I know I promised you Part 2 of our interview with Mary Anderson last week, but I was off learning the meaning of “unforeseen circumstances.” Without further wait, here’s Mary with Xe Sands, narrator of Step on a Crack:
Xe Sands: First, I just want to say what an honor it was to work on Step on a Crack with you, Mary. I feel a personal connection with this story and the characters who inhabit it, and hope that it will now reach a new generation of readers via its release on audio.
During the proofing process, according to nursing home abuse law firm, an interesting discussion arose regarding how severe the level of abuse was, and subsequently, how realistic it was that Sarah would/would not forgive Katrin. I was surprised to find that some perceived the abuse as relatively mild. How did the level of abuse strike you? Are you surprised that some readers find it relatively forgivable?
Mary Anderson: Yes, I hope this audio book will reach an entirely new generation.
Judging from the fan mail I received when the book was published, readers were genuinely moved by the secret in Sarah’s past and didn’t consider she had merely suffered mild abuse. Clearly, this incident had affected her entire future life. When I was writing this part of the book, I was totally emotionally involved when Sarah began to remember that traumatic incident in her childhood. I grew so upset, I cried. And I also cried when I heard your narration of that portion, Xe. Nothing like that had ever happened to me, but I feel it was a serious example of how a child can be irrevocably damaged.
XS: Something that struck me is how, despite her complete trust in her mother, Sarah would not confide in her. I thought back to my own childhood and realized that in a similar situation, I did the same, despite our close relationship. Is this a theme that you were exploring in Step on a Crack? How do you think mother/child relationships have changed since the years the book was written?
MA: Sarah does explain why she can’t confide in her mother. They have had a wonderful relationship all their lives so she can’t bring herself to believe her mother could possibly be the cause of her psychological pain and fear. In fact, it would make more sense for her to believe she was going crazy, rather than accept that as a reality.
Mother/daughter relationships? Goodness, I think they’re all over the map – some good/some bad/some wonderful/some horrible. I don’t think that will ever change. I consider myself blessed that all my daughters are my best friends but I’m sure they must’ve kept things secret from me as they were growing up. On some level, separating emotionally is part of growing up and deep down, Sarah knows she must solve this problem herself, no matter how scary the prospect.
XS: I think as readers, we want to hate Katrin for her actions and choices and yet I suspect most readers cannot. What was your intent with Katrin – what were you hoping to achieve with her character, and our reluctant compassion for her?
MA: Thanks for noting this. I’m glad you find it hard to hate Katrin. She’s also a victim of circumstance. It’s always helpful in life to remember that most people are trying hard to do the best job they can, even though some of them often fall short or fail entirely. Remembering this can help us all overcome the bad experiences of our own childhood. In essence, there are no villains here. Listening to your wonderful narration and subtle understanding of the characters in this story emphasizes that.
XS: One of the aspects I most enjoyed about Step on a Crack is that it remains true to its intent without attempting to shock the reader into understanding of the horror of the situation. How do you feel this work compares with current young adult fiction?
MA: I’d have to think about this a bit harder, but what I’d really love to see is a collection of fiction that seemed meant to be read out loud in the first place: A lot of fiction technically works in audiobook format, but not every writer is as alive to the acoustic possibilities of their prose as perhaps they should be. I think there are some really great fiction writers who just beg to be read out loud on every page, and Iambik would be smart to snatch up their books and match them with narrators who could really make their books sing.
Miette Elm: Mary, I know you’ve done a lot of reading aloud of your fiction and that of other authors. Were you nervous about turning over your text to outside narrators? What was your biggest concern in doing so, and how do you feel about the final products?
MA: I had two concerns. I was afraid I wouldn’t like listening to the voice of the narrator or that she wouldn’t totally empathize with the story. Happily, I didn’t need to worry about either of those things. Xe and Elizabeth did great jobs bringing Sarah and Reggie to life and I listened to both books with extreme pleasure and excitement. I ‘d never heard them read aloud (nor had I gone back to read through them myself) so it was like coming to them anew. Honestly, at times I wondered what would happen next and how it would all turn out! I love the way both Xe and Elizabeth allowed the characters to grow and become more aware as the stories unfolded. They conveyed so much of that in their interpretations.
ME: Do you listen to many audiobooks? What are some of your favourites?
MA: Absolutely. I listen to tons of audio books and I’m a very critical listener. If I don’t like the reader’s voice, I don’t continue the book because I feel marrying the book and the reader are essential. My favorites? Well, I’m a sucker for mysteries and the classics. I love Lawrence Block, Agatha Christie, Somerset Maugham, Margaret Atwood. For children’s books, some of my favorites are George Selden, Russell Hoban, Robert C. O’Brien.
ME: It’s amazing how many times I’ve mentioned your books to someone, only to have him or her exclaim “Oh, I loved that book, and had forgotten what it was called!” Who are some other authors of sharp, intense fiction for young people whose work from the 1970s and 1980s is no longer in print? In other words, who else should we be publishing that we’re not?
ME: It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Mary Anderson book on the shelves. Are you currently working on a writing project? If so, what can you tell us about it?
MA: Miette, thanks for asking. Wow, don’t get me started because I could talk forever about my current project which I’ve been writing for several years. It’s an historical/theatrical/mystery/ thriller spanning 400 years, involving many famous Elizabethans, famous contemporary actors, other historical figures, actual events, secret societies and unsolved murders. These serial killings which take place outside theatres also span 400 years. Although there’s lots of researched historical information, the major part of the book takes place in the 1980’s in New York City. Most importantly, it follows my most important criteria … it’s a book I can’t wait to read myself!