Saturday, December 2, 2017

2 Marcella Pixley, author of READY TO FALL, on the courage it takes to finally face your own demons

We're thrilled to have Marcella Pixley stop by and tell us more about her new book, READY TO FALL.

Marcella, what was your inspiration for writing READY TO FALL?

As a teen, I was cursed with an overactive and ridiculously obsessive imagination. Once an idea came into my head, especially if that idea was disturbing, twisted or morbid, I would hold on to it and recycle it endlessly, often for many hours a day, from the moment I woke in the morning, to the moment I finally, and fitfully fell asleep. Since my father was ill during my teen years, one of the things I often obsessed about was death and dying. Like Max, I convinced myself that I was suffering from an imaginary illness that would eventually do me in. The story comes from my desire to express how it feels not to be able to let go of a troubling thought and what kind of courage it takes to finally face your own demons.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love? 

My favorite scenes are the ones where the theater misfits are goofing around together. In the first one, they take Max "boot skating" in a frozen rock quarry, and while Max is stumbling down the snowy path, he finally has the chance to hold hands with Fish for the first time. This scene marks the beginning of the romantic arc of the book, and it is the first time that Max experiences the joy that comes from connection and friendship. I am also very fond of the Truth or Dare scene, where the misfits pile into The Monk's dorm room after rehearsal to partake in forbidden contraband and to test each other's nerves. This is the scene where you learn the most about the romantic dynamics between the characters, and the relationship between Max and Fish is finally recognized.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa? 

 I would say that this book would appeal to YA lovers who enjoy edgy, contemporary fiction. If you like Rainbow Rowell or John Green, you will probably also like this book. Ready to Fall will appeal to particularly artistic, creative, quirky people who like reading about characters that they might recognize as being like them. Maybe they don't quite fit in to mainstream culture. Maybe they have suffered a loss or lived through a family tragedy. Maybe their imagination is their own worst enemy. Maybe they are on the look-out for a new group of true friends to convince them that life, however imperfect, really is worth living to the fullest.

How long did you work on READY TO FALL? 

I worked on this book for around three years from conception to publication. Ready to Fall went though so many changes! In my first drafts, all I had were disconnected scenes that showed Max's cycle of grief, friendship and redemption. It was less of a story and more of a series of vignettes. Since I began my writing career as a poet, in the early drafts, the novel focused more on lyricism and language than plot. But then, after a year of playing with the vignettes, I began to craft the story, to uncover the driving action and this is where the true story was born. Margaret Ferguson, my editor from Farrar Straus and Giroux is an excellent reader and an exacting mentor. With her guidance, I revised the book more than ten times before either of us were satisfied that we had something special that was ready to put into the hands of YA readers.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc? 

I wrote most of the later drafts of READY TO FALL in a little cafe in Gloucester Massachusetts called Pleasant Street Tea Company. This is an amazing, funky, local coffee shop right by the harbor that has great alternative music and cool, interesting people who sometimes became the inspiration for my characters. In fact, it was sitting in Pleasant Street Tea Company one afternoon that I got the idea of creating a character with pink hair. I was sitting on my favorite couch, drinking a smoothie and writing the scene where Max takes his tour of The Badwin School, and in comes this girl with a nose ring, a black, vintage rock and roll T shirt and hair the color of cotton candy. I knew she had to become a character in my book. Whoever you are, pink-haired girl, thank you.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers? 

My advice is to make time in your life to write and to read what you love. If you can, find a writers' group where you can surround yourself with others who have the same dream as you do. Be brave and share your work with them. Ask them for support and critique and give them the same gift when they need it. I was eleven years old when I first decided I wanted to be a writer. I always wished I had a crystal ball to tell me for sure if I would ever be published. The problem is, no one has a crystal ball. All you have is your own determination and your own blind trust that if you keep on trying, and if you believe in the process, you will eventually be published. Write to me if you ever want cheer leading. I will help you remember that is what you were born to do and you can do it if you don't give up. I mean it. Write to me: marcellapixley@yahoo.com. I always write back.

What are you working on now? 

I am working on a novel called Ziggy Karlo. It's about the unlikely friendship between two off-beat teens who rescue each other when their home lives become unbearable. The novel takes place in suburban New England in the early 1980s and it involves Italian food, psychic powers, talking meat cleavers and an albino ferret named Matthew.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Ready to Fall: A Novel
by Marcella Pixley
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 11/28/2017

When Max Friedman's mother dies of cancer, instead of facing his loss, Max imagines that her tumor has taken up residence in his head. It's a terrible tenant--isolating him from family, distracting him in school, and taunting him mercilessly about his manhood. With the tumor in charge, Max implodes, slipping farther and farther away from reality. Max is sent to the artsy, off-beat Baldwin School to regain his footing. He joins a group of theater misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet and slowly becomes friends with Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, an edgy upperclassman who refuses to let go of the things he loves. For a while, Max almost feels happy. But his tumor is always lurking in the wings--until one night it knocks him down and Max is forced to face the truth, not just about the tumor, but about how important it is to let go of the past.

Purchase Ready to Fall: A Novel at Amazon
Purchase Ready to Fall: A Novel at IndieBound
View Ready to Fall: A Novel on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Freak, Without Tess, and most recently, Ready To Fall. Freak received four starred reviews and was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, and Without Tess was a School Library Journal selection.
Marcella Pixley teaches eighth grade Language Arts at the Carlisle Public Schools. Her poetry has been published in literary journals such as Prairie Schooner, Feminist Studies, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review and Poet Lore, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Ms. Pixley has written three acclaimed young adult novels:

Ms. Pixley lives in an antique farmhouse in Westford, Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. She is a graduate of Vassar College, University of Tennessee and Bread Loaf School of English.

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Have you had a chance to read READY TO FALL, yet?
Have you ever discovered that the driving action of a story is very different than you expected? And if so, how did it affect your story?
Do you find your favorite scenes are those that flow easily or those that challenge you?

Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Charlotte, Jocelyn, Anisaa, Erin, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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