The story of how Marissa and I *met* : Around this time last year a book arrived in my mailbox from my Canadian publisher. It was a novel titled Mating For Life, written by Marissa Stapley. {SPOILER ALERT: You could win a copy! Keep reading. Yes, to the very end of the post. Cheeky.} I expected to take my time reading the book but once in I was IN and IN DEEP. Marissa’s writing is rich and authentic, her characters real and flawed and hopeful, her plot woven together so beautifully, so elegantly, I just couldn’t put it down. I love that the chapters are titled after animals that mate for life (including references to the animals hidden within each chapter) and I love the settings, especially the family cottage on Muskoka island. Mating for Life is an enchanting read and I was gob-smacked to learn that Mating for Life is Marissa’s debut novel. Watch this space, I say.


Since then, Mating for Life has been published, with a beautiful and evocative cover I should add, and Marissa has been busy busy busy with Life and Family and Writing. But from the moment I put down Marissa’s novel and looked her up online (what? That’s not stalk-y. Stalk-y isn’t even a word.) I knew we had to feature her on How She Does It. And now I have her responses to our favourite questions I wish I could thieve the answers for my own How She Does It. I’d also like to be invited to the dinner party please, should that magic ever occur. I promise to bring the chips and dip?


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Hi Marissa! Please tell us who you are, what you do and where you live? I mean, not the actual address or anything (awkward giggle)

Hi; I am the author (of books) and writer (of magazine and newspaper articles) and mother (of two). I live in Toronto, Ontario, with my husband and the aforementioned two children.

When did you know you wanted to do the work you do?

When I was seven and read Anne of Green Gables and discovered Lucy Maude Montgomery and I shared the same birthday, a hundred years to the day. But probably also in my mid-twenties, when I was writing full time but not doing anything especially creative, and I knew that I needed to make sure I reached my full potential as a writer, and not be one of those people who wished they had written a book, but never did.

It is infinitely cool (in my world at least) that you share the same birthday as LM Montgomery! Is there such a thing as birthday envy? There is now… Speaking of influencing authors and important books, which books have made a big impact on your life and why?

So many books have impacted my life! As a child, Anne of Green Gables and A Wrinkle in Time (Oh, and Tuck Everlasting!) showed me just how real a make believe world can seem. I was deeply affected by John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, through which I learned how important it is to create characters who feel real even if they are unlike anyone who actually exists, and who live on in the minds of readers. I was very inspired by Alice Munro’s collection of stories called Runaway, as well as her most recent collection, called Dear Life, which felt so personal—and also made me sad because she has said it is her last. Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin is one of the best books I have ever read. I love that it spans so many things, including genre, and that it’s a big doorstopper of a book, and a true page turner—except you can’t rush through any part of it to find out what happens next or you’ll miss out on her razor sharp prose (every single sentence is worth the time!) so reading it is the most wonderful kind of literary agony. Martha Gellhorn’s The Face of War, and her short stories and novellas, have also impacted my career in that through her I learned that whatever you observe and record, you must be compassionate about it–and that it’s also okay to be enraged by it or hurt by it. When I was in journalism school there was a lot of talk about objectivity, but in the real world– and especially in war– humanity is so important. I think some journalists forget this—but I also think some of them don’t. That kind of writing is a thing of beauty to read, and can come out of nowhere sometimes and make me believe again that the world’s going to be okay.

Who is your favourite author?

Do I have to pick just one? Okay, fine, I won’t. I admire Margaret Atwood in a big way. She’s intimidating, and her writing can be a little scary, but it’s just so darn good. (Also, a lot of people in Canada like to call her prickly and say she’s not that nice in person. I met her once and she is absolutely lovely! I’m not just saying that because I’m a little afraid of her.) And then there’s Alice Munro, who is not scary at all, and who lives in my mind like a favourite aunt. (I wish!) She writes about such simple things, and makes them shine like found treasure. I am in awe of her ability to bore right down to the core of what humans feel and why they do what they do. I also love Miriam Toews—the rhythm of her writing really speaks to something in me—it feels familiar. Barbara Kingsolver is great, too. And John Irving, and Meg Wolitzer, and … alright, I’ll stop.

How did you come to be an author yourself?

Via a lot of hard work, a sensitive soul and a thick skin, and a very supportive family.

What about your work brings you the most joy?

When I reread something I’ve written and I manage to give myself chills, or when I rearrange or edit an imperfect sentence and then reread it and experience that small, victorious moment of “a-ha!”

What do you enjoy least about your work?

The moments of crushing insecurity. Also, the fact that as a writer you must open yourself up to the world and sometimes this means feeling pain that isn’t yours.

What do you have to sacrifice or compromise in order to do the work you do?

My sanity! Ha. (But, seriously.) Time with family, definitely. Although there are times when I’m through with a draft and have all the time in the world to devote to my family there are other times when I’m simply not present, even when I am.

Present but not, I can definitely relate to that. How do you juggle the work you do with your other demands or responsibilities?

I’m still trying to figure that one out! It helps that I have such a supportive family. And a cleaning lady.

How do you like to work? At home, in the morning, with music…

It depends on what I’m working on, or the phase of a draft I’m in. At the start and during the middle, I like to work at coffee shops, and usually in the morning. (Always with music. Music is key. If I’ve forgotten my headphones, I just go home.) As I approach the end of something, everything else falls by the wayside and I work at home, banging away at the keyboard frenetically until it’s time to go get the kids from school and I still haven’t showered or done the breakfast dishes.

Ugh! Breakfast dishes are by far the suckiest, I agree. Especially when left and the remaining cereal becomes superglue…a close runner-up to the roasting pan… but I digress….what do you still hope to achieve in your writing career?

The long list of a major literary prize. Meryl Streep to be the voice of one of my audiobooks.

Curses to you and your great answers. I want Meryl Streep to be my mother-in-law. I have a extraordinarily nice mother-in-law but I adore Meryl Streep. Now I want her to voice one of my audiobooks! Gah! Chalking it up on the wish-list.




You’ve mentioned that becoming an author has taken a lot of hard work, a thick skin and a sensitive soul. For aspiring writers out there what quality do you think is the most important for a person to be successful in this field?

There are two parts: talent is key. You can’t be a writer if you aren’t a good writer. (Some might argue with me, but I’m holding firm on this one.) However, to get good at writing, you have to write and write and write. And you can’t do that unless you’re very determined and somewhat stubborn and not at all afraid to come back for more even after you’ve been told “no.”

We love our books here at Fork and Fiction but we also adore our food. So, moving on to that beloved topic, can you recall a favourite meal?

In Rome, with my husband, before we were married. We were staying at a hostel and they served a $3 spaghetti and wine dinner every night on the rooftop, which we ate heaped onto plates while watching the sun set over the ancient city.

What is the most important non-food thing in your kitchen?

My blender! I’m not a huge breakfast eater, so smoothies packed with fruit and veggies and all sorts of sneaky superfoods, which I blend up and also serve to my husband so we’ll both live forever, are my secret weapon.

What is always in your fridge and pantry?

Good cheese in the fridge. Olives, too. Smoked oysters and crackers in the pantry. I’m always ready for an impromptu cocktail party.

Who is on your dream dinner party guest list?

Let’s pick all of the authors I mentioned in the “Who is your favourite author” question. But let’s also add in Joni Mitchell, Robert Plant, Amal Alamuddin (ok, fine, George can come, too), Christiane Amanpour, Chrissie Hynde, Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Lauren Graham if she comes in character as Lorelai Gilmore, Stephen Colbert (is it just me or is this turning into the best dinner party ever?), Stephen King, and Matthew McConnaghey (because it is a dream dinner party after all.)

Holy. Now that there is a dinner party! I’ll upgrade my chips and dips to chips and dip and celery sticks if it’ll get me in…?

Finally, three quick fire questions. Person you are most inspired by:

My late grandmothers. My mom. My kids.

Sum up your life right now in three words:

I am blessed.

The best piece of advice you have ever received:

Don’t give up.

Thank you so much Marissa, for joining us here at Fork and Fiction. It has been such a pleasure and honour to learn more about you, your influences, your life and your writing career. Drop by again any time and let us know all your news!


Now, if YOU want to win a copy of Marissa’s sensational debut novel – Mating for Life – you are in luck because the good folks at Simon and Schuster have given us not one but TWO copies of the book to give away. Entering to win is super-easy. All you have to do is comment on this post or on our facebook page describing something you are mated to for life; something you just can’t give up, something or someone you are committed to. It can be a vice or an indulgence or a special person, feel free to get creative.

We will pick our two favourite comments by Friday the 10th of October and reveal the winners in our Sweet Little Something on that day. Check back to see if you have won and remember to tell a friend about the competition because this book really is great and if your friend wins it would be just like you gave them an awesome gift and then they’ll feel obliged to have you over for dinner and serve wine. Win, wine : win, win. That’s what I always (have started) say (ing).


Hannah x