The 5-Question [Author] Interview: Amy Ferris

by Meredith Resnick

The writer riffs on incorrect beliefs, tackling one’s own misinformed history and ditching the fear of being wrong.

 

AMY FERRIS is the author of Marrying George Clooney: Confessions of a Midlife Crisis, published by Seal Press. She is also a screen and television writer, and serves on the Advisory Board of The Women’s Media Center.

 

Meredith: What did you have to unlearn, un-believe about yourself to find your truth as a writer? What had to go?

AMY: Ok. Big, huge question.

What had to go was my belief that I was not a good daughter, or a kind sister, or a good woman. And I say this only because I was writing about my life, and what began as my story, my memoir about midlife and menopause, became—quite organically—a journey about my mother’s rapid descent (with dementia) along with other relationships within my immediate family. So all of that stuff, that “incorrect belief about myself” had to go.What also had to go was my belief that I was invisible, that I didn’t matter, that what I had to say was of no importance within those relationships. What also had to go (God, so much shit had to go) was this deep seated fear that since I had not graduated from high school (I dropped out when I was 15-1/2)—which on some level had kept me from thinking I was smart & intelligent, because all that stuff  just gets pushed down and corked—that had to go. Definitely. Beliefs that I had to face daily and unlearn, un-believe.  I think when you set out to a write a memoir—in particular—you’re gonna run up against your own misinformed history, and if you’re a pleaser or a giver as I am, you will constantly be questioning if it’s okay to write the truth. Your truth. I had to get rid of and let go of a whole lot of shit that kept me from really deeply allowing my own voice to emerge, and when I finally said fuck it, and let it rip… I was astonished. I fell madly in love with what I was writing. But everyday I did battle with it. It was a love affair, and now we’re happily living together.

Meredith: The child development writer Joseph Chilton Pearce said: “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” When you write are there “rights” and “wrongs” for you? What’s that like?

AMY: The thing is, how I see something—my opinion or view—may be very different than how you see it, and that’s where the questioning, the doubting comes in [and] the fear of being wrong comes in. For example, my relationship with my mom was very different than my brother’s relationship with her, as was my relationship with my dad. We loved our parents very differently, we had completely different relationships with them, but it’s very easy to get stuck in believing that unless we all do something, or love someone in one particular way, in the same exact way—then it’s gotta be wrong. It’s a big issue. And one that has been liberating for me.  Yeah, I’d say I had to lose my fear of being wrong.

Meredith: Does your creative process come from a place of something that scares you or from a familiar place of strength?

AMY: Oh yeah, my process definitely comes from a place that’s scary, which if I tackle it, face it, come to grips with it—then it becomes a place of strength for me. It’s the changing poison into medicine. So many folks sit in front of their computer and think, “Holy shit, I can’t do this. I can’t write this. I’m not a writer…” (Great writing analogy alert:) It’s frightening. I hate to fly. Hate it. But I always, always get on the plane. No matter what. I’m not even sure where the fear originated, but the fear is never as great as the desire to get somewhere. Same with writing. I am always afraid, but I know that won’t stop me. It’s sort of like winning over yourself.

Meredith: How did you know when you found your voice? And once you found it did you trust it immediately?

AMY: I knew when I started writing about women-centric issues, that’s when I truly found my voice. For many many years as a writer, I would try to please the ‘reader,’ and I would write what I thought someone wanted to read or hear, and then what happened, I began writing about all about women & self-esteem issues and bam …. all of a sudden, I wrote my experience in my voice, and I stopped caring what others thought, and the response was astonishing. It was unbelievable. I realized—in that moment—that I had hit a nerve because I had finally written in my own voice. That was a few years ago, and it was around that time that I decided to write about my midlife/menopausal journey—all the weird, funny, strange, poignant, amazing experiences I was having in the middle of the night, and the response has been so unbelievably rewarding.

Meredith: When you write do words come first, or images, sounds, a sensation maybe?

 

AMY: Great great question. What comes first for me, always, is the very first line, the very first sentence. Once I have that … once it feels absolutely one hundred percent right, cause you can feel it, you can feel it in your life  … that’s when I continue. I know I have something when I have that. And sometimes that takes an awfully long time. But once I have it, there is no turning back.

I asked AMY FERRIS to tell me a few quirky things about herself…

“I dropped out of high school when I was 15-1/2, got my GED, never went to college,  have never looked back. [And, to provide a bit of back story for the avid reader, courtesy of Amy’s website: “Coming from a middle class Jewish family on Long Island, this was, as you can well imagine, not received as well as I hoped. My parents sat shiva for two years.”]

“I love my husband more now than I did 17 years ago.”

“I tell everyone that I write everyday, and I don’t. Pants on fucking fire.”

[Thanks, Amy!]

Images courtesy of Amy Ferris.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim

I think most writers struggle with knowing themselves and struggling to express that self. Even in fiction writing, I feel that pull to be a pleaser and a giver. What will my readers think? I imagine it’s more difficult when your readers are family members who are IN your book, but I still think insecurity and questioning right/wrong is something most writers face.

Another great interview :)

MarthaandMe

Well this is a book I’ve got to pick up!

Christine

This interview gave me so much food for thought. As a writer I do find myself feeling fettered at times, especially when writing about something personal, and I look forward to a day when I feel like I’ve really found the voice that works for me. Thanks for this great interview!

Almost Slowfood

I love how you had to grapple with those issues of realizing how you see things is ok and that it’s also ok to write about it. I’m just starting to realize that myself!!

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

I loved this interview. I think most of us have those preconceived notions of ourselves. As I’m trying to write a memoir right now, you’ve given me a lot to think about!

Katherine

What a powerful interview. I struggle with exactly this question – worrying that I have nothing original to say. Fortunately, I gave up the myth of the perfect daughter/wife/mom and no longer expect that I should even aspire to that. :)

Alexandra

I have the same problem. Wanting to write about something of importance to me, but not sure how my daughters would accept, be the story written in novel form or as memoir. Thanks for sharing your experience with memoir. I guess sometimes the work takes on a life of its own.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart

Well, the title alone would make me pick up the book. Too funny. And, the pants on fire note made me laugh.

I read once about how we cling to things we don’t like about ourselves or our history or whatever because it’s become such a piece of our identity. It’s an interesting idea that we need to let go of much of that in the writing process.

Kristen J. Gough

I know it’s silly, but I kept waiting for an answer to why she titled the book what she did. I appreciated her honest answers throughout–to some tough questions!

amy ferris

hi there kristen:
i titled the book “Marrying George Clooney, Confessions From A Midlife Crisis” because being a women in the thick of menopause, I am wide awake at 3AM, and my book is all about my midlife musings: fantasies, googling old boyfriends, dealing with my mom’s dementia, my husband’s sexual drive (hello, cialis!!!!!), bad girlfriends, good girlfriends, and everything in between, and… having those moments when i lie awake and toss & turn, and turn & toss, I think….hmmm, what if i were married to George Clooney, what would life be like?????
but … not telling. you have to buy the book!
much love, and thanks for asking.
Amy Ferris

Alisa Bowman

Wow, loved this interview and now I love her, too.

Sheryl

So many truths here. One that resonated – when you are true to yourself and let go of what you think other people want; when you write what truly matters to you, that’s when the words just fall into place. Great interview, Meredith!

Jennifer Margulis

This looks like a book I’d like to read (it has a great title) and thank you to Amy for her honesty and insight!

sarah henry

Amy is so fierce, frank, and freaking rude — plus she has flight anxiety — my kinda gal. Thanks for the interview, Meredith, and thanks, Amy, for explaining your book title. I wanna read this one.

Carol Grannick

Another great interview, Meredith. I was hooked at the first question – and so agree that much of the negative stuff we “think” about ourselves is learned…and incorrect!

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