Bill Gordon, Mary After All
I absolutely loved Mary After All. It was one of those cases where I didn't want the book to end because I had some much invested in the character of Mary Nolan. She is a woman learning about life and love, living in Jersey City, New Jersey during the 60' and 70's.
From page one I was taken with Mary's no-nonsense demeanor and her way of telling a story. Bill Gordon writes impressively as a woman- the only other author I know who can pull off that feat is Wally Lamb.
I know some people enjoy light books, others read chick-lit and some of you look for a literary masterpiece to sink your teeth into. This book combines all those elements and the result is the the best of all worlds.
How did you manage to write so convincingly from a woman’s point of view?
I used to be a playwright so writing “in-voice,” whether for a man or awoman, was simply part of the job. I also did stand-up comedy for sometime, and again, when doing characters, being in-voice was pretty essential.Or maybe the inclination to write or speak in the voice of a character iswhat drew me to things like playwriting and stand-up in the first place.Either way, I do think those experiences helped me write this novel.
What words would you use to describe Mary? 'Honest' comes to mind.
Ah, so you’ve read closely: she calls herself “honest to a fault,” even as she’s about to book numbers and deceive (within reason) the people around her. But I agree: she is honest. Her intentions are pure, her stakes are high, and she does what she has to do. The word “dignity” also comes to mind, along with an old-fashioned word (one more from Mary’s generation than my own): “character.” Both have to do, I think, with taking a good, hardlook at yourself and your circumstances, owning responsibility where it’s appropriate, and then moving on.
Mary’s disappointments come early and they are profound but she doesn’t waste time feeling sorry for herself, which I think would be pretty easy in her situation. And she doesn’t choose some morally convenient path where she’s abusing the people who have let her down, simply because they have done awful things to her. By the end of the book, I would say she’s “successful,” and part of what defines that success, in my opinion, is the fact that she can look back on the path she took and still look at herself in the mirror. (Even with the full knowledge that she kicked the woman who slept with her husband down a flight of stairs!)
Do you know there aren't any real diners in southern California where I live? Not like diners out in New Jersey anyway.(Dennys is NOT a diner!) Why do you think diners are such an east coast phenomenon?
No diners? You’ll have to move back, Cindy! Next you’ll tell me you have no krullers. (Bill- not like the real ones deep- fried with a thick crust like out in the east- Mickey's Donuts to be exact. And it's taken me three years to find a decent bagel, still searching for good pizza!)
I am sure there is an actual history of the emergence of diners in our culture, and in particular the East Coast. But in my amateur, Jersey-City-to-Manhattan opinion, it may have to do with the sheer densityof the population here – the need for a bunch of people in a fast-paced town to eat at the time… often, a place they can walk to… or pull right off the side of the road to… and eat cheaply. No pretense. No time to wait.
As an aside: I have often found that diner waitresses are among the nicest people in the world: real modern day saints... working all hours, accepting all kinds.
How long did it take you to find an agent for the book? How do you deal with rejection? As a writer its so difficult to face rejection, at least for me. What about you?
From the time I wrote the first chapter of MARY long hand in my journal until the time it hit the book stands was eight years. I was not looking for agent when I found one, which is probably why that part of the process happened somewhat easily: a friend who I’d helped in the past made a good suggestion, and it happened pretty fast, as did the sale, thankfully. The writing and editing took much longer. As for rejection, I don’t deal with it well, and it never gets any easier; I just try to keep it in perspectiveand not let it throw me too far, or set me back wildly.
Are you currently writing your next novel?
Absolutely. I am deeply immersed. It is just forming.
Do you watch television, go the movies? What do you do when you aren't writing?
I love movies. They transport me more completely than books typically can,and what’s more, the trip is more delimited, in most cases to no more than two hours. But books linger longer in my mind, for the most part – and I doubt I am unique in that. They offer the greater pay off (I think) when the match between you and the book is right. On television, I tend to watch the various HBO series and the news. I also ride my bike a lot. And I eat at a lot of restaurants; that’s mostly how I socialize. I’m not a “club”person.
Are you surprised at the fantastic reviews the book is getting? To be an US Weekly Hot Book Pick isn't too shabby!
Thank you. Getting good reviews is gratifying – absolutely. It’s my first novel, so there is still a sense of awe about the process. The funny part is that some critics seem to review the book as though Mary wrote it herself. US listed it as “feisty female fiction,” for instance – which I suppose isa compliment to me... but sometimes I’m like, Hey, Wait a minute...
Who would play Mary in the movie version, and has movie talk been simmering?
There has been some interest and some talking – yes. But no deal just yet. Who could play Mary? I get asked this sometimes at readings, and I turn the question back to the audience -- whom people might suggest; the answers tell me a bit about what part of Mary’s life jumped out or lingered most for the person answering.
For instance, last week someone said, Lorraine Bracco. I think that person came away with a strong sense of Mary in her later years, toward the end of the book. A lot of people say Marisa Tomei – and I sense they identify more with Mary at about 30 (in Hollywood years). I have no idea. Who do you think????? (My vote goes to Brittany Murphy or Drew Barrymore!)
What’s next for you?
I want to get a first draft of my second novel done!!!!!