Friday, May 30, 2008

Writer Spotlight: Maile Meloy

mailemeloyMaile Meloy is the American author of "Liars and Saints" and "A Family Daughter." (From The Telegraph.)

As a child, Meloy was a voracious reader, devouring Joan Didion, James Salter, Tom Robbins, John Cheever and Evelyn Waugh. "But I never would have thought of writing as something I could do or make a living out of." It was only in her early twenties, while working as a river ranger for her uncle and aunt in Utah, that she began to write short stories, all the while trying not to "admit it was what I wanted to do. I thought it seemed presumptuous to think that I could do it."

She says her writing process involves discarding "a depressingly huge" percentage of material, "almost as much as I write". "I feel it's somewhat like digging for oil. You dig a lot of holes and sometimes you find something down there, and other times it's just rocks and water." But meticulous planning is not something she does. "I never know where stories are going to go. I wish I could do that. A friend outlines the whole book in her head before she starts to write, which I think is amazing."

Her characters, she says, are "composites and all of them are sort of me, just in the way that I have to identify emotionally with people. I start with the way someone talks, a characteristic, and then put them in a situation that seems charged in some way."

There are obviously elements of Meloy in Abby, and she clearly enjoys adapting snippets of her own experiences as a writer, such as a meeting in New York where Abby "feels scruffy and naive" and blushes as her agent, grilling her about how much her personal life resembles that of the character in her book, comments: "I don't think you want to be interviewed much, do you? You really turn an amazing shade of red."

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