Photo Credit: Greta Rybus

Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Maria Padian fell in love with New England when she went off to college. A firm believer that most weather can be managed with the right outwear, she may be found outdoors whenever she isn’t in her writing room.

She is the author of the young adult novels Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best; Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress, which was an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and received a Maine Lupine Award and Maine Literary Award; and Out of Nowhere, which was a Bank Street College Book of the Year, a Capitol Choices Noteworthy Book, and winner of the Maine Lupine Award and Maine Literary Award.

A graduate of Middlebury College and the University of Virginia (she did venture south for a while, where she met and married a southerner, but eventually retreated north and brought him along), Maria has worked as a news reporter, an essayist for public radio, a press secretary for a U.S. congressman and a freelance writer. An avid tennis player, gardener, skier and hiker, she is a recent convert to sea kayaking and enjoys exploring the Maine coast in her Wilderness Tsunami when she’s not writing. She lives with her family and their Australian shepherd in Brunswick, Maine.

Author Q&A

1. Favorite books/authors who inspired you?

I’m a book-a-holic, so this is a tough question for me. But if I had to name a few Greatest Hits by Genre, I’d say Mary Oliver is my go-to poet. I also admire Maine poet Wesley McNair’s work. E. B. White remains my favorite writer of creative nonfiction and Charlotte’s Web my favorite children’s book. I came of age with Judy Blume, but my favorite young adult novels growing up were The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare and Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. For contemporary YA, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian taught me so much. Favorite classic is George Eliot’s Middlemarch. And my hands-down favorite book on writing is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

2. What’s your writing routine?

I’m a morning person, so the perfect writing day starts early with one cup of carefully crafted coffee (Wicked Joe’s, slow-poured in a Chemex) followed by a brisk trot with The Dog. She’s an Australian Shepherd named Frisbee and she requires a long walk every day, regardless of the weather. While we walk I think about what I wrote the previous day and what I need to accomplish when we return. It’s a great creative warm-up, and I usually follow it with three to five hours of solid writing time.

A word about The Dog: I owe it all to her. During my long days at the computer, at any given moment I can glance up and see these big, melted milk-chocolate eyes watching me type, waiting for me to get up and toss the ball to her. “You’ve earned a break,” those eyes say. “Return to the living and feed me,” they demand.

The Dog keeps me moving, keeps it real, and keeps me (relatively) sane.

4. What made you want to write this particular story?

Issues surrounding rape and rape culture bombard our news, and I have children in college. How could I not write about it?

5. Is there one particular character in your new book that you most relate to? Why?

I relate most closely to Richard, who is the housemate of the young man accused of rape. Richard wants to do the right thing and believes he is a good guy, but he’s got blind spots. In the beginning of the book, he’s not even aware of them, but as the novel progresses he recognizes that he has things to learn. Like Richard, I like to think of myself as an enlightened, ethical person, but also, like Richard, I have my blind spots, (though mine are different from his), and I rely on people I trust to help me identify them.

6. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Invest in a good chair. I wrote my last book in a cheap folding chair and my back is still killing me.

Honestly, though, the best writing advice I ever got was from my college advisor, a very successful published poet. He told his students, “Most art isn’t very good and most art doesn’t last.”

Not what an aspiring twenty-something novelist wants to hear, right? But it was empowering. Because it liberated me from the burden of greatness. I didn’t need to write perfect poems or bestselling novels or prize-winning short story collections. I simply needed to write my best, truest, most authentic stories without worrying about how my work “measured up.”

So write from your heart, then rewrite as if your life depended on it. Not because you want to be famous or make a lot of money or get great reviews, but because you care about it, deeply. Sherman Alexie says he writes in blood because he knows how it feels to bleed. So that’s it, really: write in blood.

7. Cats or dogs?

Without question: dogs. See Writing Routine.

8. If writing weren’t part of your daily work, what career would you like to have?

I would have loved to be a doctor. Unfortunately, I am terrible at math and hard science (chemistry ruined me) and I faint at the sight of blood. Hit-the-floor-type fainting, very embarrassing and I’ve done it multiple times.  So, no med school for me.

9. Which author would you most like to spend the day with?

I’d like to time travel back to 1603 and hang with William Shakespeare. Can you imagine how much fun it would be to do an Elizabethan pub crawl with Will and the actors at the Globe?

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