Friday, June 21, 2024

Molly Ringwald on Mexico and expat life

Molly Ringwald, noted actor, singer, and author, visited San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in late February to headline the San Miguel Writers’ Conference & Literary Festival. The multi-talented entertainer will perhaps always be best known for her iconic roles in the 1980s teen films The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Sixteen Candles, but she is also the best-selling author of When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories and Getting the Pretty Back, as well as the translator of the French novel Lie With Me by Philippe Besson and the French memoir My Cousin Maria Schneider by Vanessa Schneider.

After the conference, Ringwald took time to reflect on her week in San Miguel de Allende, the memoir she is currently writing about her decade in Paris, the ways that creativity can be sparked by expatriate life, and much more with author Ann Marie Jackson. 

Actress and author Molly Ringwald at the 2024 San Miguel Writers’ Conference. (Alistair Palmer)

What enticed you to come to the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, and how did you enjoy your time here?

My husband and I came to San Miguel with our daughter 15 years ago for Christmas, but I found out the day we were leaving that I was pregnant (with twins!) and spent the holiday a little queasy. I’ve always wanted to come back and was thrilled to be asked to participate in the literary festival. San Miguel de Allende is absolutely magical — even better than I remembered it!

Many of Mexico News Daily’s readers are American, Canadian, and European expats living in Mexico. In your [keynote speech at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference], you mentioned that your decade in France “turned on a light for you that your time in Hollywood had dimmed.” It gave you a creative spark to chase; it was a source of inspiration and joy. Many of us feel that way about Mexico. Do you believe there’s something universal about the expat experience that sparks creativity? 

I have always found being around other cultures sparks my creativity. We tend to become myopic, only seeing things through the lens of our own lives and points of view, and getting outside of that can help us to see things differently.  

2024 San Miguel Writers’ Conference keynote speakers C.S. Richardson, Christina Baker Kline, Molly Ringwald, Guillermo Arriaga, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. (Alistair Palmer)

I started your novel, When it Happens to You: A Novel in Stories, on Monday, and I’ve nearly finished it already. I find it beautifully written, incredibly honest, and so moving. How did you come to choose that format: “a novel in stories”?

Thank you for reading and for the kind comment! I have always been drawn to the short story; Raymond Carver, Laurie Moore, and John Cheever are some of my favorites. I originally had the idea to do a collection of stories around the idea of betrayal, which is a theme that feels universal in that we have all betrayed and been betrayed—whether it’s by another person or ourselves. The idea was to explore it from as many different angles as I could, but as I started writing, I realized that I liked connecting the characters which I felt solidified this concept of betrayal being truly universal. There’s no escaping it — and the only way out of its grip is through acceptance and forgiveness, which I also tried to explore in the stories. The novel in stories really just means that all of the stories together tell one unifying story, although personally, I feel like the stories can be read alone and still be understood.

When Danielle [Trussoni, best-selling author,] called you brave the other night, you mentioned that actually “a little fear can be good in that it shows that something is enough of a challenge to be worth doing,” and that nervous flutter in your stomach is “the creativity trying to get out.” I love that. Is that how you feel about the new memoir you’re working on now about your Paris years? 

It’s how I feel about everything I do. I think that if I don’t feel a little bit nervous, it generally means that I’m not challenging myself in some way.  

Author Danielle Trussoni interviews Molly Ringwald at the 2024 San Miguel Writers’ Conference. (Alistair Palmer)

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 

Read. Read first for pleasure and then re-read to understand how it’s done. And then write and suffer through being a bad writer, because everyone is bad before they are good.

Who is your favorite Mexican author?

I haven’t read as many as I would like. I’m taking recommendations! There is a Mexican American poet named Rachel McKibbens whom I recently discovered and love. I haven’t written poetry since I was a kid and remain forever in awe of people that do. To me, it feels absolutely like the purest and most beautiful form of writing.

You have previously written, most famously in The New Yorker, about reassessing your iconic ‘80s films in light of the #MeToo movement. Would you like to say a little about that? How have your views changed or evolved over the years?

I feel like the pieces speak for themselves, and I spent a long time thinking about them and writing them to get them right, so I don’t think I have anything to add — other than that, I appreciate what is good about the films even if I am critical of certain elements.

So what has it been like working with such an all-star cast on Feud: Truman Capote vs. The Swans? 

It was thrilling to work with so many great actresses whom I have admired over the years and Tom Hollander was a dream to work with.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers—about your books, the craft of writing, or your impressions of Mexico? 

I really love Mexico. My recent visit has inspired me to start learning to speak Spanish so hopefully the next time I visit, I will be fluent!

The San Miguel Literary Sala A.C., organizers of the annual San Miguel Writers’ Conference & Literary Festival, will announce in late summer the famous writers who will headline next year’s event. To learn more, visit sanmiguelwritersconference.org

Based in San Miguel de Allende, Ann Marie Jackson is a writer and NGO leader who previously worked for the U.S. Department of State. Her award-winning novel “The Broken Hummingbird,” which is set in San Miguel de Allende, came out in October 2023. Ann Marie can be reached through her website, annmariejacksonauthor.com.

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