Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Interview With Mary E. Pearson

Mary E. Pearson, author of the young adult book A Room On Lorelei Street, agreed to a Pop Goes the Library Interview.

A Room On Lorelei Street was my favorite book of 2005; more importantly, it was the winner of the 2005 Golden Kite Award for Fiction. and the winner of the 2005 JHunt Award for Young Adult Literature.

Pearson's other books include Scribbler of Dreams and David v. God.

Liz. B.: One of the things I love about A Room On Lorelei Street is the characters. They are so real -- flawed, strong, distinctive. Zoe breaks my heart; but also gives me hope. But the main character isn't the only one so fully realized -- its equally true of Zoe's mother, grandmother, and Opal. Do your characters come to you "fully formed", or do they become who they are during the revising process?

Mary: Oh no, nothing comes to me fully formed. I wish! But as I write I get to know the characters through “glimpses,” sort of like scenes in my head, or bits of dialogue I hear them saying. Some of this ends up in the book, but some doesn’t and is just my little insight into the character. Of course Mama, Grandma, and Opal are seen through Zoe’s eyes, but sometimes Zoe would show a side of them to me, that perhaps she didn’t even recognize herself. For me that is the fleshing out of those characters, the times I get to see another side to them. For instance, when Zoe walks in on Grandma who is sitting silently at the kitchen table, exhausted from a night of dealing with Mama, we see a woman who is spent and vulnerable. Once she sees Zoe the guard goes back up but for a few seconds we see that there may be more to Grandma than just the controlling woman Zoe sees. And for a moment, even Zoe wonders at the woman Grandma might have been once. For me, that is what makes characters real, seeing not just all the strengths or all the weaknesses, but the potential for both.

Liz B.: What are you working on now?

Mary: Currently I’m working on a near future book about a girl who has been in an accident and wakes up with no memory. This book has been a tremendous challenge since it requires fleshing out a character who, essentially, has no back story. In a typical story you know what the character wants, or what their past was that is propelling them forward. In this story, my character has none of that information, so for me as an author, it became an interesting challenge to develop this character who is trying to find the pieces of her old life while at the same time, build a new one. I am nearly done now, just trying to pull together all the threads that emerged in the course of writing it and I am hoping it will be done in time to be out in Spring 07.

Liz B.: How do you approach a new story?

Mary: Every story is different in how I approach it. Some of that probably has to do with the fact that every story requires a slightly different process because you do have a different characters, setting, and problems. But some of it, I’m sure has to do simply with how I have changed as a writer. Hopefully, we grow and try to stretch with each book. But one thing I have done with all my stories so far is make them simmer. I give them time to live in my head for a good amount of time before I even write the first word. The simmering story might just be a snippet of dialogue or an opening line or even a feeling I have–but if it can withstand the test of time, that is, keep nagging at me–then I figure this is a story that I can live with for the next one or two years. Living with a story and its characters for such a long time is a big commitment so I make sure the nagging is urgent and persistent enough for me to stick with it for the long haul.

Liz B.: What is your proudest "writer" moment?

Mary: Oh, that’s a hard one. There are lots of different kinds of proud writer moments–some that have to do with the writing, and some that come later and have to do with the reading. I think when I wrote the last line of A Room on Lorelei Street, it was a great moment for me. I had no idea if the manuscript would ever be published but at that precise moment that wasn’t the point–it was such a wonderful feeling to finally know the whole story and feel it was complete. I think typing those words “the end” is a proud moment for every writer because there are plenty of times in the course of writing a novel that you aren’t sure you will ever get there! Seriously!

Another kind of proud writer moment is one I have over and over again, when I get a letter from a reader who says, this is my story, or, how did you know what I was thinking?, or, my life is completely different and yet I feel the connections, thank you, and especially, you’ve given me something to think about. Those are the kind of thoughts I have when I finish a book that has really touched me or left an impression on me, so it makes me very proud to know that maybe something I have written has done the same for someone else. It is a very intimate, one-on-one kind of feeling, just between you and the reader.

And just winning the Golden Kite is way up there on the "proud moment" scale. I am still kind of stunned by that. But yes, very proud and very honored.

Liz B.: It's all about the Pop Culture here at Pop Goes the Library. What's your Pop Culture area of expertise?

Mary: Expertise? Ha! But a few pop culture areas where I indulge include, loving my ipod, feeling naked if I go out without my cell phone, and I know all the best phrases from Seinfeld: Close Talker, Newman!, I’m out, You’re really blowing my mind, No soup for you, You know how to make a reservation–you just don’t know how to keep a reservation (my favorite!), Stopping short (my husband’s favorite), Seinfeld, party of three? Spare a square, yada yada yada. Shall I go on? Hm, perhaps that’s my area of expertise after all? Maybe the dingo ate your baby . . .

Thank you very much!

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  • At 11:52 AM, Blogger Talelia said…

    Hi My name is Talelia Peoples from Gaffney, SC. I haven't, yet, had a chance to read "A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET" or "DAVID V. GOD", but I have read "SCRIBBLER OF DREAMS", and it is by far my favorite book. I can't wait to read the others, I know they will be just as intriguing. Keep writing

  • At 9:27 PM, Blogger cmonkey said…

    Hi...I was one of the judges on the Golden Kite the year Mary won for A Room on Lorelei Street. The poetry of the writing swelled my heart, the solitary strength of heroine gave me chills. It was my first pick of the 75 YA books I read as part of the awards process. Yay for Mary Pearson. And Yay for Liz B. for calling it out too.

    -Cara Haycak


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