MARY RICKERT: THE MEMORY GARDEN IS A STORY ABOUT REUNION
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Mary Rickert’s first full novel The Memory Garden was published last year. The book was loved by the readers, who describe it as “Quite Charming”, “Thoughtful, brooding and expressive tale” and “Would be an interesting movie”. Our next guest is living in Port Washington, USA. Let’s welcome Mary Rickert.
– Mary, what is your book The Memory Garden about?
– The story is about the reunion of the three old friends for the first time in more than sixty years after the terrible occurrence that separated them, and the girl they’ve come to save. It is also about memory, aging, the way selves are lost and formed, forgiveness, and death.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– An editor asked me to contribute to an anthology of stories about witches. The story grew!
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– This is my first published novel; I struggled for years with the form. In all my previous attempts I wrote too short and then tried to stuff in more content which created bloated, misshapen fictions that were not successful. As a short story writer I was accustomed to loading sentences with a lot of material. It was a huge breakthrough to learn that a better way for me to work is to “crack open” at the sentence level. I started to think of this as searching for the “egg sentences” filled with opportunities for expansion. Once I understood that aspect of my writing style I was able to (finally) write a novel.
– Tell us something more about your main characters Nan and Bay? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– After the novel was published I heard from an old high school friend who gently suggested that, as a young person, I was very much like Bay, which came as a surprise to me, though the observation was apt. Nan is more complicated and actually a little darker than she projects, but there is much about her I admire and hope to emulate as I grow older.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– I think it was about four years from first pen to published.
– Tell us more about your short stories collection Map of Dreams and Holiday?
– Both collections are darker than my novel is generally perceived as being. The novel is often described as sweet and somewhat insubstantial but I had intended a veil, or mask, over its darker aspects as a reflection of the way people often perceive elderly women as sweet and insubstantial. I am interested in ideas of perception and would say that all my work tends to be told slant. “Map of Dreams” opens with a novella about a woman determined to travel back in time to save her murdered daughter, and the stories that follow are presented as having been written by this mother. “Holiday” is a collection of stories meant to follow a calendar of celebration, though again, these are not all happy stories by any standard definition of joy.
– Who are you?
– This question perplexes me. Honestly, I think I can be best found in my fiction.
– What are your writing habits?
– I tend to be a morning or afternoon writer. I write longhand at a desk in my bedroom, then type it into the computer which is in another room, bring the hard copy back to my bedroom desk where I edit it and repeat the entire process many, many times. Most of my writing is rewriting.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– I appreciate everyone who brought a book and who has taken the time to send me a little note or write a thoughtful review. However, I’m not satisfied with the sales as a quantity.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– Well, I think that promotion is tricky in this age when everyone has something to sell. Seeking a way to share information about “The Memory Garden,” without feeling completely awkward, I came up with the idea of using seed packets instead of a business card, or bookmark. Each packet has the novel’s cover on it and contains forget-me-not seeds. I enjoy giving those to people and they seem to enjoy receiving them. I’m also a big believer in promotion through production. For instance, I have a novella called “The Mothers of Voorhisville” (online at Tor.com ) which has been nominated for the Nebula and Shirley Jackson awards. I also have a short story collection coming out in November, 2015 from Small Beer Press called “You Have Never Been Here.” Every published work highlights the other published work and this is the model I have chosen for promotion. I don’t think it’s been entirely successful, but I am getting work done and this is important to me.
– When we will see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– I generally can’t talk about unfinished work, but I will say that all my fiction engages with ideas of the mythic realm as a vehicle for exploring the emotional aspects of being human.
– You worked as a balloon vendor in Disneyland. Would you describe the volume of children happiness you saw there to anything that you witnessed in your life?
– Not only were most of the children at Disneyland really happy, most of the adults were too. I was also a kindergarten teacher for almost a decade and both of these jobs have informed the way I view people. It isn’t hard to squint and see the five-year-old that resides in everyone.
– Do you remember the moment when you decide to start writing?
– When I was in second grade I overhead my teacher tell another adult that I was a very good artist but my stories weren’t much. Right then I decided to think about what makes stories work.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– I notice that your book pays subtle homage to other works and writers. Can you talk about that? Yes! I did intend for “The Memory Garden” to pay homage to the form of fantasy by making subtle reference to other writers who have explored elements of the fantastic in their own work from Bradbury to Shakespeare to Hawthorne and a few others. There are some other tricks in this regard, but to detail them gives away too much of the story. I tried to write a book that appears small and domestic but engages with larger themes.
To learn more about Mary Rickert check out her Web page
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