Twitter has an amazing way of connecting people. Not only have I had the pleasure to make some wonderful friends through 140 characters but a few weeks ago as I was reading an August release, Between You & Me, I sent a tweet to the author to tell her I could not put it down. A few days and direct messages later, we were meeting for lunch at one of my favorite coffee shops in New York City. Despite my extreme nervousness, as soon as I met Marisa, who greeted me with a hug, I suddenly felt like I’ve know her forever and was relieved to finally have someone to talk to about this book that left me so touched, so knocked over by its creativity and tone. (Did I mention she has the cutest English accent in the world?) So today on the release day of Between You & Me, I’m so happy to share a short piece about Marisa. Many heartfelt thanks to the author who blabbered with me in a window seat of the coffee shop for an hour. It was such an extreme pleasure.
“I’m somewhat of an imposter,” author Marisa Calin admits with a smile over a cup of tea.
This statement would make any lunch companion nervous but I smile back because Marisa and I have just spent the last 10 minutes chatting like old friends about theater and the unfortunate incident that brought Mike Tyson to the Broadway stage. (True story.)
What she means is that she’s a trained actress-turned-writer; someone who has never had any formal training in writing. But if her young adult debut, Between You & Me (Bloomsbury Kids), set to release August 7, is any indication, she has taken her own passion for acting and injected it into this refreshing addition to the genre. Written in the style of a screenplay, Marisa tells the story of Phyre, an ambitious teenager who wants to be an actress, her best friend only known as You, and the theater teacher, Mia, who Phyre develops a crush on.
“I was inspired by the immediacy of a screenplay. I love to write because there’s a finished product. In theater that changes from night to night because you are bouncing off different people.” Marisa laughs. “I sound like a control freak. But there is something about writing. You can sit down and you imagine a scene, imagine a character. You get to do it all yourself and you get to lay out the way you want someone to experience [the story].”
Unlike a play or a film screenplay, Marisa took the basic format a step further by creating moods (with beautiful references to light) and also honing in on Phyre’s feelings from the first person. Both of these are big no-nos on stage and film; it’s the job of the director and the cast to bring both those avenues to life. But in Between You & Me, Marisa takes the reins and delivers an authentic look at three individuals who have tunnel vision when it comes to their respective lives. “I wanted to use things that I had the right to talk about emotionally. I used a style of something I know about and I love in a way that I would want to express myself.”
And despite her desire to sit in the driver’s seat and totally formulate the reader’s experience, Marisa doesn’t reveal all when it comes to Phyre’s story. Readers are never quite sure of the sex of the character’s best friend, You – a detail that manages to remain intriguing and not distracting. “I had to bank on the fact that whoever was reading it was going to make their own assertions. I took a risk and people might feel too taxed. I know my grandmother won’t like it,” she jokes.
While Phyre wears her (heart-shaped) rose-colored glasses and can be a bit self-centered (and who wasn’t at 16?), ignoring You’s quiet moments of kindness and soaking up any bit of Mia she can get, Marisa is happy to have the opportunity to explain that while she lent her character her own emotions, she was never that self-absorbed. (She promises!) “I balanced my imaginary meandering with real life much better but I wanted to be true to the fact that your teenage years are one of the only times we can be that self-obsessed.”
As coffee beans grind and people rustle in and out of the shop, Marisa and I break off into tangents about moving, Disney, her school in England, and spying out the window for a man wearing a yellow shirt. (Read the book, you’ll get it.) I also learn she hates litterbugs (me too), loves bright colors and water, and only finished 25% of the first Twilight book. (This makes me like her more.)
Our conversation drifts back to books and Marisa talks about her second novel already in progress (“I’m not going to tell a story I have no business telling.”), her writing process (“I don’t write with a plan.”), her best writing advice (“Less is more.”) and grand praise for her editor (“My editor is the most amazing person in the world… She knew what I wanted to do better than I did.”)
We both agree that the best books are the ones that hit us after we’ve closed them, the ones that take us over and leave us wanting to know more – the exact force that has brought us together today. As Marisa ventures into this new world of writing, it is her experience in acting and her ability to connect with her younger self that leaves readers with the best gift and one that sets her work apart from the rest of the genre – challenging her readers to fill in the blanks and dig a little deeper.
♥ ♥ ♥
Marisa was also wonderful enough to supply RBR with a signed copy of her book to give away to one reader. This contest is open internationally! Good luck friends!