March 10, 2009

A Visit with Daisy Chain Author Mary DeMuth

Once in a while you discover an author whose words connect with a deep part of your soul. You don’t know why exactly, but they do. To me, Mary DeMuth is such an author. I’ve been a fan of hers since I stumbled upon her blog when I was a brand new blogger. Since then I’ve been a faithful follower of her blogs and her fiction novels: Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions. I also had the privilege to meet Mary at the Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference and of course on my infamous trip to Dallas in January!

When the opportunity arose to participate in the blog tour for her latest novel, Daisy Chain, I jumped at the chance.

I received a copy of the book about a week ago. The story grabbed me from page one. Once again, Mary proves herself a gifted storyteller. And once again she shows she's not afraid to navigate the depths of human pain and tragedy with an honesty that refreshes, a writing style that captivates and a message that inspires.

Daisy Chain deals with tough topics and there were times when my heart ached for Jed and his sister Sissy, and anger swelled at Hap and even Jed’s mom. While the story’s themes could leave the reader feeling helpless, Mary infuses irrepressible hope and goodness.

Life in the East Texas town of Defiance is hard. It's especially difficult for Jed Pepper and his best friend Daisy Chance. Perhaps bound by a mutual understanding of their highly dysfunctional home lives, they find a safe haven in one another. They share adventures, secrets and a deep friendship—until Daisy goes missing.

As Jed comes of age during the summer of Daisy's disappearance, we meet a cast of characters so well drawn we feel like we're not just reading about them, we're walking right next to them. The characters, some deeply good and others deeply flawed, evoked genuine emotion when I read.

As Jed wrestles with issues like guilt, faith, friendship, love, suffering, death, hope and hypocrisy, we see our own struggles with these very issues. Daisy Chain eloquently explores the questions, "God, where are you in all of this? Are you listening? Do you see?" Ultimately Daisy Chain gives hope that God is good, despite external circumstances that sometimes say otherwise.

I can’t wait for the second installment of the Defiance Texas trilogy!

Now, refresh your coffee, pull up achair and sit a spell while we visit with Mary DeMuth.

Mary, when you’re writing a book like Daisy Chain, does the realness and pain you’re creating overflow into your personal life? How do you keep the two separate?
No, not usually, though I do carry the characters with me. And I’m sad when I leave them behind. It’s more in retrospect that I worry. Recently someone asked me why I would write about such darkness, wondering what my intent could possibly be. Do I want folks to dredge up all that icky stuff? Yes and no. I write about the hard stuff because it’s real, and in sharing it on the page, I am giving permission for others to acknowledge their own stories. I firmly believe that hiding our pasts will never heal us. The first step to healing comes with that first admission of truth. I don’t, however, write the icky stuff for icky’s sake. There is always the possibility of redemption. And that’s what makes my books a mixture of the darkest dark and the lightest light.

I found the setting, characters, tones and themes of Daisy Chain reminiscent of the Maranatha Series, which by the way I loved. Is this intentional?

I’ve loved southern novels, although I am not a native. There’s something haunting and beautiful about these settings that intrigues me, giving the setting an almost human characteristic.

Your novels deal honestly and gracefully with difficult topics. Do you think you’ll ever write a “lighter” book?

Ha ha ha. It’s ironic to me that I’ve enjoyed writing humorous pieces many years now, and I do infuse humor into my nonfiction and fiction though they aren’t necessarily riddled with laughter. As I consider my next projects, they are a mixture of both hard and easy, dark and light. Every author writes from what’s inside him/her. I’ve seen a lot of heartache in my life, so I tend to write with that in mind. On the other hand, because I’ve experienced these things, I’m even more passionate about showing God’s redemption in difficult things.

You’ve experienced tremendous hurt in your own life. Does writing your novels help you heal or does it dredge up the past?
It always helps me. God uses the vehicle of my writing raw to heal me. I can’t explain it, but it happens each time I write a book.

What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

I liken this book to an Oprah book, but with hope. Yes, there is darkness and meanness abounding in this world, but God’s light has a way of fully penetrating that darkness. I hope Daisy Chain cradles the reader through its deep, scary journey clear through to the end because redemption will shine brighter in the midst of darkness. That’s my own personal testimony, so it can’t help but leak out on the page.

My hope is that folks will see the need to share their family secrets in order to be set free. (A cool place to share your family secrets anonymously is I also want people to see that the Body of Christ is probably much different-looking than they first thought. Some appear holy. Others, in distressing disguises, actually are.

What mistakes do you continually see novice writers make? What do you suggest as a solution?

In novel writing, starting the story in the wrong place. New writers drop a lot of backstory into their first chapters. The real action usually starts around page 25. For nonfiction, I see an addiction to big words and flowery language instead of saying it straight. All new writers struggle (as I did) with an
addiction to was and is. Beefing up verbs is a first step to becoming an excellent writer.

Thanks, Mary!

You can buy Daisy Chain at
Hop over to Mary's new blog, Family Secrets, to see what's going on and anonymously share your family secrets.
The Daisy Chain social networking tour runs March 9-13. For more information go to Daisy Chain blog tour.


Mary DeMuth said...

Thanks so much for hosting me here! And I love your hiking picture!

Terri Tiffany said...

Great critique and interview! I love Mary's blog and visit there often. How cool that you got to meet her--I remember when you went!

saleslady371 said...

What appears to me is that this author cares much for the body of Christ. I want to read this book. Kelli, you asked great questions and I enjoyed the interview.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Love Mary's work. Can't wait to get my own personal copy! Thanks for such a great interview. Thanks, Mary, for keeping the creative juices flowing for us.


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