If I could do back flips, I’d be doing them right now. Why? Because I can’t contain my excitement about today’s post — a Q&A with Heather Joy Hampton, the author of one of my favorite novels – Marina Girl.
After reading dry legal documents all day at work, I desperately needed a reprieve and somehow watching endless reruns of Keeping up with the Kardashians wasn’t cutting it. So, I developed an affinity for reading chick lit and Marina Girl is one of those heartwarming and relatable tales that I didn’t want to put down. As I read it, I oftentimes felt like Heather was in my head, writing about experiences so unbelievably similar to my own. Marina Girl tenderly captures the journey of a young woman named Olivia, moving to a new city, trying to juggle a career, with developing new friendships and dealing with the roller-coasters of dating – all set in the neighborhood I call home. You see, the Marina is a hip, young San Francisco neighborhood with a reputation as a haven for preppy, 20-and-30-something urban professionals (a.k.a yuppies) and a Marina girl is the stereotypical pretty-young-thing who lives in this trendy playground. Did I just call myself a PYT?
Marina Girl sits on my bookshelf next to all of my cherished books and will survive many a spring cleaning or move. And now that I have had the pleasure of getting to know Heather, it is not only one my favorite books, but a book written by my new found friend.
What inspired you to write Marina Girl?
Embracing and publishing Marina Girl was the hardest thing I have ever done. Pulling a novel out of your ass is a tough thing to do. Pulling a novel out of your heart is even more painful. That is exactly what Marina Girl is: my heart, my love letter to every girl that has found herself grasping to keep her head above water. The last year I lived in San Francisco was the best year of my life. My career was in full swing at a job that I loved. I had intelligent, interesting friends who inspired me to be a better person. The icing on the cake was falling in love with a remarkable man I was certain would be a part of my life for a very long time. Then, just like that, my life fell apart, and I found myself broken open.
The Marina Girl manuscript was written in a two bedroom apartment I set up shop in after moving back to Texas. I tacked 12 x 12 inch cork board squares to the walls of my second bedroom, and created a storyboard. I used sewing pins and index cards to constantly rearrange story lines, ideas, sketches, quotes, maps, etc. I tweaked and fondled and finagled that storyboard until I finally created a plot that congealed together into a story worth reading.
Heather’s actual storyboard. Love that she pinned up those colorful SF Muni bus passes. I’ve kept all of mine too!
What are some things that surprised you about the writing process?
There is one fun factoid about the writing process that surprises everyone, especially me: I didn’t have a television. Yes, that’s right. No television. Not only did I not have a television, I didn’t have television or a job. That’s 24 hours a day of no background noise. No news. No Real Housewives of Where-ever. No vegging out on the couch. No escape from the shadows in my head.
My television-less existence happened by chance. I had one of those ginormous 32″ dinosaur numbers that I bought when I was in college and had schlepped around for years. My relocation back to Texas after my life fell apart was being paid courtesy of Heather Joy’s shoe fund so Big Bessie the 32″ lazy maker was left on the curb in the Marina since I was paying by the pound to get my silly self and shenanigans back to where I came from.
Heather at Texas state line. Things sure do look bigger in Texas!
I shopped for a flat screen a few times, but would inevitably leave the store each time in a cold, clammy, unexplainable sweat. Had I developed an obscure phobia to televisions? What the funk was wrong with me? After a half dozen failed attempts at television acquisitions, and a full dozen raised eye brows from Craig at Best Buy (side note: Why are the dudes who sell TVs always named Craig?), I decided to sit down somewhere and figure out exactly what was bouncing around in my head. What was bouncing around my head was Marina Girl.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors out there?
Write the book you have always wanted to read.
My goal when I was an aspiring author was to write a book you can’t put down, a vacation book readers could polish off on a long car trip or at the beach with a Mai Tai. I wanted to make readers laugh in the beginning and maybe even cry at the end. Gosh, I sound like an a-hole for wanting to make people cry, don’t I? What I’m getting at, is that I tried my best to write an entertaining book that, if I’m very lucky, will have a lasting impact on the folks that read Marina Girl.
I also wanted Marina Girl to have a few unique attributes, like the Marina Girl Lexicon of Terms and Abbreviations for example. I created a list of definitions that would, hopefully, get a chuckle or two out of folks skimming over the first few pages. That’s also why chapters have sophomoric titles like Kappa Kappa Kraigslist.
Union Square Illustration from Marina Girl
Marina Girl has illustrations. Weird, right? This is a fictional book we’re talking about. Why are there doodles within the book? Well, why not? All sorts of other books have illustrations, but I had never seen illustrations in an adult novel before. Since the main character, Olivia, is an architect and daydreams quite a bit, she would probably be an awesome doodler. I wanted to incorporate whimsical illustrations within the book that she would have drawn in her spare time. Olivia’s doodling is also the concept behind the book cover, the map of the Marina and the Golden Gate Bridge through Olivia’s mind and sketches.
We are both avid quote collectors. What are some of your favorite inspirational quotes?
- “And the time came when the risk to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin
- “She packed up all her potential, and everything she learned, grabbed a cute pair of shoes, and headed out to change a few things.” – Unknown
- “Don’t grow a wish bone, daughter, where your back bone ought to be.” – Clementine Paddleford
There are over forty quotes peppered into Marina Girl from Mark Twain to Willy Shakes to Oscar Wilde to Edgar Allan Poe. Even a zen saying or two snuck their way into Marina Girl. Ol’ Oscar Wilde and I became fast friends during the writing process. He’s the saucy opinionated gay BFF I always wanted. Here are a few of my favorite quotes used in the book:
- “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde (Chapter 1)
- “If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance.” – George Bernard Shaw (Chapter 6)
- “Words have no power to impress without the exquisite horror of their reality.” – Edgar Allan Poe (Chapter 22)
- “If you are not too long, I will wait for you all my life.” -Oscar Wilde (Epigraph)
What advice do you have for “marina girls” everywhere about navigating their turbulent twenties (and maybe even thirties)?
Enjoy yourself. Have as much fun as you possibly can without incurring permanent damages that will follow you into your future.
Invest. Sure, invest in your 401K and all that good stuff, but invest in yourself too. Buy a pair of Louboutins with your bonus. You will thank yourself a few years down the road when you are juggling the hats of Mommy, Wifey, and Mortgagee and looking super sexy doing it in a pair of red-bottoms.
For all the single gals out there, myself included, the last sentence of Marina Girl says it all. I don’t want to spoil the ending. You’ll just have to read the book to find out!
Many, MANY thanks to Heather! Marina Girl can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Autographed copies are availalable on Heather’s website. For more information about Heather, Marina Girl, as well as new and exciting projects on the horizon, check out Heather’s website.