I’m happy to welcome Mary Patterson Thornburg to my blog. Today, Mary shares interesting details about her creative journey and her new release, Luke Blackmon’s Rose.
What is the best part of being an author? The worst?
To me, the best part by far is the wonderful, joyful high that sometimes happens when the writing takes off and soars, all by itself, and carries you along with it. This doesn’t happen frequently, but when it does it’s better than any drug anyone could possibly take, almost as good as falling in love. It’s worth every minute you’ve spent slogging forward, word by slow word, trying to get it right. Any writer who says this isn’t so is telling an untruth.
The worst part, for me, is drifting in the doldrums. This is just me, or anyway I hope so. I need assignments and deadlines because I’m lazy. Those long periods of windless calm are miserable. I cannot make myself move forward, and yet I’m the only one who can. I have spent weeks, months, and years in those sad latitudes.
Describe your writing space.
Hahaha! I would, but it would depress you. I know some writers want a beautiful room, full of light, their favorite objects, and wall hangings with inspirational quotes. They want compulsively neat files and books, windows looking out on gorgeous landscapes, etc. That’s fine. I’d just like to remind everyone that a lot of great writing has been done in jail cells.
Which authors have inspired you?
Many authors have inspired me and still do. Among them are two American women: Ursula K. Le Guin, who brought her immense talent and the great privilege of her childhood and education to the little-respected genre of science fiction, where she followed others in showing its value as a source of serious and elegant humanist literature. And Octavia E. Butler, who with courage and an iron core of self-confidence overcame the heavy burden of having been born a shy, awkward, dyslexic, working-class Black girl in the 1940s United States to write genre fiction that stands as tall and proud and important as Le Guin’s.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Yes. Write literately in your language. If you don’t already know how to do that, learn. Learn the rules, silly as you may find them, and learn how to use them before you decide you are good enough to break them. There was a time when editors would do some of that work for you, but that time is long gone. If you have something to say that’s worth saying, it’s worth learning how to say it so people can understand you, and that, after all, is what the rules are about: communicating thought and feeling through the symbols of letters and words and punctuation and sentences and paragraphs.
Read writing by people who write well. This may sound silly to you, but it works; I knew a man who learned to write this way, became a well-known professional writer, and made a very good living: Find paragraphs and pages of writing by excellent writers and copy them, in longhand (or printing, if you never learned longhand), or typing, word for word, punctuation mark for punctuation mark. Be mindful of what you’re copying. Read what you’re copying out loud; pause for the commas, stop for the periods. Stop and take a deep breath for the paragraph breaks. This is called pattern practice, and it works. Some writers are lucky enough to sort of absorb these patterns while they read, without thinking about what they’re doing. Some have to do it mindfully.
What are you working on next?
Not sure. I’m never sure. Wish me luck!
To guard herself from the perils of her own sensuality, Rose married a man she didn’t love. Now, two years after his death, she’s not sure she can really love anyone. She’s not even sure she cares…
To achieve what he’d always known was his birthright, Luke had to struggle against tremendous odds. But when science discovered a way to access the past, a powerful bureaucracy found a way to use Luke. Now, torn from his own time, everything and everyone he knew, he can see no reason to go on living…
An instant of attraction, uninvited but inescapable, brings Luke and Rose together. Together, they discover the strength to love, the will to trust and hope. But will these things be enough to carry them over walls of suspicion, guilt, bigotry, and hate?
In 1930, he told her, he’d been in the midst of rehearsing a play in New York City. The play’s title, Dark Fancy, rang no bells for Rose. “Well,” Luke said, “it had a couple of wealthy backers, but the script was awkward. And the play wasn’t a good fit for the time. People were beginning to want something light, given the look of things. A lot of folks had money troubles that year. Maybe the play didn’t even open. They’d have had to find a new second lead, anyway… Or…” He frowned. “Or not, maybe. I don’t know.”
“You were the second lead?” she asked gently.
“Yes. Character called Tommy Carleton. His best friend was a man he’d known in college, a teammate, a white man, played by Roland Arnett… The actress playing the girl was colored, of course—quite light, but unmistakable. This was necessary, and that meant the Arnett character’s blindness was also necessary.” He laughed without much amusement.
“Oh, Luke. I’m sorry, but the whole play sounds terrible,” Rose said. “Melodramatic, big problems with logic, and a bad script on top of that? I’ll bet it didn’t open. I’ll look it up.”
“I’ve described it… Not badly. Unfairly, perhaps. There was more to it, more to the Arnett role, and Arnett is—was—great. Deservedly famous. And problems with logic? Of course, but quite realistic, weren’t they? The subject of race in this country is riddled with logical fallacies, always has been. Anyway, the play was exciting and controversial. Daring. Two years earlier and it would’ve packed them in. Even now—I mean in 1930—it would have had a decent run. If it opened.”
Author Bio and Links
Mary Patterson Thornburg has lived in California, Washington State, Montana, Indiana, and again, finally, in Montana. She was educated at Holy Names College, Montana State University, and Ball State University, where she then taught for many years. She’s been reading science fiction and fantasy since she was five, and when she began to write fiction it seemed only natural to write in those genres. Her literary heroes are Mary Shelley, who gave us all a metaphor for technology alienated from its creators, and Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia E. Butler, inventors of worlds that shine their powerful searchlights on this one. She writes what some people call “science fantasy” (aka “fake science fiction) within as wide a range as possible, but almost always with a bit (or a lot) of romance.
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Mary Patterson Thornburg will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.
Follow Mary on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.