I'm back today with another interview, this time with the amazing Maryrose Wood, author of Why I Let My Hair Grow Out (and sequels), My Life: The Musical, and Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love (which is not as racy as it sounds, though it is completely hilarious). So here's my conversation with Maryrose, with my questions in bold.
I know you originally studied acting, including a short stint on Broadway. How did you end up in writing after doing all that acting?
You’re right: I did study acting, at NYU, and dropped out after two years to appear in a short-lived flop Broadway musical. I worked as an actor for a few more years after that and had many wacky adventures—like touring the US and Canada in Sweeney Todd with a busload of hard-drinking opera singers. And performing Once Upon a Mattress in Sri Lanka with civil war raging in the countryside!
Being an actor was fun, most of the time, but I started to get restless pretty quickly. Constantly auditioning, occasionally getting cast, playing my part and then working temp jobs while I waited for the next job didn’t feel like enough of a life for me, creatively, intellectually, financially or otherwise. So I started to experiment beyond the more conventional acting work I’d been doing. I studied and performed improv comedy, I directed plays and performance art, and eventually I starting writing plays.
Once I started writing I finally felt like I’d found my “thing,” and the performing and directing faded away. Ten years after I dropped out of college I went back to NYU and finished my degree, but I studied literature and dramatic writing this time. I wrote plays for many years, as well as screenplays and musicals. Only after a decade of this kind of work did I make the leap to writing novels. But all of that experience comes in handy, every single time I sit down to write.
If your life were a TV series, what would the theme song be? And would it be a comedy or drama?
Comedy, for sure. And the theme song would be the theme from “Sanford & Son”—without a doubt, one of the happiest pieces of music ever written!
I know this is a hard question to answer, but do you have a character/book that is your favorite?
It’s easy to answer, actually: No! No favorites. I’m totally bonded to each book at the time I’m writing it. Then, when the books are done, you let them loose in the world and they’re all so different, yet they all look a little bit like you. It would be like picking a favorite child.
Likewise, the principal characters of my books feel like real people to me, I could never play favorites. Felicia from Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love, Morgan and Colin from the Why I Let My Hair Grow Out books, Emily and Philip from My Life: The Musical—I would love to get them all in a room together, actually!
I bet that would be quite the conversation! Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
I would have to say all of them, just in different ways. My theatre-crazed past found its way into My Life: The Musical. My crabbiness after bad break-ups, tendency to wisecrack, and my yet-to-be-realized dream of doing a bike tour of Ireland all turn up in Why I Let My Hair Grow Out. My enduring love for the endless possibilities and thrilling diversity of New York City helped create the wacky world of Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love.
Right now I’m simultaneously working on two different projects that are set in different historic periods in England; one is quite funny, the other is creepy and romantic (more on those projects below). It’s quite interesting for me to observe how I have to reset my brain to summon up different moods and reflexes as I work on these very different books.
Typing or longhand?
I work on a Mac PowerBook G4, but I am so ready to upgrade! I am a Mac girl going back to when they had those ridiculous Mac Pluses with the four-inch screens. At the time we thought they were miraculous. I use Microsoft Word to write but I really want to try out a program called Scrivener, I have writer friends who swear by it. I need to bring my computer a little closer to the 21st century before I can do that, though, it won’t run on my current system!
I've been through that one before. I found out the hard way I program I wanted to install wouldn't run on my system by crashing the computer. Any other hobbies besides writing and acting?
When I’m not working I like spending time outdoors physically doing stuff (this is probably because writing involves so much sitting inside, staring at a screen). I spend my leisure time kayaking, biking, gardening, raising my kids, and tending my pets—a dog and two cats.
I don’t act anymore but I do love to go to the theater. I live just outside of Manhattan, so I can go see whatever I want just by getting on the subway. I have to admit, though, I’m very partial to the local theatre group in my community. There’s something wonderful about non-professionals creating theatre purely for the love and fun of it; it’s a magical kind of energy that rarely gets captured by those big, slick, $120-a-ticket Broadway shows.
Not to mention a lot smaller price tag. :) Any upcoming projects you are allowed to let us in on?
So glad you asked! The third book about Morgan Rawlinson is coming out on December 1. It’s called What I Wore to Save the World, and the plot brings Morgan across the Atlantic again (but not to Ireland this time!), where she meets a type of magical creature she’s never encountered before, discovers something interesting about Orlando Bloom, and finally has to deal with telling her Irish love, Colin, the truth about her being a half-goddess. And she has to save the world, too, of course!
I also have two new series launching next year. I’m so excited about both of them. The Poison Dairies is a YA series set in northern England in the late 18th century. It is very creepy, very romantic, and was inspired by the actual Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle, which was created by the Duchess of Northumberland. I had the enormous pleasure of going to England this past spring, meeting the Duchess and getting a tour of the castle and the garden; it was absolutely spectacular. The first book will be released next summer.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place is my first middle grade series. It’s set in Victorian England and follows the adventures of Miss Penelope Lumley, 15 years old and a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. Penelope is hired as a governess at the very grand house called Ashton Place. Only after she takes the job does she discover that her three new pupils were actually raised by wolves! So before she can get them studying Latin verbs and geography, they need to learn to wear clothes and behave in a somewhat civilized way.
As you might guess, the tone of the book is quite funny, but it’s also a complicated mystery that will unfold over the whole series, as we learn who the children really are, how they came to be left in the forest, and the truth behind the strange goings-on at Ashton Place. There are wonderful illustrations by Jon Klassen, too. Book I: The Mysterious Howling will be published in February, 2010.
Those sound great! I can hardly wait until to get my hands on both of them. Last of all, I have to ask this question: What is the one question no one ever asks you but you wish they would? And you have to answer too!
“What would you like for lunch?” No one asks me this! Every day I have to get up from my desk and make my own lunch. It’s tragic.
That is tragic. I wish my brother would pick up on this hint too. Thanks so much for stopping by Maryrose! It's been a pleasure.
Thanks for the invitation to interview, this was fun!
For more about Maryrose Wood, you can visit her at her website, www.maryrosewood.com. And keep an eye out for her upcoming books!