, what have you. Restricting literature is condescending and irresponsible; I know all too well how wonderfully reassuring it is to recognize your own messed-up self in the pages of a book.
So, reading TWINS, it's a personal decision. The book starts when Chloe and Sue are thirteen. If I were thirteen, I'd want to read about them. Protective parents might feel otherwise.
The story covers five years in the characters' lives, from eighth grade through twelfth grade. A lot of time, a lot of trauma.
That's funny, a lot of trauma. I hadn't thought of it that way.
Did you write it all in chronological order or jump around? How much of the story did you plot out ahead of time?
I wrote TWINS in chronological order. Chloe had to learn how to ride a unicycle in order to SPOILER ALERT! ride that same unicycle -- two years later -- to Mr. Markman's mansion on the hill in distress. When I write, I am always thinking about what came before, and then I try to keep using all of the good stuff.
I don't figure out the story in advance; in my rare attempts at plotting, my characters have always revolted on me. When the moment comes, they just refuse to do what I meticulously planned. Chloe and Sue became real enough people to make their own decisions: good ones and bad.
That said, TWINS was carefully crafted, written and then rewritten, then rewritten again.
How long did it take for you to complete the first draft?
The first draft took about two years. That does not sound like a long time, but they were two long, work driven, nerve-wracking years. I am hoping that the first novel is the hardest one to write, although something tells me this might not be true.
Who was easier to write for, Chloe or Sue? Why?
Sue came first and she was always the easiest. Probably because she is so much voicier. Sue misbehaves a lot more than Chloe. She thinks and often says outrageous, shocking things. That's fun, immediately satisfying.
Sad, quiet Chloe was more of a challenge. Chloe is just as interesting and engaging a character as Sue, but I had to pay closer attention.
You've written a variety of short stories, online and off. Which piece of short fiction makes you the most proud?
I've learned so much writing short stories -- tackling all sorts of different subjects, voices, going from straight comedy to one attempt at sci-fi to more serious material. I'm proud of a short story called Touching Candy Taylor that was about a soap opera star whose big death scene is preempted by live news coverage of a high school school shooting. That was a difficult story to write: to mock Candy Taylor and love her at the same time. And to address such a tragic event, with compassion and humor, all compressed into a twelve page story.
Whereas, I wrote the short short Little Meadow Simms in one sitting. I just reread it, after I looked up the URL, and it still makes me smile.
What are you working on now?