Mary Mackey (mm) Fri 25 Jun 04 21:35
We traveled in a small three-deck boat which had a motor and anchored it away from the shore in order to escape the nightly raids of blackflies, mosquitoes, etc. Using the boat as a base, we launched the canoes and did quite a bit of paddling, but not enough to give me Popyeye arms since there was a small motor we could use in some of the open stretches (but mostly we were going into dense brush-or rather into the canopy of the submerged trees).
Mary Mackey (mm) Fri 25 Jun 04 21:36
As for the piranhas, I swam in the river dozens of times because I had been told that the piranhas were not particularly hungry or aggressive during the wet season. This seemed to be true because, although it was possible to catch them and even eat them (piranha stew is sometimes called the "Viagra" of the Rio Negro), none of them so much as nipped at my toes-which is a good thing since the Rio Negro is the color of dark tea so you can't see what is in the water with you when you are swimming. Also, I stayed away from the trees when swimming because that is where the jacares (alligators) hang out and they can get huge.
Carlos Martins (arariboia) Sat 26 Jun 04 11:51
That's what I've heard about piranhas too, but if anyone here is planning a trip up the Amazon (or to the Pantanal for that matter - have you ever been there, Mary?) be sure to check with the locals before you go for a swim... Which doesn't mean that there aren't all sorts of other critters "that crawl and creep and bite", cf. <mm>'s narrative of the bicho do pe misadventure in the Health conf. Mary, I'm curious about that historical novel set in Brazil. What epoch would it take place, and do already have a storyline? (BTW, it's Iemanjá, among other things the patron saint of fishermen, hence her connection with the sea and the tributes paid to her on beaches. She's not the object of a goddess worship as such, but rather one - a distinguished one - of the many orixás, male and female, of Candomblé. My mother saint, I've been told, is Iansã, wielder of storm and lightning, usually sincretized with St. Barbara.)
Mary Mackey (mm) Sat 26 Jun 04 14:02
I've been to the Pantanal, and I think it is a much better place to see birds and large, beautiful tropical mammals than the Amazon because they are not up in the canopy or hidden in the brush. I saw more amazing wildlife in six days in the Pantanal than I did in six years in the jungles of Costa Rica. But the Pantanal doesn't have the immense, wild remoteness of the Amazon, nor does it have the endless lush jungles (at least not the part of the Pantanal I was in). As for whether or not the tributes paid to Iemanja constitute goddess worship, we probably differ on the definition. I have a whole, long complex analysis of what constitutes goddess worship at the present time, that I don't want to go in to here--not enough space or time or, frankly energy-- but there have been numerous books written by contemporary feminists on various aspects of the subject (you might check out Charlene Spretnak's new book on reclaiming the Virgin Mary if you are interested).
Carlos Martins (arariboia) Sat 26 Jun 04 15:30
Far from me to dispute the point, Mary... I only meant to enlighten (he) the non-Bananalanders (and non-Bananaland initiated) in the audience to the fact that Candomblé is not a matriarchal religion. To a certain extent it's male-dominated, as the head honcho Orixá is a male - but its pantheon, as it were, is pretty much equal-opportunity. (Candomblé is by and large an animistic religion and came from Africa, brought by the enslaved populations of several African nations, and got sincretized in America. Similar cults exist in other parts of America, most notably the Santería of Cuba, Venezuela etc. As long as I'm off on this tangent, it never hurts - Eparrê, Iansã!) Pantanal is mind-boggling. The birds alone are more than worth the trip. Sadly, it's being increasingly - what isn't - encroached on by "agribusiness", which is also expanding further and further into the Southern borders of Brazil's Amazon. Alas. Now back to them sources of pleasure that come between covers. Mary, I didn't know about your pen name, and am now just itching the buy - and read - your novels of a more comical nature. Oh joy.
Hoping to be a goddess, but settling for guru (paris) Sat 26 Jun 04 16:03
And back to "Sweet Revenge" for a moment or two... I'm not sure if the folks reading this topic are aware that "Sweet Revenge" is a murder mystery as well as a comic novel. At the start of the novel, we discover that Nora is in hot water regarding a murder committed by one of her clients, not your usual start to a comedy. I don't want to reveal too much about the plot beyond this, but would welcome your talking about a couple of things: first, the juxtaposition of a murder and a novel that is quite funny and, second, how much of the mystery we can reveal without giving too much away.
Darlis Wood (darlis) Sun 27 Jun 04 10:50
So Mary, can you say more about revenge fantasies as a healing/release vs. revenge fantasies as an inspiration? You make a good case for using fantasies as a way to overcome anger, but you also give some pretty convincing examples of people acting them out. Do you come down on one side or the other, or is it just not that simple?
Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 27 Jun 04 17:05
Good description of Condomble, Carlos. Thanks. Perhaps it's time for a bit of plot summary. "Sweet Revenge" is indeed a murder mystery. From the very first page you know that Nora, the main character, has been running a revenge consulting service and that one of her clients has just been arrested on suspicion of murder. You don't know which client, of course, nor do you know the particulars of the case
Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 27 Jun 04 17:06
The novel flashes back from to one year earlier, and we see Nora before she got mixed up in this mess. She's running a very successful dating service in L.A. called "Love Finds A Way," and she is about to be married to Jason, a man who is absolutely perfect for her because she picked him from her own data base. From that point, we enter a world of surprise, betrayal, and unexpected plot twists. Of course I can't tell you how the murder part comes out, but I can tell you that Nora gets dumped at the altar in front of several hundred friends and business associates, starts a revenge consulting service called Payback Time, and soon discovers that someone-maybe the murderer-is taking revenge on her. (Don't even ask what happens to her Koi or what the guy next door who collects plaster lawn statues of Disney characters is up to.)
Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 27 Jun 04 17:06
So, in answer to your question, Libbi: it appears I can talk about the comic thread but not the mystery thread; but both come together at the climax. As for darlis's very good question: I do believe that fantasies are a great way to overcome anger, but you have to be a sane person who knows the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Personally, I would never start an actual revenge consulting service because you can't effectively screen out people who are dim on the difference between imagining handcuffing someone and making him watch "Ishtar" for 72 hours, and actually putting "Ishtar" at the top of the Netflix queue and going to CostCo to buy a roll of duct tape.
Hoping to be a goddess, but settling for guru (paris) Sun 27 Jun 04 17:39
Um...if I ever see you in line at CostCo with one of those containers of duct tape, I'm gonna head for the hills, Mary!
not heartb roken, (mim) Sun 27 Jun 04 22:45
So I'm curious about the hybrid of mystery and comedy... did you decide first tow rite a comic novel and then i turned into a mystery, or visa versa? And did you start out knowng exactly how the plot was going to go, or did you let your characters lead you along as you wrote?
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Mon 28 Jun 04 09:21
And let me jump in and say how real the LA ambience felt--I know you live in the Bay Area, so you must have done research on that too.
Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 28 Jun 04 09:21
I knew it was going to be a mystery from the very first, but I didn't know what sort of mystery. My core idea was to write a novel about a woman who starts a revenge consulting service and then becomes the object of her own techniques. In fact the working title of the novel was "Payback Time"--which is still what the file is called on my computer. Since it was a mystery, I had to outline the entire plot in advance. In other less plot-dependent novels, I often let the characters lead me where they will, but you can't start writing a mystery novel until you know how it will end. However, sometimes you discover an even better ending than the one you originally intended to write. This happened which meant that I could be more or less sure that the reader would not figure out who the villain was since I had did not know myself until the last month or so. That said, the original idea was comedy, not mystery. When I got the idea of combining the two, I was delighted by the result, since I think it made the novel much more interesting (and more fun to read).
Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 28 Jun 04 09:25
Thanks, pamela, for the vote of confidence on the L.A. setting. I did a lot of research and made numerous trips down to SoCal trying to get a feel for what it would be like to live in L.A.--not just in L.A., but in the particular world Nora inhabits: not quite in the movie industry but on the fringes where every once in a while she gets a movie star for a client. Then, of course since her fiance, Jason, is a real estate developer, I looked at urban sprawl and development as well.
Hoping to be a goddess, but settling for guru (paris) Mon 28 Jun 04 10:12
What other research, if any, did you get involved with when planning the novel, Mary?
Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 28 Jun 04 12:33
I had to learn how murder suspects are arrested, how sailboats sail, and what the political situation is like at the border between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.Then there was the IRS, Krazy Glue, Lowrider cars, packrats, street paving techniques, Photoshop, and fine wines. The research on a novel is strange, eclectic, and potentially endless. Fortunately, I love to collect stray facts. It's my hobby.
Donna Odierna (strega) Mon 28 Jun 04 13:01
And it's a hobby that benefits your readers! Mary, I experienced SR and the Stand In in a more visual way than I did your Earthsong triligy books (the new covers are stunning, btw. Too bad I spent some weeks last year looking for the first book to complete the set I sent to a relative as a present - if I'd waited, she could have gotten a set of the new ones with their beautiful cover illustrations). What I mean is that some of the scenes (is that the right term?) in the comic novels had an almost kinesthetic feeling - the images that they conjured were vivid and carried a sense of movement. It was almost like watching a movie. I'm not a writer, and this seems very mysterious to me. Do you do that intentionally, or does it just come out that way? Does something similar happen when you're writing a screenplay?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 29 Jun 04 11:06
And strega's question makes me wonder whether when you're writing a novel you're also thinking how it "presents" as a potential screenplay?
Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 29 Jun 04 22:48
I think the visual images that you say you get when you read "Sweet Revenge" come, for better or worse, from the fact that I have always had a very visual imagination. Often, as I am in the process of imagining the scenes in a novel, I run them in my mind's eye as if they were a movie. I also have a visual memory. For example, when I read something, I can close my eyes later and see which side of the page the words are on (and if there are any peanut butter and jelly stains in the immediate area). I have been doing this since I was a small child. In fact, I can remember how amazed I was when I learned that there are people do not instantly see pictures when they daydream or imagine something. I didn't intentionally try to make "Sweet Revenge" feel like a film, nor did I think much about the cinematic potential of the novel as I worked on it. (I did, of course, wonder if the film rights might be optioned as the rights to my previous novel "The Stand In" had been, but I've always felt to think about film as one writes a novel tends to limit the literary scope of the work and tempts the writer to neglect novelistic resources that can't be translated into to a film script.
Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 29 Jun 04 22:49
I write filmscripts. In fact, I am a member of the WGA, West (the screenwriters' guild). But I write them not because I learned to see the world in motion when I close my eyes, but because I can not stop seeing it that way. I'm glad you're enjoying the effect.
Hoping to be a goddess, but settling for guru (paris) Wed 30 Jun 04 08:38
Definitely!! Mary, you've done so many interesting (and unusual) things in addition to an impressive portfolio of poetry, prose and your teaching career. Before this interview ends, would you spend a little time talking about more of your travels, especially as they relate to your novels? Oh, and the ant story is always - um - interesting!
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Wed 30 Jun 04 19:36
[jumping up and down and clapping] Yes, the ant story! Dammit, Mary, I never walk past an anthill (and we have a bunch of them down here in Santa Fe) without thinking about Mary's Ant Story, which is not the same as Charley's Aunt.
We don't need drugs. We've got (tinymonster) Wed 30 Jun 04 20:16
[also clapping because somebody else has heard of:] > Charley's Aunt. From Brazil. Where the nuts come from.
Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 1 Jul 04 12:10
Okay, here it is, back by popular demand: the Ant Story (I am not going to hide this rather long post because I don't think people who come in through Engaged would be able to read it were it hidden). This is only one of the many strange stories I have about the places I've traveled to. Someday, I must write about the volcanic eruption, the vampire bats, and--of course-- the big flood in India with the swimming rats.
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