Come and chat to Maria Semple, author of the Women's Prize for Fiction-shortlisted WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE, Tues 24 Sept, 9-10pm

(111 Posts)

Our September Book of the Month is wonderfully eccentric, both for the way it is written (a jigsaw of emails, letters, official documents, police reports, and many other sources) and for the heroine, whose take on the world is highly unusual.

Shortlisted for the 2013 Women's Fiction Prize, WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a suspense story, as clever teenager Bee tries to track down her missing mother, the notorious Bernadette. Bernadette's dry humour and unorthodox methods create drama wherever she goes, as does her unconcern about being disliked.

The novel's wit and refreshing comedy (the author is regular writer for Saturday Night Live and other hit US shows) make it a perfect piece of intelligent escapism. As Jonathan Franzen put it, 'I tore through this book with heedless pleasure'. A caustic satire on modern life, parenting, social interaction and the American Dream.

Orion have 50 copies to give to Mumsnetters - to claim yours please go to the book of the month page. We'll post on the thread when all the copies have gone. If you're not lucky enough to bag one of the free books, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here.

We are thrilled that Maria will be joining us and answering questions about WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE, her writing career and her creative inspiration on Tuesday 24 September. So please feel free to discuss the book throughout the month, pop up any advance questions and we will see you all here, Tue 24 September, 9-10pm.

MunchkinMama Mon 21-Oct-13 21:50:50

I finally finished the book (demanding babies I have, leaving me little time for reading) and really enjoyed it. I like the corporate IT world perspective having come from that myself and I think that seeing the same characters from differing viewpoints is exactly how real life is.

Some of the letters and emails did seem a little overworked in order to get the story across to the reader but somehow I discounted that as I was curious to see where Bernadette was going as she got more and more eccentric. Conversely, sometimes the letters did not give enough insight making the story a little unreal. For example, Audrey's complete turnabout just didn't convince me, yet it was so central to the advancement of the story. Soo-Lin also felt like a cardboard character but given her peripheral role I wasn't too bothered, perhaps this was intentional from the author anyway.

To me the story ended when Bee found her mother in that tremendous hug where the mother daughter relationship was fully acknowledged and displayed by both. I felt that it had to end that way otherwise the story would have been meaningless. After that it was all a bit cliched and kind of unnecessary.

MABS Tue 08-Oct-13 17:20:35

aggghhh missed this!! Maria is my cousin smile

I wish that chat could have gone on for another hour, so much I still want to ask...

However, we do have the next month's book to think about and the return of MAGGIE O'FARRELL to the bookclub sofa on Weds 23rd October, 9-10pm. Look forward to seeing you all then.

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 22:02:24

TillyBookClub

We're running out of time, so I just want to say a large thank you to everyone who posted and put forward such interesting questions.

Maria, thank you very very much indeed for giving us your time and energy, and for making us laugh all over again with some of your answers. It has been fascinating to get the insight into how the characters developed, and how your own experience shaped the book.

Can't wait till the film comes out (Annette Bening is a top idea, especially since seeing her in The Kids Are Alright - will be rooting for that casting). Meanwhile, good luck with the next novel and please come back and tell us about it when it is finished.

Many thanks again and congratulations on all your success.

Tilly, this was such a thrill. I love this website and will be surfing it when I should be writing, for many years to come! Thank you all. xo

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 22:01:23

busybee1978

I really enjoyed the book and thank everyone concerned that I won a copy. I would like to ask (if I'm not too late) where you found your convincing teenage voice from? I should imagine that Bee's must have been the hardest voice to write? Can't wait for the screenplay!

Hi BusyBee,
I went deep inside to a part of me that was quiet and wrote Bee from there. I was worried, at first, that I'd have to fill her with teenaged jargon and sass. If that was the case, I didn't even want to write her at all. But then I thought I'd risk it and make her simple. I'm glad it worked for you. I love her voice.

jongleuse Tue 24-Sep-13 22:01:09

Wonderful book discussion again; thanks to MNet for organising and Maria for answering questions so eloquently. Thrilled to find another Harriet the Spy fan and I WANT Claire Danes to play Bernadette...

We're running out of time, so I just want to say a large thank you to everyone who posted and put forward such interesting questions.

Maria, thank you very very much indeed for giving us your time and energy, and for making us laugh all over again with some of your answers. It has been fascinating to get the insight into how the characters developed, and how your own experience shaped the book.

Can't wait till the film comes out (Annette Bening is a top idea, especially since seeing her in The Kids Are Alright - will be rooting for that casting). Meanwhile, good luck with the next novel and please come back and tell us about it when it is finished.

Many thanks again and congratulations on all your success.

busybee1978 Tue 24-Sep-13 21:54:42

I really enjoyed the book and thank everyone concerned that I won a copy. I would like to ask (if I'm not too late) where you found your convincing teenage voice from? I should imagine that Bee's must have been the hardest voice to write? Can't wait for the screenplay!

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 21:51:25

Gargamella

any inkling yet of when the movie is likely to come out?

It's still a long way off. So much can go wrong, but we're all hopeful. The first thing is to get a strong script, which I've been working on, and which I'm about to get back to and turn in today. Yay!!!

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 21:50:30

jongleuse

So sorry I'm late to the party, but wondered if Maria saw all the plaudits and her Women's Prize for Fiction shortlisting as a riposte to that 'women writers get pigeonholed as mommyfic if they write domestic while Franzen and his ilk get ALL the prizes' stuff.
Not very clear as a question, more of a whaddya think?
BTW loved the book and recommended to many.

Thanks, Jongleuse. Personally, I feel really lucky to be a woman writer writing about women and families. I think it gives us a huge advantage, really, because readers are largely women. I have little patience for all that talk about how women writers have it so bad. I find it incredibly boring.

Gargamella Tue 24-Sep-13 21:49:38

any inkling yet of when the movie is likely to come out?

jongleuse Tue 24-Sep-13 21:48:22

So sorry I'm late to the party, but wondered if Maria saw all the plaudits and her Women's Prize for Fiction shortlisting as a riposte to that 'women writers get pigeonholed as mommyfic if they write domestic while Franzen and his ilk get ALL the prizes' stuff.
Not very clear as a question, more of a whaddya think?
BTW loved the book and recommended to many.

twinteresting Tue 24-Sep-13 21:47:33

Wow Maria
Thanks for answering my question - DH and I both agree that it sounds like a great job.

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 21:46:37

BetsyBidwell

I agree title almost put me off - and the cover. but loved

Betsy, Isn't that funny about the cover. I love the cover, and think we get a lot of readers because of the fabulous cover. I'm glad you were able to look past it!

twinteresting Tue 24-Sep-13 21:46:30

I love love love Harriet the Spy
Must send to my god daughter actually - I only have 2 boys and not sure theyd be into it.

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 21:45:21

MabelMay

Which do you prefer now: Seattle or LA? (I am a Londoner currently living in LA and feel like it's an incredibly dysfunctional city!)

MayMay, I must prefer Seattle now. LA is tough. I feel for you!

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 21:44:34

Gargamella

Just had to jump in to say I also adored Harriet the Spy. Must have read it dozens of times. And haven't heard it mentioned by anyone else for so long.

I'm so glad! I wasn't sure if anyone in the UK knows about it. But most people here, of a certain age, have read it.

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 21:43:39

twinteresting

Hello Maria
I loved this book - couldn't stop reading it - thank you. I enjoyed the changes in narrative and the differing ways of telling the story (though I think confess to raising a cynical eyebrow at the Microsoft SuperGuy Elgie allowing his laptop battery to run out on a plane hmmgrin
The one thing that really stuck with me is Bernadette's words to Bee about being bored and that only boring people get bored.

"You think its boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. THe sooner you learn it's ON YOU to make life interesting, the better off you'll be."

My children are young-ish (5 and a half and nearly 3) so as yet I haven't had that "mummeeeee I'm bored!" moment but I will v much be planning to quote that back at them when they do.

Did someone say that to you when you were younger?

Nobody said that to me, but when I was in a mother-baby class, a teacher said something to that effect: that as mothers we always feel like we need to entertain our babies and toddlers. She asked, what's the endgame? At some point you won't be able to entertain them and then they won't be able to entertain themselves. The greatest gift you can give your child, she said, was the ability to tolerate boredom. That really clicked with me and I've said it many times.

Gargamella Tue 24-Sep-13 21:43:24

Just had to jump in to say I also adored Harriet the Spy. Must have read it dozens of times. And haven't heard it mentioned by anyone else for so long.

I'm going to sneak another question in (only answer if there's time).

Which contemporary writers do you rate highly?

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 21:41:42

twinteresting

Ooh Am I allowed a second question?
Was being a comedy writer in LA anything like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip at all?!?!

I loved that show-- it only lasted one season, right? Yes, it's pretty much like that. It's a huge amount of fun, craziness, long hours and camaraderie. I much prefer writing novels because my time is my own. But I miss driving into work and having my main objective be trying to make other people laugh.

MabelMay Tue 24-Sep-13 21:40:23

By the way, I thought the book was great!

MabelMay Tue 24-Sep-13 21:40:05

Which do you prefer now: Seattle or LA? (I am a Londoner currently living in LA and feel like it's an incredibly dysfunctional city!)

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 21:39:47

KikkiK

I loved this book! I'm a big fan of epistolary novels in general and this is one of the best I've read. It prompted me to download Abbey Road too!
Can we still post questions for Maria? If so, I'd like to know if you decided Bernadette should go to Antarctica before you took a trip there yourself, or if you set part of the novel there because you'd been there?
And, what are you working on now? Very much looking forward to the next book. Thanks for coming on and chatting to us. smile

Thank you, KikiK. I had just started the book—I knew I had a character in Bernadette and was starting to build her family. We’d had a long-planned trip to Antarctica and were leaving in a month. So I thought I’d point my family in the direction of Antarctica and go there and see if I could think of some way to work it in. At the very least, it would be original, right, because how many people get to go there? Like Bernadette, I fell in love with the place.

I’m currently writing the screenplay for the Bernadette movie. I’ve got some terrific producers (who produces The Hunger Games) and a wonderful studio (Zero Dark Thirty, The Master) and hopefully if this script is goo, we can hire a director and actress and get this baby made!

MariaSemple Tue 24-Sep-13 21:38:27

BishBashBoshBoo

I absolutely loved this book. It's the best thing I've read this year.

Are the consequences of life overwhelming Bernadette to prevent her creativity something you have experienced?

The book helped me to identify that this may be one of the causes of my (physical) illness,

Thank you so much. Yes! When I was in the grip of feeling like a failure, I could barely get through my day and I was to full of self-pity to write. But I bounced back and wrote a book about it. I feel so humbled that so many people can relate to this type of pain, and that they're able to laugh with me.

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