Amcham: Could you please tell me a little bit about your first novel Irresistible Blending?
Mary Carey – The book can be read two ways- either as a psychological thriller and/or a science fiction novel. The journalist Jess Bauldry called it magical realism and I love that. The main character is a female artist named Eleanor Adams who lives in Vermont on a commune in the early 2000s. It has intersecting themes about the nature of art, the nature of humans, and the nature of nature.
Science fiction is not my only genre, but this idea came to me and I had to write it. Note: Wendy Winn and I had a great chat on her radio show where she challenged me to make a play list that outlines the plot. (Wendy Winn is a fantastic radio host who puts enormous effort into her Radio shows).
However, I have always been a fan of really good science fiction that holds a mirror up to humanity, but it is also fair to say it is not entirely science fiction. Above all else, it is a mystery and hopefully readers will have a thrilling ride! Reader reaction so far has been great.
The book (and how I went about getting published)
Irresistible Blending is a long time coming. I originally dreamt the premise, or at least a very particular feeling and a scene in the woods by a river and I woke up so excited I had to write the story. This was in 2004 or 2005 and it took a year. During this time I enrolled in a very good Creative Writing programme at Humber College in Canada where I certainly won the luck of the draw and had Peter Carey novelist (no familial relation) as my tutor (not for the entire book, just certain chapters). He was tough but inspiring, and it wasn’t easy as my four sons were still young, but I wanted this my entire life. After this I completed the book and I did send a few manuscripts out and got nice feed-back from one publishing house but that was it and I was busy and I let it drop. I had small children and went back to work and life got very hectic.
Then scroll ahead to the fall of 2019, and a friend told me to try again and she recommended Black Fountain Press . So I sent it in. On Christmas eve (true story) I was in Toronto and got an email from Anne-Marie Reuter and Nathalie Jacoby and they said they really liked it and wanted to publish it. It was one of those emails/letters you dream about but you think will never happen. In fact it was so beautiful and perfect the next day I thought I had imagined it and double checked to see if it was real.
I have had the ambition to be a writer all of my life. In truth, there has never been a time when I stopped writing (I do it now at PwC Luxembourg amongst other tasks). And with our now dismantled but still beloved Creative Writing Club of Luxembourg we produced an anthology of short stories, called Writing from a small country . By the way it still exists but in another chapter of its life as the Creative Writing Forum and I think new life is being breathed into it! There are a lot of really good writers in this country and it’s time for the country to punch above its weight in this as it does in so many things.
In addition, I also am a former journalist and have hundreds of articles published in Luxembourg and Canada. I also have many short stories and two other books in the works- one that has been around for a long time and one for which I just came up with the idea recently.
Can you explain the title: Irresistible Blending?
There is a hidden meaning in the title. I am a big fan of titles that start to make sense as you read the book so as this is a thriller (and I hope some people will be afraid or disturbed at points in the story when they read it) I don’t want to give it away.
This is your first novel; can we look forward to more novels from your desk in the future?
Yes indeed, and I have to say that in this Year of the Tiger (and I am a tiger) and I will be 60 in October, I am living proof it is never too late. I have had the best start to this year and I feel a whole new chapter of my life (pun intended) unfolding. This the path I have carved out and I will slowly evolve into over time. I have a book tentatively called “Talking Tours” that is loosely based on a bus tour guide who was a friend of my who went all over Europe acting as a guide and his slow descent into hell until he is finally broken by a customer named Myriam. It’s a comedy. I call it “Of Human Bondage meets If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium”.
I also was prompted during a conversation with our CEO about an idea on immigration, climate change and the future. I doubt it will be so funny.
Is it hard to get published here in Luxembourg? How did you go about this?
I think it is hard to get published anywhere quite frankly. Luxembourg has a growing number of writing contests and more and more English is an accepted language. There is a great little book called The Moon of the Big Winds which was written by Claudine Muno. In 1996, this publication was a triple surprise for the Luxembourgish book market: the author was female (which was rare until then), she was 16 years old and she wrote in English, a language rarely used in Luxembourg literature. So anything is possible if you are dedicated and talented like Claudine. The publishing house that selected my book, Black Fountain Press has as their aim is to provide a platform for writers who choose to express themselves in English rather than in the traditional languages of Luxembourg. So this provides another forum. But you have to not only write your manuscript, but you also have to submit it and you have to accept the fact that you may be rejected (which happened to me and happens to many novelists famous and not so). You have to not only have the desire to write, but you also have the ability to be edited. After sending my novel out I shelved it for years and then resubmitted it. Two years of editing followed. So you have to be committed.
How did you manage to work full time & write a book?
It is not easy. One point I want to emphasize is that my work involves a lot of writing. This is a two-edged sword. I am constantly writing so my skills grow and I don’t get rusty. On the other hand you do not always feel like turning on your computer at the end (or beginning) of a long day. I read somewhere years ago that Monica Ali, the author of Brick Lane, an outstanding debut novelist, got up ridiculously early every morning and wrote for two hours even though she had children and a job. That stuck with me. Instead of waiting for her muse, as people often say, she forced that muse to get up at 4 am and inspire her until 6am. As I often say, a writer writes and this is how you write a book. Even an hour a day, but consistently, is better than trying to write too many hours but less often. You cannot let it eat into your work hours though because your job pays you salary and if you are like me to want to shine at your work so you effectively serve two masters. For some people this might be too much. For others, it is a fine balance- because you can forget work when you are not there and throw yourself into an imaginary world of your own making. There is a wonderful satisfaction in this. And it adds to the richness of life.
Any tips for would- be writers?
I have a few. In terms of practical tips I would say try to create a regular rhythm of writing every day or at certain times of the week. Try not to edit too much at first (that is the difference between pencil and word processor- with a pc you tend to edit). Write for yourself at first. Keep a diary. Look for accidental poetry in everyday things and listen to snippets of conversation. Inspiration is all around you. Definitely keep a dream book. But most of all, write, write, write. I know so many people who want to become a writer and feel they have a book inside them, well the only way to get it out is to write it.
Bio: Mary Carey (Dubrule) was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up in the Beaches neighbourhood on the shores of Lake Ontario. She is the seventh of eight children. Mary studied English and History at the University of Toronto as well as completing the one year Creative Writing programme at the Humber School for Writers. In 1991, she moved to Luxembourg where she raised her four sons but considers both sides of the pond home. She was a journalist for years (mainly Paperjam magazine) and has published hundreds of articles, as well as worked as a corporate writer for 20+ years and finance before that. She is currently the Media Relations and Editorial Senior Manager, PwC Luxembourg. In Luxembourg she started a writing group, which has gone on without her, where she co-edited and contributed to the anthology, Writing from a Small Country. Irresistible Blending is her first novel.