Was it a natural segue to novelist from playwright?
Yes, I’ve always seen them as two sides of the same imaginative coin. Interestingly, before I wrote the novel, I had actually written the play, so the two pieces of work informed one another. Writing plays is about creating believable characters and giving them compelling dialogue; however, you are limited by the location. Writing novels allows you to give more breathing room to your story. You can open it up more. For example, the play THE AFFAIR takes place in three static locations: Robert’s office, Stephanie’s bedroom, Kathy’s kitchen. The play works because it’s highly stylized, so I can convey the story through the character’s dialogue. In the novel, Boston becomes a character in the story and you feel the bitter cold, stress over the never ending traffic, get the flavor of the city … which is a fun element to add.
A bit about your debut THE AFFAIR, please.
There are two sides to every story, but in an affair there are three. This is the story of the three people caught in an affair, their perspectives and the choices they make.
Why tell the story of an affair from the perspective of the husband, wife and mistress?
I wanted to make all three characters sympathetic by showing how they interpret the exact same situation from three completely different rationalizations. As an audience, you will read the exact same circumstances unfolding from three completely different mindsets. After interviewing nearly one hundred couples who were involved in affairs, the same thing kept appearing: Everyone involved is somehow culpable and often times their motivation is truly understandable. My research revealed that no-one sets out to have an affair – they just happen.
Why did you choose to have the husband be the one having an affair vs the wife?
When I was initially preparing the work, I did create a draft in which it was the wife having the affair. If the wife was having an affair, the story would be about two men and one woman and it would be hard, I think, to make any of them sympathetic to the reader. The statistics are interesting though: “50-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship.”
I think it is a story I would like to explore some day.
Did you relate or sympathize with one character more than the others?
As a writer, I have to sympathize with all the characters. I have to understand them and their motivations to be able to write about them. So, my sympathies are pretty even among the trio. I ‘get’ why they are doing what they are doing. I had written their characters as I was conducting my interviews with men and women who have been involved in affairs and, to my surprise, I discovered that I had hit their characters right on the head.
Was THE AFFAIR difficult to write?
Yes, because of the unique three part structure. Once I had the research in place, I had to ensure that each of the three pieces matched perfectly.
Was it exciting to work with Jackie Collins on the play JACKIE COLLINS HOLLYWOOD LIES? I was an avid Jackie reader in the ‘80’s. I so wanted to be Lucky Santangelo. J
Who doesn’t want to be Lucky Santangelo? Jackie writes beautiful, ballsy, smart, funny women that are signature Jackie Collins. I think Jackie is one of the smartest businesswomen I have ever met. Not only does she write brilliant book after book, she knows how to market them into a deliciously wicked brand. She was a blast to collaborate with, incredibly generous and knowledgeable … and she took me out to some of the best meals of my life!
Can you share what it was like to collaborate with Michael Scott on THE THIRTEEN HALLOWS?
Michael is a true pro. Before I started working with him, I attempted to read most of his books (he’s published over 100, so it was a definite education). He writes across genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Paranormal: what doesn’t he write? And reading his work helped me get into the mind of a truly complex man. Michael taught me the nuts and bolts of writing. Working with him was better than any university course on writing. And despite his talent and success, he has no ego. Zero. And it was fascinating to work with such a humble author (ego is one of my personal fatal flaws). So, in a nutshell, collaborating with him on The Thirteen Hallows was the best writing education I could have ever gotten. We’re currently working on the sequel, which is equally intellectually exhilarating for me.
Do you prefer collaborations, working alone, or does each satisfy a different creative urge?
I like them both because they involve different responsibilities. My favorite thing about collaboration is the camaraderie. Writing is such a lonely profession. It is you and your story. You become so involved in your characters’ lives, sometimes you lose track of reality. When you are involved in a collaboration, someone else is sharing your journey and it’s a lot less lonely. The downside is, there are two opinions and that often involves conflict. Resolvable conflict, but conflict nonetheless. Working alone is lovely because I can truly get into the zone and have a completely singular voice. Honestly, I love both collaborating (I’ve also been lucky enough to have terrific collaborators so my tune might change if you ask me this five years from now) and I love working alone.
The Thirteen Hallows was a fabulous story which was outside my comfort zone. I’m fascinated by fantasy and thrillers, but it was much more in Michael’s wheelhouse. I was definitely the junior writer in the collaboration as I got my feet wet jumping into an unfamiliar genre. The Affair was much easier because those are the types of books I devour. Stephanie and Kathy are women I would be friends with. Boston is a city I am incredibly familiar with. While The Thirteen Hallows was venturing into the unknown, The Affair is the classic example of “write what you know.”
Will you continue to write plays and novels or do you think you’ll eventually focus on one or the other?
I will continue to write both. While it’s wonderful to see my books on the shelves of a bookstore or get feedback from friends and strangers, there is nothing like sitting in the back row of a theatre, feeling the tangible energy of an audience reacting to your plays. Every time someone laughs, cries, shrieks or shudders at an unexpected reveal, I feel an incredible sense of pride and satisfaction. Plays don’t pay the rent, but they pay off emotionally…in spades. I love writing novels because I have a lot of stories in me and as long as people are interested in reading them, I will continue to write them.
What do you see as your ideal future, career wise?
Writing. Novels and plays. Perhaps the occasional screenplay to shake things up a bit.
Do you currently have a WIP you can share with us?
I’m working on two projects at the moment. A Young Adult book set in the world of a creepy All Girl’s School and the novelization of my play Sister Cities. I’m also working on the sequel of Thirteen Hallows, called The Hallowed Keepers.
Do you have a favorite genre?
Like most writers, I read just about everything. I love crime and I am especially enjoying the Young Adult genre: it really is the home to some fabulous writing. I also really enjoy women’s fiction and historical fiction.
Always such a dangerous question. I’ve been lucky to work with two whose work I really enjoyed – Jackie Collins and Michael Scott, but I would have to say that my all time favorite is: Ann Patchett. I think she is an absolute genius.
Have you read anything lately that knocked you back on your heels?
I actually just reread Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude. I had read it in college and a few weeks ago, I happened to pick it off the shelf and start rereading it. It’s absolutely breathtaking. Especially the last third.
I have two books on the go at the moment – Lissa Price’s Starters and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Going to Italy to see the play of The Affair – it’s touring the country from February through May and I can’t think of a better place to drink red wine, eat fresh pasta and see my play.
Colette is giving away a kindle version of THE AFFAIR to one lucky commenter. Would an affair be the end for you or would you try to save your marriage?
Giveaway ends @12 am est 1-23-13 with the winner announced shortly thereafter. Good luck!