Can you find the power to heal? And maybe that comes in quirkier ways than expected. Twins, NYC, & more in this interview with Marcia Butler


By Leslie Lindsay 

A tale about siblings, architects, New York City, and so much more, PICKLE’S PROGRESS (April 9, Central Avenue Publishing) is about healing, getting what we want, and so much more…but maybe in some quirkier ways.

Pickle's Progress-Cover.jpeg

Oh! I have a fun treat today–instead of me doing the interviewing, the lovely Amy Poeppel is. Amy is a writer and author of two novels, SMALL ADMISSIONS (Atria, 2016) and LIMELIGHT (Atria, 2018) her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Working MotherBookishIn The Powder Room, and Literary Mama. Pop over to her website and learn more.

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So a bit about PICKLE’S PROGRESS:

“Renowned architectural team, Karen and Stan McArdle, are drunk again and driving home over the George Washington Bridge to their Upper West Side brownstone after a tedious dinner party with suburban friends. A young woman, Junie, flags them down, frantic because her boyfriend has just jumped to his death. They call Stan’s identical twin brother, Pickle, to rescue not just Junie, but also help them avoid a potential DUI.

Karen invites Junie to stay in the perfectly decorated lower level of their brownstone, partly because she feels sorry for the distraught young woman and but also as a buffer for her dysfunctional marriage. Pickle immediately takes advantage of the situation. A guileless Junie becomes the object of his affections and serves as an unwitting psychological pawn for the dysfunctional McArdle clan. As the novel barrels toward its surprising conclusion, long-held alliances are threatened and shocking secrets are exposed. Love is the poison, the antidote, the devil and, ultimately, the hero.”

I’m totally inspired now to read this and hope you are, too. 

Amy Poeppel:

Two of your main characters, Pickle and Stan, are twins. What inspired you to write a story about twin brothers? And how—in good ways and bad—does their relationship complicate and enhance the family story you wanted to tell?

Marcia Butlter:

Rare are the identical twins who remain indistinguishable into adult life. Typically, one might gain more weight, or go grey at a different rate; the aging process seems to progress independently from genes. I’ve known one set of identical twin sisters for about 40 years, and they still look exactly alike! Years ago, one twin asked her soon to be husband if he was attracted to her sister. Of course he denied it. Call me a cynic, but I was skeptical. (Both twins are still happily married.) But this idea of attraction was an intriguing notion, and what better way to explore it than through twinship. PICKLE’S PROGRESS takes many comic twists and disturbing turns because the brothers, Pickle and Stan McArdle, desire the same woman. Yet, they are bonded to each other, as only twins can be. The pull and push of these emotional conditions and constraints propels the reader along, always wondering which twin will come out on top!

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Photo by Umar Mukhtar on Pexels.com

Amy Poeppel:

Pickle, Stan, and Karen are wonderfully far from perfect! How did you manage to make the reader root for these flawed characters (whom Richard Russo described as “more alive than most of the people we know in real life”), in spite of their bad behavior? In what ways did you show their humanity?

Marcia Butler:

We all have thoughts that never go from our brain to our lips. We tend keep our jealousies, schadenfreude, and revenge plans to ourselves, which is just reasonable and acceptable societal behavior. Recklessness is a predominant theme in my novel. Pickle and Karen, particularly, cannot seem to help themselves with regard to acting out in impulsive ways; they hurt each other, but mostly themselves. Their questionable and confounding behaviors are rooted in childhood experiences, and as such can be forgiven (mostly) because they themselves were victims. Pickle’s mother, like Rachel in the bibilical Jacob and Esau story, has destroyed his ability to feel truly loved. And Karen’s mother, who vanished at an early age, continues to impose her will on adult Karen, eerily so. The reader can only sit back and observe the freight train barrel by, wondering what Pickle and Karen will do next to get the love they think they want.

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Amy Poeppel:

Your acclaimed memoir THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE is described as “meticulously nuanced, daringly honest, and utterly inspiring.” What was the experience like when you made the shift from writing personal nonfiction to creating fictional characters and the world they live in?

Marcia Butler:

Fiction and memoir have more in common than might be imagined. Both are story telling, and must include both dramatic arc and narrative drive. The goal for any writer is to bring the reader around to an emotionally satisfying conclusion and hopefully experience a transformation in the process. I began my novel as soon as my memoir was sold and approached it much the same way, in terms of craft. The difference was I knew the plot of my life, but not the trajectory of my characters in PICKLE’S PROGRESS. This, though admittedly a major and daunting difference, was in many ways exciting. And a relief! I no longer had to tack strictly to the truth of my life experience. I could manipulate my characters and bring them to emotional and physical places through the abandon of my mind. Challenging, yes. But it proved to be the freeing experience I was longing for: to tell a story that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with my crazy imagination.


“How does healing happen? Sometimes in quirkier ways than you might expect. Butler’s blazingly original novel debut (her memoir THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE made me want to run away and join an orchestra) is a quintessential moving, witty, New York City story about the love we think we want, the love we get, and the love we deserve, all played out with symphonic grace. I loved it.”

 —Caroline Leavitt

New York Times Bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World


Amy Poeppel:

I am so excited to know what you’re working on next! Is there anything you can share at this point?

Marcia Butler:

I like to keep busy. My documentary film, The Creative Imperative, will premiere at The New York Society Library in NYC on June 9th. This film attempts to explore the essence of creativity through the narratives of musicians, actors, dancers, writers and artists, as they speak about being a creative person, both through their private experience and in the world. And, just as with my memoir, I began writing my second novel as soon as PICKLE’S PROGRESS was acquired. This story takes place in Maine and one of the characters is a moose named Bindle. She roams the rural acreage of two families. One is a long time generational Mainer and the other a relatively recent (20 years) transplant. Through the prism of social and class perception, I tell their complex and intermingled stories, and how Bindle ultimately plays a role in exposing long held secrets.

light painting at night
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of PICKLE’S PROGRESS, please see:

Order Links:

Marcia Butler Photo Matt DineABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marcia Butler has had a number of creative careers: professional musician, interior designer, documentary filmmaker, and author. As an oboist, the New York Times has hailed her as a “first rate artist.” During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned of New York and international stages, with many high-profile musicians and orchestras – including pianist Andre Watts, and composer/pianist Keith Jarrett. Her interior designs projects have been published in numerous shelter magazines and range up and down the East coast, from NYC to Boston, to Miami. The Creative Imperative, her documentary film exploring the essence of creativity, will release in Spring 2019.

Marcia’s nationally acclaimed memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, was one of the Washington Post’s “top ten noteworthy moments in classical music in 2017”. She was chosen as 2017 notable debut author in 35 OVER 35. Her writing has been published in Literary HubPANK Magazine, Psychology TodayAspen Ideas MagazineCatapultBio-Stories and others. Marcia was a 2015 recipient of a Writer-in-Residence through Aspen Words and the Catto Shaw Foundation. She was a writing fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a writer in residence at The Betsy Hotel. Her debut novel, Pickle’s Progress, will be released on April 9, 2019 from Central Avenue Publishing. She lives in New York City

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:

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#fiction #authorinterview #NYC #amreading #twins #memoir #siblings #creativity #secrets

[Cover and author image courtesy of ShreveWilliams and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram]

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