Fuse #8

Thursday, March 22, 2007

An Interview With Ms. Rabb

Ain't we got flash?

The subject of today's author interview (and fourth post on her whirlwind blog tour) is, as you may have guessed, Margo Rabb.

Now author interviews come. Author interviews go. And smart authors partake of large eclectic blog tours with lots of flashy lights and not-so-hidden pandering. You might ask why I am breaking my ban on doing anything YA related, and you'd be right to do so. Well, as it just so happens, Ms. Rabb and I share something in common. We both happened to attend the same teeny tiny midwestern college in southern Indiana (go, Hustling Quakers!). Margo's been a writer for some time, but her current novel, Cures for Heartbreak, has received almost unanimously stellar raves and reviews.

The publisher's description of the book says:
"IF SHE DIES, I'll die," are the words 15-year-old Mia Perlman writes in her journal the night her mother is diagnosed with cancer. Nine days later, Mia's mother is dead, and Mia, her older sister, and her father must find a way to live on in the face of sudden, unfathomable loss. But even in grief, there is the chance for new beginnings in this poignant, funny, and hopeful novel.
On her fourth day of her blog tour, Ms. Rabb's previous interviewers have pinpointed her skills. Said Colleen Mondor, "Sometimes it was fiction that was so true it became real. Amazing." Jen Robinson added, "She drops clever observations and brilliant turns of phrase like little gifts for the reader." We expect big things from Margo Rabb in the future. Fortunately this shouldn't be a problem anytime soon.

F8: All right. First things first. Tell us a little about how you got started. You are, after all, "living the dream," of many. You're a published young adult author with some fairly choice books under your belt. How'd it happen?

MR: I’ve been writing fiction seriously for fifteen years, and I wrote "World History", which, after many revisions, would later become a chapter in CURES, in 1996. (I didn’t write the book exclusively over all those years, though—in the interim I wrote lots of short stories, part of an abandoned novel, and the Missing Persons series.) As to how I got started with publishing: when I was twenty-three I enrolled in the M.F.A. program at the University of Arizona in Tuscson. As a student, I kept sending stories out nonstop. My rule was to have stories at thirty places at all times. Eventually, after tons of rejections, they started getting plucked out of the slush pile and getting published. After having stories in The Atlantic Monthly and Zoetrope I started hearing from agents, and eventually met my agent, who sold CURES to Delacorte, an imprint at Random House.

F8: Your latest title, "Cures for Heartbreak" has gotten (and this is fairly stunning), a starred review from Booklist, one from SLJ. one from The Bulletin, and one from KLIATT. Um... wow. Michael Chabon and Joyce Carol Oates both blurbed it. You even got a positive review out of Kirkus. Time for the honesty then. Before you were approached to write a YA novel, had you ever seriously considered the genre before?

MR: I wasn’t approached to write this book—one aspect of being a writer, which can make this career seem more like a nightmare than a dream come true, is that usually during all those years of labor, of writing and re-writing, there’s no guarantee that your book will be published. And even if it is published, you have no idea if it’ll be received positively. Writing a novel is just such a gigantic, unfathomable leap of faith. While CURES was being shopped around, I kept telling my husband that if it didn’t sell I’d have to go drown myself in the Gowanus canal. Thankfully I didn’t have to—the Gowanus would be a pretty disgusting way to go.

As for the young adult genre, both my agent and I initially thought the book was probably more suited to an adult readership, since its structure (a novel in stories) seemed different from most young adult novels. Its selling as young adult has been great, though, since I’ve been thrilled with the response, and I absolutely love everyone I’ve worked with at Random House.

F8: Do you still write for adults? If so, how do you balance out the two?

MR: Well, apparently I’m still writing for both, since I’m not sure what constitutes adult and young adult these days! The novel I’m working on right now is adult—at least I think it is—the narrator is in her twenties. I have an idea for another young adult novel, and I’m looking forward to writing that one.

F8: You've been doing quite a lot of blog-tour interviews. What is the number one question you hate to answer. Seriously.

MR: I don’t like talking about current work-in-progress much, because whenever I talk too much about what I’m working on, all the excitement goes out of it. Also, I write best when I pretend no one else will ever read it, so if I start talking about what I’m writing then it’s hard to keep up that façade. (Thus the very short answer to question #7 below.)

F8: What is the number one question you like to answer? And, if at all possible, could you answer it for me?

MR: I was asked by Lauren Cerand for her Smart Set column on maudnewton.com: “Who’s the sexiest living writer you never met?” My friends and I pondered that one for a long time. It was quite difficult to decide, actually. My friends’ suggestions: John Irving, Paul Auster, and Sebastian Junger. I went with Karl Iagnemma, who another friend tells me is beyond McDreamy. Other suggestions, anyone?

F8: Who are you reading right now?

MR: Unfortunately, at the moment it’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Weissbluth, which is not exactly a page-turner. I need to finish that soon, and get my baby girl sleeping well, so I can return to reading Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages, a great commentary on family and motherhood, written in 1953 with Jackson’s (author of the short story The Lottery) trademark dark humor. It’s very much of its time, which I love—when Jackson is in the taxi on the way to the hospital to deliver her third baby, she lights a cigarette without thinking twice. People probably would publicly stone you if you did that now.

F8: What do you have currently ah-churning in the works? Which is to say, what are you working on?

MR: I’m halfway through the aforementioned new novel, and I’ve been plotting the next young adult novel, too.

F8: I'm going to point out that you and I attended the same Quaker college, Earlham, in Richmond, Indiana. Being that the creative writing program at that school was... eclectic (shall we say) you are the first Earlham grad I've heard of who went into YA lit. What did you take away from your Quaker college experience that has carried over into your current profession?

MR: They didn’t have much of a creative writing program when I was at Earlham—just one or two classes—though I hear they have a minor in it now. It’s probably for the best that they didn’t have that when I was there, since in the two creative writing classes I took I wrote a lot of extremely bad, embarrassing poetry (of the O-why-has-that-guy-not-called-me-back variety), so I shudder to think of the heaps of embarrassing fiction I would’ve written back then if I’d had the opportunity. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Earlham, though. There’s no place like it in the world—that tiny, idealistic community, plopped in the middle of nowhere. I was incredibly happy there, and perhaps the sense of idealism that they foster, the encouragement they give you to pursue what you love and what you dream of, helped me become who I wanted to be.

And on that note of alma mater luvin', we end. You may visit Margo's website at http://www.margorabb.com or her MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/margorabb. Or you could just follow her about from blog to blog. Voila:

3/19: Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray
3/20: Lizzie Skurnick at The Old Hag
3/21: Jen Robinson at Jen Robinson's Book Page
3/22: Some chick
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

Oh. And if you've read this far then you may be interested in getting this book for free, no? Margo's publisher is giving away a book a day during the tour so shoot an email to contest@margorabb.com. And don't worry if you've read this posting late today (Thursday the 22nd). Just one lucky winner will chosen at random each day. Why not try your hand? Are you feeling lucky?

Many many thanks to the BB-Blog for the link to the marquee up above.

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At 9:50 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

And she's sort of a University of Arizona girl, too. Go Hustling Wildcats! Bear Down, and so forth.

Good interview. I'll check out any book blurbed by Chabon.

At 10:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait to read this book!
And I love hearing the description of writing a novel as a big ol' leap of faith. It's a comfort -- not because I want to drown myself in a canal either, but just in that "misery loves company" kinda way. Or, "the faithful love company" as the case may be.

At 10:24 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good interview. And now I want to read that Shirley Jackson book.

Rabb's novel sounds great. Thanks!

At 1:44 PM , Blogger Lindsey said...

Fuse, I didn't know you went to college in Indiana! I am a Hoosier; well, I was for 18 years. What a small, small world . . .

At 3:04 PM , Blogger Kristen - 2ndgenlibrarian said...

Not only an I a Hoosier, I'm actually an Earlhamite as well!

Excellent interview.

At 5:23 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Yay, Hoosiers!

And you, oh 2ndgenlibrarian, are the second Earlhamite children's librarian I've met. You didn't happen to graduate with the Class of 2000, didja? Cause that would be just spooky.

At 8:51 PM , Blogger Sarah Stevenson said...

Really fun interview! I'll have to promote the blog tour on our blog. I'm a little slow on the uptake this week...

At 5:56 PM , Blogger margo said...

hey adam, liz, jules, zee, 2ndgen, and a.fortis-- thanks so much for stopping by the tour! I hope you enjoy the book...

At 2:55 PM , Blogger Little Willow said...

Hurrah for the blog tour!

The original story The Lottery is CHILLING. The TV movie adaptation, not so much.


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