Saturday, September 30, 2006
Mary DeMuth on Zippity Blog!
We interrupt my regularly scheduled Gilmore Girls rant to welcome Mary DeMuth to the blog! Mary is a totally fab writer. Her current book, Wishing on Dandelions, a story of seventeen year old Marantha recovering her life after tragedy and abuse. Mary stoppedby to talk about writing, God, and a 17 year old girl who struggles with love, God, and frustrating relationships.
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.
How is the main character someone a teen audience can relate to?
Maranatha is a seventeen-year-old southern girl who is confused, needy, hopeful, afraid, and tentative. Because she’s been sexually abused in the past, and she doesn’t have a strong father figure, she is drawn to boys and also repulsed by them. There are lots of girls in that situation. I was one—wanting to have a boyfriend who would just hold me, and yet the moment one came near I ran a hundred miles away. Maranatha has a lot to learn about life and love and relationships, just like the rest of us.
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 decide to write a love story?
The book didn’t start out in my mind as a love story, but it evolved into it as I continued writing. Characters have that uncanny way of taking your prose and running in all sorts of directions with it. Charlie just kept being faithful. In a sense, I fell in love with him!
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.
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 advice do you have for teens who want to be writers?
Write, write, write. The best thing you can do to improve your writing is to write. And read classics as well as modern classics. Saturate your mind with excellent words. Go on a limb and start writing for publication right now. The more you get edited, the better you’ll become. Start a blog, and be sure you spell check it before you publish it. Form a critique group of like-minded friends. Go to existing critique groups in your area. The last critique group I taught in Dallas had two teens in it. They were such a refreshment! Understand that it takes years to hone your voice. Writing is a difficult profession with lots of rejection, so work hard at developing a thick skin.
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.
What challenges did you face in your journey to publication?
A lot of rejection. I wrote in obscurity for nearly ten years before I was published in a magazine. I spent many years as a happy stay-at-home mommy, all the while writing. But underneath it all, I had a dream to be published. A dream that burned inside me and wouldn’t stop! Things started turning around for me in 2000 when I met a gal who became my mentor and friend. If you at all have a writer in your life, asking him/her to mentor you would be a great step. And from that point on, things improved. I wrote a newspaper column in Dallas and finished a novel. That novel (still unpublished) helped to land me an agent. From that point on, I’ve been writing almost full time.
How has God shaped your writing career?
God has held my hand when I felt like giving up. He’s been with me these past two years when I’ve done the most writing and the most (painful) growing in my relationship with Him. I live in France as a missionary. It sounds cool, but it’s really, really hard. So, the Lord has been with me through all the difficulties. For that, I’m so thankful.
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.
Thanks for stopping by, Mary. I’m enjoying the book right now. Marantha is a great character that any teen could relate to. God Bless!