Monday, October 26, 2009
If You Don't Do It Traditionally, Do It Anyway: Interview with Mary Patrick Kavanaugh
"If You Don't Do It Traditionally, Do It Anyway": Interview with Mary Patrick Kavanaugh
Mary Patrick Kavanaugh recently launched her first novel, Family Plots: Love, Death and Tax Evasion, at an outrageous public funeral event. A writer since the age of eight, Mary’s award winning creative non-fiction has been published in Alligator Juniper, Room of One’s Own, San Jose Mercury News, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her professional writing has appeared in numerous trade journals. She is the recipient of the nonfiction award from the Soul Making Literary Competition sponsored by the American Pen Women and was awarded writing fellowships at The David and Julia White Artist Colony, Hedgebrook: Women Authoring Change, and The Vermont Studio Center. She has an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of San Francisco.
NOTE: Mary’s altar ego, “Cemetery Mary,” will be hosting a lively Funeral and Singalong on December 31, 2009, and January 2, 2010. Participants will bury dead dreams, dashed hopes, and old habits and grudges to make room for all the good that’s coming in 2010. For information about attending, please visit her blog at www.crapintocompost.com.
Funeral & Website:
Welcome to The Writer's Life, Mary. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Mary: I wrote my first complete story at age eight. It was a dark comedy about a turkey narrating her terrifying journey from the bucolic countryside farm to Thanksgiving table. My mother gave me a copy of the story recently and I was astonished that I was attempting black humor at that age. After reading the story aloud to our dinner guests in 1969, I was HOOKED on writing for an audience.
Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?
Mary: When my father-in-law, mother-in-law, and husband all died within a short space of time, each of them had been telling me their secrets. It was the end of a family line and I was left with a whopper of a story, full of secrets, lies, cash stashes, and hidden weapons. The fact that I am a writer combined with the insatiable need I had to make sense of it all, inspired me to finally sit down and write the story.
What kind of research was involved in writing Family Plots: Love, Death and Tax Evasion?
Mary: Because the story is based on the facts of my life, the research mostly involved me obsessively pouring over the private letters, papers, and clipping of dead family members.
Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?
Mary: I think a picture is worth a hundred thousand words here. Watch my Funeral YouTube, which gives an overview of how I ended up launching my writing career at a cemetery.
For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?
Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?
Mary: Yes. Her name is Karen and she works at The Creative Culture in NYC. She is my second agent, for my next book. I loved my first agent, Judith Ehrlich, and we agreed she took me as far as she could with Family Plots: Love, Death and Tax Evasion.
Do you plan subsequent books?
Mary: Yes, but I’m not rushing into it. I’m allowing the material to compost before expecting it to burst forth onto the page. That’s my excuse for not locking myself up to write for hours every single day, anyway.
Can you describe your most favorite place to write?
Mary: Any place quiet and private and preferably even rainy (outside). The joy of having a laptop is the work can be anywhere you are.
If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?
Mary: The movie. And I’d like Tina Fey to play me.
How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?
Mary: I think it is critical, and that we all need to support one another in blowing our own horns (as well as one another’s). I do tire of it at times, and don’t always promote when the possibility arises in conversation, but I think it’s something we all have to do no matter WHAT profession we choose. If we don’t tell folks what we are up to, how will they know? That said, please don’t tell me what you are up to on Twitter or Facebook on an hourly basis. Decernment and timing is also key.
What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?
Mary: Tiring of the relentless rejection and self-promotion and seemingly endless amount of work. And no, I never gave up. In fact, I was so intent on making it happen, that’s why I launched my own publicity stunt and self-published. But if it means enough to you, the problems simply transform into opportunities to find creative solutions. Obviously, this book meant enough to me that I never gave up on it’s coming into the world.
Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?
Mary: If you can’t do it traditionally, do it anyway. And there are so many ways to do it now, there are NO excuses.
Thank you for your interview, Mary. I wish you much success!