Author shares with students

By Nicole Walby

Staff Writer

Megan Abbott, Edgar Award-winning author, visited Heidelberg University Tuesday, beginning with a master class where she discussed her struggles, inspirations and frustrations.

“To this day I still have trouble calling myself a writer,” Abbott said.

Abbott grew up in Grosse Pointe, Mich. She described herself as a “compulsive reader. I was always the kid with their nose stuck in a book.”

Abbott is part of the formerly male-dominated category of noir mystery novels.

“Some say the key is to write what you know, but more importantly, write what you are most interested in,” Abbott said. “Immerse yourself in your subject.”

The beginning of her inspiration came from her love of old Hollywood, gangster-noir films and true crime books.

“(These films) were part of my creative foundation,” Abbott said. “Find what you are passionate about and make it contagious for your reader. Write from your gut and your heart, only good things can come from that.”

Inspiration also comes from newspaper articles, Abbott said.

“There are elements that come from certain articles that stay with me,” she said. “If it means that much to you, it is key.”

Abbott has been a fan of true crime since she was a kid.

“I am obsessed with stories about women that kill,” Abbott said.

For example, one of Abbott’s novels, “Bury Me Deep,” is a reworking of the notorious 1930s Winnie Ruth Judd murder case.

“There is a point where you have to take that element of a case and transform it to make it real and vivid for your reader,” Abbott said.

Currently living in Queens in New York City, Abbott loves the city and spends her time in her studio writing.

During her free time, Abbott goes to films and loves watching TV series such as “Homeland” and “Breaking Bad” and taking long walks around the city.

As a writer, one has to read all the time whether good or bad, she said.

“Learning why a book fails as a reader is just as important than what thrills you.”

There is a lot of discipline that a writer needs to have.

“You have to fight the distractions. I still have a hard time to just go and sit in the chair,” Abbott said. “You have to learn to escape from your own head.”

Turning her writing over to her editor, Abbott said she is always scared.

“Nothing is perfect and you will have to write and rewrite over and over. In writing you will have to ‘kill all your darlings,'” she said. “You have to be objective and find whether something serves the story.”

Abbott graduated from the University of Michigan and received her doctoral degree in English and American literature from New York University. She has taught at NYU, the State University of New York and the New School University. She is to serve as the John Grisham Writer in Residence at The University of Mississippi.

Abbott is the author of the novels “Queenpin,” “The Song Is You,” “Die a Little,” “Bury Me Deep” and “The End of Everything.” Her latest novel, “Dare Me,” was chosen by Entertainment Weekly and Amazon as one of the Best Books of 2012 and is to be turned into a motion picture through Fox 2000 Studios.

Writing a screenplay is compared to writing a book as an ocean beach of sand is to a thimble full of sand, Abbott said.

“It is like a blue print of your book. Things that work for a book do not work for a screenplay,” Abbott said.

Abbott also spent the day in Doug Collar’s American mystery and noir fiction class and Ruth Wahlstrom’s class, literature by women. She ended her visit with a reading from one of her novels and discussing her career, followed by a book signing.

This event was sponsored by the English Department, Bryenton Center for the Honors Program and a grant from Jean (Warren) Gekler and Brooks Gekler.