“Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer: And Her Parable of the Tomato Plant” by Marsha Roberts is a very moving and entertaining read.
In over 30 short stories Roberts takes us through her life: The good times and the bad; challenges to her family, such an accident to her sister, family issues that need to be resolved, her own physical, personal and professional set backs.
What makes these stories special is the author’s spirit throughout them. Never the whiner, moaner or victim the book is full of motivation, determination and faith in herself and in the God she believes in.
The stories are written in a voice I loved listening to, not just because I can relate to so many references to the times and situations mentioned.
Roberts memoirs to me are an encouragement to believe in yourself, to have faith and to make the most of your potential. Her God is helpful and kind and should not offend the sensitivities of agnostic readers. The inspirational message that shines through her life story is above religion, the tone is warm, loving and pleasantly understated and most of all, it is a very enjoyable and pleasant read.
Interview with the lovely Marsha:
The pleasure is mine. Marsha, please tell us a little about yourself as writer and a person.
The only ambition I ever had when I was a kid was to have an adventurous life and, of course, to have love in my life. I have to say that I’ve succeeded in both of those things. I’ve traveled much of the world and been lovingly with the same incredible man for over 35 years – wow, that’s a lot of years! Like everyone, I’ve had my ups and downs, but I have a theory about life that has kept me going through the “downs.” It’s simple: be happy. No matter what, figure out how to be happy and whatever you’re going through will be easier because of that decision. So far, my theory has been right and that’s what I write about. Sometimes it’s easy to do and sometimes it’s very hard. It’s the hard part that makes you a writer.
A great philosophy. Tell us, what made you become a writer?
The adventurous life I mentioned. The seeking out of that life delivered me a pretty remarkable set of circumstances. I can’t tell you how many times I would be sharing some of the stories of our travels, touring our show and other experiences, that people would say to me, “You should write a book.” There came a time when I realized I had something of value to share. We had come through some tough times and I thought other people could relate and hopefully benefit from the lessons I learned.
Have you always written?
Yep! I didn’t really think about it until after I started “officially” writing, but it’s always been part of my life. In fact recently I found a bunch of stories I had written when I was in grammar school. They were pretty amusing! When I was a kid, if I was stuck with an assignment I could bluff my way out of it with writing. It was funny that when I went back to my tenth high school reunion (more than 30 years ago!) and everybody asked me about my career. I was a nurse at the time, working my way into film editing – strange transition, I know! Anyway, when I told them, every single person responded, “Oh really? I thought you’d be a writer.” Eventually they would be right.
When did you decided to write this story?
The fall of 2009. For the first time in my life I was in a quiet place, on a mountain top, with some time on my hands. I dove into it with all my heart.
How do you decide in a memoir which stories to tell and which to keep private?
That’s a good question, Christoph. There are some things that are clear that they shouldn’t be shared, but with others, it can be a close call. My husband, Bob Rector, also an author you’ve interviewed, was extremely supportive, although there were times he winced as he saw what direction I was going with one of my “parables.” We would talk about it and if I felt strongly about it, he was behind me all the way.
Remember the story about the problems our son went through as a young adult? It was a very hard story to tell, but I felt that there were other parents out there dealing with the same issues and perhaps how we had come out of it would be helpful. The interesting thing was, I sent the chapter to my son (who is now grown and married) and asked his permission to use it. He told me that he was holding his breath as he read it, afraid that I would pull my punches and not tell it like it really was. He told me he was so proud of me for being as painfully honest as I was, even though it wasn’t an easy story to tell. He absolutely wanted me to include it, in hopes it would help others. So, you see, I had a lot of support when it came to this issue.
Do you have a favourite genre to read yourself?
Not really, I just like a good story and am open to almost any genre – except for zombies! I don’t do zombies! I read everything from history-related fiction like Ken Follett and Leon Uris, to crime dramas by Michael Connelly, I read the Hunger Games series, I love a good mystery and even a thriller. I’m just looking for a well told story, with interesting characters that moves quickly and keeps my interest. I’ve just started reading “The Crystal Cave” by Mary Stewart again – one of my comfort books! However, I do have to admit that I keep a number of inspirational books close at hand, just in case I need encouragement…
How long did it take you to write and publish?
My initial concept was to write a series of inspirational vignettes, held loosely together by the common theme of faith and joy. It took me four months to write the first draft. Then my editor, Bob, who has been a professional writer all his adult life, told me that he felt that it was too segmented. That in my attempt to keep to the “parable” format, I had left the reader unsatisfied, leaving too many questions about “what happened to so-and-so” open. He encouraged me to fill in the gaps, make it have more of a story arc. It took me seven months to write the second draft and another three months to polish it. I started submitting it at that point, but still needed another rewrite, which I did about a year later, which took about two months.
As far as publishing is concerned, I went the whole route of submitting to agents for well over a year. Then a kind agent explained to me that she very much wanted to represent me, but that she didn’t think she could get a mainstream publisher interested because my platform wasn’t large enough. In other words, I couldn’t guarantee huge sales because I wasn’t already famous. At the same time a friend had sent me an article in the Wall Street Journal about how accessible it was to self-publish through Amazon, Smashwords, CreateSpace, etc. It made all the sense in the world to me and I was published in all formats two months later and never looked back.
Where did the whole “Mutinous Boomer” idea come from?
Ha! Well, that was one of those serendipitous things, Christoph. I wasn’t satisfied with the title I had chosen and as I was reading my book for one last proof, it occurred to me how mutinous my life had been. Check out the expression on the face of the little girl on the cover – that’s me! One of the definitions of “mutinous” is “refusing to obey or submit to control.” Well, again, that’s me! And it also reflects an entire generation that came of age in the 1960’s. It was as if that attitude was embedded in our DNA, it was instinctive.
When I started getting involved with social media, I had to shorted the title and “Mutinous Boomer” became my moniker. And then there was an unforeseen bonus for me from a marketing point of view. I know my book title is long, but if you type in “Mutinous Boomer” in Google or Bing, the only thing that comes up is my book, which is terrific. Now that was totally by accident, but happily so!
How do readers respond to the book?
Overwhelmingly positive and also very personally, like it was written for them and about them, which in a way it was. My book is faith-based, in the sense that to me everything is spiritual. Breathing air and fixing dinner and petting my dog, everything. However, the thing that has pleased me the most about how readers have responded is that they don’t have to be of the same faith to enjoy it and be touched by it. I’ve had “professed atheist” say they loved the life affirming, positive message and that thrills me. I had hoped that people from all walks of life and from different faiths would be able to relate to it, and they have.
What was the easiest about writing the book and what was the hardest?
The easiest thing was finding my writer’s voice. Many reviewers have said things like, it feels as if you are having a cup of coffee with a friend, sharing life stories. That “voice” came easily for me and I often imagined telling my stories to a friend as I wrote. The hardest? Words! Finding just the right words to convey the exact emotion without overstating or using too many words to explain what one word could do just as well.
I do have another Mutinous Boomer book in me, but not just yet. I’ll continue to get the word out about this one with enthusiasm, but also I’m going back to another project of the heart, our theatrical production “Letters From The Front.” This is a show that my husband Bob wrote and directed, I produced it. We toured American military bases all over the world for 15 years and was very beloved. It received so many awards it became known as The World’s Most Decorated Play. It was often described as “healing” and with so many of our service members coming home soon, they’re going to need us and we intend to be there for them. Those who are serving, those who have served, and their families – the greatest and most appreciative audience on this planet and we miss them.
What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing?
Pretty quiet right now! Unlike me, actually, and I’ve become rather restless. I’ve had the great fortune to travel much of the world, and have seen the United States one mile at a time from Maine to Florida, from California to Alaska! But, there are seasons in life, and this has been a peaceful one. As impatient as I am to get back on the road, if I hadn’t had this time of contemplation, I wouldn’t have been able to write. So I’m grateful for it. What do I do for pleasure? Bob is a great companion and we enjoy loads of movies and a lot of the new TV drama series. There is, of course, our dog Smokey, who is always a source of amusement and I do enjoy planting flowers and watching them grow from little seeds to the real thing. As I said, a quiet life for right now, but that will change soon!
The first book that had a profound effect on me was “The Diary of Anne Frank.” I was 13 years old at the time, the same age as Anne when she started writing her diary. I started a diary too. In many ways, my “Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer” book is an extended diary. I actually pulled many of the stories from accounts I had written over the years. Another strong influence: Harper Lee. “To Kill A Mockingbird” is pure genius to me and has a vivid, southern female voice. I have to say she is the gold standard for me as far as personal female stories go. And, finally, if I can ever describe a physical scene, a room, a patch of woods, like Mary Stewart, I will feel like I’ve arrived as a writer!
What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?
Books, I’ll go with the ones I’ve read more than once: “The Crystal Cave” ~ “To Kill A Mockingbird” ~ “Lie Down With Lions” ~ “A Course In Miracles” ~ “The Mist of Avalon” ~ “The Lincoln Lawyer” ~ “The Power of Positive Thinking” ~ “The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe” and many more…
Movies: “Groundhog Day” ~ “The Professionals” (Burt Lancaster version) ~ “Sideways” ~ “Gravity” ~ “Hear My Song” ~ “Chocolat” ~ “Dr. Zhivago” ~ “You Can’t Take it With You” ~ “Something’s Gotta Give” ~ “Lady in The Water” ~ “O Brother, Where Art Thou” ~ “The Big Lebowski” ~ I could go on and on, but those are a few of my comfort movies…
Albums? Well, I think this Mutinous Boomer gal is going to surprise you here because I rarely listen to “boomer” music. I listened to it so much back-in-the-day, I burned out on it. When I started traveling a lot in the 1990’s, my son started making me mixed tapes to take along with me, which eventually became mixed CDs. It not only opened my mind to new music, it gave us a frame of reference to connect, which continues to this day. He still sends me mixed CDs several times a year – which I love! We also started going to concerts together years ago and one of the highlights for me was seeing Metallica when they were still in their prime. I like all kinds of music and use the heavier rock to get me going when I lose energy!
We are on the ground floor of a complete sea change and there is literally no telling where it’s going. One thing we know for sure, it isn’t going back to the way it was before, when agents and publishers dictated what got printed and what books the public had the option of reading. That whole dynamic has busted wide open and I know the large publishing houses are scrambling to figure out how to remain relevant.
Although it is wonderful that writers have a way to publish their own books and make them available through Amazon and all of the other mainline retailers, the very ease of doing it has brought many people into the mix who aren’t very professional, which the world of indie-publishing is still grappling to figure out how to distinguish one from the other. The lack of professional editing (a service previously provided by the publishers) is one of the main problems, but interestingly enough, authors who are serious about getting it right have come together and offer beta-reading and editing for each other for free, often swapping services. And it’s this kind of pushing to excellence that will eventually make all the difference. Authors helping authors has become the key to moving forward.
However, there is still a huge gap in the ability of a writer to get his/her book in front of the public. Marketing is the hitch here. The publishers have publicists on staff and they start pushing their star authors many months before the book is released. Indie-authors don’t have the connections and usually the financial resources to tap into big-time marketing. But, who knows what might change that dynamic in the coming months and years? The one thing that’s for certain is that it is changing every day!
What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?
I’m not sure I’m the best one to ask, but I’ll quote an actor I used to work with a great deal. He said, “Marsha, you move through time and space as if you are perfectly normal and in reality, you are one of the oddest people I’ve ever met!” I thought that was a grand compliment, after all, who wants to be “normal?”
My best quality? Not to sound flippant, but it’s love. No question. I genuinely like people and make an effort daily to project love everyday. I think most of those who know me would tell you that.
Oh, good, an easy one I don’t have to think about!
Favorite animal: DOG!
Favorite color: Green (I love spring green, back-lit green and the color of money…)
Outdoor activity: Hiking if it’s in the wilderness, walking if we’re in some grand city in a fascinating spot on the globe!
What would you take to a remote island?
Of course, I have to start with Bob, my husband. Besides him, I’ll take a crate of great non-perishable food and top shelf vodka. Is that allowed? Of course being a theatrical touring producer means I’m always concerned with logistics. I’d bring an ax, saw, hammer, nails, all the basic tools plus rope and canvas. I’d need a large metal pot, a few metal plates, utensils and cups. I’d bring a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a couple of beach towels and my favorite huge pillow. A pile of books, pencils, pencil sharpener, legal pads. How much room do I have, by the way?
Who would you like to invited for dinner and why?
I hate that I missed this one because I always intended to have him for dinner, but recently he left this planet far too early: Harold Ramis. Why? He conceived and directed “Groundhog Day” one of my favorite films. He said his wife always called him “The Rabbit” and described him as someone who saw the magical and spiritual everywhere. Everything was a miracle to him. That’s how I look at life too. I would be so curious to meet someone who survived the Hollywood culture and still viewed life in those terms.
What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?
I’m actually starting a new Blog Series for a new ezine called Impakter. It’s very upscale and I was surprised to be asked to contribute. Since my style of writing is very conversational, it didn’t seem like a fit initially. But, they very much wanted me to come on board and came up with a perfect by-line for me that intrigued me so much I couldn’t say no! The first article will run in mid-July and I’ll be posting links to it on Facebook, Twitter, my website and my own blog. Actually it came along at the ideal time for me because my focus is going to be on getting “Letters From The Front” touring again, so I need a smaller assignment with my writing and a blog series works out great for me. I couldn’t tackle a full-length book right now.
What else would you like us to know about you and your books?
I just realized that I haven’t spoken about my latest project at all! I just released my Mutinous Boomer book as an audiobook and I’m thrilled with the results. We produced it ourselves and Della Cole did the narration. She starred in “Letters From The Front” for years and is not only a fabulous actress, she was also present as many of the situations in my book happened. This gave her a perspective that is quite unusual, I think, and her narration is extremely personal, very much from the heart. I couldn’t have asked for a better voice to tell my story. It’s available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes and each of those sites have an audio sample. Take a listen to Della – she’s just great!
What else would I like you to know? Like everyone who writes, I want to share my story with as many people as possible. But sharing stories from your own life is not the same as writing fiction, it’s definitely more intimate. Is my book a memoir? Yes, but not in the usual definition of the genre. What makes it different? I’ll quote one of my favorite reader reviews, “If you believe in miracles, or if you don’t and you would like to, read this book.”
And with that, I will say thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Christoph. You are such a valuable member of the indie author community and I am honored to be your guest. I see the photos of your dogs on Facebook all the time – give them a nice, big hug for me, will you?
Thank you Marsha, I will, and thank you for all you do for your fellow authors, too!
Find the book on Amazon