Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Q&A with Marcy Dermansky


Photo by Michael Lionstar



Marcy Dermansky is the author of the new novel Hurricane Girl. Her other books include the novel Very Nice, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Guernica and McSweeney's. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey.


Q: What inspired you to write Hurricane Girl, and how did you create your character Allison?

A: I started Hurricane Girl with just that one idea: what happens when you lose your beach house. Everything that follows in the novel was a genuine surprise. It gets a lot worse for Allison from there.


My older sister Julie Dermansky is a photojournalist; she documents the ravages of climate change. In the last few years, I have gazed at so many of her photos of loss, the destruction of so many homes from so many hurricanes. Sad families standing in front of the ruin.


These images linger in the back of my mind. Every destroyed house has a story. So, with the character of Allison Brody, I tell one of those stories. Not a typical one.


When you write, the story creates the character. Allison came to life paragraph by paragraph. I found that in this novel, more than others, I gave her more of me. I gave her my favorite coffee mug. I gave her my love of swimming. My cats. My first boyfriend. My house in New Jersey. Which all goes to say I am very fond of Allison.


Q: Your publisher calls the book a “gripping, provocative novel that walks a knife’s edge between comedy and horror.” How did you maintain the balance between the two in this novel?

A: I feel like right now, we are all living in a horror film. And humor is a big way to survive it -- when not stuck feeling angry and alternately helpless.


Hurricane Girl is not a pandemic novel, but I wrote the final scenes in the very beginning of lockdown and quarantine. Maybe, I would have written a different, less violent ending if I was not shut in at home while my daughter was lying on the floor of her room, doing virtual school.

Where I am in my life very much affects what I write. I have never written horror before. While it was not intentional, I don’t think it’s a coincidence either.


That said, all of my books are humorous. I don’t even try to be funny. It just comes out. Even when things get dark.


Q: What do you see as the role of water in the book?

A: I love to swim. Allison Brody, the main character, loves to swim. It’s as simple as that. I am surprised by people in my town who don’t join the pool. Sometimes I think I write really to please myself.


That said, I believe there is some kind of symbolism that is applied to water. I leave that to critics to work out.

Q: The writer Kevin Wilson said of the book, “Dermansky nails the sensation of being alive, of navigating a world so strange that it’s almost a dream, of trying, again and again, to anchor yourself to a moment, to assure yourself that you exist, to withstand anything and somehow keep living.” What do you think of that description?

A: Kevin made me cry with that blurb. He really did. We’ve known each other for much of our careers. He taught my short story “Adults At Home” before I think I even had a book. He is such a good writer and it means so much to me that he loves my books.


Oh, and I agree with what he said. I think that is why I love to have readers. Because they tell me what it is I have done on the page.


Q: What are you working on now?

A: Always, the next novel. I don’t know how to describe it right now My editor is so good at that. I love what she wrote for the flap copy of Hurricane Girl.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I think anyone who reads books about young women in the world is going to want to read this. It’s totally feminist. It’s totally engaging. So many people are telling me that they have read the book in one sitting, needing to know what happens next.


Whenever I write a book, I don’t know how my audience will respond and right now, I am thrilled about how readers are connecting.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Marcy Dermansky.

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