BROOKYLN HEIGHTS — Brooklyn author Maria Murnane has created a character named Waverly Bryson who some have compared to Bridget Jones. Murnane’s first novel is about the trials and adventures of Waverly’s contemporary urban life, and largely about her quest for lasting love. That book, Perfect on Paper: the (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson, was named as a finalist for a National Best Book award in the chick lit category by USA Book News.
Waverly’s story, as Murnane has said in the past, was based on her own time spent in San Francisco. Murnane had worked in public relations for nearly a decade before she moved to Argentina for a year, where she played semi-professional soccer and wrote Perfect on Paper. Now, a semi-recent transplant to Brooklyn Heights, Murnane has just published the second book in Waverly’s saga, It’s a Waverly Life, still set in California but written entirely from her home here. We asked the author about that process and if she foresees setting the next story locally.
Eagle: I’ve read that the first book was based on your own experiences. Can you say just how much that is the case?
Murnane: Just to clarify, Waverly Bryson and I have similar personalities, but our lives are quite different. Perfect on Paper does include some of my own experiences (mostly the horrible dates, haha), but the main plot is complete fiction. It’s a Waverly Life also includes some snippets from my own life, as well as some funny anecdotes from readers and friends of mine.
For example, a friend told me how she knew a woman who dated a guy for five months—and even got engaged to him — before finding out that he lived in his car. Apparently the whole time he’d been telling her they couldn’t go to his place because his roommate was studying for the bar, and she bought it for more than 150 days. When I heard that story, I literally ran to grab a pen to write it down. It still makes me laugh when I think about it.
Eagle: Who would you say is your audience?
Murnane: I like to say my novels are for anyone who has ever run into an ex looking like crap. (If that has never happened to you, you’ve lived a charmed life, and I hate you.) While I think the majority of my fans are probably women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, people of all ages (I mean people from 15 to 75, male and female) have told me they read Perfect on Paper in one sitting and/or stayed up until the wee hours with Waverly.
A male friend of mine who is married with three little kids told me he locked himself in his office one morning to finish reading it because he just couldn’t wait until after work to see how it ended. My older sister’s father-in-law said he was up until 2 a.m. for the same reason. In a way I think my books are a bit like Seinfeld in that they’re filled with stories that people can relate to, because at some point they’ve been there too. What woman hasn’t realized her skirt is on backward at some point in her life? What man hasn’t wondered if a woman only agreed to a date to get a free dinner?
Eagle: This is a San Francisco-based story, but you now live in Brooklyn. Might you write a Brooklyn-based story in the future?
Murnane: I moved to Brooklyn two years ago from San Francisco, which is why my novels are based there. But yes, I see a Brooklyn-based story in my near future, so stay tuned! I live in a quaint brownstone in Brooklyn Heights that boasts a plaque with the names of some famous writers who used to reside in the building. Maybe one day my name will be on there too; a girl can dream, right?
Eagle: Where did you write your second book?
Murnane: I wrote the first draft of Perfect on Paper while living in Buenos Aires for a year, and I wrote every page of It’s a Waverly Life in my Brooklyn apartment. I found it a bit strange to be writing about San Francisco while living in New York. It was sort of like going back in time, and sometimes it made me miss my life in California. But then I’d walk outside onto beautiful Montague Street and remember how much I love living here now. I don’t think there are many places in the world that are prettier than Brooklyn Heights.
Eagle: I’ve also read that you hadn’t intended to write a sequel to Perfect on Paper. Did you enjoy the process as much as the first time? Did it come to you in the same way as the first book?
Murnane: That’s true, I hadn’t intended to write a sequel to Perfect on Paper. To be honest I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do it again, that I’d let down all the people who loved my first book so much. So while I had fun writing It’s a Waverly Life, I didn’t enjoy the process as much because the pressure was on.
As for the process, once I decided to go for it, the actual writing experience was quite different. When I wrote Perfect on Paper, I made it up as I went along, but with It’s a Waverly Life I created an outline first. I veered off here and there, but for the most part I had the book figured out in my head before I wrote a word. I’m really glad how it turned out though. It was just released a few days ago, and I’ve already received several emails from readers who loved it and are begging for a third Waverly Bryson book. Now that is the best feeling in the world.
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