Interview with Mary DeMuth

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Tonight we have author Mary DeMuth, fresh from her wild and wooly blog tour, stopping in to answer some of our questions. She’s just started the real work of marketing Wishing on Dandelions. Most of you know her her already, and the inroads she’s making for the cause of relevance and truth in CBA, so I decided to ask her some of my more pointed questions about what she does for fun and profit.

MS: Mary, thanks for being here. First, how do you ensure you aren’t backing off of the very thing you ought to be plowing ahead with when structuring your novels or deciding just how far to take your characters in their situations? Is it a conscious thing or do you simply follow where they lead?

MD:I suppose it’s instinct. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, which gets me into trouble sometimes with dangling plot problems and leaps of logic. Thankfully, now that I’ve been edited a few times, I am more often catching my problems as I write. Normally, I let my characters speak to me, let them determine the way they are headed. The book literally plays itself out in front of me as if I’m watching a movie. I’m the one who simply writes what I see. And sometimes, in that, the story takes some rip-roaring turns. To be honest, sometimes I like to bother the reader, to hedge a character in so much that the reader despairs (right before I shed some new light on it!). I had several readers tell me they wanted to kill General (the bad guy in Tree Limbs) and every time he showed up, they wanted to kick him. I needed his presence to keep the suspense up and the empathy for the protagonist intact.

Have you met with any CBA censorship? Maybe more on your first book than this one?

No, not really. The first book dealt with God’s redemptive hand in childhood sexual abuse, and yet they didn’t censor my words, probably because I didn’t use any sort of graphic language to set the scene. Once when I sent a first chapter of another book to be critiqued, an author from a more conservative house told me to absolutely take out the word “hell.” Seemed strange to me, since that word is in the Bible! Hmmm. And I wasn’t using it in a swearing way! But, yeah, for the most part, I’ve experienced no censorship.

That’s good. How “winsome” do you feel we need to be when working within the subversive truth of fiction? Do you think there’s a place for “tough love” in getting our readers to face certain issues that might be difficult or unpleasant, but make room for more of the redemption you’re trying to invite? Maybe this is another way of asking the first question, how far do you go? Which then relates to the second question.

I firmly believe I must love my reader. That means that I will treat readers the way I like to be treated. I’m not a swear-er—unless I stub my toe—so I don’t pepper my prose with colorful language. The best way to influence a reader is to woo her. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee didn’t say, “Racism is bad.” She showed how bad it was, by wooing through a well-told story. That’s what I want to do. I want to portray the evils of society as they are: horrid, dark, bleak. But I also want to offer hope—that God can intersect even the most evil of evils. My readers face tough issues every day. They watch TV and see terrorism, racism, child-slavery, starvation. They don’t need me to shout those issues to them through didactic prose. But if I can tell a story about these issues and make my reader care about another human character facing these tough issues, I have won.

Thanks, Mary. You’re a great sport.

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One thought on “Interview with Mary DeMuth”

  1. My favorite line from Mary is, “I firmly believe I must love my reader.” That’s the heart of writing, I think… to love the ones who’ll sit at the table of our pages… and then to be unafraid to both pass the potatoes and spill them on our shirt.

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