Interview with Vivian McInerny

Why did you write Water Damage?
I felt I had something to say.

When I look back at the stories that stick with me, the common thread is that the characters grapple with ethical conundrums. Nick in Gatsby, Scout in Mockingbird, Holden in Catcher, Pip in Great Expectations, or Huckleberry Finn -- and on-and-on -- struggle to become good people. They aren't effortlessly kind or self-aware or heroic but fumble about a bit before finding their paths.

Not sure why that theme appeals to me, only that it does.
So what issue does the character in Water Damage face?
Liv Edlen is fairly naive art student when she lands in England in the mid-1970s. For the first time in her life, she's exposed to fascinating people and extreme wealth, the kind that goes back centuries and comes with titles and stately homes and ridiculous privilege. She has the opportunity to grab some of that for herself. But only if she is willing to turn a blind eye to questionable practices.

Many writers, musicians, artists struggle with the idea of being true to the creative process -- and survival. The temptation in Liv's case is she could enter this world on her talent but would have to disregard the amoral creep factor of her benefactor.

England in the '70s England was a rare place and time when the classes were mixing like never before. It felt revolutionary. It also previewed today's issues of wealth inequity and people wanting to create and . . . good Lord, I sound pretentious.

I meant to say; I felt I had a story to tell.

The characters are interesting. And parts of it are pretty funny.
What do you read for pleasure?
I enjoy what I think of as popular literary fiction and nonfiction including Goldfinch, Wild, Signature of Everything, Behind the Beautiful Forever and so many more. I always feel overwhelmed and sad that I will never catch up or come close to all that is good out there.

Also have to say that rumors of the death of the short story are greatly exaggerated. I love the tiny escape of a good short story.
Are you related to author Jay McInerney?
No. He has an extra "E" in his name. He really doesn't need it I think he's showing off.

That said, my uncle Ralph McInerny, a theologian at Notre Dame, wrote about ninety books; philosophy textbooks, literary novels, and many mysteries. Many other relatives write too and I think my young cousin Nora will soon be famous for her memoir.

My advice: If the author's name includes McInerny, you can't go wrong.
Why did you decide to become an indie writer?
Many years ago I wrote a decent novel, spent months shopping it around, landed a top editor, and waited for an editor at a traditional publishing house to fall in love with my book. There were flirtations. Maybe even a one-night stand or two. But no love. The next thing I knew, I was two years older and infinitely sadder with three hundred pages of my heart stuffed in a drawer.

Now I can skip the middleman and go direct to rejection. Or maybe a reader will fall in love.

Hope dangles before me like a delicious carrot.
What are you working on next?
I'm deep into my next novel about a cult, and also working very sporadically on a memoir about a trip I made overland from Europe through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal at age eighteen.

I'm putting together a themed collection of my short stories. Most have been published in small literary journals but linking them together feels right.

Also, writing the occasional journalism feature for newspapers and magazines.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
You make a big assumption with that question.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I walk for miles with my dog. Usually, I listen to podcasts as I walk. Sometimes I listen to music and am embarrassed to realize people are staring hard because I'm kind of bopping to the rhythm. Not quite Prancersizing but close.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, in third grade. The class assignment was to write a science paper on the water cycle. I handed in a wondrous epic, a real tear-jerker about the journey of a single drop of rain from the time it formed in a cloud, fell to earth, was drunk by a human, transformed to a sad tear on a cheek where it evaporated only to return to the cloud and repeat the whole process. Somewhere along the way, the drop realized that in a previous life she was used by John the Baptist to baptize Christ. I also recall my eight-year-old brain making the editorial decision to have the raindrop become a human tear as opposed to dog pee on a tree.

I got an A. I did not get the prize, a coveted hard copy of Black Beauty, because I was absent that day.
What is your writing process?
Fingers on keyboard; engage brain.
Describe your desk
Messy.

I envy people who are neat and tidy and organized. I am not. There is order to the chaos of my desk but not the sort that just anyone can see. When I've tried to embrace neatness in the past, I found all my productivity went into trying to maintain order. I felt like a lion tamer in a crowded cage.
What would you like readers to know about you?
That I am a really nice person. That I worked long and hard on my book and I hope they read it and that it touches them and that they tell everyone.

If not, I hope they keep quiet.
Published 2015-12-30.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Water Damage: A Novel of Liquid Mystery
Price: $4.99 USD. (Free until Jan. 01, 2019!) Words: 86,340. Language: English. Published: December 28, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General
American student Liv Edlen lands at the Bath Academy of Arts in England in the 1970s. It's a rare time when creative working class kids mingle with bohemian aristocrats, when art seems revolutionary, and culture clashes prove inevitable. She meets a wealthy, married, man with a penchant for collecting art and people and finds herself entangled in a web of deceit and who is using whom blurs.