Interview: Margo Rabb
Current Mood: worried
Current Song: SVU score music
An otherwise healthy mother of two had a stomachache and went to the hospital. Twelve days later, she was gone. Cancer had taken her away from her teenaged daughters and her husband. The loss is quietly unbearable for the survivors, with each dealing in a different way, to a different degree.
Such is the start of CURES FOR HEARTBREAK, a book born out of author Margo Rabb's personal experiences and a series of short stories. It is, in essence, a combination of her personal life and her professional life. The story is narrated by fifteen-year-old Mia and is set in 1980s Queens, New York, echoing the author's age, location, and experiences when she lost her mother.
Though Rabb is an experienced writer, CURES FOR HEARTBREAK is her first novel - and what a deeply personal debut. She had published short stories over the years that later became chapters in this novel. It was understandably difficult for her to revisit her memories, fictionalize them, and rework them until they became one continuous novel. Here now are the reasons why she shared her HEARTBREAK with the world.
What made you turn your previously published short stories into a book?
I wanted it to be a book early on - as soon as I realized that I was writing connected stories, I wanted to turn them into a novel. It’s satisfying to publish stories in magazines, but you never feel like a real writer until you publish a book, I think. A hardcover book seems so much more permanent than a magazine.
How difficult was it to rework the pieces in order to create one continuous story?
Extremely hard. It took a long time to revise them so that they fit together well, and I ended up gutting the beginning, the end, and parts of the middle, and rewriting them entirely several times. I frequently had to put the book aside for a month or two so that I could return to it with a cold, objective eye.
You wrote an afterword at the suggestion of your editors. Did that come about once all of the stories had been revised and the book itself was complete?
Yes - it was the last thing I wrote, after I'd finished the rest of the book. It came about after I had lunch with my editors for the first time. I told them about my personal connection to the material, and my editors then suggested that I add the afterword.
When did you title the book?
The title went through several incarnations, including Bread & Chocolate (it was a title of a chapter that I later threw out) and A Cure for Grief (also the title of a chapter I threw out) and then I decided the book wasn't just about grief, but all kinds of heartbreak . . . so that became A Cure for Heartbreak, and then, finally, Cures for Heartbreak.
How have your loved ones responded to the book?
My sister said, "Well - it's no Harry Potter." My daughter is only four months old, but I recently read a section to her while rehearsing for a reading, and she promptly vomited. I tried not to take it personally.
Other than the obvious, what do you and Mia have in common? Did you give her any of your likes, dislikes, or quirks?
I gave her my love of shopping, makeup, talking on the phone, junk food, and my unfortunate habit of worrying.
If you knew then what you knew now, what would you tell your teenage self? What do you think she would tell you in return?
I would tell her not to take anything too seriously, because all those seemingly insurmountable teenage problems are so much easier to cope with when you're older. I'd tell her not to get too upset about unrequited crushes, since you really will fall in love - a number of times, in fact. I'd tell her that things do get better - so much better. In return, I hope that she’d tell me she's happy with the way things have turned out.
If you weren't a writer, you would be...
Either: an owner of a chocolate shop, an ice cream flavor tester, a stationery designer, a cat rescuer, or I'd raise goats and make goat cheese.
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
The Beggar Maid – Alice Munro
Diary of A Young Girl – Anne Frank
The Collected Stories - William Trevor
I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
Tiger Eyes – Judy Blume
Happy All the Time – Laurie Colwin
A Room With A View – E.M. Forester
The Gastronomical Me – M.F.K. Fisher
The Lover – Margeurite Duras
Dream of a Common Language – Adrienne Rich
Follow Margo's blog tour!
3/19: Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray
3/20: Lizzie Skurnick at theoldhag
3/21: Jen Robinson at Jen Robinson's Book Page
3/22: Betsy Bird at Fuse #8
3/23: Kelly Herold at Big A Little A
3/26: Liz Burns at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
3/27: Jackie Parker at Interactive Reader
3/28: Little Willow at Bildungsroman
3/29: Leila Roy at Bookshelves of Doom
3/30: Mindy at Proper Noun
Want a free copy of Cures for Heartbreak? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org now and tell them you read Margo's interview here at Bildungsroman. The publisher will randomly select one lucky winner.
To learn more about Margo Rabb, please her official website and her MySpace page.