Our interview today is with Karen Bergreen the author of Following Polly (rated 4.9 stars on 50 reviews). Before we get to the interview a brief book description: It’s like Comedy Central picked up Law & Order for an episode in standup comic and ex-lawyer Bergreen’s breezy debut about a rootless, jobless, and loveless snoop in search of her lifelong dream. Fired from a crappy job with a selfish, nasty casting director, Alice Teakle begins obsessively stalking Harvard frenemy Polly—and winds up the top suspect in her murder. But that’s where the fun begins: slipping out of police custody, Alice begins stalking Charlie, her college-days romantic fantasy who she hopes can save her from prison. Charlie takes her in, forging a deal that he’ll help get her off the murder hook if she helps out with a problem his father’s having. But Charlie and Alice sweetly discover a far deeper need of each other. Bergreen makes good use of her comedic skills and varied professional background to create a sharp whodunit that combines edgy thrills with a wicked sense of humor and an endearing heart of gold. (Publisher’s Weekly)
Interview with Karen Bergreen
Q: Where is your favorite place to write?
A: I don’t have a favorite place to write. There is no chair at Starbucks with my name on it or a corner of the house, which I call sacred. I like taking the pressure off. Because I have two active young and cheerfully needy children, time is a commodity for me. As I write this now, I am begging, for the third time this evening, my kids to fall asleep. So, I end up writing in the green room at comedy clubs, the bus, the subway or alas, when kids are out of the house.
Q: Do you a tip for writers? (e.g., how to overcome writer’s block, find your voice, routines, etc.)
A: I am a big believer in Just do It. It’s okay if it’s awful. It’s easier to fix awful than to fix nothing. As for the voice, I think you should start with your own voice instead of trying to sound like a writer. Also, be okay with getting rid of stuff even if you are in love with it. If Chapter 3 is unnecessary or the description of the pet fish goes on and on, axe them. Save them for another project. They may be brilliant but if they don’t serve the novel, get rid of them!!! I learned this the hard way.
What personal experience do you bring to your book?
Interestingly, I followed a person and then she was murdered and I was the suspect–Nah, but wouldn’t that be awesome. I bring some of my emotional life to the book. Like Alice, in Following Polly, realizing my hopes and dreams didn’t come easily to me. I was paralyzed by other people’s expectations of me. As for Perfect is Overrated, my upcoming novel, the protagonist is getting through post partum depression. I pulled some of my own struggles from when my children were very small. The book also satirizes some of the Mommy-types with whom we are all familiar.
How does plot happen for you? Does it evolve as you write or do you outline it in advance? Describe the process.
Plot for me starts with a premise. In Following Polly for example, I asked the question: what if someone were to follow someone else around obsessively? Again, this just isn’t interesting enough to sustain a whole novel. So I ask, what could make it interesting? I know, I say to myself: the followed person ends up dead. And then to make it more interesting, the follower is the obvious suspect because she has left a trail of evidence.
Alas, I then have a problem, I want the book to be a fun, and death is less fun than no death. But all is not lost. I make the character Polly so loathsome, we don’t mind that she is killed. And I make Alice so sympathetic that we don’t mind that she is so insane that she followed her. So I have to do the back story on both. The remainder of the novel moves forward by Alice getting out of the situation based upon what she learned while she was following Polly. And because I need to have a little romance, I throw in my fantasy love story.
How long did it take to write your book? I wish I could say I wrote it on a napkin at The Olive Garden for the 23 minutes I waited for my Sicilian Scampi, but it was more like two years.
What’s your biggest distraction or vice while writing? You ask the question incorrectly? It should be: what isn’t your biggest distraction while writing? Then I could say, with confidence, “taking my kids to the park.” I hate the park, by the way. I am likely to be distracted by TV, which is sacred, hunger, boredom, sickness, health, and getting the mail.
Follower on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FollowingPolly?ref=ts