Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Visit with Author Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth on Writing

Have you always wanted to write?

Yes. Since my second grade teacher told my mother that she thought I was a creative writer, I’ve wanted to write. I kept a diary since the sixth grade. Though I was an English major, I didn’t start writing seriously until my first daughter was born. I wrote for ten years in obscurity before my writing career took a turn for the better.

Who are your literary heroes?

I love Harper Lee. I only wish she’d written more. Leif Enger, who wrote Peace Like a River, greatly inspired me to write visually and artistically. I love Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees, how you could almost taste her characters. I’m fascinated and intimidated by J.R.R. Tolkein—how he managed to create an entire world with several languages is way beyond my literary prowess.

I know that many of us bloggers struggle at giving ourselves that writer name. I try to claim it freely, but it's still hard, because I think that most of us think that being published somehow earns you the title. You are a published writer, in many genres and areas (newspapers, fiction, nonfiction), but you are also a blogger. How are the two similar and how are they different for you, in process, feedback, self-evaluation, level of reward etc?

Some writers feel that blogging takes away from their work. I view it differently. I see it as an enhancement. I blog every few days, using the blog as a warm-up to my writing for the day. What I love about blogging is the immediate feedback from readers—something that sometimes takes a YEAR in terms of books. So I can write something, get immediate response and readership, and feel like I’ve communicated. I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. Blogging is writing, and as long as you don’t let it take over your other writing commitments, it’s a useful tool both for practicing and marketing.

Mary DeMuth on her newest book, Wishing on Dandelions

This book deals with difficult subject matter: childhood sexual abuse and its residual affects. How did this book emerge?

My passion is to write about redemption through the avenue of story. I started the first book, Watching the Tree Limbs, in a flurry. In my mind I saw the streets of Burl and a girl who didn’t know where she came from. Because my personal story involves different instances of sexual abuse, I wanted to write a story that showed the reader how God could intersect an abuse-victim’s life and make a difference.

So, are you Maranatha?

In some ways yes, some no. Like Maranatha, I felt like God had transformed my life in such a radical way (like her name change from Mara—bitter—to Maranatha—Come Lord Jesus). Like Maranatha, I endured sexual abuse, but I was much younger when it happened. Like Maranatha, I wondered if I had been marked, that every sexual predator could “tell” I was a ready victim. I wrestled through relationships in my teens with Maranatha’s twin feelings of revulsion and attraction. But, she is not me in many other ways. She is more independent. She has no parents. She lives in an entirely different culture. She is less ambitious. She has the privilege of many wiser people to mentor her through life.

What made you choose East Texas as the setting for both novels?

The South fascinates me. I grew up in the Northwest. When my last child was born, my husband was transferred to East Texas to start a department in a hospital. Because I was a stay-at-home mom and home schooling, I didn’t have much else to do there except to observe small town southern culture. Because I didn’t grow up in that culture, my senses were heightened and I eventually began to really appreciate the differences.

Childhood sexual abuse is not talked about very often, and seldom covered in novels. What made you decide to write about it?

For that very reason. The more victims are quiet, the less healing they will receive. The more we talk about it, bringing heinous acts to the light, the better able we are to know we are not alone. I wrote this book so other abuse victims would feel validated and heard. And to offer hope.

In the midst of dealing with hard topics that don't have easy answers, why do you end your books with hope?

Because hope is essential to Jesus’ Gospel. Even when things are bleak, there is always hope—if not in this life, then in the next. I’m not interested, however, in presenting hope in a superfluous way. I don’t want to tie up every story thread neatly. The truth is, life is tragic and difficult and bewildering, but God intersects that life and brings hope.

What do you want your reader to take away from Wishing on Dandelions?

That redemption of a broken life takes time. We’re all on a journey of healing. Sometimes it’s slow going, but if we can endure through the dark times, God will bring us to new places of growth. I want the images and characters to stay with a reader for a long time.

Maranatha aged quite a bit between the first and second novels. Will we see more of her in future books?

Not at the present moment, though I have another Maranatha book in my head, with a chapter written to boot. That depends solely on the publisher. (Perhaps we could start a “Let Maranatha Live for One More Book” campaign!)

Mary's Books:

Watching the Tree Limbs--My review

Wishing on Dandelions--My Review

Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God--Not officially reviewed, but praised by me here. I couldn't say it any better, and wholeheartedly agree with the review at Callapidder Days.

Building the Christian Family You Never Had--I didn't formally review it, but I made application in this post.

Mary's Blogs:


Pioneer Parenting


Katrina said...

Thanks for doing this, Jennifer and Mary! I always love to get a little more insight into the mind and process of writers. And since I've really enjoyed the books I've read by Mary, this was a treat!

Gina said...

Great interview and Mary is even better in person!