I'm pleased to be the third stop for Margo Rabb's blog tour, in promotion of her fabulous new young adult novel, Cures for Heartbreak. I learned about Margo, and the blog tour, from Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray, and I'm so glad that I was able to participate. It's been wonderful getting to know Margo a little bit, and I hope that we'll have a chance to chat in person one of these days.
Here's an excerpt from my very positive review of the book: "Cures for Heartbreak is about how 15-year-old Mia Pearlman copes with her mother's sudden death from melanoma, and her father's subsequent hospitalization for heart problems. Which might make you think that it's a sad or depressing book. But it isn't. Cures for Heartbreak is funny and compelling, with a heady mix of the philosophical and the absurd." And then I went on and on in praise of the book. It was a book that made me think, and continues to make me think. About loss and grief, but also about living life to the fullest.
I also recommend that you check out Kelly Herold's review at Big A little a and Colleen's reaction to the book at Chasing Ray. I completely agree with Colleen's statement that "I can not stress enough how her new book will appeal to both teen and adult readers and I strongly recommend adults to seek it out." If you'd like a chance to review the book yourself, Margo's publisher is giving away a book a day during the tour. Just email email@example.com. One winner will chosen at random each day.
And now, on to the interview.
Q: I noticed that you aren't afraid to use colons and semi-colons in your writing.Is this something that you picked up in college? Are you a real stickler for grammar?
A: I've always had a thing for semi-colons and colons—I love varying the structure, pace, and rhythm of a sentence until it feels exactly right. I'm a painstaking reviser—barely any sentence present in the first draft remains in the final draft. (Oh—and I seem to like dashes lately too.)
I'm not a huge stickler for grammar, but my mother was a copy editor, so the importance of grammar and spelling was instilled in my sister and me from an early age. She kept a postcard of a cartoon picturing vigilante proofreaders correcting "Kwik Mart" and "While U Wait" signs with spray paint, which always seemed hysterically funny to me—so maybe I am a stickler after all.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer? Have you always wanted to write specifically for and about teens?
A: I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, and I've always loved young adult novels. I'm drawn to teenage narrators since those years still feel so fresh in my mind. As a teen you have so many of the problems an adult has, but no experience or knowledge of how to cope with them. When I was writing CURES, however, I didn't actually think of it as a young adult novel. I thought it was an adult book until the day it sold to a young adult publisher. Even though it featured a teen narrator, I thought the structure of the book (a novel in stories) and the retrospective tone made it adult. I'm convinced that for many novels, the designation of adult vs. young adult is the publisher's decision. The same is true for short stories—the chapter "Seduce Me" in CURES appeared both in Seventeen and the literary magazine Shenandoah, which has an adult readership.
Q: Are you as much of a junk-food addict as Mia? What's your favorite form of chocolate?
A: Well, as I was typing this I just finished off a Kit Kat. (And I wouldn't mind washing it down with a Yoo-hoo if I had one on hand.) My favorite chocolates of all time are made by a shop called MarieBelle in New York City—each one looks like a miniature work of art.
Q: I loved Mia's day playing hooky with Kelsey. It reminded me of sitting on the grass one day outside my high school with a friend, eating vast quantities of M&Ms, and talking about everything and nothing. Did you have a friend like Kelsey in high school?
A: Kelsey is based on my friend Julien, who has been one of my closest friends since our freshman year of high school. Even though it's been over fifteen years since high school, when we spend the day shopping together it feels like we're still sixteen.
Q: I'm in awe of your bravery in putting your own grief up for public viewing through this book. I think that the afterword contributes a lot to the emotional punch of the book. Was it hard for you to actually add that afterword to the book, given the way it kind of removes the veil of fictionalization?
A: My editors suggested that I write the afterword—they thought it might add a lot to the book. I'm glad I wrote it. The funny thing is that while I'm writing, I usually convince myself that no one else will ever read what I'm working on—I think that lets me be more honest and unself-conscious. It's only during final drafts that I think of others reading it and having it on public view—a thought which makes me revise everything even more heavily. The one drawback of writing something that has any base in reality is that people will assume everything is true. The character of Fanny Gluckman is completely invented (as are many other characters in the book), but a friend once said, "You're so lucky that you have that good friend of your mother's around!" Indeed.
Q: Have you given any thought to starting a blog yourself?
A: I have a few blog entries on my newly created myspace page. I'd love to have a real blog, and maybe I will at some point, but at the moment I have so little time to write that I'm afraid a blog would take away from writing fiction. Also, with my revision habits it would probably take me six months to finish one blog post.
Q: What book on your "to read" stack are you most eager to get to?
A: I can't wait to read Alice Munro's The View from Castle Rock. I'm also looking forward to Daria Snadowsky's Anatomy of A Boyfriend—I was a huge fan of Forever by Judy Blume (Ralph, of course, is permanently imprinted in my brain) and I hear that this is sort of an updated version.
Q: Are you working on another novel? Is there anything that you can tell us about it?
A: I'm working on a new novel that's about halfway finished. It's a bit more lighthearted than Cures for Heartbreak, and there's a lot of food and New York City in it. At least that's what it is now—after five thousand more drafts, who knows what it will be?
- 3/19: Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray
- 3/20: Lizzie Skurnick at the Old Hag
- 3/21: You are here
- 3/22: Betsy Bird at Fuse #8
- 3/23: Kelly Herold at Big A little a
- 3/26: Liz Burns at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
- 3/27: Jackie Parker at Interactive Reader
- 3/28: Little Willow at Bildungsroman
- 3/29: Leila Roy at Bookshelves of Doom
- 3/30: Mindy at propernoun.net