Friday, August 7, 2009

Author Interview: Mary F. Pols & Giveaway

Yesterday, I reviewed a very interesting memoir called ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE: THE TRUE TALE OF A HAPPY SINGLE MOTHER by Mary F. Pols. I found her story to be both funny and heartwarming. I am so glad she has taken time out of her busy schedule (and her vacation) to answer a few of my questions.

Booking Mama: You were a movie reviewer for quite awhile before deciding to write a book. What made you decide to write your story?

Mary F. Pols: I'd thought about writing about my path to motherhood since a day or two after my son was born, but in a very vague way. One of the doctors at the hospital where Dolan was born noticed me with "Operating Instructions," Ann Lamott's book, which I was re-reading and said "Oh you're a first time mom, huh?" And I said, "How did you know?" And he said, "They all have that," indicating the book. I loved "OI," but it occurred to me then that there was room in the marketplace for another literary memoir about motherhood. That thought percolated for nearly two years before I actually got started. What motivated me to start was the sense that there was a societal shift about single motherhood, and that the time was ripe to write about it; if I didn't, someone else would and then I'd feel regret.


Booking Mama: How different was it for you to write a book versus writing critical reviews? Being a single mother, how did you even find the time to write?

Mary F. Pols: It didn't bear any relation to writing criticism for me. To me it was more like writing a very long news story -- I was a news reporter before I was a critic -- reported in an emotional sense. As for time and single motherhood, I don't know, it all seems like a haze now, and yes, sort of impossible, particularly as I try to write a novel, which is such a slower process. But I was blessed to have been on a fellowship at Stanford for an academic year, and that's where I got the crucial first few chapters done, or at least in condition to write a proposal. Once I'd sold it and had an official deadline (world's best motivator), it was all late nights and stealing afternoons on the weekends. Matt was so great about taking Dolan off for the day to give me time to write.

Booking Mama: Was it difficult to write about so many personal things? Were you afraid of the response you'd get from family and friends?

Mary F. Pols: Well it wasn't easy, but I felt it was necessary, in order to write an honest, open memoir. There was some digging into my own past that I found painful. I didn't want to hurt anyone, particularly Matt. Which is why I offered friends and family a chance to read it in manuscript form, in case there was something they couldn't live with. One person apparently had a very bad reaction to something in there -- I never heard what -- but I believe there was a lot more at play in terms of an already dissolving friendship rather than anything in the book itself, because that friend had been treated very tenderly in the narrative.

Booking Mama: What have you found to be the biggest challenge of single parenthood?

Mary F. Pols: Honestly? Money. We've had enough to get by on, but I am constantly faced with the realization that I can't afford a mortgage on my own, at least not in the kind of urban center I need to live in in order to still be a movie critic. Is there anything wrong with being a renter? I guess not in this economy. But I'm very home oriented; I love to feel settled, I love to cook and decorate, and I feel like we're in a permanent state of the temporary as renters. But what can you do? Just work harder and try to be smarter about money. The other stresses, like time management, can be exhausting, but never enough to make me forget how grateful I am to be a mother. The payoff in love is so deep.

Booking Mama: I think it's terribly hard to be a mom sometimes, and I have an incredibly supportive husband. I honestly don't know how single mothers can do it. What's the best advice you have for single mothers or even moms in general?

Mary F. Pols: If you're lucky enough to have a co-parent with a decent heart, as I am, make it work, no matter what it takes. I started my co-parenting relationship with Matt believing that I was doing it for our child's sake; I wanted him to know and love his father and be known and loved in return. That was my priority. Matt is an exceptionally good person, which was my great good fortune, because in the end, he's really there for both of us. That's huge. So we're both single parents, but we're joined in our wishes and dreams for our son. A lot of single mothers by choice don't have that built in support system, and I find what they do so admirable. In comparison, I'm a single mother lightweight.

Booking Mama: Do you have plans to write additional books in the future? Would you ever consider writing a novel?

Mary F. Pols: I'm working on at least one novel (another one keeps slipping into my head), and a children's book, and am slowly putting together some stories that could be a collection someday. But mostly I feel like a beginner, just teaching myself how to keep going. With the memoir, the narrative was so clear; I'd lived it. It was the shaping that was hard. This time, everything feels hard. I just decided to treat myself to an extra week in Maine though, during which Dolan is going to day camp and I'm going to hole up in a shack and write. One of the benefits of being a freelancer...

Booking Mama: CBS is making your book ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE into a television series starring Jenna Elfman. What was your first reaction when you learned that your life was going to played out on screen? How was it to see your story brought to life?

Mary F. Pols: My first reaction was, "Really?" I mean, obviously I'd sold the option so I knew it was a possibility, but I thought the chances were so slim. Books are optioned all the time and then just sit there. Then when it began to move forward it seemed as though it went at warp speed. It's really weird, but I'm trying to just stay detached about it. They're making something that doesn't appear to bear much relation to my memoir at all, and that's their right as the purchasers. I do think a single mom sitcom is a fine idea for right now, and I really hope it all works for CBS. They've put it in the dream time slot, right after "How I Met Your Mother" and they've got a smart, funny cast, so here's hoping.


Booking Mama: I have a feeling that writing a memoir could be almost therapeutic for an author. Did you learn anything new about yourself or see yourself differently after writing this book?

Mary F. Pols: It's great therapy, and for that I apologize to readers who pay $14 or what have you to endure my process of figuring myself out on the page (although I hope it's also just an enjoyable, good yarn). I learned so much. My whole relationship with Matt changed as I made my way through different drafts. I guess you could say revising the book helped me revise myself. I'm so grateful to the people who helped me go through that process, particularly my amazing editor at Ecco, Lee Boudreaux, who was simultaneously editing "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." (If I'd known that at the time, I would have probably been paralyzed. Intimidating!)

I have a copy of ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE to share with one lucky reader. To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment with a valid e-mail address telling me why you want to read this book. To double or triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this contest with a link back to this post. This giveaway will be open until Friday, August 21st at 11:59 p.m. EST, and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only. Good Luck!

49 comments:

Marjorie said...

A great giveaway, count me in.
I am a follower.

cenya2 at hotmail dot com

Pam said...

Like you, I find motherhood hard and I have a fantastic, involved husband/father and terrific parents who live nearby. In our case, it's almost like the village is raising our children. So many days, I call my mother in tears and tell her I don't know how stay-at-home mothers cope and I really don't know how single mothers do it. I have a good friend who is a single mother by choice. I'd love to read this to better understand the single mother experience.

melacan at hotmail dot com

bermudaonion said...

I am amazed at the single mothers who are able to write books while their children are so young - I was barely able to shave my legs way back then. Great interview! milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Live well - Laugh often - Love much! said...

Good interview - I love memoirs because I like to study people and see what makes them do what they do and memoirs give me a window into someone's life. This interview gave me a sneak peek into your world and now I'd like to read the whole book. Also, I am writing a memoir and like reading others to help me write better.

Wanda said...

There are so many single moms these days and I would love to read this book to see Mary's perspective.
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

Debbie F said...

I would love to read this. I was a single mother myself and would love to read about another mothers journey.
dcf_beth at verizon dot net

Holly said...

I want to read it because it sounds fascinating. I think her perspective will be very interesting to read about.

Kristen said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Operating Instructions and although I am not a single mom, I would love to read this and be able to glean more truths about raising children, whether with involved help or not.

whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

I Heart Book Gossip said...

I would love a copy of this book. I have never read it before.

+1 Am a follower.

cindyc 725 at gmail dot com

Jonita said...

Your review and subsequent interview about this book were fascinating! I started off as a single parent at 17, and was lucky enough to meet my now-husband two and a half years later. He took on all of the responsibilities of parenting my son as his own, and now we're raising our three kids together. I had a lot of support from my parents, but it still wasn't easy. This book sounds amazing and I would love a chance to read it!

+1 I've also tweeted about your giveaway (www.twitter.com/jonitabookchick)

jonitathebookchick@gmail.com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Ahh, yeah. Let's not talk about motherhood. Truly the hardest job I'll ever do -- and I've done some hard stuff so far.

No need to enter me. I'm just dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this up at Win a Book.

GinaB said...

Please enter me in your giveaway.

MoziEsmé said...

I'd love to read this! And I'm a follower...

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Patricia said...

I would like to read this book because being a mother is a daunting prospect, and being a single mother even more so.

pboylecharley@hotmail.com

chey said...

Great interview!
I want to read this book because I think it would be interesting.
chey127 at hotmail dot com

Alyce said...

I can't imagine what it would be like to be a single mother. I've seen this book around and it looks like a good read.

akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

Beth said...

This looks really interesting, although I'm not a single mother (or mother at all). What a fascinating story!

BethsBookReviewBlog AT gmail DOT com

flowerchild said...

this book looks so good ,and i would love to win it..thanks

flower_child_23(at)hotmail(dot)com

sharon54220 said...

Memoirs are one of my most favorite genres to read. This sounds so interesting. Single motherhood must be hard. I would love the opportunity to read this.

Thanks for the chance.
I am also a subscriber.

sharon54220@gmail.com

bridget3420 said...

I want to read this book because I've known a lot of wonderful single mothers I could share this with.

bjhopper(at)me(dot)com

bridget3420 said...

tweet

http://twitter.com/bridget3420/status/3186893148

bjhopper(at)me(dot)com

bridget3420 said...

Blogged

http://bridget3420.blogspot.com/2009/08/87-book-giveaway-list-2.html

bjhopper(at)me(dot)com

Winning Readings said...

Posted about this at Winning Readings:

http://winningreadings.blogspot.com/2009/08/accidentally-on-purpose.html

Beth F said...

I really admire women who choose to be a single parent and make it work. I would love to know more about how Mary does it.

BFish (dot) Reads (at) gmail

Esme said...

I love memoirs-there is always something to learn from them

thanks

chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

enyl said...

I'm a follower
enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

Aimee said...

Great post! I'd love to read this book and am looking forward to the TV show. I'll tweet the contest as well. acirucci(at)gmail(dot)com.

Cole said...

I've been reading too much of the same type of books lately so this would be a nice break from the usual

Dina said...

She sounds like a remarkable person, and I am sure her book is a worthy read! aitmama (at) gmail (dot) com

Dina said...

http://twitter.com/aitmama/status/3266339911

Lee P said...

I'd like to read this book because as women, and single mothers, we can all learn from each other. Thanks for this giveaway and please count me in.

chinook92(at)gmail(dot)com

gaby317 said...

I would love to read this even though I'm not yet a mother. It sounds like a fun book and you can never have too many books that make you laugh.

gaby317nyc AT gmail DOT com

amweeks said...

I would love to read this book! I love memoirs, and seeing how different people have reacted in situations that they've faced. I get so much inspiration from books like this!

amweeks said...

I tweeted! http://twitter.com/amweeks/status/3313377551

Natalie said...

I'd love to read this book and also give it to my mom to read. It sounds like she could use it! Thanks for the chance!
coolnatty12(at)yahoo(dot)com

Natalie said...

I tweeted!
http://twitter.com/natdey/status/3345523023
coolnatty12(at)yahoo(dot)com

Natalie said...

I wrote a blog! Thanks!
http://theadventuresofpaulnatalie.blogspot.com/2009/08/accidentally-on-purpose-true-tale-of.html

coolnatty12(at)yahoo(dot)com

Anonymous said...

I'd love to read this book and then gift it to a very dear friend who has recently become a single mom. Thanks for the opportunity.

bgcchs(at)yahoo(dot)com

Ally in WA said...

I like to read women themed books about how women find their path and become grounded and savvy. I always end up rooting for the central character. Thanks for the chance to win.

espressogurl at hotmail dot com

Cindy said...

This book would be great for me to read because I'm a single mother! Thanks for the chance to read it!!
monkeyami1@yahoo.com

Cindy said...

I left a tweet on Twitter!
http://twitter.com/monkeyami/status/3376027778

monkeyami1@yahoo.com

Cindy said...

I blogged! Thanks!
http://cdhawaiianoasis.blogspot.com/2009/08/accidentally-on-purpose-true-tale-of.html

monkeyami1@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

please count me in...thanks.

karen k
kmkuka(at)yahoo(dot)com

jmintuck said...

would like to know how a single mom makes it out in the world without, well, "cracking up", so to speak.

devonm @ sasktel dot NET

jmintuck said...

I subscribed to your blog through email


devonm @ sasktel dot NET

Nancye said...

I want to read this book to see how a single mom can handle it all on her own. It's hard to take care of everything when you are married!

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Nancye said...

I follow you on Twitter and I Tweeted

http://twitter.com/
NancyeDavis/status/3424581890

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Jessica Lawlor said...

What a great interview! I'm interested in reading this book because I have been reading a lot of books about young characters and I'd like to try out a book about someone a bit older (like a mom).

jessicallawlor @ gmail dot com

carmellasquest said...

This sounds like an interesting memoir. As a counselor, I've worked with a number of single moms and really respect them for trying to work, raise their kids, have social lives, negotiate relationships with their former husbands or boyfriends, and so on. I'll be recommending this book to several women in this situation.

I applaud this author for her vulnerability and honesty. I really connected with her comments about writing about the personal and wondering how those written about will react. I think that's the toughest part of memoir writing.

Carmella Broome, Licensed Professional Counselor in SC
Author of Carmella's Quest: Taking On College Sight Unseen (Red Letter Press 2009)
http://CarmellasQuesst.LiveJournal.com