An Interview with Memorist MaryLynn Archibald, Author of Accidental Cowgirl, Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue
Linda Joy: What you are working on?
MaryLynn: I’m working on my third memoir, which is as yet untitled. The title business is giving me fits, but I’m having fun with this one, which chronicles my early life (as a total innocent in Soquel, California), contrasted with my late teens (as a total innocent in San Francisco, California).
The turning point in my happy childhood idyll was the birth of my little brother, Freddie, when I was fifteen. Quel betrayal! Before that, I was a blissfully “only” child. After that, I had to work hard to regain my parents’ attention, and that of my grandparents, who’d often behave as though the little darling was the only kid in the room!
This was a huge blow to one who had been the center of attention all her life. I had a variety of jobs during that time. I left home at seventeen to become a model and a chorus girl, but spent a lot of time as a sales clerk, restaurant hostess (I was too klutzy to carry dishes, so waitressing was out), and switchboard operator. You’ll have to read the book to learn how all that came to pass.
Linda Joy: If you could imagine the title of your story—what would it be?
MaryLynn: If I had a title, I’d be so happy. I’ve come up with quite a few that just don’t satisfy. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the difficulty with finding a title for a nonfiction book is that it must tell you specifically what it’s about or nobody will want to read it. I’ll let you know when I settle on one. Suggestions will be gratefully accepted.
Linda Joy: What helps you to get your writing done
MaryLynn: I don’t have a set writing schedule. I know, I know, I should. The thing that keeps me honest, and keeps me writing, is my wonderful critique group of five very perceptive people. Showing up with something new for them to digest and spit out once a month reminds me that I need to be writing all the time. Also, it keeps me busy implementing the wonderful revisions they often suggest.
Linda Joy: What are your five favorite books?
MaryLynn: My five favorite books. Oh boy, that’s a tough one. My favorites change as I read, and I read a lot of different types of books—not only in my genre. My current favorites are: Saturday, by Ian McEwan; A Perfect Spy, by John Le Carré; A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth; Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh; East of the Mountains, by David Guterson; and Hissy Fit, by Mary Kay Andrews, but that list changes daily. Ask me tomorrow.
Linda Joy: Is there anyone who does not want you to write your memoir?
MaryLynn: I’m happy to say there is no one who doesn’t want me to write my memoir, unless, of course, it’s my brother—but he doesn’t know yet that he has a starring role. I’ll keep you posted on his reaction.
Linda Joy: Tell us about the audience for your memoir.
MaryLynn: My audience, as I see it, is perhaps a little wider than the audience I had for Accidental Cowgirl, although I expect there will be some overlap. I believe my audience will be mostly women from the ages of 40 (this group seems to have a lot of curiosity about San Francisco in the ‘50s and ‘60s—an era their parents may have lived through but didn’t talk about much) on up. And of course, San Franciscans.
Linda Joy: What is the most significant turning point in your life?
Mary Lynn: As I stated earlier, the most significant turning point in my life was the birth of my little brother, just when I was at an age of uncertainty and vulnerability. Adolescence was bad enough without having a little brother young enough to be my own child to babysit, after having been the center of my parents’ world for fifteen years. That was a definite blow. But I recovered.
—© 2010 Mary Lynn Archibald
About Mary Lynn: Mary Lynn Archibald is a freelance editor and copywriter, and the author of two books: Briarhopper: A History, a memoir of one woman’s life from 1913-1945; and Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue, a lighthearted personal memoir of a greenhorn’s life on a small cattle ranch. Her forthcoming memoir, due out in early 2011, deals in part with her life as a switchboard operator, chorus girl, sales clerk, fashion model, and Miss San Francisco finalist. You can find her online at: www.redroom.com/author/mary-lynn-i-archibald/ (where she maintains a more-or-less active blog); http://accidentalcowgirl.com/, (where you can purchase her books); www.winecountrywriter.com/; (where she maintains a writing and editing website), or find her on Facebook, at: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home/, (where she hangs out a lot more than she should.