Monday, October 21, 2013

An interview with Mary L. Tabor

It is my pleasure to introduce you to the online magazine 
Shelf Unbound: What to read next in independent publishing,
a mag we all need to know about, and to Mary L. Tabor, whom publisher and editor Margaret Brown interviewed.

Shelf Unbound book review magazine, a 2013 Maggie Award finalist for Best Digital-Only Publication, reaches more than 125,000 readers in the U.S. and in 59 other countries around the globe. Subscriptions to Shelf Unbound are free at

Margaret Brown discovered Mary’s novel at the Manhattan Book Expo in fall 2012 and was so taken by the book she decided to profile Mary in the magazine. Brown has graciously agreed to allow me to reprint that interview here.

 But first a bit more about Mary: She’s the author of the novel Who by Fire, the memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story and the connected short stories The Woman Who Never Cooked. She’s profiled in Poets&Writers, the Sept/Oct 2013 issue in the article “From Corporate to Creative: Leaving a career to Pursue an MFA.”
Mary was honored at the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival’s Local Author Fair at the DCJCC on 16th Street, NW (1529 16th Street NW), on Sunday, October 13, at 7:00 PM. We all send her our heart-felt congratulations on this competitive achievement.

Mary also has a radio show on Rare Bird Blogtalk Radio and she interviewed Margaret Brown after the interview below ran. You can listen to Margaret Brown and Mary Tabor talking live.

Here’s Margaret’s interview with Mary published originally 12 February/March 2013 Unbound 13:

Outer Banks Publishing Group

Shelf Unbound: You have your main character creating the story of his deceased wife’s affair through memory and invention. It’s a novel approach to narrative — how did you arrive at it?

Mary L. Tabor: It’s fascinating to me that you use these two words memory and invention. Robert invents the story he didn’t know as he tries to discover what his wife actually did while she was alive. Perhaps the biggest risk I take in the novel is that use of invention. But I still have to make clear to the reader that real time, what I call the “now” or the present action of the story, is always operating, driving the plot forward, driving my narrator Robert forward. As Robert and I invented the story he didn’t know, my own memories invaded as they inevitably
will for the writer of any story. Memory

Mary L. Tabor’s
ingeniously constructed
and emotionally rich
Who by Fire has a
middle-aged widower
traversing the downward
spiral of his marriage.
Highly recommended
for your book club.

by its very nature is flawed, but the need to revisit memory over and over again is part and parcel of being human and alive. Revisiting memory is the way we search for meaning in our lives, for the narrative of who we are and who we might become. In some sense, we’re inventing. But in fact we’re searching for emotional truth. As writers, we aspire to find that. When fiction rings true like a bell, we believe it.

Shelf: The story reveals the fissures in two marriages. You’ve written about marriage before — what interests you about the subject?

Tabor: The ultimate challenge to our humanity gets played out day in and day out in marriage.  When E.M. Forster asserts in the epigraph to Howard’s End, “Only connect…”, he sets the challenge for all of us. In a committed relationship with another, whether there be a contract or not, we romantics hope for transcendence in love. But, of course, our flawed humanity that includes the baggage of our past gets played out in daily living. It gets played out in the ordinary: buying the groceries, commuting, sweeping up the messes that occur again and again. The only way through all that, I think, is to believe that transcendence in love comes hand-in-hand with the transformation of one’s self — not the other, not the beloved. But that’s only part of my answer. Marriage as subject provides for me a solid place to search for answers about the meaning of existence. Not to get too philosophical on you, but the search for meaning is the reason I write — and read.

Shelf: One of the main female characters is named Evan. I’m wondering why you chose a masculine name for her?

Tabor: Until you asked me, I hadn’t realized Evan is a male name. The unconscious mind is tricky, isn’t it? I love the character Evan more than anyone else in the book. The answer might be as simple as this: As I’m heterosexual, perhaps I unconsciously gave her that name.

Shelf: You’ve taught creative writing. What did you learn in the process of writing this book that you would share with your students?

Tabor: Save everything. I think most writers are hoarders. When a student has told me after a workshop that he’s going to trash a story, I’ve reacted in horror, but until I wrote this book,  I’m not sure I fully understood why. Many years ago, I read an article in the newspaper about a baby’s bones found in a suitcase in the attic of a house after it had been sold on Veazey Street in DC. I cut it out and saved it. Didn’t know why, just couldn’t forget it. Later I wrote a short story about what might have happened and titled it “The Suitcase.” That story, reenvisioned, became a key part of the novel.

Shelf: You recently posted on your blog: “I’ve written a novel entitled Who by Fire, ten years in the making, and I’m pretty sure not many folks will ever hear of it or read it.” What would it mean to you if people did read it?

Tabor: I know from all your questions that you understand the risks, the unusual structure of this novel. If it ever got read, I would cry because I’d be so indebted to those readers, as I am to you. I would cry in gratitude.

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Folks, let's make Mary cry! lol  Read her books!