Thursday, January 04, 2007

Marisa De Los Santos, Love Walked In

What a gem of a book. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos is the perfect book to read if you are looking for a love story- but not necessarily a love story between a man and a woman although yes, there is some of that too. This book alternates between adult Cornelia and eleven year old Clare. What could a grown woman and young girl have in common for them to forge a special, loving friendship? You need to read the book and find out.

The author writes in such poetic prose, it's beautiful. Marisa weaves in a little about those wonderful old movies like the black and whites starring Katharine Hepburn, and she talks of Philadelphia in such detail I could practically smell those genuine Philly cheesesteaks.

I'm not the only one who enjoyed the book- Sarah Jessica Parker liked Love Walked In so much that she is attached to star in the Paramount Pictures version of it. You know how I love when good books are turned into films. Yay Marisa! Charming, heart warming, sweet, beautifully written, that is exactly how I would describe this novel.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Have you ever experienced it?

I think two strangers can have an unaccountably strong instantaneous connection. The first day I met my husband, I thought, “It could definitely happen with this man: marriage, kids, eternal love, the whole shebang.” But if he’d asked me to marry him on the spot, I would have said, “No.” Love means commitment, generosity, and joy on such a deep level that I can’t imagine being sure of it within minutes. Having said that, I also have to say that I fell madly in love with both of my kids before I ever saw them.

What was it like to get the call that Sarah Jessica Parker wanted to star in the movie version of your book? Was there someone that you imagined as Cornelia when you wrote the book?

It was hard enough to get my mind around the fact that she’d read the book, so the fact that she wanted to produce and star in an adaptation was truly mind-blowing, just so very exciting. I still don’t think I’ve completely grasped it. While I was working on the novel, I was so consumed by the writing process that I never really thought about the possibility of its being made into a film, so, although I had a strong sense of Cornelia’s physical appearance, I wasn’t mentally casting the role. After having seen Sarah Jessica transform herself into the taut, sad, brittle character she played in The Family Stone, I think she can do whatever she wants.

Where did you get the name Cornelia from? That’s not a name heard on young women very much.

I’m a fan of weighty, old-fashioned names, and there’s an anachronistic quality to the character Cornelia. The truth is that I’m not sure how the name happened. I never considered any other name; she just sort of arrived with the name.

When you first begin a novel, there you are at the computer and in front of you, stretched out like a never ending road, are countless empty pages. It’s intimidating—how do you dig in and start writing? Do you ever get nervous that you won’t be able to fill the pages with a good story?

When I was writing papers in graduate school, I was terrified of page-count, of not hitting the required length. I did think of it as endless, awful blank space waiting to be filled. But writing fiction is very different. I don’t focus on the length, but on the characters and the story. For me, the major characters come first and I let them develop in my head for a long time before I write anything down; then, I need to have the bare bones of a plot. Once I start writing, I try to put my trust in the characters, in what I know about them, and allow the story to grow out of that knowledge. It’s always a surprising, humbling, exhilirating process.

In the book, you go back and forth from Cornelia’s point of view to third person point of view writing about Clare. Did you write the chapters consecutively? How difficult was it to write in two points of view, especially writing about an eleven-year old?

I did write the chapters consecutively. I’m a very plodding writer in some ways; I don’t leap ahead or put in place holders to go back to later and rework. I don’t write the end first. I write one sentence, then the next, then the one after that. There had to be a bit of gear shifting between Cornelia’s and Clare’s chapters; usually, I couldn’t dive right in. I would take a day or a few days between chapters to get my bearings. I loved writing Clare’s sections. For better or worse, I think I’m very in touch with my inner eleven year old! But it was hard to write the chapters in which Clare suffers a lot or feels afraid; emotionally, that was painful and sometimes exhausting.

What are some frivolous, fun things that you indulge in? Are you a girly-girl who loves cute shoes and make-up and nice clothes?

Despite the fact that I spend an awful lot of time writing in clothes that are just one step up from pajamas, I do love clothes and shoes. Handbags, too. I have an Isabella Fiore bag that makes me happy every time I look at it. I’m not sure I’d describe myself as a girly-girl, though, because apart from exercise, which keeps me sane, I am so lazy about upkeep. I keep my hair long and its natural color and keep make-up to a bare minimum out of sheer laziness. And I don’t like shopping the way I used to; I’m the queen of online ordering. I would rather spend the time I’m not working with my family and friends. I love anything that involves good food and good wine; a small dinner party is my favorite way to spend an evening. I don’t get to watch a whole lot of television, but I love House, The Closer, and The Office. I’m a sucker for complicated, oddball characters.

Where did you go on your favorite vacation? What is your favorite childhood memory?

My favorite vacation was one my family and I took two summers ago to the Philippines. My parents retired to Cebu City a few years back, and it was our first trip to see them. I loved watching my children fall in love with an entirely new place and an entire branch of our family that they’d never met before. We snorkled amazing waters and feasted on fish and mangoes and fresh bread. It was a beautiful time.

It’s so hard to choose a single favorite childhood memory, but I love remembering listening to records with my mother. She had a terrific voice, and, for hours, she, my sister, and I would dance in the living room and sing our heads off to people like Jim Croce, Carly Simon, James Taylor, and John Denver. My dad would lie on the couch, reading the newspaper and listening to us try to hit the high notes.

What is one movie that you could watch over and over again? Is there a film star that you adore from the ‘40s or ‘50s? You mention Katharine Hepburn in the book a few times.

There are so many movies I could watch over and over. It’s a Wonderful Life, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, The Awful Truth, It Happened One Night, Adam’s Rib, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I love Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant, but I love the women best, especially the funny, wicked-smart, fast-talking ones. Katharine Hepburn is perfection, of course. And I adore Irene Dunne. They both have incredible timing and such a gift for using their faces, conveying thoughts or emotions with tiny subtle movements.

Complete the sentence: By this time next year, I want to be well into writing my third novel, which has been developing in my head for months, and I want to be sticking to a weight workout (I have zero upper body strength) and I want to have just a tiny bit more unscheduled time in every day. Other than that, if my life stays pretty much the way it is now, I’ll be happy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. @ 3:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
I must say I am absolutely loving this book. Marisa is such a great writer, she has such an incredibly lucid way of describing our mundane surroundings. So often I found myself thinking, I thought I was the only one that noticed this or that. Anyhow, so many great books are recommended how do you have the time to read so voraciously?? Thanks for the work you do I really do appreciate this venue. I look forward to squeezing in enough time to read all the other books. Vanessa @ 2:27 AM  
Blogger Lola said...
Please note that although I loved this book (published by Penquin) I found the print extremely irritating to read. I am not suggesting Large print for the people with poor eye sight but a larger letter size (excuse my lack of knowledge re the name of the print). It is not usual to read a book with such small print - especially one that it popular. This is worth noting I feel as many readers will support me in this small but important criticism. I'm looking forward to reading another stunning novel by Marisa De Los Santos. @ 5:58 AM  
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