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Monday, November 28, 2011

"Sleeping with Patty Hearst" by Mary Lambeth Moore~Southern Gothic in 2011

Published by:  Tigress Publishing
Pages:  304
Genre:  Fiction, General

Synopsis :

As America debates its most famous kidnapping case of the 1970s, a divided family in North Carolina copes with its own missing person.  Lily Stokes searches for her half sister with help from her mother's boyfriend, a freewheeling man who likes Lily a little too much.  While keeping secrets at home and then escaping into an odd marriage, Lily takes an imaginative look at her mother's notorious past and her sister's surprising future.  "Sleeping with Patty Hearst" is a gripping coming-of-age story with edge and heart.

Mary Lambeth Moore is a North Carolina writer and editor who has lived in Washington, D.C., Boston and in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona. Her work has been published under the names of executives, CEOs, civil rights leaders and national commentators. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. She grew up and lives in NC. Sleeping with Patty Hearst is her first novel.

The Dame Interviews:

Mary, I have to say this is one of the most pleasurable interviews I've been priviledged to do. I simply adored your book and will be reviewing it below, but first I have lots of questions.  Thanks for indulging me!

When did you decide you wanted to be an author and when did you know you were one?

I wrote for a number of years—virtually every day—before I was comfortable calling myself a writer. Because I love books so much, the claim seemed audacious, like calling myself a princess or a movie star. But the urge to write came to me very early.  When I was in the third grade, I remember finding a slim red volume in the library titled “Someday You Will Be a Writer.”  It was like I had found a genie who knew my wish before I did. Until I read that little children’s essay, I don’t think I knew it was possible for an ordinary person to create something as amazing as a book. Of course now I know that writing is mostly hard work—even writing terrible prose is difficult. When the words come out exactly right (on the very rare day), it’s magic. I don’t know how else to describe it.

In Sleeping with Patty Hearst, it seems to me that all of your main characters are hiding something.

Yes! Each of the main characters has a secret lover, but most of them are secretly longing for someone else.  So the book is based on layers of secrets. One of the key themes is how hard it can be to talk honestly to the people closest to you. This is a story with multiple love stories—not only between the men and women, but also between mother and daughters and sisters. Throughout the entire book, my main character, Lily, is looking back, trying to come to terms with all she didn’t know about her mother and her half sister.

I remember when the whole world was shocked when the heiress Patricia Hearst announced she was joining her kidnappers.  How does the Patty Hearst case relate to your book?

In the book, my characters are fascinated by Patty Hearst, as I was when I was growing up.  During the Patty Hearst trial, there was intense debate about whether Patty was forced to commit crimes or acting on her own free will. When you’re sleeping with Patty Hearst, are you sleeping with a victim or a terrorist? You could have a similar debate about Lily and also her husband, Joseph. Both Lily and Joseph lack a strong sense of themselves, so they do the bidding of others. But Lily changes over time and, by the end, begins to grow into the strong woman she can become.

You’re happily married, a working mom, and a Sunday school teacher.  Was it difficult to write a book that focuses so much on illicit sex?

Henry Miller, the great novelist, once said something like, “The best work writers do, always, is when they’re on the verge of embarrassing themselves.”  While I was writing the book, I couldn’t allow myself to think of anyone else’s reaction—I just tried to be true to my characters. Now that the book is published, sometimes I feel awkward with readers who know me as a mom or as a colleague.  But in some ways this book is about sex—the connections and boundaries we have with other people—so there was no getting around it.

You grew up in a small North Carolina town during the 1970s.  How much of this is memoir?

I’m happy to say that all of the events in the book came from my head, but not directly from memory. Of course the book reflects much of what I knew at that time, and my fictitious town Carlington is very much like my hometown.  In the South, especially, the cultural changes of the 1960s were just beginning to seep into small towns during the ‘70s.  In the book, you can see the conflict playing out as some characters want to hold on to traditions and others are ready for change.

How long did you work on this book?

It's really impossible for me to say, exactly, but a long time. This book began as a short story that I wrote in the late 1980s. During that time and through the '90s, I was working on other stories, and also working at various jobs and doing things like getting married and having a child ... but I kept coming back to these characters.

What advice would you give new authors? 

Be fearless and take risks. To write a novel or to do any kind of creative work, you have to be fearless.  Not only about sex, but about everything – because a good writer is trying to get down to the bone, to things that really matter.  When a scene seemed too easy or comfortable for me, I knew I was probably missing the mark and needed to go deeper.

Thank you for your insightful interview, Mary.  I just want to share this one more thing with my readers: 

Right now when you buy a copy of Sleeping with Patty Hearst, you get 20% off AND a chance to win $125 to spend at your favorite independent bookstore!  See details at www.sleepingwithpattyhearst.com.

Also, with my readers' indulgence, I want to let you know that this book was a such a nostalgic read for me in a couple of ways; first, I'm a NC native from a small town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and secondly, because I, too, was a teenager/young adult during the Patty Hearst trials.

The beauty, however, of Sleeping with Patty Hearst  doesn't really lie in its locale or the historical setting, necessarily, but in the characters themselves.  It's so rare to meet simple characters that are hiding the complexities of real life...like we all are.  If you search your life, and you think of the lives of those you know most intimately, you'll know exactly the type of people you'll meet in the characters that reside in Mary Lambeth Moore's book.  Lily is like each of us who wonders who her mother really is.

Lily, although clearly the main character, is like each of those who inhabit this exceptional novel; a seeker of truth, a person who wants to lift the veils that keep love at arm's length so she can touch the "real" in those she loves.  As Lily and Connie ponder the Patty Hearst case and Patty's motivations, they look at their own captivity, their captors and their confusions about what love truly is.

I loved everything about this book.  Ms Moore is such an exceptional storyteller, but more than that, she has a way of couching earth-shattering events in the cotton of quiet madness; it takes us along until we feel the gut-level anxiety of it, and wonder when the roof's going to cave in!  After the dust settles, all the infinite pieces of emotion and life drift down on our heads and it's startling!   The anxiety and longing of some of her characters is palpable.

What a novel this one is.  And, I'm so glad it came into my hands.  I so urge you to get a copy.  I always try to give you an example of another author when I make a recommendation so you'll understand the similarity, not to take away from either author's individuality...  But, Mary Lambeth Moore writes in the vein of Southern storytellers.  She writes like a Carson McCullers.  She understands the mind of an adolescent and the difficulties of growing up and perhaps putting aside old dreams at any age.

5 stars for finding and keeping true love