Today, I am very pleased to host Mary Rowen, author of women’s fiction, Leaving the Beach. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Mary since I joined Booktrope, and admire her continued support and encouragement of other authors and writers. She is an awesome woman.
Mary Rowen is a Boston area mom with a wonderful family that allows her time to write stories. Rock music has always been a driving force in her life, and she was a functioning bulimic for over fifteen years. Therefore, although Leaving the Beach is pure fiction, it also draws on some personal experience. Mary hopes it might encourage some people with eating disorders to seek help.
What is your book’s genre/category?
It’s women’s fiction.
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Leaving the Beach is a story about a lonely bulimic woman named Erin Reardon who truly believes she’s fated to become the soul mate of a rock icon. At first, she thinks she’s destined to be with Jim Morrison, then David Bowie, then Bruce Springsteen, then Elvis Costello, and she goes to great lengths to get close to them. But when she actually meets a grunge star named Lenny Weir, things really get interesting.
How did you come up with the title?
Leaving the Beach was originally called Grunge. And I really liked that, not only because the story dealt with grunge music, but because Erin’s life is, well, grungy. Dark, muddled, uncertain, all that. But my publisher, Booktrope, was wise enough to realize that many people would think a book called Grunge would be set in Seattle. Whereas, Leaving the Beach is set in the Boston area. It took me a while to change gears mentally, but I now think Leaving the Beach is a better title. The main character lives in a Massachusetts beach town (Winthrop) and the beach plays a significant—but ever-changing—role in the story.
What is the reason you wrote this book?
Well, since I was bulimic for about 15 years, I wanted to write a story with a bulimic main character.
The music part’s a little more interesting. First of all, I should note that I’m a huge Nirvana fan. So two weeks after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, I was at a party, and around midnight, I turned on the TV, because Saturday Night Live was repeating one of the episodes on which Nirvana had performed. But when I sat down on the couch to watch, a nice guy I’d met earlier in the evening came and sat with me, because he also loved Nirvana. So we watched together, and it was just heartbreaking. Kurt looked so alive, and I found myself wondering if there was any possibility that he might still be on this earth. Like, maybe he’d faked his death or something. The guy I was sitting with talked with me a bit about that possibility, and convinced me that there was little hope of that. But I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind, and began trying to incorporate a rock star who fakes his death into the bulimia story in my head.
There’s a happy ending too, because I married the guy a few years later. And although the story went through about a hundred incarnations, it’s now Leaving the Beach.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Losing myself in it. It’s not always easy to do, with all the daily distractions, but when I can totally tune out and spend a few hours just writing, it feels so great.
What is the most challenging aspect of writing?
Life! I’m a mom of two teens, a wife, and full-time house manager. So I do all the cleaning, cooking and animal care, which involves a LOT of dog walking. I’m also in charge of medical appointments, teacher interactions, kid transportation, and pretty much everything else that goes with that territory. So when things get rough in any area, writing takes a back seat or gets tossed up on the roof!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
My very favorite is John Irving, because I love the way he spins a story. But there are so many others. Zadie Smith is brilliant, as is Ann Patchett, Annie Lamott, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, and Tina Fey. And of course, the phenomenal Maya Angelou.
What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
Hmm. Well, all of the authors I mentioned above, but also my family and friends. My father was a wonderful storyteller. And I seriously doubt that I’d be writing anything now if it weren’t for a college English professor who encouraged me to write creatively. Her name is Jane Lunin Perel, she’s a poet, and I need to send her a copy of Leaving the Beach immediately and let her know about the impact she had on my life. I did write her an email a number of years ago, but have good reason to believe she never received it. So I’m going to try again.
Favorite place to write?
In my living room, with my dog and cats, when it’s quiet.
Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?
Like so many writers, I tried querying agents and going to conferences for a while. And when that didn’t work out, I self-published a book. Which was fun and very rewarding, but I wanted to get the word out to more people that the book was available. So when I met my agent—April Eberhardt—at a publishing conference and she offered to submit my book to Booktrope, I said, “OK.” At that point, I’d never heard of Booktrope, but I’m so happy with them. They’re a wonderful little publisher.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
Writing it, taking a break, rewriting, taking a break, having trusted friends and family read it, listening to their advice, going to workshops, rewriting, taking a break, rewriting. Oh and then rewriting again.
Any advice for writers looking to get published?
See my answer above. Never turn a first draft into anyone. Writing is like wine—it needs to age and it takes a lot of work.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I was extremely shy as a kid. Extremely.
Where can we find your book?
Everywhere books are sold. Here’s the link for Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Leaving-Beach-Mary-Rowen-ebook/dp/B00JATQ1DM
What’s next for you?
My first novel (the one I self published) is being republished by Booktrope. That one’s called Living by Ear, but it’s really different than Leaving the Beach. (Despite the fact that the titles sound similar!) And I’m working on a third book, which I hope to publish in 2015.
Thanks for a wonderful interview, Mary! Good luck with both your books!