Wednesday, September 1, 2010

MWF 2010: Virgin Voices - Shirley Marr

This was my first event of Wednesday, September 1st. After yesterday, I thought I knew my way around and was less-stressed, though still had a bit of trouble finding the Festival Club, where this session was held. It's a really lovely, quite intimate setting though and Shirley was 'in conversation' with Bel Schenk from Express Media. Anyway, here's my notes:
  • Firstly, I have to say that Shirley had the cutest shoes ever! I'm a huge Wizard of Oz fan, and they were totally ruby slippers - pretty sure I need a pair of my own!
  • Shirley is a big fan of true crime and loves TV crime shows like Criminal Minds (my favourite - mmmm Dr. Reid ....) and Lie to Me, so it felt comfortable for her to write a crime story.
  • Eliza is quite an unlikeable main character. Shirley said that she "love(s) a villain" and that she was drawn to the darker side of people. "I didn't want to write an easy character" and I thought this idea was really interesting - especially the concept that you really need to invest the time and "earn the right to get to know her". She's a narrator who definitely puts up a front and as that starts to come away, you get to see who she really is.
  • The structure of Fury is quite unusual (begins with the confession of a crime and then alternates between flashback and police interviews). It took Shirley three months to write Fury and it came out in that format - being a crime story, she felt it was naturally suited to flashback.
  • "I didn't want to write a 'nice' story".
  • Shirley cited John Marsden's Letters From The Inside and Margaret Mahy's The Changeover as the novels she read as a teen, which made her want to be a writer. That and she'd "love to be sandwiched between Mahy and Marsden" on a shelf at a bookstore.
  • Shirley said that she went to a "bogan high school" and was interested in writing about a picture perfect neighbourhood (where everyone is rich and attractive) but with something dark lurking underneath the surface.
  • Then onto the process of writing and publishing Fury. As Shirley works as a full-time accountant, she wrote Fury in the evening and on weekends, taking moments where she could. It was written in a fairly linear way and the first sentence in the published copy was the first sentence Shirley wrote in the original draft.
  • After writing the Fury manuscript, Shirley sent a hard-copy of the first three chapters to a selected list of publishers who she felt might be a right fit for her work (very smart) and included a box of chocolates (even smarter!). While she waited to rack up a set of rejection letters, she received a publication offer from black dog books and Fury was out only a year later. She did have a tough editing process, which involved cutting 30,000 words from her work.
  • Somehow the discussion moved to vampires for a moment and Shirley mentioned (jokingly ... I think) about writing about Chinese vampires who are "not attractive" and like zombies. It made me laugh, as it reminded me of one of Tina's lines from Glee that "Asian vampires are the most vicious of all vampires".
  • Shirley's best words of advice for aspiring writers were "write what you want to write" and that you don't have to write something that's currently popular. She wrote Fury for enjoyment and originally had no expectations about getting it published, and that she still doesn't think of herself as "the other A" - as an accountant, not an author.
There are some photos from the session up on Shirley's facebook page. I was also fortunate enough to see Shirley in the Atrium after her panels, where she signed my copy of Fury and was absolutely lovely. If you're interested, here's my review of Fury.


Mel said...

Wow. That sounds like a good session. It's so interesting to hear how novelists got their work published, particularly from those who are just experiencing it for the first time.
I laughed about the non-attractive Chinese zombies. I think it may be because unlike other zombies who do the weird but cool zombie walk, Chinese zombies apparently hop.
By the way, great posts. :)

Girl Friday said...

Mel - Thank you! It was a great session! I'm the same - working in the industry, I love hearing author success stories!
And yes!!! re: Chinese vampires! Shirley said they jump really high or something - sounds crazy!

Shirley Marr said...

gosh you are waay too kind Girl Friday! I was so nervous and thought I sucked! But this is lovely. awww... I loves ya. I should have asked for a photo so I could be between the Steph and Steph B sandwich!

Girl Friday said...

Nawww Shirley! You definitely did not suck and I would never have guessed you were nervous - you were very funny and charming :)

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