introducing readers to writers since 1995

June 22, 2005

Author2Author: Colleen Curran & Martha O'Connor, pt. 2

by Ron Hogan

Colleen's comments on bad girls have already led a few fans to write it with great enthusiasm for this week's conversation, and hopefully Martha's story of how her anti-heroines came into being will prove just as entertaining...

Colleen Curran: Your characters, Cherry, Rennie and Amy, form an intense, powerful friendship, but it also isolates them from the world. They smoke, drink, do drugs and have sex. They are the "darker" side of chick lit. Was that a conscious decision for you? Why did you want to write about girls like this? What are the positives and negatives of writing about "bad girls," from a craft perspective? You allude to this in your first chapter which opens with a graphic sex scene where Rennie, also a writer, says to herself, "Don't open with a sex scene, Wren. Readers will lose sympathy for your heroine."

bitchposse.gifMartha O'Connor: I certainly didn't plan to write this novel, and under other circumstances, it would never have been written. A different novel of mine was on submission in New York via a well-respected AAR agent. I'd written what I felt the market wanted at the time. People seemed to like chick-lit, people have always liked mysteries, let's write... A CHICK-LIT MYSTERY. And this agent told me it'd sell in two weeks. I thought I was brilliant.

Well, four months later, we'd gotten ten rejections for this chick-lit mystery, and my agent told me we were running out of options. I sat around feeling sorry for myself for awhile. Then, I did what I always do and started something new. Much to my surprise, what came out wasn't chick-lit. It wasn't light and fun at all. It wasn't even a proper mystery. Instead, it was what you'd get if Mary Gaitskill slept with Hubert Selby Jr. and their baby was cursed by Irvine Welsh. What the hell was I thinking? This was the definition of "will not ever sell and destined for iUniverse heaven."

But Amy, Rennie, and Cherry compelled me. I couldn't stop writing about them, and I couldn't stop thinking about them. Fifty pages into the novel, I showed the work-in-progress to my then-agent. She hated it. She said it was far too dark and disturbing for today's marketplace and no one would ever publish it. And she suggested I put it away forever and write another chick-lit mystery. By that point, though, I considered the Bitch Posse girls my friends. I wouldn't abandon friends in the amount of trouble the girls were in at that point in the novel... and I couldn't abandon Amy, Rennie and Cherry either. So I kept writing, ditched the old agent, got a new one... and the novel sold in four days at auction. What I learned from this whole experience is that it is a mistake to write for the market. You have to write the story only you can tell.

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