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Interview: Mary Lowry

February 28th, 2012 (12:22 am)
thirsty

Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Death of Me by Tony Lucca

When author Mary Lowry and I first crossed paths, she immediately commented on the title of my blog.

"Your blog has the raddest title on Earth," she said. I thanked her, and she continued: "I first learned the term bildungsroman when my big sis Margaret was getting her PhD in women's coming-of-age novels. I've loved it ever since."

Mary's newest book, The Earthquake Machine, comes out today. To learn more about Mary's life of writing, firefighting, and traveling, keep reading!

While writing this novel, you worked at a domestic abuse shelter. Did the real stories inspire your fiction, or motivate you to write?

Working at the domestic violence shelter definitely motivated me to write. Being around women and children struggling to stay safe and find work and a place to live made me realize what a privilege it is to have energy and time to focus on creative work. And their courage and bravery was very inspiring.

But THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE isn't about these women and children, who I think of as the forgotten ones. THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE is more of a fun, adventure book. I am working on a new novel that focuses more on women dealing with domestic abuse.

If you had to summarize The Earthquake Machine in twenty words or less, what would you say?

It;s a magical, fantastical book about a girl who runs away to Mexico and passes as a Mexican boy.

Your sister is involved with the book's release, helping with publicity and outreach. Does she work in the writing field as well?

My older sister Margaret is kindly helping me with publicity for the book. She has a PhD in Literature with a focus on American women's coming-of-age novels.

Have you two always been close?

We've always been really close, and, growing up, we were both voracious readers. I think it's neat that she and I both have focused our careers on bildungsroman novels - she wrote a dissertation about them and taught them to college students; and I write them.

You adapted your previous novel, The Gods of Fire, into a screenplay. Was that a natural progression for you? Are you a screenwriter or was this your first full-length screenplay?

My first novel, THE GODS OF FIRE, is based on my experiences as a forest firefighter. The book hasn't been released yet, but it's been optioned for film by producer Bill Mechanic. I'd never written a screenplay when Mechanic (who is the former CEO of 20th Century Fox and has produced films like Coraline, Fight Club, Braveheart, Titanic) asked me to write the screenplay. But Mechanic and producer Suzanne Warren helped me every step of the way as I wrote and rewrote the script.

Did you find yourself having to alter a little (or a lot) of your original story for the sake of the screen?

The script has actually stayed fairly close to the novel, and I'm happy about that.

You have fought fires, written novels and newspaper columns, rafted through the rainforest, and built houses and fences. What's your next adventure going to be?

Recently I've been doing production work on commercials for the Obama media team, which has been a blast and an incredible honor. But I am feeling a little restless and am open to my next adventure. I'll keep you posted when it comes clear what it will be. (big smile)

How did you become a contributor to the Huffington Post?

I'd wanted to write for the Huffington Post for years, but had no idea how to get the gig. Then I was on a flight to Philly that had Wi-Fi and I suddenly had the idea to just email Arianna Huffington and ask her. She wrote me back 10 minutes later and said she’d love to have me as a blogger.

Do you pitch ideas for articles, or are they assigned to you?

I write about anything I want and once I submit the article it goes up on the Huffpost within a day. My favorite thing is writing about my friends who are doing really cool things. I especially had fun writing about an innovative Chicago summer camp created and run by my friend Jeff Stone. The camp helps students create a fake teen star. I think Jeff is doing an incredible job helping his students have critical discussions about fame and he's teaching them skills about how to put themselves out there and push beyond their comfort zones. Here's a link if anyone wants to check it out.

Any words of wisdom for hopeful journalists reading this interview?

I don't think I know enough about being a journalist yet to give advice. But ask me again in a couple of years.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

Ah, this one I know more about. I would say: Write at least a little bit most everyday. Don't show your early work or work-in-progress to anyone unless you trust them completely to be kind and encouraging. And immerse yourself in art by reading tons, watching great movies, listening to music and going to museums.

Name your ten favorite novels of all time.

I can't swear this is a forever top 10, but these are the ones that come to mind.

1. Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
2. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
3. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
4. Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson (short stories)
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
7. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
8. Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
9. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
10. All six Jane Austen novels

Here's Mary's mini-bio:
Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.

To learn more about Mary Lowry, visit her website.