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Author of ‘Pretty Is’ reads excerpts at SMC

| Friday, September 18, 2015

The English department’s Visiting Writer Series kicked off Thursday in the newly renovated Welsh Parlor, where the author of the novel “Pretty Is” Maggie Mitchell shared her experience crafting the novel and read excerpts from the book.

Assistant professor of English Dionne Bremyer said she met Mitchell in a writing group and has been impressed to see “Pretty Is” come to fruition from drafts written years ago.

“I was very fortunate to read some of the first drafts in a writing group we were in together in Georgia,” Bremyer said. “It’s been amazing to see the way the novel has developed.”

A New York Times book review called “Pretty Is,” “[A] stunning, multilayered debut. …What a satisfying novel, with its shifting perspectives and competing stories and notion that our relationship to the truth changes with time and distance.”

Mitchell read excerpts from her novel, which is told in alternating voices from two narrators.

Mitchell said the premise of the novel is the relationship between two characters Lois and Carly May, who were kidnapped for two months when they were 12.

As the book progresses, Mitchell said, Lois writes a novel that is mildly popular and gets a movie deal in which Carly May, who has changed her name to Chloe, is cast.

Mitchell said she was inspired to write her book after following a story in the newspaper about two girls who had been abducted. A man held them captive for several days and eventually they escaped together, she said.

“What stuck with me was that two girls the same age, who didn’t know each other … had spent those days trying to save their lives,” Mitchell said. “I was interested in how they would have bloomed in each other’s minds and about the relationship that would develop between them.”

Mitchell said “Pretty Is” is really about the relationship between the two girls, who throughout the process of the novel, grow up and apart.

“Abduction is a mechanism in the story and [it] gets them out of their rough home lives, but it’s a bond only they can ever quite understand,” Mitchell said.

She began the novel in early 2009, but said much of the writing process was scattered and she had to work to find time for writing as life happened.

Mitchell said she didn’t figure the whole story out at first, but it came to her over the years as she was writing, revising and thinking about the story.

“I knew they would end up in British Columbia, but a lot of the littler plotting comes down to the writing process,” she said. “I thought of the ending while driving from Georgia to New York.”

Responding to a question about the difficulties of women getting published, Mitchell said she didn’t feel discrimination was an issue when working on “Pretty Is.”

“Novels by men tend to get taken more seriously, but I never thought that was a problem with my work,” she said.

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About Haleigh Ehmsen

A senior at Saint Mary's, Haleigh is majoring in Communication Studies and English Literature & Writing. She serves as the Saint Mary's editor and enjoys coffee, guacamole and good books.

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