Author Margo Rabb was here on Thursday, Sept. 23 to give a reading from her most recent work, Cures for Heartbreak. The partially autobiographical novel illustrates the everyday struggles of being a teen, coping with the death of a parent, and moving on.
Rabb received her M.F.A. from the University of Arizona—Tucson, and has recently settled down in Austin, Texas after an upbringing in Queens, New York. Her work has been published in several literary magazines, including the New England Review.
Rabb took some time before her reading to sit down with the Pleiad to discuss her craft, her visit to Albion and what is next for her.
What designated you to come visit Albion’s campus?
“There are actually a couple reasons why I decided to visit Albion, not to mention Michigan. I had been planning a visit to Ann Arbor for a writer’s conference as well as to teach a class, so this was a very convenient stop. Danit had asked me to give a reading and I said ‘of course’, so it’s sort of a win-win.”
Tell me a little bit about how you’ve written in a wide variety of genres, not just young adult fiction.
“Well, my goal as a writer is to not do just “one thing” my whole career. I’ve had experience in many realms of writing. When I was giving a reading at a local Barnes & Noble in New York, a publisher approached me and wanted to know if I wanted to take my mystery novel further, which eventually turned into a four-part series. But I’ve also done some journalistic work for the Book Review section in The New York Times, which I love doing since I enjoy networking with other writers. In the future, though, I think that writing a children’s book might be something that I would enjoy doing. ”
Like yourself, Cures’ protagonist, Mia Pearlman, loses her mother at a young age to melanoma only days after the diagnosis. How much do you identify with Mia?
“Only 50 percent. I didn’t want this novel to be completely autobiographical because I wanted to choose what to tell. Fiction can be about things that are real and have happened to us, but we also need to acknowledge things that haven’t ever happened to us—I guess that’s what makes writing an experience. With fiction, you have control, and I didn’t want my past to take complete charge of the story that I was creating from scratch. But Mia and I were around the same age when the ‘heartbreak’ happened to each of us, so much of the emotion that I experienced during that time was something I wanted to capture in the novel.”
What drew you into writing from an autobiographical perspective?
“Quite honestly, I think I just had to get it out of my system. Cures took me nearly eight years to complete–writing about my struggles with the death of my parents was something that I had been trying to express, and of course it’s never easy to just sit down and do. But I knew I had to do it; writing about it made me more honest with myself and helped me understand struggle and recovery even better.”
To you, what is the ultimate “cure” for heartbreak?
“Books and chocolate, right off the bat. But I also think that having lots of people around me was something that helped me get through writing this book. Getting married and having kids made me feel whole again. So, in other words, love is the ultimate to anything.”
You have a new book coming out in the near future. Tell us a little of what it’s about and what’s next in line for you.
“Well, it’s titled Mad, Mad Love. It’s about the journey of two best friends, one of which falls in love with a poet, who lives in California. So, it becomes this exchange of letters between the two friends and involves lots of poetry within it as well. So, it’s definitely different than Cures for Heartbreak, but it’s something that I’m really excited about. Hopefully others will be, too.”
What type of advice do you like to give to young writers?
“First and foremost, get rid of the clutter that can be a distraction to you. The Internet is probably the worst thing to have at your disposal if you’re trying to write something serious. I’ve often found that reading is a great way to get your mind wrapping around what you want to say, so that’s always worked for me. But more than anything, writing is a time to focus on yourself and being as honest as you can with your own words.”