Today I’m happy to be hosting Remy Maisel, author of Grounds for Divorce. Sit back and read her thoughts on why write a novel.
Why write a novel?
By Remy Maisel
When people find out that I’ve written a book (technically, three books – but it’s my first novel that has recently been published, my first two books were nonfiction) they usually ask me how I did it. Very few people ask me why, and if they do, they usually ask in the form of “What was your inspiration?” or something slightly different.
But I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about why I wrote a novel than how I did it. For me, the ‘how’ was relatively straightforward. Not remotely easy, but simple. Even more so because I enrolled in a Creative Writing MA course that would yield at least the first draft of a novel as my thesis, and along the way, force me to turn in plot outlines and first chapters and thirty thousand word chunks which would be marked.
The ‘why’ is a lot more complicated. I’m not entirely sure that I enjoy writing, which may seem like a somewhat strange thing for a writer to say. Even in my day job, I do a lot of writing – I’m a Senior Marketing Content Manager for a technology startup in London – but that type of writing is definitely easier than fiction writing.
But I also say that though I’m a marathon runner who ran my eight (and fastest) marathon in Valencia in December, I don’t enjoy running. What I do enjoy is having run – in other words, the benefits of running, the feeling of accomplishment I get after a run, and the sense of achievement, as well as the tangible outputs, like a big, shiny medal.
Similarly, I don’t necessarily love the process of writing. But I love having written something, especially something good, that I have reason to believe may have had a positive impact on someone else. I especially love to hear that I made someone laugh.
When I think about where my need to write came from, I think it came from my very earliest childhood, when I was formed first as a reader – by my mother. My family is Jewish, a culture with a deep respect and culture of bookishness and learning, and our family is no exception. As a young child, I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV.
Instead, my mother read books to me. I was insatiable, and I wanted to read everything she read – so once, she even read a book to me that she was reading, called Tales of Elijah the Prophet. I didn’t realize at the time that she was improvising happier endings as she read aloud, because these stories made the Grimm’s Fairy Tales look uplifting. I only found out when I spotted the book on a shelf years later and picked it up, expecting to read familiar stories, and being surprised to read about wolves ripping people apart.
When all my classmates were watching Friends and I hadn’t seen it, I resented not being allowed to watch TV all day after school. But now, I know that the countless hours I spent reading made me into a writer. In fact, maybe I inherited it, too. My mother actually wrote down her versions of Elijah’s tales, and they were published as a children’s book – so maybe it runs in the family, too.
Ultimately, I think I continue to write because I can’t imagine not doing it, even though I find it hard, and scary, and I sometimes wish I could just set down my metaphorical pen and not care if I was ever published again. There are times when I do enjoy the process, when the words flow freely and it just feels right.
This is a little like marathon running, too – when it’s mile 23 and you get an unexpected burst of energy, and you know for certain you’re going to get a new personal best time. For me, these moments are less common than the first 18 miles trudging along feeling like the race will never end, that you are breaking down, and cannot possibly finish.
But sometimes, having now published my novel, I’ve had people say to me that they ‘couldn’t put it down’ and that it was really funny – and that made up for all the aches and pains along the way. That’s why I continue.
ABOUT GROUNDS OF DIVORCE
“Remy Maisel takes the madness of the modern world, marries it to an ingenious concept, and makes it personal, funny, and heartfelt.” Dan McCoy, Emmy Award winning writer for The Daily Show
In a case of badly mistaken identity, Emily, a down-on-her-luck intern, is recruited by the State Department to solve the Palestinian problem. Only this time they want it handled as a divorce settlement.
Travelling across Jerusalem and New York, Emily must rely on the experience of her parents’ disastrous divorce to handle the case. Plus, she went to Hebrew school. If she survived that, how much harder can this be?
In order to pull off the most acrimonious divorce of all time, she must let go of the family trauma that has tainted her whole life… but what if it won’t stay in the past?