The first time I heard about The Meryl Streep Movie Club I thought, “that’s genius” and “lemme at that author!” Now finally — I’m happy to present Mia March to the Women’s Fiction Writers community. With insight, hindsight, and foresight, Mia wrote a novel about how movies can find their way to our very core and help us make us who we are. And who we want to be.
Please welcome Mia to Women’s Fiction Writers!
How Thanksgiving, Divorce, And Meryl Streep Led To My First Novel
Ever had one of these Thanksgivings?: You’re in the kitchen with your mother and grandmother, and they’re sniping at each other over whether to put garlic in the mashed potatoes and who said what fifteen years ago, and all you want is for them to get along and remember why you’re all stuffed into this house on a Thursday night in the first place. Well, after that dinner and more digs about the dry-or-not drumsticks and who runs out of Diet Coke on Thanksgiving, my mother and grandmother and I sat down in the living room to watch a movie: The Bridges of Madison County, starring my favorite actress, Meryl Streep, and my mother’s favorite actor, Clint Eastwood. Some two hours later, popcorn consumed, credits rolling, my grandmother commented on the choice that Meryl Streep’s character makes at the end of the film. The discussion we had, from that one comment, changed everything.
My mother and grandmother went from barely speaking, full of silly resentments and old feuds, to opening up. To really talking. The question: should Francesca Johnson, married but deeply lonely Iowa farm wife originally from Italy, run off with Robert Kincaid, National Geographic photographer, with whom she fell deeply in love after a four-day whirlwind love affair when her husband and children were off at a state fair in the summer of 1965. Or, should she stay where she was, with her husband and two teenaged children. Our responses to her choice, and the whys, engendered a conversation that truly changed our relationship.
Fast forward ten years later to me on my couch with a bunch of rented Meryl Streep movies. I was going through my divorce and planned a weekend with tissues, popcorn and my favorite actress, whose incredible range was represented by the films I rented. The hilarious (but very poignant) Heartburn and Defending Your Life and Postcards from the Edge. The exquisite, life-affirming, soaring Out of Africa, my favorite Meryl Streep movie. One True Thing, which made me love Renee Zellwegger. That weekend, I laughed for what seemed like the first time in months over Heartburn and Defending Your Life. Out of Africa reminded me why I was going through this divorce in the first place and to strive, always. Film after film, Meryl Streep’s breathtakingly beautiful face, breathtakingly talented performances, made me think, made me cry, made me laugh. But most of all, Meryl Streep made me believe in her every expression, every line she uttered. I felt stronger after that Meryl Streep movie marathon—stronger, more whole, ready for next in a way I hadn’t been before.
And I started thinking about that Thanksgiving ten years earlier with my mother and grandmother, how we watched The Bridges of Madison County and how it got us talking, opening up, sharing, hugging. How it changed our perspective about a number of things, changed our relationship. I sat down at my laptop and typed the title dead center: The Meryl Streep Movie Club, then Chapter One below it, and characters were right there: a fractured family of women who are brought back together through the surprising and heartfelt and sometimes angry discussions engendered by watching the films of Meryl Streep, their difficult family matriarch’s favorite actress.
When I think about this, the two-fold inspiration for my novel, I’m always amazed by how watching a movie had such a impact on me and my family’s relationships and how it changed the way we watched movies together from then on. If my mother and grandmother hadn’t been arguing over whether to put garlic in the mashed potatoes, we might not have watched a movie at all; we tended to watch movies as a family as a way of not talking, of sitting in a darkened room and not engaging for two hours. But after that night, watching movies together became an event—choosing the film, what kind of food we’d have for our own “dinner theater,” and the hours-long discussion afterward.
I have Meryl Streep to thank for this. For decades of making me think, cry, laugh, and believe. For inspiring my novel, for inspiring me. She’s truly a gift. Just as movies are.
Has watching movies had this effect on you? Got you talking, got you thinking, changed your perspective on something?
Mia March lives on the coast of Maine, the setting of The Meryl Streep Movie Club, which Kirkus Reviews says is “a heartwarming, spirit-lifting read just in time for beach season.” The novel will be published in over eighteen countries. Mia’s next novel, Finding Colin Firth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in the summer of 2013. For more info, please visit Mia’s website at www.MiaMarch.com. You can also friend her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MiaMarch.author and follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/March_Mia