Mary Mackey, author of thirteen novels and six volumes of poetry, has participated in almost every step of the publishing revolution. In 1972, she physically helped print her first novel in a garage (home to the legendary Shameless Hussy Press). Today, she wholeheartedly embraces eBooks.
Ten of these novels and a book of poetry have just hit our Vook store. Spanning millennia and continents, Mary's characters grapple with female suppression, ecological destruction, and forbidden relationships. A prehistoric culture comes under attack in The Year the Horses Came, but what happens when a priestess and an invading warrior fall in love? A family’s three generations of actresses struggle with love, betrayal, and heritage in A Grand Passion. Mary’s first novel—and possibly the first ecofeminist novel—Immersion, was out of print for 38 years before becoming an eBook. It masterfully links the suppression of women with the degradation of nature as a backdrop for a tale of adultery and murder.
To celebrate the arrival of Mary’s books in our store (and the re-release of some into the world), we conducted a Q&A with Mary. She shares her own story, discusses the benefits of eBooks for authors, and offers advice to fellow writers.
Vook: You’ve been writing fascinating books for years and have a legion of devoted fans. But please describe yourself to new readers.
I’m a novelist and poet, and I’ve been writing a variety of things for a long time. I have books set in prehistory and I have a book about two generations of women in ballet. I like to find things, research them, and write great plots. I have these sorts of cult books on the goddess worshipping culture.
I’m also a college professor. I’ve taught English in Creative Writing for many years as well as Film. I have a film aspect to my career; my novels are often highly visual.
Vook: How did you get started?
I started in 1972 when my first novel, Immersion, was published by Alta Gerry’s Shameless Hussy Press. She had a letterpress in her garage, and she invited the writers out to help her do the actual printing.
Vook: Travel and exotic locations are big themes in your books. What inspired this?
I lived in the jungles of Costa Rica for six years on and off, and I always go down there. I also just came back form Brazil. I’m very interested in the jungle and the rainforest. My last book, Sugar Zone, was a book of poetry influenced by my travels in Latin America. It mixes Portuguese with English in a way you don’t have to speak a word of Portuguese to understand.
I took 43 eBooks down to Brazil with me and I spent four months reading on an eReader.
Vook: So you went from working with a gigantic letterpress in a garage to carrying 43 eBooks in your purse!
I love having books in digital form. I wrote my first novel in longhand, the next on an electronic typewriter, and then on a selectric typewriter. In 1980, I spent my whole advance on a computer and wrote my own programs in DOS! Now I’ve been catapulted into the digital age with eBooks.
Vook: Are you connected with your fan base?
I’ve been very happy to find an audience of people; they email me from all over the world. I love the contact.
Vook: How has ePublishing changed the communication between authors and readers?
One of the major things that changed is the way that writers relate to their audience. The publishers used to send you on tours to be on TV and radio because this was the only way to reach an audience.
Now with digital you can do Webinars and other kinds of outreach to reach a much larger audience. In the beginning, Immersion was taken to bookstores and left on consignment—but how was anyone in London going to find my book? Now I have people buying my books all over the world. I have a fan in Norway who has written a master’s thesis on my book!
It’s a renewal—and you get a whole new audience.
Vook: What are your biggest priorities when writing?
My story is really prime for me. But beyond that in a greater sense, I’ve always been interested in problems facing the planet and ecology. Immersion is a novel about the destruction of the rain forest.
Vook: What other themes interest you the most?
I’m also very interested in women who have control over their lives or who are trying to find it. I’m interested in friendship. And I’m interested in looking at the ways you deal with the crises of life and love.
Vook: What advice can you give to other writers?
I’ll tell you my real advice for writers is just live it up. When you’re old, you don’t regret the things you did, just the things you didn’t do. So many women when I started out wrote domestic stories, but I wanted to be more like Melville and Hemmingway. I’ve seen volcanic eruptions and nine-foot snakes! It increases my sense of drama in my novels. I like to live life in an exuberant way.
I think particularly if you are a younger writer, get out there and see life. It used to be easier to get lost in the unfamiliar world because you didn’t have an iPhone.
Plunge into the world, get lost, and take risks. I’m not brave but I am foolish and I think that’s a great asset to me as writer.
Vook: Any last words?
Don’t leave any path unturned.
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