Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Patricia Morrisroe. Patricia grew up in Andover, Massachusetts and graduated from Tufts University with a B.A. in English. After spending a year as a reporter and film critic at the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, she received an M.A. in Cinema Studies at NYU.
As a contributing editor at New York magazine, she wrote over fifty features, many of them cover stories. Patricia’s work has also appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, the New York Times, Departures, Travel & Leisure, and the London Sunday Times Magazine.
In 1988, the noted photographer Robert Mapplethorpe selected her to write his biography. A year later, several months after he died of AIDS, the Corcoran Gallery of Art cancelled the photographer’s “The Perfect Moment” exhibit. This spurred a heated nationwide debate about pornography as art and called into question the extent to which Congress and the NEA should be funding that art. When Mapplethorpe: A Biography was published in 1995, the art critic Arthur C. Danto, in The Nation, called it “utterly admirable… The clarity and honesty of Morrisroe’s portrait are worthy of its’ subject.” The Washington Post declared the book as “mesmerizing as Mapplethorpe’s stare in his self-portraits.”
In 2010, Patricia wrote Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia, which blended science, culture and personal insight to tell the story of why she – and 40 million other Americans – can’t sleep at night. Janet Maslin in the New York Times praised her “deadpan funny” sense of humor, describing the book as a “fine firsthand look at insomniac eccentricities.”
Her recent book 9 ½ Narrow: My Life in Shoes has just been published.
Norm: Good day Patricia and thanks for participating in our interview. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated and what was the first piece you ever wrote? What happened to it?
Patricia: When I was younger I was more interested in singing and acting, so when I did write it was primarily for fun. The first piece I remember was “How The Grinch Stole Nancy,” a takeoff on the Dr. Seuss story. Nancy was my much younger, extremely rambunctious sister, and I suspect the story was part wishful thinking. My mother, unfortunately, lost it.
Norm: What do you see as the influences on your writing?
Patricia: Singing because writing is very much the same process only quieter, and acting because you learn how to emphasize phrases and certain words. I’ve discovered that the best way to tell if something sounds right is to read it aloud. You ear will pick up the wrong “notes” immediately.
Norm: What is your work schedule like when you're writing and what would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Patricia: I like to keep to a routine. I’m usually at my desk with a cup of tea no later than 10; I go outside for a latte at 1, and I’m back at my desk around 2:30. I’ll work until 5:30 or 6. Interesting writing quirk? I never work at night because my brain will keep on spinning and I’ll never sleep.
Norm: Where do you get your information or ideas for your articles and books?
Patricia: Ideas often come to me. That isn’t to say I wake up every morning with a fantastic one, but usually the best ideas are the ones that just hit out of the blue. In terms of getting information, it depends on what I’m doing. For my biography on Robert Mapplethorpe, I interviewed 300 people and read extensively; for Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia, I mixed interviews with scientists, sleep doctors and drug makers, etc., with my own observations.
Norm: Could you share with us a little of your most recent work, 9 ½ Narrow: My Life in Shoes ?
Patricia: I was looking for a subject and remembered how much I’d enjoyed “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.” Ilene Beckerman, the author, is a wonderful illustrator. I can’t draw but thought I could do something similar, with shoes as the leitmotif. I figured someone had probably already done it – it’s such an obvious idea – but to my delight, nobody had.
Norm: What motivated you to write your latest book and how much research went into writing the book?
Patricia:An editor had approached me about writing a biography of the designer Alexander McQueen. When you write a biography you really have to be willing to walk in that person’s shoes, and among the last shoes McQueen, who committed suicide, designed were 12-inch crustacean clawed Armadillo booties. Intuitively, I knew it wasn’t going to be a good fit. As for research, I read a lot of books on the history of shoes, which I found fascinating.
Norm: What would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read your latest book?
Patricia: Though the book is a memoir, I think it will resonate with many women, particularly baby boomers. It’s about my life, but also about the lives of every woman who remembers what shoes she wore at a given point in time. Shoes remind us where we were, where we are now, and where we want to go. Shoes tell stories. I also think the book is funny but it’s not without its poignant moments.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
Patricia: On my WEBSITE
Norm: What is next for Patricia Morrisroe?
Patricia: I’m still not through with shoes. I’d love to find a way to turn the book into a play.
As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have
liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Patricia: “How did someone go from writing a biography of one of the most censured and notorious photographers of the 20th century to writing a shoe memoir?” Answer: Because I wanted to write something that made me happy.
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.