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Interview With Mary DeMuth

1) Introduce yourself to us. Name, info on your family, number of books authored, etc...

My name is Mary E. DeMuth. I’ve been married fifteen years to Patrick and have three children: Sophie, Aidan and Julia.

We live in the South of France near Nice and are church planters.

I’ve authored Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House 2005), Sister Freaks (one of four authors) Edited by Rebecca St. James (Time Warner 2005), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, January 2006), Watching the Tree Limbs (NavPress March 15, 2006), and Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, September 15, 2006)

2) Do you write full time? If yes, can you give us a glimpse into your daily writing life? If not, what is your day job?

Mostly. I wake up, walk on a stair climber or run outside
get the kids ready for school, walk them to school, eat breakfast with Jesus and read the Bible, and then am ready to go by 9:00 AM.

I usually write until 4:30 unless it’s one of the two days my kids come home for lunch. Then I pick them up at 11:30, feed them, and then bring them back to school at 1:30. Once a week, we have a church planting team meeting which takes several hours.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of radio for my recent parenting release, so my workday has morphed into a much longer one. I even did an interview at 12:00 midnight.

3) Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

I started writing when I was a wee child, and then eventually majored in English. I taught school for two years to very hormonal seventh graders.

Then I had children. After my oldest was born, I started writing a for-profit newsletter, which paid for my computer. That was 1992. I graduated to formatting and editing church newsletters for several years.

In 2000, I moved to Dallas, Texas where my husband was going to seminary (Dallas Theological Seminary) and I started getting serious about my writing. My youngest started preschool, so that gave me more time to write. I met a mentor then who helped me craft my first-ever query to a magazine.

After a few trial and error queries, I sold an article! Then, I became a weekly columnist for a local paper.

I’d always wanted to write a novel. I’d done research about my great-grandmother’s life during the Great Depression, how she survived raising seven children after her husband was killed in a quarry accident. So, one day I sat down and wrote the book.

I also joined two critique groups and started attending regional writing conferences. Four months after I started the book, I finished it. I took it with me to Mount Hermon in 2003. There I garnered the attention of my then-agent Chip MacGregor. I screamed when he wrote an email to me asking if I’d be willing to be agented. My children thought I was dying. Maybe I was!

My fiction didn’t sell, unfortunately. Apparently Depression-era fiction is depressing! So, in the meantime I wrote proposals for Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God and Building the Christian Family You Never Had at the insistence of my agent. To my great surprise, they sold. Right before that, I sat down again at the computer and poured out my heart onto the pages of Watching the Tree Limbs.

That book didn’t sell for a long time. The subject matter was very controversial (childhood sexual abuse), but just when I thought it was dead, Rachelle Gardner at NavPress resurrected it. NavPress bought that book and a to-be-announced book which has become Wishing on Dandelions.

Currently, I am writing a parenting book for Harvest House about parenting in a postmodern world. I’m hoping another fiction contract will come my way.

4) What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

Naivety. When I went to Mount Hermon the first time, I didn’t even know I needed an agent. Thankfully, I learned a lot there and have been a voracious learner about the industry ever since.

5) What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

Two things: Winning the Pacesetter Award at Mount Hermon 2004.

Getting a great review for Watching the Tree Limbs in Publisher’s Weekly.

6) How do the ideas for your stories spark?

They start with a simple idea or premise. I never have the whole book in my head or even an outline. The plot develops as I write.

7) Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or do you plot extensively before your fingers hit the keyboard?

See above. I am most definitely a seat of the pants writer when it comes to fiction. However, I’m an outliner when I write nonfiction.

8) I’m notorious for *snacking* while I write! Do you have any favorite munchies you wouldn’t mind us knowing about?

I don’t eat while I write. I often forget lunch! But in France I do miss Junior Mints and organic fruit leather and Market Spice Tea from the Pike Place Market in Seattle. Strange combo, I know.

9) How do you strike an agreeable “balance” between your writing time and other responsibilities?

I pray. And I have a prayer team who prays for me. I give my friend permission to speak into my life when I get too unbalanced.

This year, I reevaluated. I was doing far too much—maintaining the home, making dinner every night (I still do this), helping with homework, leading worship, doing graphics for church, being an active team member in a church plant, and then a writer too. It’s far too much. I’ve had to scale back my church-planting responsibilities.

It is hard for me to pull away from writing, so I’m working through that tug-of-war, asking God to help me stop writing to connect deeply with my kids and husband.

10) What has been the most surprising thing about your adventure in publishing?

How “normal” and kind other published writers in the CBA are.

11) How do you deal with publisher rejections? Crawl in bed under the covers for an entire day? Indulge in double-fudge chocolate? Or just brush it off?

I pout. And ask all sorts of dramatic questions out loud to my husband. “Why am I doing this? Do you think I can REALLY write?” Blather like that. It takes me a long time to get over a rejection. I know I’m not supposed to take it personally, but I can’t help it.

12) Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

Writing compelling, page-turning literary fiction for a broad audience.

13) These have been fairly standard questions. What is one thing you’d like to share with up-and-coming writers that they may not even know to ask yet?

Perseverance and ambition are key. I don’t mean ambition in the sense of I-will-push-my-way-into-meeting-a-publisher-at-any-cost-even-give-them-my-proposal-in-the-bathroom way. I mean a dogged pursuit of publication as God leads. Find a mentor. Go to critique groups. Write in obscurity. Don’t despise the days of small beginnings. Learn the ropes.

14) Tell us about Watching the Tree Limbs.

The PW review does a good job:

Watching the Tree Limbs
Mary E. DeMuth. NavPress, $12.99 paper (416p) ISBN 1-57683-926-5
In this debut faith-based novel, DeMuth writes with poignancy and grace, transporting readers to the hot East Texas town that is nine-year-old Mara's home. Amid the red dirt and pecan trees, Mara struggles to find her way through a painful and mysterious family situation. Who were her parents? Is her aunt Elma really her aunt—and does Elma really have a tumor? What will happen to her if her aunt dies? The pain in Mara's life multiplies unimaginably when she meets General, the teenage neighbor who repeatedly rapes her, threatening her life if she tells anyone. DeMuth captures the horrific situation—from Mara's inability to keep her body from shaking to her determination to watch the tree limbs to keep her mind off of what is going on—while providing hope of redemption and healing. Her characters are expertly drawn, and encompass meanness, evil, great kindness, and the confusion and quirks of generally good people who don't know how to handle what life has given them. Christian themes are woven throughout as a natural expression of the characters and situation. Readers may be surprised at the dark subject matter (which the cover only hints at), but this book will appeal to many readers both as a thoughtful, powerful reflection on a difficult topic and as a compelling story.

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