Friday, August 19, 2011

Marybeth Whalen: An Interview and a Giveaway

All right, so by now you all know just how wonderful and delectable I found Marybeth Whalen’s new book, She Makes It Look Easy. Aside from the obvious reasons I loved it, I have a feeling that it will speak to the hearts of many women out there today, for various reasons. In an effort to shed some light on some of the more enticing aspects of the book and the story behind it, I asked Marybeth if she would stop over today and share a little behind-the-scenes information with us, and I was very pleased and thrilled that she agreed! So without further ado, I’d like to share her interview with you all today, and for you to read in her own words why this book was such a different endeavor for her and how she felt about some of the not-so-transparent characters that make an appearance in She Makes It Look Easy. Please welcome Marybeth here today to spend some time with us!

As an author of Christian fiction novels, this book is a departure for you, and recently there has been some backlash regarding your decision to write about such a sensitive and inflaming topic. Why do you think this book has gotten so many people up in arms?

Some of the feedback is that I didn't treat adultery as bad or wrong. The problem is, in writing from the character of Justine's perspective (seeing things from inside her head) she wasn't going to call what she was doing wrong. She was going to justify it, the same way anyone who is doing something wrong would. Which is exactly what you see Justine doing and I had to be true to that, to present her in that way. It's what is true instead of what we wish were true. The fact is people make bad decisions all the time and hurt other people and it can even seem that they got away with it. So I have had some readers say they wish I would've handled the adultery differently. I think for some this is just a very sensitive issue with a lot of hurt feelings from the past.

In The Mailbox, your main character Lindsay is dealing with some very different situations than Ariel in She Makes it Look Easy, but somehow to me, the women seemed to have some similarities. Did you find that there were similarities between these two female protagonists?

These two women are similar in that they are searching for meaning and identity in places that are coming up empty. This search has led them to deeper issues. I am sure this is a theme I will come to again and again in my writing, because I see it in myself and the women I hear from. We're wired to seek more. The trick is to learn to look in the right place.

She Makes it Look Easy deals with some very sensitive issues, as I mentioned before. Did the ideas in this book spring up entirely from your imagination, or was there a real life event that inspired the book?

There were several real-life issues that triggered this book. I knew a woman who walked away from her seemingly perfect family and two of my close friends also knew women who did the same thing at that same time. As we compared the stories, we were like "What is going on?" As I tried to process what would make a woman do this, this story started to form in my mind.

Was this book harder to write than your first, and if so, for what reasons?

I would say that yes, it was harder to write because the issues were bigger and more damaging and I had to handle them carefully. With The Mailbox, I basically thought about falling in love and going to the beach every day. What's not to love? With She Makes It Look Easy, I was tapping into some tough areas of life-- areas that are not easily resolved. And yet persevering and tackling these issues was quite rewarding in the end.

In this story, the relationship between two women is one of the central themes of the book, and the themes of acceptance and loyalty were mixed in with ideas of exploitation and trust. I’m wondering if these relationships were the real crux of the story, and how you were able to develop such lifelike situations and emotions regarding Ariel and Justine’s friendship?

It's funny-- I think we put so much stress in stories on male/female, romantic love. And yet, those good, enduring friendships (and the struggle to find and maintain them) are such pivotal parts of a woman's life as well. I know that I count my good, solid friendships as some of my most valued treasures of life. So the idea that we have to look for them and work on them was something I wanted to delve into in this novel. I based much of Ariel's struggle with defining a true friendship on my own journey, which is probably what made it seem lifelike. (Thanks for saying that it did!)

There was a lot going on in Justine’s life, and although some would label her as a villain, I’m wondering how you feel about her, and how difficult it was to create such a multi-layered, yet flawed character?

I will be totally honest: I started out really disliking and judging Justine. It wasn't until I had to write her that I softened. She wasn't as cut and dried as I wanted to make her out to be, which has been wonderful for my own outlook as a woman with other women. It's the whole "walk a mile in my flip flops" thing-- we have no idea what that other woman is going through. We can't because we can only see what other people let us see. For Justine, she chose to put that perfect image out there and hung onto it til the bitter end. I hope that my novel urges women to be real, to let go of any image they are putting out there and live in freedom. I ended up loving and feeling so much grace towards Justine.

What are you working on now, and when can we hope to get our hands on it?

I am back to the beach! I am writing my second Sunset Beach novel, tentatively titled The Guestbook. Like my first novel, The Mailbox, this is a coastal NC love story that centers around a mysterious inanimate object (this time a guestbook in a beach house) that brings two people together over time and against all odds. It will be out, Lord willing, in fall of ‘12.

Thanks, Marybeth, for shedding a little more light on the book for us today! And for my readers, great news! I have an awesome giveaway going along with this interview today!

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.


Jenny said...

Great interview! I'm really looking forward to reading this book (as well as The Mailbox which will be up soon). Sounds like there's a lot to take on in this book and I'm glad it feels genuine because that's what makes a book good and easy to relate to. And the thing about female friendships and having to work on them too is so true!

Athira said...

Fabulous interview! I am a lot more intrigued by this book now. I am curious about all the controversy.. I usually find it harder if a book from the perspective of a person didn't sound authentic.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Great interview! I'm feeling bad that I haven't read her books yet, and I think we will see her in Charleston. I can't wait to meet her.

Suko said...

Wonderful interview! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I have entered the giveaway as well. I will post this giveaway in my blog's sidebar.

Darlene said...

Great interview! I think sometimes people forget that in a book you have to portray a character as authentically as you can. If the character is committing adultery or what have you, they won't feel they are wrong. The story has to come across that way or it may not seem as real. Anyhow I sure wish this giveaway was open to Canada. This is one I would have entered. Lol.

Beth F said...

I loved this interview. I haven't read any of Whalen's work but I'm very curious now. Lucky Sandy to get a chance to meet her.

Marie Cloutier said...

What a great interview! I really want to keep my eye out for the book. I'll admit Christian fiction is usually not my thing,b ut maybe I just haven't read enough!

Beth Hoffman said...

I really enjoyed this interview! Though I've not yet read Marybeth's work, I'm adding her to my list!

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

what a fantastic interview! I loved The Mailbox and am happy to know she will be re-visiting that theme again with The Guestbook! I would love to read She Makes it Look Easy....sounds like a wonderful book!

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