10 Questions: Susan Merrell, Author​ of ‘Shirley’

Susan Merrell at home with her with books in Sag Harbor
Susan Merrell at home with her with books in Sag Harbor, Photo: Barbara Lassen

Two years after Sag Harbor author and Stony Brook Southampton professor Susan Merrell told friends and local press that her 2014 novel Shirley would be adapted into a motion picture starring Elisabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlbarg, the film will finally be released on Friday, June 5—and critics are loving it. Shirley, directed by Josephine Decker, has already received a 93% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 68 rave reviews, which is no small feat.

You can watch Shirley right now on Hulu.

Sag Harbor Cinema and Canio’s Books are hosting a virtual screening of Shirley, along with a special conversation between Merrell and Artistic Director Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, online this Sunday June 7 at 6 p.m.

Merrell’s novel, and the film, follows a fictional story about a pair of newlyweds (Odessa Young and Logan Lerman) who move into the famous horror writer’s home, which she shares with husband and local college professor Stanley Hyman (Stuhlbarg). The older couple seem to orbit in a relentless marital battle and all but sink their teeth into their naïve houseguests. Meanwhile, at work on her new book, Jackson establishes a bond with the young bride.

To celebrate the film’s release, and this weekend’s event, Merrell answered our 10 Questions—a set of rapid-fire queries we ask many of the East End’s most notable personalities. Her answers are below.

Visit sagharborcinema.org for tickets and details on how to watch Shirley and see Merrell’s conversation.

1. Favorite book?
Hands down, Moby-Dick [by Herman Melville].

2. The last thing that took your breath away?
Seeing the Shirley movie.

3. The last thing that made you cry?
The protest march in Bridgehampton on Tuesday. I was using my mask as a hankie most of the time.

4. It’s the eve of your execution… What would be your last meal?

5. Something worth fighting for?
Safety for all people.

6. Something worth giving up?
Things. Also pride.

7. Spend an afternoon with anyone—alive or dead—who would it be?
Oh, please. Shirley Jackson.

8. An interesting object in your home or office?
A book about econometrics that my father wrote. I will never open it, I have no idea what’s in it or even what it’s about, but it makes me think of him whenever I glance at it.

9. Last film you watched?
My daughter says I can’t say 10 Things I Hate About You, but it’s true. Before that, Knives Out. Before that, Parasite.

10. Favorite Elisabeth Moss role besides Shirley Jackson?
There’s something so endearing about her on The West Wing, so I’m going with that.


Shirley movie poster
‘Shirley’ movie poster

More from Our Sister Sites