Critical Questions: Molly Ringwald
Writing is terrifying and thrilling.
When one hears the name "Molly Ringwald," he or she is probably more apt to think of John Hughes movies, 1980's glamour, or a nickname for MDMA in hip-hop culture -- and not necessarily of a surefire writing talent with an arsenal of prose. The latter, however, is projected to emerge as an equitable -- and highly deserved -- designation, with the release of her debut fiction collection When it Happens to You earlier this month. I had the privilege of discussing formative writing experiences, fictional haunted houses, and smart phone prose with Ringwald herself. Here is how it went down.
CM: Though most people know you as an iconic actress, you're not new to the writing game -- you published your memoir Getting the Pretty Back in 2009 and are currently in the throes of your fiction debut. Which kind of writing do you prefer -- fiction or non-fiction? What are the difficulties and perks of each for you?
MR: My first book Getting the Pretty Back was not so much a memoir as it was a light, anecdotal style guide. Our society fetishizes youth more than just about any other country I know of, and I thought it would be interesting to create something that celebrated women rather than girls. However, in the process of writing that book, I found myself far more drawn to the story-telling aspects, rather than the style advice. Writing fiction is something I find very freeing. Aside from the actual craft of constructing believable and engaging narratives (which can feel alternately discouraging and exciting-depending on the day) the act of just imagining the characters and becoming attached to them is what I love most about the process. Once I find the key to a character, they become very real to me and don't let me go. I think about them constantly, dream about them. Even now that the book is published I still find myself wondering if they are okay!
You've been writing for a long time; you've said before that you've written fiction ever since you can remember. What was the first piece you can remember writing?
The first thing I can remember writing was when I was very little. My family wanted to move into a new house in Sacramento -- one where the previous owners had died. I wrote a story from the point of view of the ghosts. (Unfortunately, another family made a bigger offer.) Later I tried to write a lot of J.D. Salinger-esque short stories. At one point, one was so derivative that my mother made me re-write it in the parking lot outside of school before I turned it in.
Hemingway used to stand while writing and Flannery O'Connor couldn't write while facing a window -- likewise, do you have a writing process quirk?
I find it very hard to edit unless I am on my computer, (and it has to be MY computer. Other keyboards completely throw me off.) But I find myself writing everywhere using any tools that are available to me. I write a lot of notes on my phone, which is the only thing that I have with me almost all of the time.
Were there any particularly formative experiences that you can recall that impacted your confidence in your writing? Your writing style?
I can remember becoming increasingly more confident in my writing as the years have ticked by but I don't think there has ever been that moment of "oh, I totally got this." Writing is terrifying and thrilling, and the moment that I have complete confidence will be when I will stop.