Author Mia March Edits As She Writes, Loves Women’s Fiction, And Celebrates Her Kinship With Authors

All I have to say today is ME TOO. I love interviewing women’s fiction authors, reading author guest posts, and internalizing their answers, rolling their thoughts around in my head and then sharing it all with you.  When it comes to Mia March, all I do is nod my head. I’m glad Mia feels a kinship with authors (which she explains below) because I certainly feel a connection with her thoughts on books, writers, and writing.

And now, Mia not only celebrates not only her connection to other authors, but the launch of FINDING COLIN FIRTH. 

Please welcome Mia March back to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Author Mia March Edits As She Writes, Loves Women’s Fiction, And Celebrates Her Kinship With Authors

Amy: Hi Mia! I’m sensing a theme! A fun and wonderful theme of taking something pop-culture and using it to explore more “real” fictional lives of characters in your books—The Meryl Streep Movie Club and now in Finding Colin Firth.  Am I way off base? And what about an actor like Colin Firth made him the right catalyst for your book?

Mia: Every time I see a movie with someone, a friend, relative, or my eleven year old son, none of us has the same opinion of the film. I remember being so moved by Eat Pray Love, for example, but my friend (like a lot of people), thought it was schmaltzy self-indulgence. I remember thinking: did we watch the same movie? I realized that having gone through a recent divorce, I identified with the main character and was riveted by her journey, emotional and otherwise, but my friend couldn’t stand her or the film! I find that so interesting; that two people can see the same movie and feel so differently; one person can be so energized by themes played out while another can find them so dull.

In The Meryl Streep Movie Club, I loved the idea of having a fractured family of women sit down to watch Meryl Streep (my favorite actress since I was a teenager) films, knowing that each woman would feel differently about the films and that the ensuing discussions would reveal things about each of them—to themselves and one another. Finding Colin Firth is less about watching and discussing Colin Firth’s films as it is about the idea and ideal of Colin Firth and how that affects the characters—and an entire town. I’ve been swooning over Colin Firth since 1995 when I first saw the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. That miniseries, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Love Actually, Fever Pitch, Then She Found Me . . . those are some of the films that immediately come to mind when I think about Colin Firth as ultimate British gentleman, a romantic ideal (well, maybe not Fever Pitch so much!). I wondered what would happen if Colin Firth was coming to my small Maine town to film a movie, what effect that would have on three very different women. One of my main characters, a journalist hoping to get an interview with him, but who finds herself drawn to a much more local and personal story about the other two main characters, came fully formed into mind. And a novel was born. (This was the long answer! The short answer is: I love movies, love being transported to another time and place, and I absolutely love Colin Firth.)

Amy: When and where did the idea for this story hit you? Were you watching a movie? (Okay, no more movie questions, promise!)

Mia: I was watching The King’s Speech (for which Colin Firth won the Oscar for Best Actor), and I remember thinking: God, he is so good at what he does. He’s riveting. And when I got home, I sat down at my desk and started writing a brief synopsis, just a sketch of the story I envisioned. Colin Firth is coming to a small Maine town to film a movie . . . how will this affect the characters. Who are they? What are their stories? And I wrote and wrote and wrote  . . .

Amy: As an author, how do you approach writing a novel? Meaning, what comes first, the characters or the plot? The beginning or the ending? And how do you set out to write it? Lots of notes or a wing and a prayer?

Mia: In the case of The Meryl Streep Movie Club and Finding Colin Firth, the concept came first: a fractured family of women watching and discussing movies—the favorite actress of their dying family matriarch. And Colin Firth coming to town—what does the actor mean to a twenty-two year old who just learned she was adopted at birth. What does he mean to her thirty-eight-year-old birth mother who’s been holding out for a man like Colin Firth (when the Colin Firth she knows is an actor on screen?) What does he mean to a twenty-nine year old journalist with a big secret and a career to save? I started there and then the characters and secondary characters began fleshing out in my mind. I thought a lot about them before I actually started to write. I don’t take notes so much as I think and write in my head. While walking the dog, doing dishes, and especially in the wee hours of the morning right before I wake up. I’m a morning person and get up around 5 to start writing when my mind—and all that sleep-writing—is fresh.

Amy: As a debut author working on my next novel, a big concern was that my characters in novel 2 were reincarnations of the characters in novel 1. I’ve been assured they’re not, which was a big relief.  What insecurities do you have (if any) when starting a new book? How do you tackle them?  What questions did you ask yourself when you were writing and revising “Colin?”  And to add onto this question—can you tell us what you’re working on now? 

Mia: My biggest insecurity is that all the writing I do in my head will never transcribe onto the page (or laptop screen, I should say). I’m so tough on myself, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, and I don’t write first drafts. I revise and revise and revise as I go. I can’t start chapter two until chapter one makes emotional sense to me, until I can feel the characters. Only then can I move on. I hate that this is my process!

As for what I’m working on now: At this early stage, I can only tell you it has nothing to do with movies  . . . and a lot to do with food.

Amy: How do you respond to the notion that your books fall under the umbrella of women’s fiction? 

Mia: I’ll be very honest here: I love women’s fiction. I write it and I read it. I know women’s fiction when I see it, and I know when I don’t. Yes, it’s a marketing label, but women’s fiction is not just about “books by women about women, novels that explore the female experience.” I think women’s fiction has a particular feel, a particular scope and style. Women’s fiction can be very funny and very serious and everything in between, but I do think it’s a genre, and just because a novel is about a woman and her journey and experience doesn’t make it “women’s fiction.” I know the label bothers some writers, but because I particularly love women’s fiction, the label has never bothered me.

Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors (or even debut authors, eh hem) of women’s fiction?

Mia: Read, read, and read some more. Read the hot book of the season (even if it doesn’t interest you) to try to understand why it’s so hot. Read books like yours, books not like yours. Read for pleasure, for style, for answers. One thing I love about being an author is that whenever I’m reading, I always feel a sense of camaraderie with the author; we both write. I always feel such kinship!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Amy!

Mia March lives on the southern coast of Maine with her son and their sweet beagle. Her debut novel, The Meryl Streep Movie Club, was a USA TODAY Hot Summer Read pick, and her new novel, Finding Colin Firth, is one of Good Housekeeping magazine’s Best Summer Beach Reads. She’s hard at work on her next novel.

Debut Author Mia March Explains How Thanksgiving, Divorce, And Meryl Streep Led To Her First Novel: The Meryl Streep Movie Club

The first time I heard about The Meryl Streep Movie Club I thought, “that’s genius” and “lemme at that author!”  Now finally — I’m happy to present Mia March to the Women’s Fiction Writers community.  With insight, hindsight, and foresight, Mia wrote a novel about how movies can find their way to our very core and help us make us who we are.  And who we want to be.

Please welcome Mia to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

How Thanksgiving, Divorce, And Meryl Streep Led To My First Novel

by Mia March

Ever had one of these Thanksgivings?: You’re in the kitchen with your mother and grandmother, and they’re sniping at each other over whether to put garlic in the mashed potatoes and who said what fifteen years ago, and all you want is for them to get along and remember why you’re all stuffed into this house on a Thursday night in the first place. Well, after that dinner and more digs about the dry-or-not drumsticks and who runs out of Diet Coke on Thanksgiving, my mother and grandmother and I sat down in the living room to watch a movie: The Bridges of Madison County, starring my favorite actress, Meryl Streep, and my mother’s favorite actor, Clint Eastwood. Some two hours later, popcorn consumed, credits rolling, my grandmother commented on the choice that Meryl Streep’s character makes at the end of the film. The discussion we had, from that one comment, changed everything.

My mother and grandmother went from barely speaking, full of silly resentments and old feuds, to opening up. To really talking. The question: should Francesca Johnson, married but deeply lonely Iowa farm wife originally from Italy, run off with Robert Kincaid, National Geographic photographer, with whom she fell deeply in love after a four-day whirlwind love affair when her husband and children were off at a state fair in the summer of 1965. Or, should she stay where she was, with her husband and two teenaged children. Our responses to her choice, and the whys, engendered a conversation that truly changed our relationship.

Fast forward ten years later to me on my couch with a bunch of rented Meryl Streep movies. I was going through my divorce and planned a weekend with tissues, popcorn and my favorite actress, whose incredible range was represented by the films I rented. The hilarious (but very poignant) Heartburn and Defending Your Life and Postcards from the Edge. The exquisite, life-affirming, soaring Out of Africa, my favorite Meryl Streep movie. One True Thing, which made me love Renee Zellwegger. That weekend, I laughed for what seemed like the first time in months over Heartburn and Defending Your Life. Out of Africa reminded me why I was going through this divorce in the first place and to strive, always. Film after film, Meryl Streep’s breathtakingly beautiful face, breathtakingly talented performances, made me think, made me cry, made me laugh. But most of all, Meryl Streep made me believe in her every expression, every line she uttered. I felt stronger after that Meryl Streep movie marathon—stronger, more whole, ready for next in a way I hadn’t been before.

And I started thinking about that Thanksgiving ten years earlier with my mother and grandmother, how we watched The Bridges of Madison County and how it got us talking, opening up, sharing, hugging. How it changed our perspective about a number of things, changed our relationship. I sat down at my laptop and typed the title dead center: The Meryl Streep Movie Club, then Chapter One below it, and characters were right there: a fractured family of women who are brought back together through the surprising and heartfelt and sometimes angry discussions engendered by watching the films of Meryl Streep, their difficult family matriarch’s favorite actress.

When I think about this, the two-fold inspiration for my novel, I’m always amazed by how watching a movie had such a impact on me and my family’s relationships and how it changed the way we watched movies together from then on. If my mother and grandmother hadn’t been arguing over whether to put garlic in the mashed potatoes, we might not have watched a movie at all; we tended to watch movies as a family as a way of not talking, of sitting in a darkened room and not engaging for two hours. But after that night, watching movies together became an event—choosing the film, what kind of food we’d have for our own “dinner theater,” and the hours-long discussion afterward.

I have Meryl Streep to thank for this. For decades of making me think, cry, laugh, and believe. For inspiring my novel, for inspiring me. She’s truly a gift. Just as movies are.

Has watching movies had this effect on you? Got you talking, got you thinking, changed your perspective on something?

Mia March lives on the coast of Maine, the setting of The Meryl Streep Movie Club, which Kirkus Reviews says is “a heartwarming, spirit-lifting read just in time for beach season.” The novel will be published in over eighteen countries. Mia’s next novel, Finding Colin Firth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in the summer of 2013. For more info, please visit Mia’s website at www.MiaMarch.com. You can also friend her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MiaMarch.author and follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/March_Mia