Today we have SBR Martin, who is not a pig, but did write the book. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
My email signature reads:
author, journalist, and mother
So I guess these are the three things everybody should know about me. I am an author. I am a journalist. I am a mother. I’m a lot of other things, too, but let’s not get into all that right now. I list these three things in my signature because they are my callings. They are the three things I was meant to be, the three things I am.
What is one thing that almost nobody knows?
Well, I’m a married lady. Everybody knows that. What a lot of people don’t know is that it was I who popped the question.
I proposed to my husband when we were partying like rockstars at Thunder in the Valley, an annual biker rally held in Johnstown, PA. I don’t know many married couples who started out this way, where the lady got down on her knees. I thought it was an interesting occurrence, a twist on the common approach. So I tossed this fact into my fiction.
In â€œpig,â€ the main female character proposes to her man, much like I proposed to mine. But the circumstances surrounding their storybook engagement are entirely different than those surrounding mine.
Incorporating a real life event into my work is something I do from time to time. Where fact is stranger than fiction, I use it to my advantage. I take a tiny bit or reality and spin it into an elaborate, exaggerated, fictitious yarn.
What’s the best part about living in Pittsburgh?
My home. Believe it or not, I’ve lived in the same house since I was born. When I went to the University of Pittsburgh for undergrad, I stayed in the dorms for a while, shacked up with a fellow for a year or so, but those places were just rest-stops on my life’s road, a road which always led back to where I’m sitting right now.
Once upon a time, I was the little kid running around this house, breaking all the rules, tearing everything apart. Now I’m the parent here, the one trying to exercise controlâ€”raising my voice, making the rules, and cleaning up all the messes. At times, it’s somewhat surreal.
My father had a heart attack in this houseâ€”the heart attack that killed him. My mother’s heart failed here as well, when she fell on the basement floor, attacked by sickness inside her body. Congestive heart failure. Our Chihuahua crawled to sit atop her distended belly as we bustled to call the paramedics. Several hours later my Mama was dead.
It was in this home that I took care of my grandmother as she was dying, and it was in this home that I woke up at 4:15 a.m. on a June morning to find her dead. She’d died that exact moment, the moment I woke up.
But it was also in this home that I had oodles of birthday parties and found excessive amounts of presents under the Christmas tree. My mother left me notes and poems on the bathroom mirror, one of which I included in my first novel, â€œin wake of water.â€ My father sang me lullabies. My sister and I played on the front porch. And, here, right here, is where I brought my newborn babies home as an adult. I walked through the door with my children the exact same way my parents must’ve walked through the door with me.
This house is alive with what life is. It’s seen loss. It’s seen gain. It has become an accessory to my existence, a brick box that stores all of my memories and holds a future yet untold.
As per Pittsburgh itself, it’s a great city, and it’s all I know. I live close to the heart of the â€˜Burghâ€”20 minutes from this, that, and the other place. I know the streets, the neighborhoods, and the personalities they hold. Living here is familiar and convenient for me. And, hey, we got a stellar football team. Go Steelers!
Do you have any strange writing practices or quirks?
Indeed, I do. I read most of what I writeâ€¦ out loud. I like my writing to have a certain rhythm or meter to it; it has to sound a certain way when recited or I won’t use it.
I’ve been told before that I speak this way, that there’s some type of tempo to my talk. And I try to put that into my work. I imagine myself as the narrator. I am the one telling you the secrets, the one letting you know what’s really going on. My voice reveals what’s between the lines.
Grammar and punctuation are the tools I use to bring my talk to my text. Those commas? That’s where I pause. Those complex sentence structures? That’s where I shift the speed of my conversational machine. I break some conventional rules of syntax here and thereâ€”and it’s all for the sake of semantics, my friend. I want my books to be lively and have a spirit that cannot be overlooked. So I try to put as much of myself into each book as I can, in hopes that my readers will read more than mere words.
And, for the record, I just read my response to this question aloud. I think it sounded pretty good.
What are a couple of your favorite novels? (Doesn’t have to be the top two per se)
My favorite book of all time (so far) is â€œGrendelâ€ by John Gardner. I love the story, but love the writing even more. Another favorite is â€œWicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the Westâ€ by Gregory Maguire. The story is so intense. The plot is so thick. I really enjoyed every aspect of that novel.
These two books, my two favorites, share a common theme. They both reinvent antagonists from other works. â€œGrendelâ€ is written from the perspective of the beast in the 8th century epic poem, â€œBeowulf.â€ And â€œWickedâ€ centers on Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in â€œThe Wizard of Oz.â€ Both works look at characters who were dismissed as â€œbad guysâ€ in the original works in which they appeared. They were characters who didn’t get a lot of attention in the first placeâ€”all that was shown was the trouble they caused. But each of these books steps into an already-established literary world and takes a closer look. As you read these masterpieces, you discover that these â€œbad guysâ€ aren’t really all that bad after all. They have redeeming qualities, extenuating circumstances, and struggles of their own. You get a full picture, a well-rounded perspective.
This is something that I have carried into my own writing. There are some flawed characters in my tomes. But, just as they are flawed, so too they are gifted with some good. I try to make my characters as believable and sincere as possible. To do so, I must tell the whole story. Humans have peaks and pits in their personalities and behaviors. We are heroes and villains alike. I want my readers to see both of these sides in my characters, to feel compassion for the antagonist once in a while, or to feel disgust at the protagonist when she steps out of line. My books don’t have â€œgood guysâ€ and â€œbad guys.â€ They have characters that will strike you as surprisingly real.
I see on your many pages around the net that you went to law school. Were you ever a lawyer?
Nope. I realized, at some point in my second year of law school, that I did not want to practice law. But I finished school, mostly to finish something I’d started.
I had the degree, but nothing to do with it. Then life stepped in. My Gramma was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and I spent my time caring for her. After that horrific ordeal, I found a man, got married, and had two precious babies who’ve brought me tremendous joy.
I learned a lot from law school about reading and writing, and it was my experiences as an editor and contributor to Pitt Law’s Journal of Law and Commerce that got me hired for freelance writing gigs. I soon developed a fat portfolio of articles with media outlets such as AOL’s Patch Network and CBS Local Media Pittsburgh.
So I ain’t a lawyer, but the law school thing helped me get where I am. I’m grateful for the time I spent there, not so much for the money though.
â€œPigâ€ is a cross-genre novel of contemporary psychological fiction. It’s the story of a woman named Lily who’s lived a life filled with ups and downs. From domestic abuse and alcohol addiction to motherhood and amazing sexual encounters, she’s seen it all and bore both misery and redemption each in her own special way.
The entire novel takes place at her husband Bender’s funeral, where she sits alone on a couch in the corner, desperately clinging to a scrap of paper she refuses to reveal. It’s that same scrap of paper that holds the truth about what really happened the night her husband suffered his fatal â€œaccident.â€ And it is through flashbacks invoked by the familiar faces of funeral home patrons that the rest of Lily’s story and secrets unfoldâ€”including a very big secret that’ll make your jaw drop.
What should I have asked you about, if only I knew you well enough to ask?
You don’t have to know me well to ask about this. All you’d have to do is read through my answers to the previous questions to see that I’m partial to something that’s nowadays disfavored.
The serial commaâ€”I love it! I’m a strong proponent of its perpetual use.
I employ the serial comma in my fiction, and in my multi-site online presence. I do not, however, use it in my journalism assignments. I’m not allowed to, as the Associated Press Stylebook condemns its usage except where why-so used for clarity in a complex series.
Kinda irks me a little, having to change something that I consider an integral part of my style so that I can conform to an official Style. But I gotta follow the rules sometimes to get that paycheck, right? I don’t think that’s selling out. It’s just making ends meet by doing what’s expected. Rest assured though, when I’m not under somebody else’s thumb, I stick that puppy in there every chance I get!
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