Mary Pauline Lowry, Author of The Earthquake Machine (interview)

Posted February 10, 2012 by shooting in Uncategorized / 3 Comments

Interview with author Mary Pauline Lowry, author of The Earthquake Machine

By: Lauren

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1.  Your first novel, The Gods of Fire, may become a movie. If you could cast it yourself, who would you pick? Feel free to talk about directors, etc. too!
Yes, my first novel THE GODS OF FIRE—based on my personal experiences as a forest firefighter–has been optioned for film. (I’ll likely release the novel THE GODS OF FIRE in late 2012 or early next year). There is already a director attached to the script. Her name is Peyton Wilson and she directed an amazing documentary called SPEED AND ANGELS, about two fighter pilots who go to Iraq.

Casting the film sounds so fun. Since the script is about the only woman on a crew of forest firefighters, there would be lots of super cute young male actors and one scrappy female lead. I’m keeping my first choice for female lead a secret, but I will say I could totally imagine GEORGE CLOONEY as the crew boss.

2.  If you had to make a soundtrack of songs for your current novel, The Earthquake Machine, what would be on it and why?

At the beginning of the film, I would put the ARCADE FIRE song THE SUBURBS because the main character RHONDA lives in a bland American neighborhood. (And also because ARCADE FIRE is my favorite band to see live and THE SUBURBS is one of the only albums I can listen to while I write).

As RHONDA runs away and swims across the Rio Grande River into Mexico, then steals a burro and rides it into the town of Milagros, I would play GRINGO HONEYMOON by ROBERT EARL KEEN because the song tells the story of a couple who crosses the border into Mexico for a day and rides burros into the town of Boquillas to drink and get high.

After RHONDA cuts her hair and dies it black so she can pretend to be a Mexican boy named ANGEL, she sets off across the desert on the burro under a full moon. I’d have the song NOBODY WANTS TO GO TO THE MOON ANYMORE by DAMON BRAMBLETT play at that point. DAMON is one of my all-time favorite musicians. (And he’s my boyfriendJ).

3.  You used to work as a forest firefighter. Talk about a different job! How did that come about and/or what was it like to work with a bunch of guys in such a job?

I went to college in Colorado and my roommate Della was training to work on an elite HOTSHOT crew of forest firefighters. I decided I wanted to give it a try (even though I’d barely ever even been camping) and so she helped me apply. I was already running marathons and lifting weights, so training for the job came naturally to me. I was lucky enough to be hired onto the PIKE HOTSHOT CREW.

Being one of the only women on a 20-man HOTSHOT crew was actually so much fun. As a representative female, I felt I had to work extra hard and be extra tough to show that women could “hang” on the fireline.  But I loved traveling all over the West, hiking and camping and battling wildfires. And the friends I made fighting fire are some of the best and dearest friends I’ve ever had.

4.  If you were able to work with any other author (dead or alive), who would you pick and what would you wish to write about?
I think it would be crazy fun to work on ROMANTIC COMEDY scripts with JANE AUSTEN. I love (in a sad way) that all six of her novels are about young women finding suitable men to marry while Austen herself remained a “spinster” all her life.

5.  Authors often wish they could just be a writer all day. Do you feel the same? What are some other “jobs” you would like to have?
Being a writer all day long is my total dream job. (Though I’d have to take breaks to go for runs and go to the gymJ). But I might like to fight fire again. I also think I’d like to be a grip on films. (Grips do all the non-electrical stuff related to lighting). I read that the writer Jasper Fforde worked as a grip half the year and as a writer the other half. He wrote 10 novels before his novel THE EYRE AFFAIR was finally published.

What I DON’T WANT to do is work a lame desk job that would make me feel like I was stuck in an 8-hour episode of THE OFFICE every day.

6.  This is mainly for my own curiousity, but you contribute to The Huffington Post. How does a “job” like that come about? What do you normally write about? Anything in particular you had fun sharing with the HuffPost readers?

I’d wanted to write for the HuffPost for a long time but had no idea how to get the gig, so I finally googled up Arianna Huffington’s email address and wrote her asking about it. She emailed me back in 10 minutes and said she’d love to have me as a HuffPost writer!

I enjoyed writing an article about indie publishing sensation AMANDA HOCKING. But my all-time favorite HuffPost piece was called ART AND ADVENTURE: A MANIFESTO FOR WOMEN AND GRRRLS.

Readers can check it out here:

I was also excited to see that musician ANI DIFRANCO reposted the article on her website. That was especially cool for me because her music and her story have always inspired me. DIFRANCO started her own record label RIGHTEOUS BABE RECORDS and she sold CDs out of the trunk of her car after shows. Through hard work, crazy talent, and the audacity to have a DO IT YOURSELF philosophy, ANI DIFRANCO became a huge success. She didn’t wait around for a record label to sign her.

7. If you could have anybody blurb one of your books, who would you pick and why?

One of my all-time favorite writers JOY WILLIAMS (THE QUICK AND THE DEAD) did blurb THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE and that was so thrilling!

I guess if I had to pick someone else to blurb my books it would be FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK because her WEETZIE BAT books, which tell the story of a super hip girl living in L.A., showed me that it was okay to see life as beautiful and magical and raw and sometimes painful.

Book synopsis:

The Earthquake Machine

The book every girl should read,

and every girl’s parents hope she’ll never read.

The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda’s world, but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda’s life is her family’s Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jésus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico. There a peyote- addled bartender convinces her she won’t be safe traveling alone into the country’s interior. So with the bartender’s help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús. Thus begins a wild adventure that fulfills the longing of readers eager for a brave and brazen female protagonist.

Author bio:

Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water
lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence
against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from
home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should
make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.

3 responses to “Mary Pauline Lowry, Author of The Earthquake Machine (interview)

  1. Great interview! I would just die from happiness if Francesca Lia Block ever blurbed one of my books. And I live in a wildfire prone area so I have a lot of respect for forest firefighters.

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