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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Meet the Author: Mary Pauline Lowry

Mary Pauline Lowry is the author of The Earthquake Machine. Her life is an adventure, and she believes every girl should have adventures of their own. She has kindly taken some time to answer a few questions.

How long have you been writing?
I've been writing consistently since June of 2000. I wanted to be a writer for a long time before that, but that summer of 2000 is when I really committed to it.

What inspired you to write your first book?
My work as a forest firefighter on an elite Hotshot crew inspired me to write my first book THE GODS OF FIRE, which is based on that experience. The book hasn't come out yet, but it has been optioned for film. I wrote the screenplay and the film is in pre-production. I'm going to wait to release the book until we're a little closer to production on the film. So I decided to release my novel THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE first, even though it's actually the second novel I've written.

Which of your characters do you relate to most and why?
I think I most relate to the protagonist of THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE. She's a 14 year-old American girl named Rhonda, but she travels through Mexico alone "passing" as a Mexican boy named Angel, because she knows she'll be safer if people don't know she's a female. I've always loved to travel and have adventures and do wild, courageous things. And I've always tried to push against the boundaries of what's acceptable for women and girls (even though I like to do some traditionally "girly" things, too).

What is a secret about Rhonda that nobody else knows?
At the beginning of the novel, no one knows that Rhonda has learned to speak fluent Spanish by spending time with her family's yardman, a Mexican man named Jesús. And when she's traveling through Mexico alone, no one knows she's actually a girl and an American.

If your real life as a teenager was a Young Adult book, what would you, the main character, be like?
I would be a crazy bookworm, but also kind of wild. I would sneak out all the time to go hear fantastic rock shows in all-ages bars and clubs.

What book have you read too many times to count?
I've read the young adult novel WEETZIE BAT by Francesca Lia Block too many times to count. I first read the advance copy when I was 13 years old and as soon as I finished the firstchapter I knew I'd never be the same. I've read the book over and over since then.

What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
I think the best piece of writing advice I ever received was, "Write first thing in the morning every day." I heard that from James Kelman, who won the Booker Prize for his novel HOW LATE IT WAS, HOW LATE. I also love James Kelman because after he won the Booker Prize he got a job driving a public bus in Glasgow so he could "stay in touch with the people."

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I learned I can get up early in the morning to write no matter what my "day job" is. I've learned I can write and stay committed to my writing whether I'm in the mood to write or not.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I'm not writing I love to run and lift weights. I always joke that I go to the gym to "get huge" because I like the idea of building muscle and getting strong instead of trying to "lose weight," which magazines and television often encourage women to do. I also love to read and spend time with my girl friends. Lately several of my friends meet once a week to hang out and embroider together. I like to embroider rad designs on pearl snap shirts. I just finished one with Lucha Libre Mexican wrestlers that I love. (I bought the design from embroidery diva Jenny Hart's website

Are any of the things in your books based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE isn't autobiographical at all, and yet my whole life is in it. The novel is completely fantastical, but also based on so many truths that I believe in. Many fragments of it are true--like my grandma did hire a Mexican man named Jesús to take care of her yard when I was a girl. And when I was 15 I did run away home and I made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. (Though I didn't travel across Mexico OR pretend to be a boy). I left my parents a note with a quote from John Irving's novel THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE. The note said, "Life is serious, but art is fun!" (Of course I would never ever recommend that girls ACTUALLY run away. A huge percentage of runaways end up being sex trafficked and in other terrible situations. I was just lucky to make it home safe and sound).  But I do advocate that girls stretch themselves to have adventures and make art and support each other in doing these things, because they are not easy.

Thank you for joining us today! We look forward to your guest post here on Thursday!

You can also read this interview on Examiner

To learn more about Mary Pauline Lowry and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on Twitter.

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