Interview with Maria Murnane

maria murnaneQ: Where did the idea come from for Perfect on Paper?

If you move to San Francisco after college and live there for enough time, there are a number of common experiences you will eventually share with nearly everyone else there – for better or for worse. As I began to notice these things, I found myself thinking I need to write a book, which then evolved into That’s something that would totally go in my book. A great example of this is my good friend Alison, who was a little stressed out when she started dating her now husband, who is several years older than we are. When they first started dating, she wasn’t sure how she felt about the age difference. “I mean, he has a parking space,” she said one day. “He’s like a grown up!” As soon as the words were out her mouth, I pointed at her and said “That could totally go in my book!” (Unless you have a trust fund or are an investment banker, having a parking space in San Francisco is a major rite of passage.)

So when I started writing Perfect on Paper, all I really knew was that I wanted to tell a funny story that included many of these common experiences. I had a general idea of how it would begin, but that was about it. Once I got going, however, the story sort of took on a life of its own. And then one day I was done!

Q: My copy of your book is in the mail, on its way to me. What can you tell me about this story and the characters?

If you’ve never lived in San Francisco, I hope it (and they) will make you feel like you have. And if you have lived in San Francisco, I hope it (and they) will make you feel right at home.

Q: I did read that the main character in Perfect on Paper works in PR, and you have previously worked in PR. Are there more similarities between you and your character?

I like to say that Waverly Bryson’s life is like my life—if my life were more exciting. While some of my friends have said that reading Perfect on Paper is like listening to me talk for 311 pages (if they could stand that), in many ways we are very different. For example, we can both be quite chatty and like to make random observations, and we both tend to stick our foot in our mouths when we get nervous. We both love U2, chocolate and American Idol, and we’ve both been on some laughably bad dates. But she’s not athletic at all, whereas I play soccer several times a week and love watching sports too. She practically gets left at the altar; I’ve never even been engaged. Her mom died when she was a baby; my parents are happily married. She’s an only child; I have three siblings and six nieces and nephews. Waverly missed out on the big family that I’ve always enjoyed, but I felt it made the story more interesting to have her as an only child with a rocky relationship with her dad.

Q: What made you decide to write a novel?

One day I quit my job and had no idea what I wanted to do next other than not work in PR anymore, so I bought a ticket to go to Argentina by myself for a couple weeks. And after two weeks I loved it so much there that I decided to stay for an entire year. Then I realized that if I was ever going to write the book I’d thought about so many times, that was that time. So I just started writing and writing and writing, and eventually I had the first draft of what would eventually become Perfect on Paper.

Q: Do you have more writings in the works?

Ha ha ha my publisher keeps asking me that question too! The answer is yes, but “in the works” must be loosely interpreted. I have had many readers ask me to write a sequel though. Everyone wants to know what happens to Waverly!

Q: You played semi-pro soccer while living in Argentina . How was that experience and why did you stop?

I could write an entire novel just answering this question! The short answer is that it was an amazing experience, and I came home because I had finished writing Perfect on Paper and wanted to get it published.

Q: People have said you are a role model for women. What does that mean to you?

It means SO MUCH. Whenever I hear that, it validates all the hard decisions I’ve made over the past few years, the biggest of which was to give up a steady paycheck. It hasn’t been an easy road for me, and I don’t think people realize that when they take the time to tell me that I have impacted their lives, that they are impacting my life too.

Q: What has been the best experience for you since publishing Perfect on Paper?

While I’ve experienced some pretty amazing things because of Perfect on Paper, there are two that stand out:

The first was seeing a total stranger reading my book at a café in San Francisco. I nearly had a heart attack! And if that weren’t amazing enough, when I told her who I was, I found out that she was as excited to meet me as I was to meet her! She said she absolutely loved my book and was already on page 178 (had just started it the night before). Then she showed me literally 25 pages she had dog-eared because she thought they were so funny. She asked me to sign the book and wanted to know when I was writing the sequel because she’d be first in line to buy it!

The second amazing experience was stumbling across a Facebook post a college student at Boston University made about me after I spoke at a sorority there a few weeks ago. (A bunch of the girls added Waverly Bryson as a friend.) The day after I spoke, I realized that several of them were posting things about me, and one of the girls posted that she wanted to be me. It nearly made me cry.

Q: Where do you think would be the best place to travel to?

I love to travel so much that this question is pretty much impossible to answer. There are just too many places I want to see! Right now Croatia and Guatemala are on my list, as are Switzerland and Slovenia. And Tunisia. I just got a new passport last week – I can’t believe I have zero stamps! My old one had like one page left. Domestically, I’ve never been to the Deep South and have always thought that would be an interesting trip. And Alaska. And North Carolina. And Martha’s Vineyard. Did I mention I love to travel?

Q: What would be your best advice for aspiring writers?

I guess I would say that if there is a book inside of you, just sit down and write it. Write and write and write, and when you can’t think of what to write next, go back and edit what you’ve already written. If you do that consistently, eventually you will have a book. And no matter what happens after that, nothing can take away the profound sense of personal accomplishment that comes with typing the words THE END.