Marie Mitchell, Writer, Lauren Wilkinson discussed on All of It
Single mother with two young sons. The year is nineteen Ninety-two. We learn the mom Marie Mitchell was globetrotting spider in the Cold War. The story brings us from the US to Martin, and then to procure Foucault centering on real life revolutionary figure Thomas Kara throughout the journey. We see marine navigate various places and systems as an outsider on the inside the book has received wide acclaim and earned its author comparisons to John Carre, and other spy novel. Greats will also breaking ground for presentation in the white male dominated genre, because our heroine. Marie is a black woman, I spoke with Lauren recently, and we began by talking about how this novel American spy was born out of a writing prompt. Take a listen. The prompt was to write a story set in suburbia that wasn't your typical suburban story. Not your typical middle class white, you know, focused on longing kind of narrative, so the first image that came into my mind was of a mother, who by all appearances looked like a typical suburban mom, then an assassination attempt would reveal that, that was not the case about her. Yeah. Because it says the first chapter nineteen Ninety-two Connecticut. Yes as suburban as we as we get so. Yeah. And then it mushrooms from there. And we also it's funny that I didn't know that before I read the book, and now that I'm thinking about just the description of the layout of the house, as the intruder is there, like, oh, she really does live in a suburban house in Connecticut. She's trying to scramble to find her gun. Yes. And as I was also thinking, picturing, her on a cul de sac maybe someplace where the neighbors might here be concerned about that. What, what we said suburban a different way, part of you think about these bourbon stories, a lot of them deal with unhappiness and station in life. And I don't like my life and life is boring. How did that play into your decision to make it a spinal or did it it did because I think just the exact opposite of that in my mind was a spine. How she's doesn't have the time to be feeling of this suburban on, we because of her previous life pressing back pressing on her her current one. Did you consider any other vehicles to tell her story was always going to be a thriller? I had a thriller in mind for most of it. I definitely merged thriller family drama because I knew I wanted to write a spy, but that was who understood her full story. We understood the choices that she she. She, she made that led her to, to this particular career path. And I feel like those kinds of things always start with the family. You know, the your family, really, that's your, that's the crucible that your personality and your, your choices are forged in. So I felt like for me. That was a natural thing to combine those two elements spy, and family drama, a someone who has obviously, studied creative writing, and this may sound like a really dumb question. But I'm truly curious when you were studying creative writing is there. Can you teach somebody how to write a thriller, or their parameters are there instructions, or there, or is it just another form of writing, and you use your magic nation? I think you can teach writing. I think that there are many things to teach. In fact, about writing, and I'm very strict and conservative about that. You know, I think we need to understand, we've been telling stories as a society for thousands of years we've come up with some patterns that deserve to be, analyzed, and considered. But I don't think as you're saying, no, I don't think that we can teach imagination. You know, you kind of have to offer a bit. Every writer has to figure out what the voice is going to be like, and how they're going to tell a story. So I think maybe it's a bit of a cheap answer. But both you can you can definitely teach this construction. But then, you know inspiration and how you tell a story kind of that that's comes down to the individual writer. So interesting, I'm very conservative about certain point. What are you conservative and strict about? We'll just the fact that, you know, there are story structures that exist. And then you in order to subvert them, you really need to understand them very well. And, and I think that a few people, you know, at certain points in their career, feel like I'm just going to hurt them without knowing them, well enough to do, so, so, you know, when I teach and I'm actually teaching a class at starts on thirteenth. The first thing I will tell those students is. You know, don't do that. I want to know that, you know, how story functions like, in terms of beginning middle and end in terms of getting to a climax of story and then resolving it before you do the more. The robe, gray the more experimental type of writing I always describe it as, as like with music jazz musician, you have to know your scales note your theory, and then you can improvise in between, but you need that foundation. Yeah. I think about even with, you know, journalists with these kind of jobs, you have to have a structure for the interview for the show, and then you can. I completely agree. I think visual artists, also a quote, that's often tributed to Picasso as you have to learn the rules before you can break them. He didn't actually say that. I don't think but you can understand why. All right. Lauren Wilkinson the name of her book is American spy, her new novel, why what into that went into the decision to have us learn the story through letters. Well, so when I, I wrote this book it was in third person and Maria was a bit of a mystery to me, she wouldn't reveal her secrets to me, either as the writer because she end at which made sense because she was a spy, and our whole, you know, what has been keeping her alive up until this point is her ability to keep secrets? So I switched it to first person to try to get a little closer to her. And then when I switched it to her writing to her sons, the only people who I can imagine her being completely honest with, that's when the book kind of started to come together for me as a writer in, in telling them the truth about herself my main character sorry to tell it to me, it was weird a little surreal, but yeah, that was my experience with that. What was the character keeping from you? The third person. What couldn't you get? I mean just the, the, the, you know, she in the novel is approached and asked to help destabilize on cars government, and so her role in that I couldn't access until she started telling the truth to her to her twin sons because you had to explain it. She had to also kind of come to grips with it. She yes, right? And also question for later down. But I think we're kind of here at this point in the conversation. One of the things I really interesting and thoughtful and made me think about things, and I think that's what my life or things, I've witnessed is that sense of you being given assignment to do something which in the process of doing so you realizes percents at odds with your own personal integrity. Yes, what do you do because you're someone who wants to do your job? Well, and you've been sort of trained and programmed to do that. But you know, you know, she realizes going into destabilize this country that maybe that isn't. The right thing to be doing her. Loyalty is assumed and then I think she starts to realize why and, and does this loyalty serve me does his patriotism, serve me and I think it's a difficult thing for her to confront that it may not that it really isn't you wrote in an interview or somebody's talking to you about how you came to develop Marie and her character. And you sit them, so interesting. You see a spy complex emotional, life. Why was it important in some ways, I mentioned when we went multidimensional characters, but why did you want to explore her emotions because she's a black woman and I wanted I didn't want her to appear from nowhere. I wanted her to have an emotionally complicated life because I you, I gravitate toward black female characters, who, who have a full range of emotions, and I want to see more of them. In the world. So I figured, you know, this is my first book, I may not get another shot gonna give they give it as much as I can. A lot of why I'm a young adult novel seem to be a little bit ahead of grownup in terms of the way they describe women, and people of color, and even men. I mean, they just seem to have more access to their emotions these books seem to. I don't know. They seem to be a head of everybody terms of emotional intelligence and people's and the willingness for the reader. Take it in considering the readers so much younger muchly. Grownup fiction. Why do you think that is? I'm curious from your point of view, s someone who also teaches writing. I that is a hard for me to say it, must have something to do with the audience, you know, that, that teen, I think that maybe why literature is written for an audience who is, is examining those feelings for the first time. And, and so, you know, the books are saying this is okay. This is normal. You know, you feel this thing we all sort of feel this way. So I think they're instructive in that way. And there's there's room for that. Maybe the assumption with adult literature is is that going up ready? Have those feelings in Czech manage them have experienced them, which is a bolt assumption? Yeah. So I so I still think it's important to kind of give a whole range of experience in the books that are written for adults too. So for listeners, you're like, okay, tell me more about Marie. I need to know. More about Maria Mitchell, can you describe her a little bit for our listeners? Well, she is a little emotionally stunted. And I think that's why I put in, you know, her her her sister is a major character. Her father is a major character, her mother. I put that into kind of express that and why she is the way that she is because I don't think that she can she's very, very intelligent. And is aware of her intelligence and is. But still is kind of shunted aside at, at work. She's working for the FBI and the eighties. So that felt like that would be very true experience for a black woman in this environment. But she does have a an emotional blind spot with the people that she really loves. And so she feels that she someone who it's difficult to trick. But I think that people who work in her emotional blind, and one kind of surrounds her sister. They're able to trick her quite easily. So what how does ambition play into her decision making, I think she's incredibly ambitious and Fink. And so I think she is makes a lot of choice based choices based on that, and Bishen. She wants to see herself. She wants to be successful. You know, in, in a way, a very strict definition of that, that she starts with, you know, she wants to be, especially in charge because these are the. That's the vision that she has. And then I think she starts ask yourself in the second half of the book. Why do I wanna do that? And what do I have to do to get to do that? And what do I have to give up to to get that? My guess is Lauren Wilkinson, the name of her book is American spy, and it's interesting because the covers American spy and all crackle, and it's a picture of black woman, and she's draped in the flag of Burkina Faso, correct. No flag. But you know with the colors. African American flag colors. Yeah. It's such an interesting cover. What did you think? When you first I loved it. Yeah. I was really, really excited. They gave me three or four options. And I knew immediately that this is the one that I that I wanted. Yes, what does it? What.