January Recap

It’s the final day of January, so I figured I would write a post about what this month has been for me writing-wise and personally. Every blog needs a relaxing, get-to-know-you post now and again, doesn’t it? So grab a cup of coffee or tea or whatever it is you like to drink, I’m not judgey, and put on some awesome music and let’s have a nice Sunday morning chat. Even though it’s half-passed noon here. Late sleeper problems.

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I saw Alexander offering up copies of his book, What Happened to Marilyn, on Twitter a few months ago and was immediately enticed by its premise. I decided to invite him for an author interview over on Little Siberia, and am excited to finally be posting that here for you all today.

From “What Happened to Marilyn’s” Amazon page:

Marilyn Monroe wakes up inside the rust-colored brick walls of an extravagant mansion in Savannah, and is informed that it’s the year 2062. The young man who tells her this is Jeremiah Gold, whom Marilyn met just days ago in California, a century earlier. He quickly explains how he traveled back to 1962 in the time machine he invented, to save her from the death that would have otherwise overtaken her. At first Marilyn is unable to comprehend the truth, but as Jeremiah discovers that the news of her legendary demise is still mysteriously in place, she decides to align her trust in him. In time, the brazen blonde emerges out into the southern city, taking caution so that none of the citizens of Savannah recognize her. Marilyn knows it’s dangerous, but she can’t quench the urge she has to explore this futuristic world, regardless of the warnings Jeremiah gives her. What Happened to Marilyn is a time-bending novel that gives one of the most famous women in the world a shot at redemption. As she struggles to deal with her identity and her unfulfilled dreams, Marilyn wonders if she should stay with Jeremiah, or return to the past that will never let her go.

Hey, Alex. Can you start off by introducing yourself?

Here is my author bio from my website:

Alexander Rigby grew up in a small town called Saegertown in Northwest Pennsylvania. As a child, he enjoyed reading a great deal and eventually his love of books transpired into a passion for writing.

After graduating from high school as Valedictorian, he attended the University of Pittsburgh where he majored in Political Science and Anthropology. During his senior year of college, he began writing his debut novel, The Second Chances of Priam Wood, which was published in March of 2013. This novel received an honorable mention in the 2013 New York Book Festival, and was recognized as a finalist in the General Fiction category of the Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest.

His second novel, What Happened to Marilyn, was released on August 5th, 2014. A recent graduate of the NYU Summer Publishing Institute, Alexander is the Editor-in-Chief of the website and literary magazine, Red City Review. He loves to travel, write, and spend time with his family and friends. Currently, he is working on his third novel, Bender. He lives in Seattle, WA.

Describe your writing in 3 words.

Emotional. Inventive. Philosophical.

Your book has a premise that drew me in right from the start, partially because I’ve always been fascinated by Marilyn Monroe, not only as a person but also as one of the world’s greatest icons and symbols of fame. What inspired you to choose her as a character?

I have always been fascinated with how others are so fascinated with the enigma that is Marilyn Monroe. She has become such an icon that she has almost lost all sense of her humanity, in a way, as people use her image as a commodity to draw attention to certain things, and exploit her for their own personal gain. She lived such a tragic and short life, yet there are so many layers to her that a lot of people don’t know about, like the fact that she was very well read and extremely intelligent. I wanted to pull back the façade surrounding her and make her an actual human being, a woman who was just trying to find her way in the world.

Celebrities who reach the level of fame that Marilyn achieved begin to lose their identity over time, becoming objectified embodiments of their industry rather perceived as actual human beings with thoughts, feelings and real lives. How did you deconstruct Marilyn and separate her from this status, and what was your ultimate goal when using her as a character in your novel?

I suppose I sort of answered this in the question before, but in order to actually make her a real woman, I did a lot of research about her. I watched all her movies, read many biographies and books, and watched documentaries as well. I wanted to do research in order to represent her to the best of my ability in the book. Obviously this is a fictionalized account, but I wanted her to read as authentic to the real Marilyn. My main goal in using her as a character was to intertwine her life with those of the other characters I have created. While this is certainly a book about Marilyn, I feel the cast of characters functions as a true ensemble, all of them holding very important roles in the book.

The fact that time travel and one of pop culture’s most famed women are used in your book make it something unique right from the start. Speaking of time travel, what kind of research went into it? Did you look into any specific theories during a research phase, or prefer to jump right into the story and make it your own?

To be honest I did not really do any research on time travel, as my idea on how it works is certainly a work of science fiction. I was definitely inspired by “Back to the Future”, as is probably obvious due to the flying car aspect of time travel. I didn’t want there to be a big focus on how the time travel actually worked, more just that it actually did, and due to how brilliant Jeremiah is, he would be the one to figure it out.

What would you consider to be the greatest influence on your writing?

There are many influences on my writing, but one of the main ones is reading other books, and drawing inspiration from them. I feel that the two novels I’ve written are kind of combinations of some of my favorite books. 11/22/63 by Stephen King is one of my favorites, and it certainly inspired What Happened to Marilyn. However, whereas JFK is just a background character in that novel, I knew I wanted Marilyn to be a central part to my book. I am also inspired by traveling, as a trip to Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC, is what inspired me to use those as the main settings for this book. I also went to Boone Hall plantation and fell in love with it, hence why it is used as a setting in this book. I like to be able to write about places I have been to, as I feel it gives a certain sense of authenticity.

What are two books you think everyone should read?

“The Humans” by Matt Haig and “Every Day” by David Levithan.

What was the writing process like for What Happened to Marilyn? Where there any lessons learned or experiences throughout the writing process that you’ll carry over into your future work?

As I stated first I did a lot of research about Marilyn herself, created a general outline of what the overall plot would be, started to write, and then broke down each of the ten chapters further with an outline before I started each chapter. Getting the ending right was definitely the trickiest part, especially since time travel is involved, but I was very happy with how it ended up.

I feel that as writers, we each have such different stories and whether you’ve been writing for a month or a decade, there’s always something we can learn, what piece of advice can you offer to your fellow writers?

I think the most important advice is to just sit down and start writing. If you think too much about it, or try and plan too much about how to begin, you might get lost along the way. I find that when I put myself in front of my computer and just begin, the words start to flow. Getting myself to sit down and do that though happens to be the hardest part.

Last but not least, your book does include time travel, so it has to be asked; if you could travel to any point in time, past or future, where would it be and why?

I suppose my answer is going to be a sentimental one, but I would travel to the 1950s or 1960s to meet my grandmother. She passed away at the age of 37  in the early 1970s and I never met her, and she’s always been such a beautiful mystery to me. I would love to be able to meet her and have a conversation. And I find those two decades extremely fascinating, so I would love to witness what life was like then first hand.

More from Alexander: 

Official Site | Twitter| Facebook

How to Handle Writing Criticism

One of the most exciting and nerve-wracking parts of being a writer is sharing your work with other people for the first time. When you decide to share your work with friends or some beta readers you met on Twitter, you’re eventually going to get some feedback that may be less than stellar. If the thought of having your work critiqued upsets you, or you’re struggling with writing confidence after some recent responses, I’m here to offer some advice on how to take writing criticism better.

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