Marina Phillips has spent her entire life as her father’s victim. But enough is enough. All it took was one moment of realization to send her fleeing across the country into the unknown of New York City with no plans and no money. A new life without the constant torture is all she wants, but what she finds waiting is something she never expected.
Fitz is New York’s premiere playboy artist. Sexy, tattooed, and coveted by women and men alike, his performances are heralded as the coming of a new god of modern art. But when Marina wanders into his show, she becomes the inadvertent piece he’s always waited for – a girl to sculpt, to change, and to craft in his own image.
She never expects to fall head over heels into the world of parties, drag queens, agents, and artists craving for her and her benefactor. She didn’t even expect to begin falling in love with someone like Fitz, the sexy, pretentious man of her nightmares.
Above all, Marina never expects her father to stage a cross-country mission to paint her as a kidnapped girl taken by a psychopath.
With her life on the line, Marina has no choice but to accept Fitz’s proposal – change everything she is, inside and out, for the chance to start anew. But Marina has plans of her own. Plans that will rock her world forever.
Interview with Anne Whitney
1. What’s a typical day like in the life of Anne?
I wish I could say something much more fun and glamorous here but it’s the same old work, rest and play routine most of us live by. I do all my writing in the evening after work (although I have been known to do some quick note taking in my lunch break) curled up in my chair with my laptop. Usually, blankets and hot drinks are also involved. Hot drinks are occasionally switched with alcohol! When I’m not writing or I’m trying to do anything but write, I like to read, bake and gorge myself on DVD boxsets. Right now I’m all about Game of Thrones.
2. Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
Like pretty much every writer ever, I’m a die-hard reader and have been for as long as I can remember. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories and filling my head with crazy and fantastical scenarios but I’m a bit of a flake who has trouble finishing things so never thought I’d become a proper writer. Luckily, I managed to stick with a story and The Art of Love was born!
3. Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I don’t know if it was the first one but I remember writing a piece as a 7 year old on a little girl who bought a budgie. It was basically a shopping list of all the things you would need to buy before getting a budgie. It got a sticker from my teacher. Take that, Pulitzer Prize!
4. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way, either growing up or as an adult?
I’m a sci-fi girl all the way and my favorite writers are Connie Willis, Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood. They’re like the trifecta of literary awesome that fuelled my desire to be a real writer. Gaiman’s now famous speech on making good art is basically my motivational speech (well, that and “I’ll Make a Man Out Of You” from Mulan!).
5. Where do you get your ideas from? Do they come to you or are they inspired by true events?
I have no idea where they all come from. Some are inspired by ideas or my favorite things, others just pop into my head at the worst possible times and I just have to write them down somewhere or lose my mind!
6. Do you work with an outline or just write?
I have an outline but it’s not too rigid. I like to give myself some wriggle room just in case I spontaneously decide to go off the beaten path and let the story run wild. I absolutely must know how a story ends before writing anything because otherwise it’ll just meander pointlessly.
7. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you get out of the funk?
Oh yeah, all the time! Block is tough because it can really suck the energy and motivation out of you and it’s easier said than done when it comes to getting out of that funk. I try not to push myself too hard to get out of it because I know I’ll get out of it eventually, it’s just waiting that’s hard. Usually I just make myself a nice cup of tea (or something stronger), find something that makes me happy, be in comics or a book or browsing Tate Modern’s website, and just immerse myself in joy until the funk passes.
8. Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what do you listen to?
I can’t write to silence, I find it far too distracting. I like to make playlists for my work – music that fits the mood of the story and stuff I can imagine the characters listening to. For The Art of Love I listened to everything from Die Antwoord to Kanye West to Bastille to STRFKR to Tove Stryke to RuPaul! When two of your main characters are a pretentious performance artist and a drag queen, you can get eclectic with the music choices!
Art of Love
9. What inspired Art of Love?
I’m a total modern art nerd. I love it and I love talking about it (my family and friends, not so much). I was watching a documentary one day called “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present”, which is about my favorite artist, the grandmother of performance art, and her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. She’s known for doing a lot of performances that focus on the body and the pretty painful things she does to herself. One piece, for example, involved carving a star into her own belly! I found it completely fascinating and wondered what kind of person you had to be to dedicate yourself entirely to something like that in the name of art, and what kind of person would fall in love with them. Lo and behold, Fitz and Marina were created (yep, the name choice is deliberate)! They’re also inspired by Abramovic’s relationship with her fellow artist and former partner Ulay.
10. How did you come up with the title? I think it’s perfect!
Thank you very much! I actually struggle with titles quite a bit. Originally it was going to be called Modern Love, which I basically stole from my god David Bowie, but decided against it for possible copyright infringement reasons. The Art of Love just came naturally the more I thought about it. I think in a really cheesy way, love is the ultimate performance piece, and it certainly is for Fitz!
11. What did you do to prepare yourself before writing AoL? Did you look at visual aids?
I read a lot of romance novels and watched a lot of movies! Well, I called it research, it may just have been procrastination. I also spent a lot of time looking up modern and performance art to decide what kind of art Fitz would work in. The book’s actually full of references to real pieces of modern art and the artists who created them. I think I may give a prize to the person who spots them all.
12. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? Hardest?
Writing the relationship between Fitz and Marina was definitely the hardest thing to write. I wanted it to progress naturally while not going too fast. Sometimes I just wanted to say “Dammit!” and rush to the sexy scenes! My favorite thing to write was probably the first scene between Fitz and Marina. It’s definitely not a struggle to write about a hot naked man! I also enjoy writing Derek so every scene he’s in was a joy for me. I’m planning on writing a book on Derek’s life and love so stay tuned!
13. Which character speaks/spoke the loudest to you?
Derek! Well, he’s the most fun to write but in terms of who I relate to most it’s a tie between Marina and Viridian. Feeling lost and unsure about your life while trying to keep up the facade of having it all is a struggle that’s all too familiar to me. I’m also prone to being brutally honest in the same way Viridian is, but my hair isn’t as cool as hers!
14. Which of your characters would you like to meet in person and why? What would you say to that person?
Once again, Derek! He knows how to have a good time and where all the parties are. I’d probably ask him to help me pick out something cool to wear and then we’d argue about queer culture while drinking woo-woos.
15. Why did you choose New York City as the book’s setting?
New York is the city of life and inspiration to me. It’s home to the MoMA among many other amazing art galleries and it’s where Andy Warhol’s Factory was. Marina wants to get lost, to be as far away from her father as possible, and to blend in with a huge crowd where nobody will find her, so New York felt like the natural destination.
16. Art is an important part in the story, almost its own character. What is your favorite thing about it? Maybe the different opinions (no one is alike, as you mentioned in the book), or the creation of something from scratch, etc.?
I love how divisive art can be. There’s this modern artist called Martin Creed who’s pretty controversial. He won the Turner Prize for modern art for an installation that was literally the lights turning off and on in an empty room. I find his work totally fascinating and can see the interpretations it offers, but I know plenty of people, including other artists, who think he’s a troll. Actually, I think he’s a troll as well but a troll with a point. I think anything and everything can be art and I get a real kick out of seeing something that someone has poured their heart and soul into. Art can change the world but it can also be completely ridiculous and that combination fascinates me.
17. Give us the 140 character TWEET description of your book!
Love, passion, sex, fashion, secrets, friends, transformation – The ultimate masterpiece is finding yourself. Also, nudity.
18. Is there a message in your debut novel that you want readers to walk away with? If so, what is it?
It doesn’t matter what else goes on in the world, the most important thing you can do is love yourself, because, In the words of the inimitable RuPaul, if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?!
19. What project are you working on now?
I’m working on a couple of things right now, mainly a romantic comedy about a young woman’s sexual awakening through the oddest means possible (it’s funny, I swear) and Derek’s spin-off story where we get to see more of his life as a drag queen and his relationship with his closeted uptight boyfriend. Viridian’s also getting her own spin-off. I’m also planning to delve into sci-fi soon but that one will require lots of planning before I even begin the first sentence.
1. Book or movie?
Books. I actually prefer TV to movies.
2. Superpower you wish you had?
I basically want to be Dr Jean Grey from X Men. Dark Phoenix Saga is optional.
3. GOB, Buster or Michael?
I’ve only recently gotten into Arrested Development. I can’t believe I was so late to the party! In terms of my favorite character out of those three it’s GOB (but overall it’s Lindsay).
4. Late night or early morning?
Late night. I’m barely human before noon.
5. Craziest thing in your fridge right now?
Strawberry flavored wine. Yummy!
6. If you were writing a book about YOUR life, what would the title be?
Still Waiting on Half-Life 3
About Anne Whitney:
Anne Whitney lives near New York City and spends most of her time writing stories in her head. When she’s not putting those stories onto paper, she can be found browsing art galleries, watching sci-fi and reading whatever she can get her hands on.
The Art of Love is her first novel.
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