Amy McNamara: Background information when reading Lovely, Dark and Deep

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Lovely, Dark and Deep

by Amy McNamara

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara X
Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2012, 352 pages
    Nov 2013, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Amy McNamara

Print Review

Amy McNamaraAmy McNamara is a Midwesterner who moved to Brooklyn where she lives with her husband, the artist Doug McNamara, and their two children.

She has an MFA in Poetry and was published first as a poet, but was a writer of prose before all of that. At eight she wrote her first story about a cricket hanging onto the hood ornament of her father's car for dear life. (So she seems to have a penchant for highly emotional topics!) She wrote prose until her mid-twenties and then turned to poetry, but always read novels and short stories. When it was time to write Lovely, Dark and Deep it just came out as a novel, and so she let it be what it needed to be.

Poetry and prose both come from the same place for McNamara - an image. From there she builds her poem or her story. And the processes are very similar. She reads as much as she can, puts down a rough draft, and then rewrites and revises using the tools a writer of any genre would use. But her poetry definitely influences her prose. This is clear from the very first words of her novel: "Be careful what you wish for. I had things I didn't want, and then I lost them. One minute I was breaking up with my boyfriend, Patrick, the next I was the only one left standing. Empty-handed. A ghost of who I'd been. Broken in a way you can't see when you meet me."

McNamara speaks, too, of the way her poetry experience seeps into her prose: "I am much more aware of syntax and music within the line or sentence—how the sounds of words influence what we understand, how we feel. I read it aloud, listen to how it plays in that reader's voice, the internal one speaking when we read. I'm pretty sure I drove the copyeditors at Simon & Schuster crazy by using commas as rhythm instruments rather than in any clear or consistent grammatical sense. I think I was trying to sneak line breaks into my prose via comma."

About Lovely, Dark and Deep, McNamara writes: "I woke up with the first scene of Lovely, Dark and Deep in my head. Wren was there, her voice clear and ready to lead me through her story. I am so grateful for that! I think she showed up because after the loss of a friend I was having trouble focusing on reading or writing. By following Wren into her woods, I was led out of my own."

When asked how she balances her writing with the rest of her life (always the $1,000,000 question!) she says she is not so good at it. About how she wrote Lovely, Dark and Deep, she says: "I wrote all day long, took a break for dinner, and went back to it until late - I wish I could write in a more balanced way, but after working this way for so long I have to accept that this is how it is for me."

McNamara has a BA in French Studies and is also a photographer. Her poems have been published in many journals and have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her manuscript of poetry, titled The New Head Chronometrist has been a finalist for many book awards.

I will leave you with McNamara's advice to teens, which I believe is amazing advice for everyone: "Open your eyes wide and your heart wider. Err on the side of being generous, truly generous, expecting nothing in return. You'll never regret it. Control is overrated; the most interesting bits take you by surprise and show up in the overlooked places."

Picture from author website.

Article by Tamara Smith

This article was originally published in January 2013, and has been updated for the November 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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