Drunk on Ink Q & A with Molly Greeley and “The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Burgh’ a novel
Molly Greeley is the author of The Heiress and The Clergyman’s Wife, both based on characters in Jane Austen’s fiction (Anne de Burgh and Charlotte Lucas). Molly Greeley was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her addiction to books was spurred by her parents’ floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. A graduate of Michigan State University, she began as an Education major, but switched to English and Creative Writing after deciding that gainful employment was not as important to her as being able to spend several years reading books and writing stories and calling it work. Her stories and essays have been published in Cicada, Carve, and Literary Mama. twitter instagram
About The Heiress
As a fussy baby, Anne de Bourgh’s doctor prescribed laudanum to quiet her, and now the young woman must take the opium-heavy tincture every day. After her father dies unexpectedly, leaving her his vast fortune, Anne has a moment of clarity: what if her life of fragility and illness isn’t truly real? What if she could free herself from the medicine that clouds her sharp mind and leaves her body weak and lethargic? Might there be a better life without the medicine she has been told she cannot live without? In a frenzy of desperation, Anne discards her laudanum and flees to the London home of her cousin, Colonel John Fitzwilliam, who helps her through her painful recovery. Yet once she returns to health, new challenges await. Shy and utterly inexperienced, the wealthy heiress must forge a new identity for herself, learning to navigate a “season” in society and the complexities of love and passion. The once wan, passive Anne gives way to a braver woman with a keen edge—leading to a powerful reckoning with the domineering mother determined to control Anne’s fortune . . . and her life. An extraordinary tale of one woman’s liberation, The Heiress reveals both the darkness and light in Austen’s world, with wit, sensuality, and a deeply compassionate understanding of the human heart.
SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? Why?
MOLLY GREELEY: There are so many early books that I absolutely loved, but I think the first one that deeply impacted me, in that it made me look at the world in a totally new way, was Lois Lowry’s The Giver.
To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?
Wine at the end of a tough day; otherwise coffee.
A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? Why?
I have a hard time saying anything should be mandatory for anyone, because different works speak to different people. But poem #25 from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Pictures of the gone world is one of those pieces that just stunned me when I first read it.
Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.
Favorite quote from your book ?
“… I saw the princess so very clearly—unnaturally still and silent on her narrow bed until the moment the enchantment broke. As I watched from behind my lids, the princess blinked, sloughed off the covering of cobwebs, and rose, looking astonished, from her bed.”
Favorite book to film? And why?
Probably Girl with a Pearl Earring (trailer) based on the novel by Tracey Chevalier (inspired by the eponymous painting). I love how the whole movie looks like a Vermeer painting, and for the most part it stayed true to the book, just bringing it to gorgeous life.
Favorite Indie Book Store/s?
Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor will always be number one in my heart for all the hours I spent there as a kid (back when it was Little Professor), curled up reading in the big painted throne. Where I live now, though, we have two wonderful indies downtown: Brilliant Books, which is cozy, with awesome staff recommendations and a cute play area in the back for kids; and Horizon Books, which has a great selection and is a big space with yummy coffee that serves as a sort of community hub.
The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?
That it was truly possible.
Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?
In my experience… yes and no. I think for me personally, marketing myself is always going to involve going way outside my comfort zone; but I think I’m getting, if not more comfortable with it, at least more accustomed to the discomfort of it! Writing I think is as hard as ever, except for the fact that since I’ve now completed two novels, I understand better that just because this day (or this week… or this month!) involved more deleting than writing, it’s all part of the process, and doesn’t mean that a finished book isn’t waiting on the other side.
Dog, Cat, Or?
Cat(s), always and forever.
Returning to Scotland with my husband, this time with our kids, too. My husband and I met on a college study-abroad trip to the UK, and Scotland has been, for both of us, the place we’ve felt most at home. We’ve been meaning to go back for years and years, but life kept getting in the way (this year we were going to go in August, but… Covid…).
Favorite book cover?
Aside from The Heiress’s cover, which I am still amazed by, I think I’d have to say the cover to the edition of The Secret Garden that my dad gave me when I was seven or so (the 1987 “Illustrated Junior Library” edition from the Putnam Group, if anyone’s curious!). It’s just a melancholy, gorgeous picture of Mary, the protagonist, in the garden, and so evocative of the general feeling of the book.
Kathy’s Song, by Paul Simon
Favorite painting/ work of art?
It’s hard to narrow it down to just one, but if I have to… probably Henri Matisse’s “The French Window at Nice.” There’s something calming about it (and I maybe-sorta-kinda see my fantasy-self in the woman sitting in front of the window, reading and enjoying the view).
Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?
I haven’t had the pleasure of going to any literary festivals yet (being a total introvert, though I would love to attend one someday, I also don’t totally mind that I haven’t been yet!). But I have gotten some absolutely wonderful messages from readers who read The Clergyman’s Wife and completely made my day. I think readers (myself included) often underestimate how much it means to a writer to hear that their words have been read and enjoyed.
What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? Why?
My favorite novel is Persuasion; I love the tone of it, which feels different, to me, than many of Austen’s other novels; and the fact that the happy ending still feels absolutely perfect. My favorite film adaptation is Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility (trailer); I just love everything about that movie, from the performances to the soundtrack to the beautiful scenery. It’s my happy place.
Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?
A few years ago, after my first child was born but before I became pregnant with my second, I suffered a miscarriage (the fourth of five), and wrote an essay about it, which was published in the online journal Literary Mama. For mothers who have literary aspirations or who just need to see their lives reflected in what they read, I can’t recommend the site strongly enough. It’s full of wit and humor and tears and frustration and love, and the stories and essays run the gamut of the mothering experience.
Last impulse book buy and why?
This is Sadie, by Sara O’Leary, for my kid who had just learned to read. Honestly, we didn’t have a ton of money to spend on anything except necessities at the time, but she had worked so hard to learn, and I just loved the illustrations and sweet prose and wanted to reward her hard work. I’d gone into one of our local bookstores just to browse (shoutout to Brilliant Books, again!), and came out with Sadie’s story.
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