Author Mary Kubica has given us a sneak peek inside her new book, The Good Girl, with an exclusive excerpt from the book and a Q&A about her inspiration for the book.
About The Good Girl: Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.
Heather Gudenkauf, interview with Mary Kubica:
Heather Gudenkauf: I loved The Good Girl. Your story gripped me from the first page and didn't let me go, and I still find myself thinking about your characters. Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?
Mary Kubica: This is a hard question for me because I didn’t witness an event that fueled the ideas behind The Good Girl, nor did the story reflect some sort of childhood experience. In all honesty, I made a very conscious decision to write a novel about the kidnapping of Mia Dennett, which came as a result of a wandering, daydreaming mind. At the risk of sounding redundant or trite, it was my characters who inspired me, as I found myself thinking about them at all hours of the day or night. They were my muses.
Gudenkauf: I'm always fascinated to hear about authors' writing routines and the spaces where they imagine and create their novels. What is your writing day like? Do you have a set schedule and location where you work?
Kubica: Up until very recently, I didn’t have a designated writing space and would sneak off to any quiet corner of the house I could find to write. In the past few months, however, my husband and I created an office for me, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! I now have a place that is mine to write. It serves two purposes, really: it helps afford me some much needed privacy for working, but also helps me separate my writing life from my home life—the laundry and other housework that would otherwise distract me. My schedule is fairly rigid; with two younger children at home it has to be. I write consistently every morning from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m. This time is nonnegotiable, no matter how tired I may be—there’s always more coffee! Once the kids are awake, it is much harder to find the time to write. I squeeze in some time here and there throughout the day, but for the most part, those early-morning hours are the only consistent ones I have for writing. Plotting, however, happens at all hours of the day and night!
Gudenkauf: As a mom myself, I'm always looking for tips as how to balance a family life and my writing life. How do you manage it all—taking care of your family, traveling, all while working on your next novel. How do you do it?
Kubica: There are days I feel like I have it all under control, and days I feel like I’m dropping the ball. Until about a year and a half ago I was a stay-at-home mom with a writing hobby, and now I have a career. I set a writing schedule for myself so that I can find time to write, and time to be with family. It’s important to me that my children know they come first. I do everything I can to write around their schedule—in the morning when they’re asleep or during the day when they’re in school. I’m not a procrastinator, which is an attribute that has worked wonders for me these past few months. The idea of looming deadlines makes me a nervous wreck, and so I stay as far ahead of them as I possibly can. All that said, there are still times that I feel scatterbrained and overwhelmed and must rely on family and friends for help. But I’m doing something I love, something I’ve dreamed about doing, and that’s the greatest feeling in the world. Very recently, my eight-year-old daughter displayed a copy of The Good Girl for a friend and said, “My mom wrote this,” and I knew that she was proud. That makes it all worth it!
Gudenkauf: When we get together for our book travels, we are always talking about what we are reading and even trading some of our favorites back and forth. What book do you find yourself returning to time and again? What keeps bringing you back?
Kubica: In all honesty, I don’t often read books more than once, but The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is one I do. I was first introduced to this Vietnam War memoir in a college American Studies course, and have read it many times since. It’s the kind of book I can grab from the shelf and read just a chapter or two and then be through. Each chapter is a story in and of itself, and my favorite chapter—“On the Rainy River”—I’ve read more times than I can count. Like Willa Cather’s My Antonia is for you, Heather, The Things They Carried is a book that calls to me from bookstore shelves, and begs for me to buy it, even though I have more than one copy at home. I often tell people that The Things They Carried is about the Vietnam War, yes, and yet it’s about so much more than that, too. You don’t have to be a history guru or know much about the Vietnam War to be able to relate to this book. It’s about about what it means to be human, and that’s something we can all relate to.
Gudenkauf: Many readers might not know that you are a huge animal lover and volunteer at your local animal shelter. Why is this cause so important to you?
Kubica: I am a huge animal lover! I’ve been volunteering at my local shelter for many years now, and have adopted most of my own animals from there, including our latest “failed foster,” a senior tortoiseshell cat who we brought into our home for hospice care—and now, eight months later, after a rather grim diagnosis, she’s doing great! The number of homeless animals in the world is startling. For every cat or dog that gets adopted from the shelter, an infinite number await the available cage. The animals themselves are powerless and must rely on us for help. It’s a topic I could go on and on about, as these animals are truly my passion. I hope in the future to be much more involved, both locally in my shelter as well as educating the public on spay/neuter programs and helping advocate no-kill shelters around the country.
Gudenkauf: I cannot wait to see what you have next and I know after reading The Good Girl readers will feel the same way. Can you share a little bit about your next project?
Kubica: I would love to! I’m currently finishing up my second novel, which is also set in the Midwest. It’s the story of a mother, Heidi Wood, who encounters a young homeless girl with a baby, waiting beside the Chicago “el.” Being a very obliging woman, Heidi decides to help this girl out with her plight, and welcomes her and the baby into her family’s home. As she does, she discovers a past that perhaps would have been better left uncovered, and as with The Good Girl, very little is as it seems to be.