Thank you for Visiting

This book club provided an opportunity to discuss books with authors from 2009 - 2013. I like to think we were a group of daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, well... women finding time to meet while juggling daily life.

I hope you enjoy exploring The Manic Mommies Book Club Archives. We read 46 books over the years, with audio or written author discussions for each book read documented on this blog.

~ with kindness & gratitude, Mari

July 2010 selection: Backseat Saints

We will be discussing Backyard Saints with the author on July 21 (8PM EST). Watch for details as we get closer to the date.

A 24 book giveaway will be posted to the Manic Mommies website within the next week.

Synopsis:  Rose Mae Lolley is a fierce and dirty girl, long-suppressed under flowery skirts and bow-trimmed ballet flats. As "Mrs. Ro Grandee" she's trapped in a marriage that's thick with love and sick with abuse. Her true self has been bound in the chains of marital bliss in rural Texas, letting "Ro" make eggs, iron shirts, and take her punches. She seems doomed to spend the rest of her life battered outside by her husband and inside by her former self, until fate throws her in the path of an airport gypsy---one who shares her past and knows her future. The tarot cards foretell that Rose's beautiful, abusive husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.

Hot-blooded Rose Mae escapes from under Ro's perky compliance and emerges with a gun and a plan to beat the hand she's been dealt. Following messages that her long-missing mother has left hidden for her in graffiti and behind paintings, Rose and her dog Gretel set out from Amarillo, TX back to her hometown of Fruiton, AL, and then on to California, unearthing a host of family secrets as she goes. Running for her life, she realizes that she must face her past in order to overcome her fate---death by marriage---and become a girl who is strong enough to save herself from the one who loves her best.

Author Q&A:
1. Tell us a little about yourself: My favorite color is orange. I have a hound dog, two cats, a beta fish, and an egg case that is getting ready to hatch up to 100 baby praying mantises, but I sneak off to look longingly at cats on PET FINDER most every day anyway. I love Kashi Vive cereal so much that when they pulled it from the grocery store, I wept hopelessly, and my husband drove to every Big Lots in a 50 mile radius and bought up the overstock; he gave me 50+ boxes of it for Valentine’s Day. I am an insomniac. My son is named after Samuel Beckett and my daughter, Maisy Jane, is named after a character in a Henry James novel. I hate to drive if I don’t have an audiobook. My husband and I met as teenagers and were best friends for seven years before we even kissed. (It was a doozy, though.)

2. Do you write daily? Between blogging and essays and interviews and novel writing, I probably do. Not at any set time, though. I know some writers swear by “writing hours,” but I elected to have children and pets instead of a schedule. Also, I lack an organizational skill. Yes, even one. I try to get up at four or five in the morning a couple-three times a week to work on the current book.

3. What was it like getting your first novel published? Surreal. The best part was seeing the physical actual book in bookstores. I would pick it up and touch all over it, marveling that an intangible thing, a story in my head, morphed first into a real novel with a word count and paper pages. I made it in my house out of words and my brain. Then I got an editor, and as a team we polished and honed it until it felt edgy and knife-sharp. Then our team got bigger as a herd of amazing people took our stack of pages and did a bunch of voodoo and fixed all the typos and came up with jacket copy and a cover that said something thematically true about the story, and sent it to another team who made thousands of thousands of copies exist. Meanwhile, still more people worked on marketing it and letting people know it existed while others distributed this gorgeous, amazing object that all of us had made together out of nothing, out of words----No! Less than that. Out of a thought. We all made it together out of a story I thought of in my head years before. Miraculous.

There were pitfalls I was too na├»ve to see, as well. Like most novelists, the first book I wrote was certainly not the first one that sold. gods in Alabama came out before I understood that everyone thinks your first novel is autobiographical, and that book has a wildly promiscuous, pathologically dishonest murderess for a narrator. She’s also charming and funny and has a huge heart, but she comes with some serious baggage. A lot of people made assumptions about me based on Arlene, and it was weird and dizzying and made me feel oddly defensive. Arlene is mine, yes, but Lord she isn’t me. I guess if I had looked ahead and seen Thalia in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming or, God help me, known Backseat Saints would be about Rose Mae Lolley, I would have realized there are worse fates than having people think I am secretly Arlene.

Now it has become funny instead of frightening whenever I run up against things people assume based on how they interpret my stories. For example, I have a couple-three bat-crap-crazy mothers in my books, and I remember one bookstore owner was absolutely floored to meet my real, actual, gracious, delightful mother. He was expecting something more complicated and mentally ill---perhaps with fangs.

What do you think of the electronic book? I worry about how Independent and physical chain bookstores will survive, and I really want them to survive. Handsellers are how new voices get noticed. I sincerely hope a business model will emerge that will allow the Indies to continue to make book buying personal. That said, I have to admit I enjoy the convenience of the technology. I probably read paper books 90% of the time, but I love my Sony Reader when I am traveling.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? Put your heart into the writing, not being published or the idea of being published. The writing is the part you control. The business part, there is luck involved there, and the market, and what editor reads you on what day....The writing is just yours, and it always will be. The writing is what feeds you. Of course you push forward, you look for opportunities, you query and network. But you don’t live there. Live in the book.

It’s interesting – the more you focus on the writing part, the better you will get, and the publishing part is more likely to happen then anyway. When I teach at writing conferences, it’s very easy to see who is focused on their work. I always watch for those writers who ask craft questions and get that crazy, fervent eye-gleam when the conversation turns to how we get these stories and characters and worlds that are so perfectly realized in our heads to travel to the paper intact. That’s a long fraught trip, from head to paper. Those are the writers who interest me, and most of the time, you can see their passion reflected in the work.

What are you reading now? THE INVISIBLE BOY by Cornelia Reed. It’s dynamite---so racy and raw and compassionate and blackly funny. It’s the third book in her Madeline Dare series, and she just gets better and better.

Just for fun:
Favorite Season: Fall – the first time my husband and I kissed, the air had that crisp, apple smell to it, and every year now when that smell comes back it’s like I am re-breathing that happiness. (Told you it was a doozy.)
Morning or night: I love night but work better in the morning.
Favorite ice cream flavor: Edie’s French Silk
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go: The Outback. I want to see marsupials up close and personal.

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