Good morning everyone – I hope you are all having a lovely day!
Some of you may know that I shared my review of A Mentor and Her Muse, written by Susan Sage yesterday. Thank you to those that have had the opportunity to read the review. If you haven’t checked that out already and want to take a look, you can find that post (HERE)!
As always, I like to give authors a chance to have their own time to talk about their book; I think it is only fair, in fact. Susan has kindly dedicated some time to just that purpose, so thank you very much!
So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Susan, and what her thoughts are in reply to some questions I had after reading A Mentor and Her Muse:-
What or who was your greatest influence in terms of inspiration for the book?
Somewhere I read that a good way to write a book is to ask yourself a question of the ‘what if’ variety. Ever since seeing Thelma & Louise, I’ve enjoyed imagining various road trips. What if I wrote about one? Who would I select for the journey? I thought of a student at a school where I once worked. She was the impetus for Taezha. I didn’t know the student well, but she used to tell me about how she loved writing and wanted nothing more than to become an author when she grew up. Her future was a promising one. I’ve always wondered what became of her and can’t help but think that books and writing are still an important part of her life. That I was able to help foster her interest in literature helped me get up every morning and go to a stressful job in a public school in a poverty-stricken district. Also, my oldest sister was a teacher in the inner city of Detroit back in the late 1960s. I was very impressed by her caring and compassionate nature. She was the sort who went above and beyond with students. However, I don’t think she ever took a student on a road trip – at least not of the sort that Maggie took Tae on. More than half the fun of writing fiction is in taking biographical bits of those you know and transforming them into your own creations.
What is your Ideal time and place to write? Do you have a routine?
An ideal time and place would be to write in a large, book-lined home library/office while seated at a large mahogany desk. My ideal time would be after midnight. However, I’m a morning person, so in actuality, that’s when I get my best writing done. I do write in my home office, but it’s a small one. Lately, I only seem to be able to write in my somewhat broken down reclining chair. It overlooks a lovely, large Maple tree. Seems like I’ve always needed to be near a window when I write… I wish I had a better writing routine! Four days a week during the 9-month school year, I try to write in the evenings – usually for an hour or so. Doesn’t always happen…On my mornings off work, I spend the mornings writing and afternoons revising (that’s always my plan, anyway). I’ve always been the most productive in the summer.
Which character do I relate to the most and why?
It would have to be Maggie. Like me, she longs to spend most of her time writing, doesn’t like driving in traffic, and has insomnia. But she’s got way more issues than I do: she is haunted by her past. She doesn’t mind her life so much when she is mentoring and maybe imagining herself as a muse. While I enjoy mentoring, I don’t consciously think about becoming anyone’s muse! Also, her relationships with family and others are way different from my own. She felt way more judged by her parents and older sister than I ever did. She tries to lead a quiet life, but it doesn’t work out for her. What I like about my life right now is that it is a quiet one…Still, like Maggie, I need the stimulation of travel, of fully embracing life, even if that means having to feel all the bumps and potholes! The most autobiographical parts in the book are depicted in Maggie’s journals from her years growing up in Detroit.
Both Maggie and Tae are complex characters. What do you think is Maggie’s main motivation for taking Tae under her wing?
Maggie wants to rescue Tae from a life which she’s certain will not allow Tae to develop as a writer. She meets Tae at an incredibly lonely, difficult time in her life. Relationships with men haven’t worked out, she doesn’t have children, plus she’s going through menopause. Tae makes her feel alive like few others are able to, so Maggie is hardly an altruistic mentor. Still, she truly enjoys taking Tae places, especially to Tae’s first poetry reading or an art gallery. She doesn’t have any children, and as you find out later in the book, she discovers the pros and cons that go along with the role of parenting. At times I felt like Maggie had more to learn from Tae than Tae did from her. Hard to say who the real mentor was – who the real muse!
There are sensitive issues touched upon in the book, in particular the racial inequality and discrimination experienced in the not-too-distant past. What impact do you think this subject has on the book and on the characters within?
While Maggie was raised in Detroit, she went to a school where integration was forced: black students were bussed to the all-white school she attended. As a girl, she didn’t understand why blacks didn’t frequent an upscale department store. She lived a mile away from the Detroit riots. Although Maggie always lived near blacks, she was never a part of their world. She saw through the particular lens of white privilege. Decades pass and she finds herself trying to immerse herself in a world she thinks she understands. She is saddened by the poverty of the segregated area where she works in Flint. Maggie would like nothing better than to rescue Tae from feeling the slightest hint of discrimination, and of course, she can’t. She struggles with being a privileged, liberal white woman. Her journal entries show not only her awareness of racial inequality but her attempt to deal with white guilt which carries over into Flint in 2012: she has naïve hopes that by taking Tae on a summer road trip she’ll be able to release herself from the burden. She is surprised by the looks she and Tae get in restaurants; she hasn’t thought through how Tae will feel in the all-white lodge in Hocking Hills. She doesn’t understand Quintana very well, nor Quintana’s reaction to her. Early on, Tae has little regard for Quintana or her ‘sisters’ (except the sickly Tamala). She wants to be free of the difficulties of living in poverty, of being bi-racial. When she realizes the cost of being controlled by Maggie, both on the road and even once they are living with Tyler, Tae re-evaluates her relationship with Quintana and realizes some of the positives. Quintana wants to place her trust in Maggie, but Maggie betrays her by absconding with Tae. You wonder when or if she’ll ever open her door again to a white woman!
A Mentor and Her Muse is an enjoyable journey with an array of complex, but equally relatable characters.
For anyone interested in obtaining a copy of the book, you can find the required links below:-