Miriam Parker on Loving Characters Who Are Just a Little Bit Messy
In Conversation with Maris Kreizman on The Maris Review Podcast
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On loving characters who are a bit messy:
The one thing I wanted to say about Jillian is that she’s not perfect. She’s not blameless in this situation. And I didn’t want to have a character who is like “woe, is me!” She did something wrong too. I like main characters who are a little bit messy. You want to root for them, but also. It’s possible there are people who wouldn’t root for her because she tried to steal her best friend’s boyfriend. That’s something that someone might not like about her. But what I hope is that she’s made a mistake and you do root for her in the present to overcome whatever mistakes she’s made…
I’ve never moved back to my hometown. But I’ve gone back a few times. My parents don’t live there anymore. But you walk down the sidewalk and you look at these cracks you’ve looked at so many times… I have these ingrained memories. But my whole hope the entire time I was in high school was I wanted to get away from this place. I want to be a different person than I’ve been this whole time. So I think there’s this balance between wanting to go back and fix the mistakes that you made, and also wanting to be a new person. That’s one of the things that’s happening in this book.
On being an outsider—and being okay with it:
So much about culture is reading the room. What is this room, and how am I going to work in this room? As a publicist Jillian gets this, but as a person she might not have figured this out. She never fit in at [her high school] and she goes back and realizes that she still doesn’t fit in. I’m still not accepted at the party… So she’s always a bit of an outsider.
On how to sound like an expert with only a certain amount of information:
Wine is one of those things that’s intimidating, but if you learn four things about it, it’s not anymore. I think that’s true with a lot of things. I think maybe that’s a result of my job. Being a publisher is so wide-ranging in terms of what you read and what you interact with. I have access to every kind of book. And certainly in the past few years, because at Ecco we publish a really wide variety of literary nonfiction and memoir and science, I’ve just been exposed to so much information. I have a real love of nonfiction now that I didn’t always have. But I also have learned that you can sound like an expert on a topic with just a certain amount of information. And that’s why it’s so fun to read a book about trees, I’m an expert on trees now.
Miriam Parker is the associate publisher of Ecco and the author of The Shortest Way Home and Room and Board. She has an MFA in creative writing from UNC Wilmington and a BA in English from Columbia University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and spaniel, Leopold Bloom.