To start, I’d like to thank Krystal for featuring me on her blog. It’s very much appreciated.
I grew up in English boarding schools where we were always very cold and very hungry. We awoke and went to sleep with bells, our lives a humdrum existence of rules, regulations, church, chapel, classes, chores and prep. Books were my escape and although that is a cliché, it’s one that’s true. When I was twenty, I moved to the States to go to journalism school and after I graduated I immediately started working on newspapers. It was a very happy moment for me because I found I could read and write all day and get paid for it.
DWED: Have you always aspired to publish a novel?
Not consciously, and I am surprised every day that I have, but it seemed a logical extension from my career as a journalist. I wrote two other novels before this one and they just weren’t working, and then, one day in July 2010, I found myself in front of my computer looking at a blank screen. Three weeks later, The Blasphemy Box was written. I didn’t plan it. I didn’t plot it out. It just appeared before me on the screen as I typed madly away.
DWED: Would you say the journey to publishing was easy or hard? Why?
I would say it was exceptionally hard for so many reasons, not the least of which was having to foster, over time, the necessary self-confidence to write a book and sell it.
DWED: Who or what would you say inspired “The Blasphemy Box”?
To some degree, it was seeing myself aging, and all that came with that. And I didn’t like any of it, one bit! I was seeing how, on the march towards 50 and with their physical appeal waning, women in our youth-obsessed culture can become almost invisible. And perhaps I was just writing the novel I wanted to read, a book showing how there are a million Maddys out there struggling away, but not done and over with just because they’re fifty, not useless and used up just because they’re fifty, not unattractive and unalluring just because they’re fifty. There are so many novels out there for young, hip women, but so few for the women they become, their older, (better?!) selves.
DWED: How does “The Blasphemy Box” stand out? What does it offer and more importantly what can viewers find within it pages?
The story of a husband leaving his wife in middle age is not at all uncommon. You hear about it all the time. What makes my take unique is the way I have treated the subject: in a humorous yet heartfelt way. Though we feel my heroine Maddy’s pain and identify with her everywoman struggles, she never becomes a mawkish or maudlin figure crying into her teacup or a bitter person wracked by rage. Her dry British wit, her acute sense of humor and her wacky observations about her world and her current situation all contribute to make this an uplifting story about a devastating situation called middle age divorce.
DWED: At length how would you describe the feedback for “The Blasphemy Box”?
It has been overwhelmingly positive with a slew of five-star reviews.
DWED: Would you say you have a unique style of writing?
I have always been told that I have a “voice” and that when people read what I write they can hear me speaking.
DWED: what kind of messages do you try to instill in your writing?
I am not trying to instill any message, really. I am just telling a story, and the human race will never tire of stories because they tell us who we are. Or who we can be.
DWED: Who is your favorite character in “The Blasphemy Box” and why?
I would have to say Maddy, the protagonist, is my favorite character. She shows a lot of dignity in a very trying, humiliating and terrifying situation, while simultaneously managing to take care of and to protect her kids. That’s a good mother.
DWED: Who is your least favorite character in “The Blasphemy Box” and why?
I would say I dislike Anita, Maddy’s mother in law, and Steven, her soon-to-be-ex-husband, equally.
DWED: What can we look forward to seeing from you throughout 2013?
I only wish I knew!
DWED: What would you say to all aspiring authors like yourself?
I would say something very simple: writers write, so if you’re a writer, write.
DWED: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like your readers and potential readers to know about both your work and yourself?
Just that I would love to hear from anyone and everyone who wants to engage. I love making new friends and learning new things and the internet is a wonderful place to achieve both.
twitter handle: @mandyscribeista
DAY 1 OF SEPARATION
Marriage is the chief cause of divorce
— Groucho Marx
You know that nightmare you’ve always had?
The one where you wake up one day to find yourself fat, frumpy, fifty, and alone?
I’m living it.
It’s barely nine on a frigid January morning. The three children have gone off to school, and I’m in the kitchen in my pajamas on my laptop working on my novel when Steven comes lumbering through, toward the front door of our Victorian house in San Francisco, dragging two of my large Louis Vuitton suitcases.
It’s been only a week since he said he was leaving. Not even a week. Six days. We’d only just celebrated the kids’ birthdays. After twenty years of marriage, I just didn’t believe it. I thought maybe he had a cold and was feeling out of sorts. Sure, we’d been bickering a lot lately, mostly about how he was working until all hours of the night with no convincing explanation. And about how he was sick and tired of seeing my nose in a book and that I should take it out and pay more attention to him. And about why he hadn’t touched me for several months. And about that wooden box with a slot on the top, which suddenly appeared on the kitchen table to remind me not to curse. Steven called it the Blasphemy Box, and I was to insert a quarter into it every time I swore. (I’m from England where cursing is the second language.)
He told me he was leaving while we were perusing the baking aisle at Whole Foods. It was the first time he had been grocery shopping with me in a long time. All I could see through my tears was a row of boxes of “No Pudge Fat-Free Fudge Brownie Mix.” I kept asking him if he was joking. He said it was no joke. I blinked the tears away and tried to maintain my British cool—public grief is just not done in England after all, where I come from. I babbled about needing bitter cocoa powder, mascarpone, and ladyfingers for tiramisu. I asked him if he wanted something other than tiramisu. But he just stood silently next to me, not looking at me, far away, already gone.
Had I seen this coming? No! (Well, not exactly.) I thought we were just used to each other, just comfortable with each other, the spark gone, the flame tamed, but still together as one. I guess not. We didn’t talk about it again in that intervening week. I couldn’t. It’s called denial. I thought if I didn’t talk about it, it wouldn’t be real. It wouldn’t happen. But it has. It is. Happening. Now.
As he lumbers toward our front door, I look up. “So, that’s it. You’re really leaving.”
“Maddy, don’t start…We’ve been through this. It’s over. ”
No matter how many times he says it, I still can’t believe it.
“Because of some bimbo half your age?”
“And half your size.”
“Her name is Gabriela, Madeleine.”
Gabriela. I want to skin her and wear her like last year’s Dior.
“Yeah, right,” I say, furious, then numb as I get up, pull my stomach in and try to stand straight. I am trying to hold back my tears. I really am. I dig my finger into my thigh, hoping the pain will distract me from the other pain and humiliation. Of course it doesn’t. I just feel the cellulite growing there like kudzu.