Mary L. Tabor
Fresh, quirky and delightful, (Re)Making Love: A Sex After Sixty Story, is brutally honest while giving hope that passion doesn’t need to end after a certain age. Tabor takes the reader from Washington, DC to Missouri to Australia and eventually to Paris, a visit that offers a stunning surprise—one that changed the author’s life.
Mary L. Tabor had been married for twenty-one years when her husband announced to her, “I need to live alone.” Already grief stricken by the deaths of her mother, sister and then father, the news threw Tabor into a tailspin of impetuous acts, the good, the bad and the foolish.
In this deeply personal memoir, Tabor wholeheartedly shares her journey, all after age sixty, proving it’s never too late to find love—and oneself.
Readers will find hope in a story that gives new meaning to romantic comedy.
The American adult woman is featured in this debut collection of stories about love, adultery, marriage, passion, death, and family. There is a subtle humor here, and an innate wisdom about everyday life as women find solace in cooking, work, and chores. Tabor reveals the thoughts of her working professional women who stream into Washington, D.C., from the outer suburbs, the men they date or marry, and the attractive if harried commuters they meet. One woman fantasizes about the burglar who escaped with her deceased mother’s jewelry.
In another story, the protagonist uncovers her husband’s secret: his pocket mirror and concealer do not belong, as she had feared, to a mistress but rather are items he uses to hide his growing bald spot. Revealed here are the hidden layers of lives that seem predictable but never are. Reading Tabor’s wry tales, one has the sense of entering the private lives of the women you see everyday on your way to work.
Mary L. Tabor’s short story collection The Woman Who Never Cooked won Mid-List Press’s First Series Award. An excerpt of her new memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story is forthcoming in the poet Ravi Shankar’s eZine Drunken Boat: http://www.drunkenboat.com/
Her memoir can be found here: http://sexaftersixtybook.com/. Her fiction and essays have appeared recently in the anthology Electric Grace, Paycock Press, The Missouri Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Image, the Mid-American Review, River City, Chelsea, Hayden’s Ferry Review, American Literary Review. She has taught at The Smithsonian’s Campus-on-the-Mall, George Washington University and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.
Click for the interview:
What age group is you book geared toward?
You’d think from the title and me that older women would be my audience, and indeed they are, but the surprise has been that young women and men of all ages respond to the book because I am interrogating myself about commitment and intimacy.
Into which genre would you say your book falls?
I’ve written a memoir that deals with separation: Woman gets dumped, craters, tries to figure out what happened and ends up figuring out herself.
Tell us a little about your book?
(Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story is about my journey after my 21-year marriage crashed and burned when my husband “D.” announced, so Greta Garbo, “I need to live alone.” I cratered, then embarked on a relentless dash through the hazards of Internet dating, the loving, the illusions, and through it all a hard look at my foibles, whimsy, desolations, and in the end indomitable hope when all was hopeless. The key to my recovery is and continues to be the search to answer the question, Who am I? and how do I become whole again with or without the man I love? I am gifted by the journey of the living and the writing that became this true story.
What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?
Sure. Here’s Chapter 1 of my brand-new memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story:
I Need to Live Alone
I love romantic comedies: weep over them, quote their dialogue without attribution in conversation as when I am with a man who says he wants to be friends with me, “You actually believe that men and women can be friends?”
When Harry Met Sally: Harry: “What I’m saying is—and this is not a come-on in any way, shape, or form—is that men and women can’t be friends, because the sex part always gets in the way.”
I collect music scores of Rom-Coms, buy the DVDs and watch them over and over again. Now sure, the appeal to me and others is this: girl meets boy and LOVE results, inexorable, indomitable, irrefutable, life-changing LOVE.
I was sixty years old when my husband—let’s refer to him as D.—dumped me—old story, I know. But wait, as the commercials for fancy French Fry cutters say.
I begin writing about my separation from D. on August 25, my parents’ anniversary. They were married fifty-four years. Can you believe it? I am alone and reading The New York Times in my condo where I live now. I find this: AP report, dateline: Chamonix, France (Isn’t that where Cary meets Audrey in Charade’s first scene? “Can’t he do something constructive like start an avalanche or something?” Reggie, played by Audrey Hepburn asks Silvie after young Jean Louis shoots her in the face with his water gun. Jean Louis shoots Peter, played by Cary Grant, as well.) The AP reports on an avalanche that “swept down a major summit in the French Alps before dawn on Sunday, leaving eight climbers missing and presumed dead along a trail often used to reach Mont Blanc . . . . One survivor, Marco Delfini, an Italian guide, said he saw ‘a wall of ice coming towards us, and then we were carried 200 meters.’ An injured survivor Nicholas Duquesnes, told Agence France-Presse, ‘There was absolutely no noise; it was very disturbing. We only had time to swerve to the right before being mowed down.’ ”
I had been married twenty-one years when D. announced, “I need to live alone.” Oh so Greta Garbo. There was absolutely no noise. I was sixty years old and had been chasing him around the bedroom—to no avail—for ten years. Bill Maher in a comedy routine on HBO not so long after he had been dumped by ABC only to arise again with Politically Incorrect, said in a joke about older women, “menopause.” Get it? Men A Pause. Yeah, I got it.
The French Fry Cutter salesman raises his voice on the commercial in my head: “But wait, there’s more”: I decide to date. I want a man who believes that men and women in love must be friends. But Harry is right that the sex part matters.
The hell with Bill Maher.
Have your characters or writing been inspired by friends/ family or by real-life experiences?
This is my life, or let’s say, a big part of it—the loving and living-live part—close-to-the-bone, I pull no punches.
Can you sum the book up in one sentence?
A love story where a series of men appear–all identified as a lower-case first initial–while the upper-case D. weaves out and in, as both he and I maneuver through the separation, a journey where you’ll find Internet dates, emails, T.S. Eliot and Nietzsche, romantic comedies and the Grimm Brothers, photographs, recipes, dreams, the Obamas, and yes, even the kitchen sink.
Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
D., for what he did that made me broke my heart and for what he did that gave me courage. As I say in the book’s acknowledgements, “Oddly enough, this book would not have happened if D. had not left me and sent me on my journey.”
So “D” is your ex-husband? How does he feel about that?
D. in the memoir is my ex. To find out how he feels, you will have to read the book.
Excellent answer! So, which comes first for you – characters or plot?
All my writing begins with a character. Henry James in his preface to The Ambassadors talks of the novel’s “strong stake.” I think what he means is that we must know the trouble that drives the character, but the strong stake is ultimately the fullness of that character’s life on the page. In his preface to The Golden Bowl, he admits how he inexorably chooses to move closer. “There is no other participant, of course, than each of the real, the deeply involved and immersed and more or less bleeding participants….”
Who is your publisher and where are your books available? Are there e-books and hard copies available?
My publisher is new, Kelly Abbott of 3ones, Inc. The book is available on Amazon for the Kindle and soon as a paperback there and at other online bookstores—I hope—by January 10. For now, you can find the paperback, the pdf and the Sony Nook versions at http://sexaftersixty.book.com My first book The Woman Who Never Cooked, Mid-List Press 2006, is available on Amazon and elsewhere.
Are there any upcoming signings or appearances you’d like to mention?
I am planning a blog tour and would like to do interviews, or book club visits. Contact me, please, at email@example.com Something else is happening in mid-January. I’ll e-mail you as soon as that occurs.
Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone?
I don’t have an agent—and I need one. Maybe it’s time for me to actively look for one—something I’ve not yet done. Kelly Abbott found the book that I was writing as a blog, liked it and offered to publish it. Going with a new publisher required a leap of faith on my part. I guess time will tell whether I was wise or foolish. My first book won a contest: Mid-List Press’s First Series Award. This independent literary press has spent the last thirty years looking for new voices.
What marketing have you been doing to help sales?
I’m on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mary-Tabor/125813534105239 and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/maryltabor and I have a website at http://maryltabor.com/ I have to admit that this is the hardest part of the journey, but I am learning all the time and have met wonderful soulful folk who have loved the book and told me so—many even have tried to help me sell it by tweeting about it or inviting me to their blogs or interviewing me. To these good people I give my heart.
What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
When I wake or after a nap.
Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
I journal all the time—so that’s paper. But when I sit down to put a narrative together, I work on my beloved Mac in my office where quiet and solitude reign. And I mean I love my Mac. I like to say that the living person I would most like to have dinner with is Steve Jobs.
What do you draw inspiration from?
From looking. And I do mean always looking, even when I’m sleeping. And I paint, but I never show that work.
Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
That sounds like something I should do, but the oughts and shoulds have never worked well for me. Most important to me is simply showing up in front of the page, blank—or better, not so blank. I once read—this may be apocryphal—that Hemingway always left one sentence unfinished so that in the morning he had that place to begin. The painter and sculptor Roy Lichtenstein said he always had more than one canvas going in his studio. This works for me in the writing sense.
What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?
I write to understand. It is a search that gives meaning to my life. I admit freely that I have few answers and often define myself by saying, “I’m confused.” I’d be satisfied with that epitaph and hope that my friends would understand it to be the statement of one whose search continued until death.
What are you working on now that you can talk about?
I am writing what I refer to as a “blended memoir,” the story of my mother’s and my father’s family of the way their history of displacement (pogroms that preceded the Holocaust in Poland and Russia) have invaded my life. I am interviewing everyone still alive in my family and discovering the meaning of these stories in my own journey for understanding. You can read the germ of this idea, “Absent” here: http://maryltabor.blogspot.com/2010/04/time-limits.html
What is your writing process like? Do you do a lot of background research? Do you plot every detail or do you prefer the characters to move the story in new directions, or a combination of both?
I’m always reading and researching. Everything I read becomes part and parcel of the journey of understanding. But most deeply I believe the “not knowing” drives my work. If I know where I’m going, the story, whether it be memoir or fiction, no longer interests me.
Do you belong to a critique group?
No. I had that experience while I earned my MFA—and that was well worth it. Now, I rely on one or two chosen writer friends who pull no punches.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It took a lifetime to write The Woman Who Never Cooked. (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story I wrote live as a blog over two years while I lived the experience.
How did you get into writing? Did you always want to become a writer?
A piece I recently wrote, “Why I came to writing so late” gives the answer to that q.: a complicated and hard answer that can be read here: http://maryltabor.blogspot.com/2010/12/why-i-came-to-writing-so-late.html
What mistakes do you see new writers make?
As a teacher, I see that new writers don’t realize how important the small moment is and they fear writing close-to-the-bone. Here’s what I mean: I like to say that writers say the unsayable. If you want to write fiction or memoir that matters, you are going to have to take risks. You are going to have to tell the story that nobody tells, the story that is the underbelly of your generalities. The story that is hard to write, that cuts to the bone, the way a secret cuts to the bone. This is scary stuff to do. But here’s some advice from Eudora Welty: “One can only say: writers must always write best of what they know, and sometimes they do it by staying where they know it. But not for safety’s sake. Although it is in the words of a witch—or the more because of that—a comment of Hecate’s in Macbeth is worth our heed: ‘Security is mortal’s chiefest enemy.’ In fact, when the we think in terms of the spirit, which are the terms of writing, is there a conception more stupefying than that of security? Yet writing what you know has nothing to do with security: what is more dangerous? How can you go out on a limb if you do not know your own tree? No art ever came out of not risking you neck. And risk—experiment—is a considerable part of the joy of doing, which is the lone, simple reason all writers of serious fiction are willing to work as hard as they do.” That’s from Welty’s book The Eye of the Story. Read it.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Don’t give up and value the small journal. It took Faulkner thirteen years to see his first short story in print. And he sent to the literary journals. You may say, “Literary Magazines: Why bother?” I say the “little” magazines and eZines take more risks than the slicks or higher circulation journals—and this is so in print and on the Internet where I think the world lives now. Some of those risks pay off in Best American; not often, but sometimes. Let’s talk Faulkner again: He published “That Evening Sun Go Down” in 1931 in The American Mercury (now gone)—in those early pages we are introduced to some of the Compsons who make up The Sound and the Fury. Faulkner’s first short story in a national magazine was the still widely anthologized “A Rose for Emily.” It appeared in Forum (now gone) in 1930. Both magazines rejected earlier stories. And the rest is history. I will say more about this in a new blog post soon.
What is your website and/or blog where readers can learn more? Can they friend you on Facebook or Twitter?
Of course. Contacts below. I have two Facebook pages. Hit “like” here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mary-Tabor/125813534105239 and then find my friend page.