Thursday, July 10, 2014

Marissa Stapley: Mating for Life

Marissa Stapley was one of the featured authors in the latest BookBuzz event, an author/reader party I co-founded with Meredith Schorr and Francine LaSala. I was thrilled to have another Canadian author join us. She is so lovely, warm, funny, and kind, and the second her debut novel, Mating for Life, was released by Atria, I bought it because I'd heard such amazing things about it.

Well, as I told Marissa when I met her for dinner the other night, I am exhausted because her novel is keeping me up late. It is an exquisite, superbly written, complex story with the kinds of characters I love--layered, complicated, and dark. I don't want it to end. It is such a pleasure to have Marissa here today! Welcome, Marissa!

About Marissa:

I'm a National Magazine Award nominated writer and former magazine editor whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, National Post, Elle Canada, and many others. Mating for Life (Atria Books; Simon & Schuster Canada) is my first novel. When I'm not writing, I'm reading. (In fact, I never go anywhere without a book. Except maybe swimming.) Some of my favourite authors are Meg Wolitzer, Julia Glass, Alice Munro, John Irving, Lauren Groff, Margaret Atwood and James Salter. I live in Toronto with my husband and two children, where I teach writing, and am working on another novel.

Marissa's path to publication is inspiring and her passion will resonate with every writer who has a dream.

Never, ever, ever, ever, give up

I have a magnet on my fridge with the phrase “Never, ever, ever, ever give up” emblazoned on it in bold writing. This is a phrase attributed to Winston Churchill during the darkest days of WW2—so perhaps it’s a bit dramatic of me to say that this quote has carried me through some of the darkest days I’ve had on the path to getting published, but it’s true.

As anyone who has ever written a book, or tried to write a book, or who is in the process of writing a book, knows, writing a book is not an easy thing to do. The act of writing a book alone, especially for the first time, requires tremendous self-discipline, determination, creativity, and skill.

My debut novel, Mating for Life, was released by Simon & Schuster Canada and Atria books this July. But it’s not my first attempt at writing a novel. My first attempt was about seven years ago. Happily, I managed to sell the book to a publishing house in Canada -- but they promptly went out of business, crushing my dreams in the process. (A lot of other people’s dreams were crushed in the process, too; it was a truly heartbreaking time for many Canadian authors, and also for the founders and staff at the publishing house itself).

After I got over the disappointment, I determinedly wrote another novel. I now have a folder full of dozens and dozens of very kind, very personal “Thanks, but no thanks” letters from publishers around the world. I appreciated the kindness, and the fact that it was clear that many of these editors had actually read my book (or at the very least had had their assistants or interns read my book) but the entire process was incredibly disheartening. This was the second time I had poured my heart, my soul, and a huge amount of my time (no small feat with two children under five!) into the writing of a book. And it had failed. Again. This time, I couldn’t blame a publisher going under. This time, it was all on me.

I moved that “Never, ever, ever, ever give up” magnet a little lower on the fridge. When I glanced at it, I looked away. I hate to admit this, but I gave up. I was offered a job at a magazine, and I took it. I was sad not to be writing fiction anymore, it was incredibly depressing to have given up on a dream I had held since reading Anne of Green Gables when I was seven, discovering that L.M. Montgomery and I had the same birthday – and hers 100 years to the day of mine, no less! – and deciding I was fated to become a writer, too. But it wasn’t fate, I now decided. It was a dream, and it hadn’t worked out, and I had a great husband, two wonderful kids, a job, family, friends. I needed to focus on being grateful for what I did have, rather than focusing on what I didn’t.

For the most part, it worked. I did have a lot to be grateful for during that time, and I loved my magazine job. But after several months passed, and I kept turning non-fiction proposals into my agent (who kept saying, “These are interesting … but why have you given up on writing fiction, again?”), it became impossible to ignore the fact that something was missing from my life. My passion for writing fiction, for creating stories, for making up characters felt real, for immersing myself in other worlds, was not something I could just turn off. My life without writing creatively was not complete.

And so, I started to write again. I didn’t tell anyone about this book I was working on: not my husband, not my mom, not my best friends. I started with short stories, and then linked them together into a narrative about women who were also at a place in their lives where they believed everything was going to be perfect—except that it wasn’t.

There’s a lot of divorce in my family, and I have always been interested in the idea of monogamy as a choice we make as humans, rather than an instinct that we have. This fascination with our instincts, and a passion for nature and our connection to it, is where the animal mating habit epigraphs at the start of each chapter came from. As I wrote Mating for Life, I also wanted to present an honest portrayal of the relationships we have, and I wanted to explore what it takes to love another person—any other person, not just a spouse, but a friend, or a sibling, or a child, or a parent—forever. I believe that some of our best stories as human beings are rooted in the relationships we have with others. I hope with Mating for Life that I’ve done these relationships justice, even if not all the stories in my book have a happy ending. I hope that I’ve created a story readers can identify with, and also a story that will help people realize that they’re not alone. We all share the same instincts, and we all struggle to reconcile what we think we want with what we actually have.

Here’s something else that’s important about my book: No matter what, my characters never give up. And so, whenever an aspiring writer asks me for writing advice, I simply say: Never, ever, ever, ever give up. If writing is your passion, you will find a way to succeed at it in the end.

With pitch-perfect honesty and heartwarming humor, this captivating debut explores marriage, motherhood, identity, and what it takes to love someone—family members, friends, or spouses—for life.

Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child who proudly disdained monogamy, raising three daughters—each by a different father—largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her. And while she fears losing him, she’s equally afraid of abandoning everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.

Meanwhile, Helen’s youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with her soul mate. But he has an ex-wife and two kids, and her new role as a “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, has put her bohemian past behind her and is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and her painting is suffering as a result—and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who has worked tirelessly to make her world pristine, yet who still doesn’t feel at peace. When she discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, Fiona loses her tenuous grip on happiness and is forced to face some truths about herself that she’d rather keep buried.

Interweaving the alternating perspectives of Helen, her daughters, and the women surrounding them, “each new chapter brings a wise and tender look at single life, dating rituals, and marital unease” (New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Close). In this “absolute feat of storytelling” (bestselling author Grace O'Connell), Marissa Stapley celebrates the many roles modern women play, and shows that even though happy endings aren’t one-size-fits-all, some loves really can last for life.

Connect with Marissa!
Buy Mating for Life!

The first two chapters of Mating for Life and a bonus short story can be found on Wattpad!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Blog Roll! What I'm Working on...

I must admit that I have done this before. But, when an author I love asks me to participate in a blog roll, how can I say no? The incredibly talented and wonderful Janis Thomas, author of Something New and Sweet Nothings, has tagged me to answer the following questions. And not only did I say yes because she is amazing, but I am actually working on my third novel so my answers will be different. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post where I tag four fantastic authors.


I am currently working on two novels. The first is now taking a break to breathe before my team of proofreaders and I do the final read. The other one is a big departure for me. Told in 3rd person, multiple POVs, it examines depression, loss, and what makes someone a mother. I don't want to give too much away, but when I write it, my heart pounds, which is the most wonderful feeling. It's also scary because I have to do a great deal of research and get in the minds of some very dark characters.


This is a hard question to answer because I think every writer's voice is unique. So, what makes my work different? My voice, even when the subject matter is quite serious and sad, has humor and levity. In even the darkest of times, there is lightness if you can manage to let it in. Oh, wow, that sounds so cheesy. 


I don't actually choose what I write. It chooses me, as crazy as that sounds. The idea for my latest novel came to me while waiting for a subway. I am drawn to women's stories, most recently in which motherhood is a central issue, and I am compelled to unfold the journey woman take in their thirties and forties as they navigate their professional and personal lives, family relationships, and the complex worlds in which they live.


Usually quite slowly. I try my hardest to get a story on paper (computer) first without going back to edit. But with my latest novel, when I was in the middle, the characters didn't know what they wanted to do next so I went back to the beginning and revised. Luckily, they found their groove and went in a direction I hadn't expected. I don't make detailed outlines, and I am the messiest/organized person you will meet. I have a whiteboard tacked up to my office wall with notes that would be completely confusing to anyone looking at them, but they make sense to me.

What will be different for this novel is that Lydia Laceby, my very good friend and an author I admire, and I are going to trade drafts and have dinner to tear them apart for each other. We are at the same spot in our manuscripts, and before our beta readers get the books, we are going to help each other make these drafts sing. I'm so excited and quite nervous.


This is an excellent question because I think almost every writer experiences self-doubt and has days when the writing isn't working. For me, I find it very difficult, impossible, really, to write when people I know are around. Like an actor embodies his/her role, I embody my characters, and if they are dark, gritty, and perhaps immoral, I can't get into their heads when my kids are home. Since it's summer, they are with me in the afternoons, which I so love, but I need to get my writing done in the mornings. I have been writing novels for more than ten years, and I can honestly say that I am still and will always be learning. I learn every time I read a great book and every time I put my fingers on the keyboard.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this! I am very lucky to have such amazing author friends, and I have tagged four hugely talented writers to answer these same questions.
Eileen Goudge is the  beloved NYT bestselling author of more books than I can count. She is a longtime idol of mine, and now a treasured friend. Her latest novel, Bones and Roses: Cypress Bay Mystery Book One, is a fantastic story that I am honored to have edited with Francine LaSala, and it will be  released on August 5th, 2014.
Meredith Schorr, the bestselling author of three hilarious and delicious chick lit novels, Just Friends with Benefits, A State of Jane, and Blogger Girl, co-founder of our BookBuzz event, one of my closest friends, and always one of my first readers.
Lydia Laceby, my friend, dinner partner at our monthly writers' meetups, co-organizer of BookBuzz Toronto, and the author of the spectacular novel, Redesigning Rose.
Francine LaSala, my soul sister, is my business parter, and together we have edited numerous manuscripts, including the fiction anthology, A Kind of Mad Courage, which is Francine's brainchild and to which we both contributed short stories, co-founder of our BookBuzz party, and the author of the quirky and brilliant, Rita Hayworth's Shoes and The Girl, The Gold Tooth, and Everything.
Be sure to check out these unbelievable authors and see who they tag!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Huge Summer Giveaway!

Renee Giraldy has got to be one of the most supportive book bloggers there is. Not only does she review books, but she also runs giveaways with incredible prizes, and they are usually all provided by her. She has done so many giveaways of Finding Lucas, and she gifts the book to the winners. I adore her, I appreciate her, and I'm very honored to be included in her Huge Summer Giveaway to celebrate the release of L.U. Ann's latest Destructive release.

The prizes? Oh, these are good! Renee is giving away a Kindle copy of the following:

A Destructive Novel Series (Destructive Silence, Destructive Choices and Destructive Release) by LU Ann
One Ride by Chelsea Camaron
Forever Ride by Chelsea Camaron
Unspoken Promises & Memories by Gabbie S. Duran
Karma by Nikki Sex
Big Bad Bite Series by Jessie Lane
Wakefield Romance Series by Theresa Marguerite Hewitt
In Need of Therapy by Tracie Banister
Finding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey
How We Deal with Gravity by Ginger Scott
The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard


A Swag Pack from Reading Renee
***Summertime Coach Purse***

You can enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway