Interview With Author Mary Marcus

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m Mary Marcus author of novels and short fiction and an ongoing blog I’ve been writing for several years. I’m nearly finished with a mystery and I’m so happy about writing a new book.

THE NEW ME, my first published novel started as a screenplay at the behest of Sundance, but alas, was not made into a film as I hoped. I liked the story so much I turned it into a short novel. It is the story of Harriet, a cooking show host who is facing an empty nest, a sort of empty marriage to a vain handsome man she can’t seem to either make happy or leave. When she meets a younger woman, Lydia, she invites her to move in with them and much to her surprise, her husband and the woman she selected fall in love and she’s on the outs.

LAVINA, my second novel is historical and set in the Jim Crow South. I was more or less raised by my mother’s housekeeper, and I wrote this book as an homage to her, and to the turbulent times in which we both lived: she as an African American, I as a privileged but sensitive child. LAVINA did much better in France than it did in the US, and I hope people will continue to check it out of the library.

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

It is hard to say what inspires creativity. My novels start with a small idea, an image, or maybe even a word I can’t get out of my head. I love listening to people talk and I speak to strangers on a daily basis. For some reason people tell me their stories, ones that make their way into my stories one way or the other. I saw a trailer parked in front of a neighbor’s house and it intrigued me and ended up being the nexus of a short story that I’m really proud of that is coming out next month in Fiction, the journal started by Mark Mirsky and Donald Barthelme. Fiction published my first short story many years ago.

How do you deal with creative block?

Creative block is an ongoing problem for me. How I would love to be a Joyce Carol Oates, a Ruth Rendell or a Simenon, all of whom never seemed to experience the black bird of block. These days I make myself write a thousand words a day no matter if it’s gibberish. Just the act of sitting down and writing or typing makes something happen.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

I don’t know where I read this, but somewhere, this warning came to me: always throw out your favorite scene. When I don’t do this, the book doesn’t work. It’s heartbreaking, but detachment is the key to good writing. It’s ironic because to write a novel one must be passionate. Why else go through all that work unless you are in love? I’m married to a film editor and if I can bear it, I give him my work. He ruthlessly identifies all the weak areas and after we have a fight or two I end up taking all his suggestions.

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I used to be a copywriter so titles come pretty easily for me. I would love to be like Tennessee Williams who to my mind had the best titles for his work: Suddenly Last Summer, The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire—who could compete with those? Not me.

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

I like reading bad reviews. My favorite one said something like, “if I had to spend time with any of these characters, I’d jump off a cliff!” I think they are funny and the nastier, the better. Today, consumers review everything through the same lens: Amazon ruined books unfortunately. Those horrible little stars that rate with the same importance face cream, car seat covers, plastic wrap, almonds and literary novels. It’s awful! I got a really terrible review from one of the trade publications in the very beginning. After I read it, I sat in my room, clutching my stomach and stared at the wall for several hours. It was so mean spirited. Ever since that low point I’ve decided it’s just someone’s opinion and so what? Bring it on!

How has your creation process improved over time?

I don’t know if my creation process has improved over time. I work, I believe more efficiently than I used to, and I work fewer hours. I have a framed quote from Virginia Woolf on my desk that reads: it’s surprising how much one can get done if one works very hard for three hours and a half hours every day.

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I think every writer tends toward personal satisfaction in her books. I don’t think I am a crowd pleaser especially. I would like to be, I wish I could be, but ultimately a book is about pleasing oneself. I also believe even the corniest Romance novel is written from the heart and is a true statement of the writer’s feelings, even if I can’t understand those feelings especially.

What are your plans for future books?

As I mentioned in the beginning I’m almost done with a mystery. So very very hard to write a mystery. I’m telling this one from two distinct points of view and that makes the story both easier and harder to tell. I hope I can pull it off.

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

As for quirky facts about myself: I practice yoga everyday, go to the beach with my dog before seven unless it’s raining or snowing, and my goal in life is to be able to walk on my hands across a room. I’m nowhere near that now. But hope springs.

A few thousand people read my bi monthly blog that started out as non-fiction but has morphed into short fiction pieces. You can visit my website at


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