A Conversation with Missy Marston, Author of BAD IDEAS

Missy Marston’s second novel Bad Ideas has been winning over readers since it was published in the spring, and it’s this year’s selection for the City of Markham’s Markham Reads Program AND the August Pick for All Lit Up’s Summer book club. If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll want to after checking out our Q&A with the author.

Briny Books: What’s the part of your book that you’re most proud of—the scene you can’t believe you pulled off, the part you most want to highlight, the passage you’d like to enclose in brackets with a note underlined: I WROTE THIS?

Missy Marston: Without a doubt my favourite part of Bad Ideas is the ending, those last two pages. Sometimes—rarely, for me—the best writing comes fast and furious and fully formed. This was like that. I couldn’t bear to change a word. 

Briny Books: Was there a part of your narrative that surprised you as your book came together, suggesting that the author isn’t always completely in charge of her work and something deeper and weirder is going on? 

Missy Marston: I had a pretty good idea where this book was going from the beginning, so there weren’t a lot of surprising turns in the plot. What did surprise me was how I felt writing the Jules Tremblay scenes. There is an obvious distance between my life and that of a ’70s daredevil, but every time I wrote from his perspective, it felt vivid and real. I was not expecting that.

Briny Books: Public readings (and learning to do them) are a big part of an author’s experience. But is there a part of your book that you know you’ll never have the nerve to read out loud? 

Missy Marston: I like reading from this book—the characters are boisterous and rowdy, and therefore pretty entertaining. The only thing that stops me from reading certain passages is a fear of giving too much away. It is meant to be a pretty brisk, suspenseful read. Revealing a key detail too early could easily pop that balloon, I think. 

Briny Books: What has been your favourite reader response to your book so far? 

Missy Marston: There have been some good ones. Jules Tremblay was inspired by Ken Carter, who built a giant ramp down the road from my childhood home so he could jump the St. Lawrence River in a rocket car. An early reader from my home town sent me a nice note and a picture of the book at the original site of the (now torn down) ramp. Even though the book is set in a fictional town, it is deeply reassuring to hear from people from the Seaway Valley who like it and find it authentic. 

I also had a book blogger, Naomi MacKinnon of Consumed by Ink, read the book and liked Bad Ideas so much she also read my first novel, The Love Monster, and gave both books glowing reviews in a single post. That was pretty sweet. 

Briny Books: What book(s) is/are you reading at the moment? 

Missy Marston I am reading Who I Am, by Pete Townsend and Close Range, by Annie Proulx and am loving both. Pete Townsend is fascinating and eloquent, and Annie Proulx is an incredibly effective risk taker. A young woman falls in love with a tractor in one of the stories in this collection and Proulx somehow manages to make it heartbreaking and believable. How?

Get tickets for Missy Marston’s event at the Markham Village Library on Thursday August 15 at 7pm.

3 Novel Accessories: BAD IDEAS, by Missy Marston

One of the best things about Briny Books has been the opportunity to work with books that are beautiful, and what goes best with beautiful things?

Why, accessories, of course!

Which is why we’ve teamed up with Samantha Dempster from Inner Muse, an online accessory boutique based in Toronto, to style our Briny Books titles with items from her shop. These accessories were chosen to complement our literature for reasons both thematic and aesthetic.

Wildly funny and wonderfully moving, Bad Ideas is about just that — a string of bad ideas — and the absurdity of love.

Shashi Lilu Tassel Earring – Blush

These earrings channel the novel’s retro ’70s vibe, and also take their tone from Trudy’s mother Claire’s allegiance to the shade of cotton candy.

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Barrettes- Clouds

Totally cute, and perfect for clipping your hair back when you’re growing your 1970s’ fringe out. Plus the clouds match the book’s cover, and conjure the dreams of a man who dares to fly a rocket car.

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Jenny Bird Love Pendant – Silver

Because this is a novel about daring to believe in impossible things—like true love, even, which might be possible after all.

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Three Books with…Missy Marston

Bad ideas book cover

We asked Missy Marston, author of Bad Ideas, to name three books she considers essential titles, the books that come to mind first when she’s asked to recommend an excellent read. (Apparently, this was not easy…)

This is a tough question. There are so many books that have changed the way I think about life and how I think about writing. I would not be anything like myself, for example, if I hadn’t read Kathy Acker and Kurt Vonnegut in my twenties. Or Atwood and Laurence in my teens. And so on. But if I have to pick right now, I would recommend:

Experience, by Martin Amis

A brilliant, tender, hilarious, wise memoir. I have read it twice and will read it again. I could read it once a year, no problem. I could probably read it once a month.

Martin Amis is one of the most gifted and innovative writers of our time. With Experience, he discloses a 
private life every bit as unique and fascinating as his bestselling novels. He explores his relationship with his beloved father, novelist Kingsley Amis, and examines the life and legacy of his cousin, Lucy Partington, who was abducted and murdered by one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers. Experience also dissects the literary scene, and includes Amis’portraits of Saul Bellow, Salman Rushdie, Allan Bloom, Philip Larkin, Robert Graves, and Ian McEwan, among others. Not since Nabokov’s Speak, Memory has such an implausible life been recorded by such an inimitable talent.

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Pontypool Changes Everything, by Tony Burgess

Absolute balls-out madness. Again, have read it twice and will no doubt read it again. Even when I only have the vaguest idea what is going on in this novel, I am still having such a good time as a reader. Great premise— language as a zombie-creating virus—and prose as rhythmic and beautiful as any poetry I have ever read.

What if you woke up and began your morning by devoting the rest of your life to a murderous rampage, a never-ending cannibalistic spree? And what if you were only one of thousands who shared the same compulsion? This novel depicts just such an epidemic. It’s the compelling, terrifying story of a devastating virus. You catch it through conversation, and once it has you, it leads you on a strange journey—into another world where the undead chase you down the streets of the smallest towns and largest cities.

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Glass, Irony and God, by Anne Carson

This book blew my mind. I could not put it down. The writing is laser-precise, beautiful, and furious. It made me want to read everything she has ever written.

Known as a remarkable classicist, Anne Carson weaves contemporary and ancient poetic strands with stunning style in Glass, Irony and God. This collection includes: “The Glass Essay,” a powerful poem about the end of a love affair, told in the context of Carson’s reading of the Bronte sisters; “Book of Isaiah,” a poem evoking the deeply primitive feel of ancient Judaism; and “The Fall of Rome,” about her trip to “find” Rome and her struggle to overcome feelings of a terrible alienation there.

No sweater ever changed a life.