Molleen Zwiker was born in Panama and raised in Michigan. In the first grade, she wrote and illustrated her first short story on a length of coarse brown paper towel purloined from a roll in the girls’ restroom. Her grandmother saved that story, and Zwiker still has it, filed with everything she’s ever written. Almost everything. When she was 24, she began her first novel, a scathing feminist view of an inverted future where men are second-class citizens. Startled by the bitterness she read in her own work, Zwiker torched that manuscript. This she sorely regrets; there was a market for bitter, after all. Zwiker earned an MFA in Creative Writing, Playwriting, from Western Michigan University. Currently, she is working on a new novel tentatively titled The Art of Murder.
I’m from Saginaw, so I loved reading about so many places I remember. But why didn’t you just make up the locations?
A good answer would probably be, “So readers like you can feel grounded in the story.” I know I like that when I read. But also, I don’t want to have to keep track of what I’ve said. So, laziness?
Does that go for your characters, too? Is Edwina a real person?
In a way, I do use real people, at least for the bones. Again, that way I can keep them consistent. But when I borrow someone, I flesh them out differently, and always remember to return them.
Aren’t you worried the people you use that way will recognize themselves and be angry?
Not any more. I was concerned the first time I did it, but then each person in my circle of friends came to me privately to ask if it were one of the others, including the one it was. So I stopped being concerned.
I’ve read your other books, too, and have to say how struck I am by the way each is entirely different. Is that deliberate?
Of course. I don’t want to write the same book over and over, changing out names, places, occupations, and so forth. I’d get bored. When my writing bores me, I’ll quit writing. I like to think of my books as pencil marks on the doorjamb so I can see how much I’ve grown.
I loved UNRELIABLE, but my favorite was your second novel. Do you have a favorite?
Well, on one level, my first was my favorite because I learned so much and experienced so much because of it. But usually I’m most interested in whatever is in progress.
So, what are you working on now? A sequel to UNRELIABLE?
Hell no. I don’t want to spend another minute inside that woman’s head. Right now I’m juggling two entirely different novels. It’s a contest between them to see which will dominate my thoughts. And my time.