Last month saw the release of Marisha Pessl‘s sophomore novel Night Film, a tale of the investigative reporter captivated anew by the hermetic cult film director Stanislas Cordova after the apparent suicide of his daughter, despite the career-derailing damage incurred by his last attempts to uncover the truth about Cordova.
If my week of late nights to reach the back cover is anything to go by, the tome is a page-turning, mind bending exploration of the darker side of the celebrity culture mythology and the layers of fact and fiction that obscure the truth. It may very well wind up being my favorite read of the year.
Last Thursday, LiveTalksLA hosted an moderated discussion with Pessl. Here are four learnings from that talk.
1) She is very regimented in her writing, focusing on the task from 9am to 4pm on weekdays, averaging somewhere between 3-to-7 pages per day. The process is “a marathon, not a sprint”. While Pessl considers herself most productive in her home office, she breaks out of her routine with stints writing in coffee shops and exploring real locations that become a part of her novel.
2) One of her favorite books is Nabokov’s Lolita, due to its “layers and layers of the most beautiful language” with “clues and Easter eggs throughout”. She compared it to a “beautiful garden, perfectly cultivated…new flowers every time you read it”.
3) Can a best-selling author ever speak in a public forum without being asked about advice on writer’s block? Not as far as I can tell.
Her advice? “Don’t get up.” Your brain will throw you a bone eventually. If you’re still stuck, take a walk to reset. Failing that, she relayed advice given to her by another writer: Wash your hands.
4) While signing books after the discussion, Pessl mentioned she’s working on her next two novels, which should be a thrill for everyone fan because it hopefully means a shorter wait for the next novels to devour.
Note: I did my my best to jot down notes verbatim.