What: Author! Author! presents Maria Semple

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Bend High School auditorium, 230 NE Sixth St.

Cost: $30 single event or $100 series general admission; $80 single event or $280 series preferred admission (includes preferred seating and private author reception)


What: Writing workshop with Maria Semple

When: noon to 2 p.m. Friday

Where: Brooks room, Downtown Bend Library, 601 NW Wall St.

Cost: $50; reservations required, space is limited

Contact: dplfoundation.org or 541-312-1027

The seventh season of the Deschutes Public Library Foundation’s Author! Author! speaker series will kick off Friday evening with TV writer and best-selling author Maria Semple. Three more of the literary events will follow, featuring Sarah Vowell on Nov. 15, Colum McCann on Feb. 21 and Richard Russo on March 14.

Semple’s debut novel, “This One is Mine,” was released in 2008 and her latest work, “Today Will Be Different,” was published in 2016. But she is best known for her 2012 novel, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” which spent more than a year on the New York Times Bestseller list and is being adapted into a film starring Cate Blanchett and Kristin Wiig.

The funny, smart and touching “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is written in an unconventional epistolary style incorporating notes, emails and letters between the characters. It pokes fun at life in Seattle (where Semple has lived since 2008) and at its self-absorbed title character. In the story, the increasingly agoraphobic and Seattle-phobic Bernadette Fox goes missing, and her 15-year-old daughter combs through her email and correspondence to determine where her mother is and why she felt the need to vanish.

“Today Will Be Different” is darkly humorous and set in Seattle. Like Bernadette, the central character, Eleanor Flood, is a wife and mother foundering under the weight of expectations and experiencing something of a mental health crisis. The story is told through one day in Eleanor’s life as she tries to implement small, positive changes, but is stymied when one thing after another goes awry.

“They’re both women who are trying to do their best, but they get in their own way, in a really big way,” Semple said of Eleanor and Bernadette. “They’re both me, basically. Let’s just get that out of the way and save any coyness on my part.”

The self-deprecating Semple doesn’t mean that in a strictly literal sense. Rather, in crafting her main characters she takes a particular issue she is struggling with and exaggerates and builds around it for maximum impact in the story.

“They’re like me, only more reckless,” Semple said. “I wouldn’t have the audacity to do what they do. My mode of preference is to sit around complaining, but they try to fight their way out of their funny situation.”

Semple didn’t immediately love her new hometown of Seattle after moving there from Los Angeles with her boyfriend and daughter 10 years ago (although she’s quick to point out she can’t imagine living anywhere else now). In fact, she felt hated and as though no one knew her. That initial feeling of isolation and otherness is what the author tapped into as the starting point for Bernadette. However, the resulting character isn’t factually autobiographical, and Semple’s life and personality doesn’t match up exactly with those of her characters.

Semple employs the same approach in developing most of the other characters in her novels, seeking out a part of their humanity that overlaps with her own.

“I try to get really clear on what part of me would work here for a secondary character — what vein I can tap into,” Semple said. “Then I flesh out that character and make them more active and set them in conflict with the main version of me and each other.”

While Semple’s writing always starts with the characters, she credits 15 years working as a Hollywood writer on TV series such as “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Mad About You” and “Arrested Development,” with giving her a heightened appreciation of the importance of story, pacing and themes.

“Just because they’re quick and easy reads doesn’t mean they’re light,” Semple said of her novels. “There’s depth there, but I also care about the reader and their enjoyment of the story.”

In addition to her Author! Author! presentation, Semple will lead a writing workshop at the Downtown Bend Library during her first visit to Central Oregon.

Semple clearly doesn’t shy away from examining and exposing herself through her characters, and she encourages her students to do the same.

“Why write fiction at all if we’re not going to reveal ourselves?” Semple asked. “Write what only we can write, not what everyone else is writing. You shouldn’t write at all unless you’re going to offer that up and it also makes the process really interesting.”