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Q&A with Mindy Friddle, Author of Her Best Self

Q&A with Mindy Friddle, Author of Her Best Self

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Mindy Friddle is the author of Her Best Self, which is available now.

Mindy Friddle’s novel, Secret Keepers, won the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction. The Garden Angel, her first novel and SIBA bestseller, was selected for Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers. The South Carolina Arts Commission awarded Mindy a prose fellowship, and she has twice won the state’s Fiction Prize. Her stories and essays have appeared in numerous journals. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson and lives on Edisto Island, South Carolina.

Here’s a preview of her latest novel, Her Best Self:

Janelle Wolf longs to be the woman she once was– an adored wife, a loving mother, a career woman, a force in her community– before a mysterious car accident stole her memories, ruined her reputation, and upended her life. These days, her troubled family needs that capable woman from the past, the one she calls “Janelle Before.” Enter Lana, an alluring and magnetic psychic healer who meets secretly with Janelle. Lana coaxes Janelle to remember the circumstances of her accident in order to recover Janelle’s “best self.”

Instead, Janelle uncovers the ugly truth behind that night. The revelations unravel Janelle’s marriage, disrupt her family, and turn her small southern town upside down. Written with wry humor, this diabolically entertaining tale of deception, temptation, and love is filled with dark twists, exploring what happens when the transgressions of the past come back with a vengeance.

Let’s get to know Mindy as she talks favorite novels, inspiration behind Her Best Self, her TBR list and more!

What are some of your favorite novels?

Oh, I have so many! Here are just a few: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrrison, The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas, A Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I started writing poetry in fourth grade and on through college. My first job was a newspaper reporter at a small weekly newspaper in Hemingway, South Carolina.. That got me out in the world talking to all kinds of people about all sorts of issues, and writing on a deadline.Those skills helped me gain enough confidence to try writing my first novel, The Garden Angel.

What inspired you to write Her Best Self?

A vintage cookbook I came across, bookmarked with a newspaper clipping about Sandra Day O’Connor being the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court. That got me thinking about the woman who used that cookbook from the 1950s and her perspective. Raised to be a housewife, did she find O’Connor’s appointment radical? Unsettling? Encouraging? I began to write about a character who witnesses firsthand the changing roles of women in the last few decades; a woman eclipsed by her husband. 

What is your writing process like? 

I write in the mornings, and start with my writing journal. I freewrite to loosen the ligaments, and also note my intentions for the day. Perhaps it’s revising a scene, or continuing a first draft without editing or judgment. Or it may be mapping out scenes I have in mind for a section of a novel. I use the software Scrivner for novel writing, so I can move around scenes and chapters, and add research notes as I revise. Between drafts of novels, I often work on short stories. 

What was your favorite part or chapter to write? 

With Her Best Self, I was intrigued by writing from the antagonist’s point of view. Lana O’Shield is a grifter, an alluring and menacing outsider who is on the take, but who also offers the protagonist a sort of liberation. Unlike the other characters, Lana’s motivations are purely self-centered. She is a mendacious con artist and acute observer with nerves of steel. 

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

I just read my friend Caroline Cleveland’s southern thriller, When Cicadas Cry (Caroline and I will be doing two eventstogether this June, one in Greenville, SC, and another in Savannah); Alice McDermott’s Absolution; and Anne Enright’s The Wren, The Wren.  On my TBR is Tessa Hadley’s short story collection, After the Funeral; Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Chain-Gang All-Stars; Kevin Kwan’s Lies and Weddings; and Claire Messud’s This Strange Eventful History.