Maria Lewis speaks to AWM intern about how her love of fierce female protagonists sparked the idea for main character Tommi Grayson in her novel Who’s Afraid?. Our five quick questions with Maria Lewis will give you a short peek into her creative brain, as well as a lingering desire to watch back-to-back episodes of Daria.
Maria Lewis is an authority on film and pop culture. Currently an entertainment reporter at The Daily Mail, her work has appeared in The Daily Telegraph, Empire magazine and the New York Post. She hosts the weekly Gaggle Of Geeks pop culture segment on 2SER 107.3FM and is one half of the film podcast Pod Save Our Screen for Graffiti With Punctuation. Represented by the Alex Adsett Literary Agency, Who’s Afraid? is her debut novel. You can find her on Twitter at @MovieMazz.
How would you describe Who’s Afraid to someone at a party?
It’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but with werewolves and cussing *drops mic*.
Why was the character Tommi Grayson fun to write?
I grew up on a diet of strong, sassy and complicated female protagonists like Buffy Summers and Faith, Helena ‘Huntress’ Bertinelli, Lt Ripley, Wonder Woman, Daria, Left-Eye, the Powerpuff Girls, Storm, every character Jamie-Lee Curtis has played in a horror movie ever, and I always wanted to contribute a femme worthy of joining that league of BAMFs. Tommi Grayson is a deeply flawed character and the beauty of creating a fictional human (or werewolf, as the case may be) is that you can give them delightful nuances or traits that you’ve either always wanted yourself, or maybe despised. For instance, it was fun to create a character that was a thousand times funnier and wittier than I could be, and in the same breath make her more unhinged and damaged than I would ever want to be.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d been given when you were starting out as a writer?
It’s never over. The worst advice I was given – and I have heard this repeatedly – is “The most important thing is to finish it.” Not true. You’re either going to finish the story or you aren’t, you either have it in you or you don’t. What nobody tells you is that writing the book is only one part of a dizzying and demanding process. Then comes the editing stage, the revisions, trying to get an agent, pitching to publishers, the rejections, the almosts’ (which are worse than the rejections), the promotion, and it goes on and on. The amount of distance I have left to cover on this journey with Who’s Afraid? makes me want to curl up in bed with Creme Eggs and a Scandal box-set. There’s no glamourising it. You have to ask yourself: do you really want this and how hard are you willing to fight to get this story out there? If you’re still willing to engage, then be prepared for a long battle because it’s not over until the politically correct-sized lady sings.
What is the next book on your must read list?
Aftermirth by Hillary Jordan. Her second novel When She Woke is one of my favourite books of all-time and was a re-telling of The Scarlet Letter in a future where there was no separation between church and state. It was a really powerful feminist text and from there I’ve been hooked on her work, including her debut Mudbound. Aftermirth is a black comedy about death and I adore that each one of her books is so vastly different from the other. I respect that versatility.
How did your experience as a journalist help you to write Who’s Afraid?
Research. Being thrown into a newsroom at the age of 16, I was fortunate enough to have years of good and thorough research habits drilled into me. Who’s Afraid? is set in Dundee, Scotland and draws on a lot of different historical, mystical and cultural influences so I was grateful that I enjoyed doing meticulous research. Also, being a journalist has given me lady balls. I have a quote tattooed on my person that talks about boldness and how it has genius, power and magic to it and I sincerely believe that to be true. Hunting down sources to interview on Twitter or chatting to professors about moon phases or throwing yourself in front of publishers isn’t easy, but you have to have the guts – and a smudge of stupidity – to do it.
Georgia Lejeune is currently studying a Masters of Arts in Writing, Editing and Publishing at the University of Queensland, she previously obtained a Bachelor of Creative Industries majoring in Drama from the Queensland University of Technology. Georgia is a freelance writer/blogger, actor, and circus teacher who likes Jane Austen novels and dislikes ironing, sultanas, and writing in the third person.