Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ten Questions from Tara: Interview with Mary Rowen

Tara: Welcome. You’re here to promote Leaving the Beach, a women's fiction. Tell me, please, what was the inspiration behind this story? How did it come to you?

For those wondering, here's the BLURB for Leaving the Beach. Mary is going to tell us more about it below.

Written with heart and keen observation about the day-to-day struggles of a “functioning bulimic,” Leaving the Beach explores the power of fantasy, then shoves it up against harsh reality until something has to give in this women’s novel set on the sandy beaches of Winthrop, Massachusetts.

Meet Erin Reardon, a lonely bulimic woman who believes she’s fated to save grunge music superstar Lenny Weir. Forget the fact that Lenny reportedly killed himself several years earlier; Erin’s not the only fan to believe his death was a hoax, a last-ditch effort by the drug-addled musician to reclaim his privacy. And Erin has felt a special bond with Lenny for years. So when she gets picked up hitchhiking by a mysterious man who resembles Lenny physically, she makes some quick assumptions. After all, he has extensive knowledge of the music industry, there’s a guitar in his trunk, and he has issues with drugs. She’s finally about to fulfill her destiny…

Mary: Thank you, Tara, for having me! The short answer is that Leaving the Beach is about a bulimic woman who’s obsessed with music, and I’m a huge music fan who was bulimic for fifteen years. So I really wanted to write a story that featured a character with an eating disorder. However, I don’t consider Leaving the Beach to be an “issue” story, as the eating disorder is only part of the character’s personality. There’s a longer answer too, and if you’re interested, feel free to check out my blog post about the night the story was conceived. It’s a little sad and a little romantic.

Tara: We focus a lot on heroines here on Book Babe. Tell me what makes your heroine strong.

Mary: Erin Reardon, my heroine, needs to find her inner strength; this is one of the story’s main themes. We see glimpses of it in almost every chapter, but her fears and insecurities are very powerful too.

Tara: Inner strength is so important, more important than physical. Do you see any of yourself in her?

Mary: Yes, because of my history with eating disorders and passion for music. But Erin isn’t me. Her life and adventures are all hers.

Tara: What makes her sexy?

Mary: At the beginning of the story, Erin doesn’t feel sexy, physically or otherwise. Again, that’s all about her insecurities. As the story progresses, however, her sexuality becomes more apparent to the people around her. She’s an attractive, curvy woman, but none of that matters until she begins to feel more confident in herself.

Steven Van Zandt, from Wiki Commons
Tara: What kind of research did you do when you penned this novel? Did anything surprising come up in your search?

Mary: Well, since most of the story is set in Winthrop, Massachusetts—a town where I lived for about ten years after college—I did a lot of research on it. I was very surprised to learn that Sylvia Plath had once lived there, as did Little Steven (Steven Van Zandt, the actor and musician).

Tara: What would you like readers to gain from reading your book? Is there a strong moral? Do you hope they will laugh, learn something, ponder a point? 

Mary: Honestly, when I started it, I hoped it’d be a compelling story about a woman faced with many challenges who overcomes at least some of them. But as I was writing, I also realized that it might be helpful to people with eating disorders. And some people have told me it’s taught them a lot about bulimia. So I guess maybe people will take different things from it.

Tara: Now let’s talk about your hero. What draws the heroine to him? Is he based on a real man in your life by any chance?

Mary: That’s a tough question because the hero is…well, let me just say that he’s hard to define. Certainly he’s very flawed, but he’s sweet at the core. I guess he’s a combination of people I’ve known. The heroine is drawn to him initially because of his kindness, and later because she finds out he’s a musician. She’s a sucker for musicians.

Tara: Your book takes place in Winthrop, MA. If I were a tourist, what would you recommend I see in this town?

Mary: Winthrop, Massachusetts is a unique and terrific little town for a bunch of reasons. To me, the most amazing thing is that it’s surrounded by ocean on three sides and right outside Boston, but you can still buy a home there for a reasonable price. In the book, I speculate on how the people of Winthrop work hard to keep the yuppies out, because they don’t want to be priced out of their homes. It’s also not the easiest place in the world to access because of its location. If you go there, you should definitely check out the beaches. They’re beautiful in an urban way, and because the town is right next to Logan Airport, planes are often flying right over you—sometimes you feel like you can reach up and touch them—as you soak up the sun.

Tara: Oooh. What lovely pictures. I love planes and lighthouses. Sounds perfect to me. For some reason I never pictured Mass as having a beach. Too far north, maybe? Very cool. Now, a more personal question. What’s the one thing you hope to accomplish before you die? Your main goal?

Mary: Oh wow. Major shift in the conversation! My main goal—and I know this is a cliché—is to be a good person. To try and change things for the better, even if it’s only in the smallest way. In my case, that means trying to be the best wife, parent, daughter, sister, friend, and co-worker I can be to the people I’m so lucky to have in my life.

Tara: I’m a dog mom, so I always ask this. Do you have pets? If so, tell me about them and do provide pictures.

Mary: Yes! I’m a crazy animal lover. As soon as I was old enough to get my own apartment, I got a cat, and haven’t been without at least one pet since then.

Currently, my family has a dog named Spencer and two cats, Mac and Jack. Sadly, Mac is sick these days, with heart and kidney disease.
He’s sixteen-and-a-half years old and still very feisty, but the vet has warned us that his health concerns are quite serious, and he probably won’t be with us much longer. So we’re just thankful for each day that he wakes us up howling for breakfast. Our younger cat is named Jack and he’s sweet, adorable, and feisty as well. He has only one eye—it had to be removed before we got him because he was rescued in an alley with a terrible infection—but he gets around just fine and doesn’t seem to know that he’s any different than two-eyed cats.

Spencer the dog is the newest addition to our family. We got him last spring, after he’d been a stray in the woods of South Carolina for at least a year, so he’s got a lot of wild in him. However, he’s calming down, and we’ve worked with a couple of trainers who’ve helped us understand his fears. He’s still quite shy around people he doesn’t know, but he loves our family, and he’s super playful with other dogs. He’s also a crazy fast runner. We feel blessed to have such great animals in our lives. Thank you again for having me as a guest on your blog!

Tara: I've enjoyed having you. I hope your cat surprises the heck out of everybody and lives a lot longer than anyone expects. I know how hard it is to watch a pet be sick and not be able to do anything.


Mary Rowen is a Boston area mom with a wonderful family
that allows her time to write almost every day.
Leaving the Beach, although pure fiction, certainly
draws on some personal experience. As the tagline states,
it’s “a novel of obsession and music,” and
rock music has always been a driving force in Rowen’s
life. She was also bulimic for over fifteen years, and
really wanted to write a story with a bulimic main
character. Eating disorders are so complicated—and
dangerous—and she hopes Leaving the Beach
might encourage people suffering from them to seek
help. Visit Mary at:


  1. Dear Tara, Thank you so much for featuring me on your blog! I love the way the interview came out, and the picture of Little Steven is great. Also, thank you for your kind wishes about Mac, my cat. He seems extra playful today, so I'm chalking that up to the power of positive thinking!

  2. Terrific interview ladies. Very much looking forward to reading Leaving the Beach. I suffered from an eating disorder back in high school and early college. Unfortunately, it's so common among women.