I am pleasured to share with you my interview with author Mary Patrick Kavanaugh of Family Plots. She is so funny as you will see from her interview. Plus you have got to check out the funeral she heard on her website.
I want to thank you for allowing me this interview with you.
Can you please tell everyone about yourself?
That’s a pretty broad question, so I’ll just throw out a few things…Female, age 47, Caucasian, identifies as Black Irish, and very family and friend oriented. I’ve always craved a traditional lifestyle, but never created it in any real way—which makes me believe I prefer to live life a bit on the edge, with some comfortable trappings to keep me looking sane.
I believe in ghosts and that I can talk to dead people. I also believe I’m delusional, so never know when to take these inclinations seriously. I love my friends, my neighborhood, and my crazy Oakland church. Philosophically I am a vegetarian but my favorite food is the meatball. So. I call myself: Vegethespian (act like a vegetarian, but am really an omnivore.)
I’m a serious romantic, brag constantly about my perfect daughter, and babies always make me smile. I feel my feelings deeply, so am as likely to collapse into a heap of sobs as I am to joke my way out of a bad mood. So far I don’t need any major medications, but always like it when the dentist gives me a prescription for painkillers.
Other than that, mostly I’m a healthy gal. I eat well, exercise regularly, eat lots of fresh food, and get a good night’s sleep which prevents me from being mean and emotional.
I, like Obama, have the audacity of hope—even though I’m a little worried about his stimulus package.
Are you a morning or evening person?
I’m an ex-evening person who annoys non-morning people with my incessant cheerfulness and optimism that reaches its height after that first cuppa joe.
What are your favorite scents?
I love the smell of vanilla, baked bread, Opium perfume, barbecue and babies. I would dab all except the babies behind my ear if I thought it would enhance a romantic experience.
What is your daughter Rachel up to now?
Rachel, whose real name is Ashley, is at UCLA and will graduate this June. She is studying math and geography and plans to go to grad school so she can teach. She has a great passion and calling to teach kids, and she’s also got a flair for dramatics—a great combo for the classroom. She’s a wild adventure girl, into the camping, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, canoeing, skinny-dipping and building snow caves. She also does this for a living as an outdoor adventure guide. She is smart, loving, kind, funny, and wise. Did I mention I like to brag about her?
You teach workshops. Can you please share what types of workshops you teach to others?
With full time work and book promoting, I don’t do much teaching now. I’ve taught some writing workshops, however am called upon most often to teach marketing subjects. I do love to draw attention to great products, people, events and books and have a flair for finding ways to get the word out. There is much for me to learn about doing this in the high tech world of social networking.
What made you decide to write a memoir? Was it hard to write?
After my father-in-law, husband, and mother-in-law all died with me holding both their hands and their secrets I was stunned and confused. As someone who has been writing since about the age of eight, it was almost as if I had no choice but to write in order to make sense of it all. And for the first time ever, there seemed to be a narrative arc to what I was attempting to sort out – a beginning, a middle and an end. I wrote it as a memoir so I could filter through this amazing decade in my life—and also to spend more time with the people I’d loved and lost—but in the process I learned that real life offers much that is repetitive and tedious. So it became necessary for me to streamline (fictionalize) parts of the story so that it had more momentum for the reader. And was it hard to write? So, so hard. Like climbing a mountain that seemed to often present what seemed to be the summit, only to learn that the real summit was up MUCH higher, way beyond the clouds.
I read that your goal was to become a successful bestselling author but you have now switched that to become a successful rejection author. What has the response been like from other people in the book industry?
There’s been such a great and mixed response. When I held the funeral for my dream of landing a mainstream publisher book contract, I was contacted by a few agents—one quite famous--who thought the idea hilarious. One wanted to offer representation for my next book, and the other, more well-connected agent, told me to keep doing what I was doing with the self promotion. She said the business was “the shits” right now, especially for first time, unknown authors, and that I should “see where it takes me.” But then there were blogs where writers were aghast that I took such an irreverent approach to the traditional way of publishing the book, and these people wrote things such as, by self publishing and orchestrating a book funeral (which was really a book launch) I was putting the last nail in my own career coffin. There are some who think that, like most writers, I should have tossed that a first novel into a drawer and just moved on to write the next. But I didn’t want to. I wrote my book to be read and figured, what the hell, I would get it out there while creating a very fun book launch experience that involved the community. So for me, it was just another opportunity to stop worrying about other people’s ideas, thoughts, and opinions and follow my own internal creative calling.
I see that you released the book yourself. What was the process like?
It’s been both expensive and empowering. When I received my last rejection and came up with the idea to hold a funeral for my dead dream of publishing through the mainstream (see the funeral and book launch event at http://www.mydreamisdeadbutimnot.com/ ), it’s like something cracked open for me. The shame and disappointment of failure was transformed into the sheer energizing joy of launching a new creative project. It reminded me of what every wise spiritual guru teaches: that it is not the end result that we should be focusing on, but our enjoyment of the day-to-day process. That’s what helped me come up with my tagline for my website: “Transforming life’s crap into compost, one plot at a time.” Plus, it gave me the idea to invite others to bury their own dead dreams along with mine, and when you are able to ritualize loss and share it in community, there is a satisfying feeling of connection like no other—it was both funny and healing.
Even through all the hardships you endured you came out a survivor. What is some advice you would give other people in difficult situations?
My best advice is to know that the story—your story—is never, ever over as long as you are willing to turn the page into the next day. And I really know how hard that can be. But don’t give up, don’t think you know what the best outcome should look like, and don’t forget to be kind to yourself all the time you are feeling like shit. This too will pass, but until it does, stay away from cranks and watch lots of comedy.
Any last words to the readers?
Please, help a sister out. Buy my book.