Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Author Interview: Mary Pauline Lowry, Author of The Earthquake Machine

I am extremely pleased to host author Mary Pauline Lowry, author of The Earthquake Machine, here on the blog. Her book is a strong representation of Diversity in YA and she has been so great getting to know! 

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.

1. Can you sum your book up in 5 words or less?
Girl goes on an adventure.
2. What was it like to write such a culturally diverse book?
I first traveled to interior Mexico when I was a little girl. When I was in my early 20s, I took a bus from Austin to Oaxaca; and I’ve spent a lot of time on the border between Texas and Mexico. So I had a lot of experience to draw from when it came to writing a book about an American girl traveling alone through Mexico.
3. What makes this book, "The book every girl should read, and every girl’s
parents hope she’ll never read"?
I think every girl should read this book because: it’s a magical adventure story about a girl who leaves behind the world that she knows to go on a wild adventure all on her own.

It’s also a book that is very honest and straightforward about a 14 year-old girl’s sexual coming-of-age.

And I think every girl (and many women) could learn a lot from this novel about how to leave behind the expectations that are placed on women and girls because of their gender.

I think many parents would NOT want their daughters to read this book because it has explicit sexual content and some drug use. It also has a girl trying to understand her own spiritual beliefs and questioning the patriarchal Christian church she was brought up in. It’s also a story about a girl running away to interior Mexico by herself; and I think a lot of parents would shudder at that.
4. Anything out of the ordinary that you always have in your writing space when
you sit down to work?
I usually sit cross-legged on my couch with my laptop in my lap. If it’s daytime, I almost always have coffee in my writing space as I work. (Though I’m not sure that’s unusual?) I live in a tiny studio (it’s only 300 square feet, including closets and bathroom) so my bed, laundry, etc are also in my writing space .
5. What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced in your path as an author?
One obstacle was the need to support myself financially while I was also writing books. But I tried to make that fun and an adventure, too. I’ve worked as a forest firefighter, as a construction worker, as an advocate in a domestic violence shelter; I’ve done production work on commercials, anything and everything to pay my bills. I would always wake up to write in the magic hours of the early morning before work.

I also always felt for a long time that I wouldn’t be a “real writer” until I was a published writer. But finally I realized I was a real writer because I was committed to the craft of writing.
6. Care to share the best advice someone has given you?
This isn’t exactly “advice,” but once my stepmom gave me an antique yoyo from the 1920s with a postcard that said, “Life is like a yoyo—it goes up and down.” I think that’s the most honest thing I’ve ever heard about life.

I think the best writing advice I’ve ever heard was from Book Prize Winner James Kelman. He said, “Wake up early and write first thing in the morning.”
7. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a voracious reader. My nickname in elementary school was “Bookworm,” and even then I couldn’t help but take it as a compliment of sorts. But I didn’t have the self-confidence to imagine I could write books myself until I was in my early 20s.
8. Are the books always better than the movie?
Books are almost always WAY better than the movie. But I think the Mexican film Like Water for Chocolate is even better than the book.

I have written another novel called The Gods of Fire that is based on my own experiences as a forest firefighter. The book has not been released yet, but it’s been optioned for film and I wrote the screenplay. I hope that movie will be even better than the book.
9. What is your favorite book to movie adaptation?
I also will always love the film adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel THE COLOR PURPLE. But I never watch it anymore because it always makes me cry.
10. Favorite movie quote:
“The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything.” ---Fight Club

As you can imagine, I don’t own much. And the only two possessions I would be heartbroken to lose are:
  1. my laptop
  2. my car.
I think I’m quintessentially American in equating my car with a certain freedom.

The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry
Goodreads | Amazon

The book every girl should read, and every girl’s parents hope she’ll never read.

The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda’s world, but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda’s life is her family’s Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jésus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico. There a peyote- addled bartender convinces her she won’t be safe traveling alone into the country’s interior. So with the bartender’s help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús. Thus begins a wild adventure that fulfills the longing of readers eager for a brave and brazen female protagonist.

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