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Mary W. Walters on The Whole Clove Diet

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The Whole Clove Diet by Mary W. Walters

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About  Your Novel

Book Club Buddy: What do you think readers will find most notable about The Whole Clove Diet?

Mary W. Walters: I hope that all readers will see something of themselves in all of the main characters in The Whole Clove Diet. The most obvious character to relate to is Rita (granted, some readers will find it hard to like her at the beginning, and that would make it hard to relate to her at first. However, she does grow on you: I promise). I certainly have walked in Rita’s shoes, but I have also covered many miles in her mother’s shoes, and several in Noreen’s, and more than a few in Harry’s. Even Graham, with his tunnel vision, and his children, and the judgmental Dr. Graves, and Hanne, too, are made of parts of me – and, I hope, of all of us.

BCB: Have you acquired any good anecdotes surrounding this book? If so, could you share one?

Mary W. Walters: A few of my writer friends were really worried that if I called the novel The Whole Clove Diet, the only people who would buy it would be those who were looking for a new way to lose weight. That is why I added the words, “A Novel,” to the end of the title. However, I do feel that if I only sold the book to people who were looking for a new way to lose weight, it would probably do quite well. And if people buy the book for the “wrong reason” but read it anyway, I hope they’ll start to think about their bodies in a new way ­– i.e., kind of like vehicles they need to look after in order to get to where they want to go – so it won’t be an entire waste of money for them.

BCB: Did researching and writing this book teach you anything or influence your thinking in any way? 

Mary W. Walters: I was – obviously – exploring all of my own issues and fears and despair about body image as I wrote the book, and I wanted to do that in a really honest way that I hadn’t seen done before. I was also exploring the nature of addiction. I had learned through my efforts to overcome (for today, at least) a couple of my other addictions that I needed something bigger than the “quitting” part in order to get through it. I’d found that if the goals I had for my life were big enough and inspiring enough to carry me through the day, “quitting” became a choice not to damage my health, rather than a resolution to stop doing something that I loved.

BCB: What would you most like readers to tell others about this book?

Mary W. Walters: I want people to say that the book made them nod in recognition sometimes, and laugh sometimes, and think sometimes . . .  but mainly that they wanted to find out what happened next.

BCB: Can you suggest one question readers might find interesting to discuss, concerning you, your writing in general, or this book?

Mary W. Walters: My feeling is that despite all the changes that have occurred in relation to the status of and opportunities for women in the past few decades, too many of us still define ourselves in terms of how other people see us –and what they think we should be doing. That means we put our self-esteem in the hands of others, and end up navel-gazing.

We all need a strong core of our own – to recognize that we can survive, no matter what happens. We need to figure out who we are, so that our natural female instincts to care for and nurture others are able to spring from strength and willingness, rather than needing to push their way to the surface through layers of fear and resentment.

It takes time to figure out who we are, but I think we do need to allow it to happen if we can. (I am also aware that self-discovery is largely a first-world option, and that even in North America and Europe many many women do not have the opportunity to even contemplate these issues. Only when your basic needs are met, you are free from physical fear, you have some education, and you have a little time, do you have the elbow room to try to find yourself. But for the sake of all of us on the planet, I think those of us who can, must.)

BCB: How can readers help you promote this book?

Mary W. Walters: Word of mouth is the best marketing technique there is. If you like this book – or any book – tell those you know about it. Tweet about it. Mention it on FaceBook. Put a one-sentence review on Amazon. You have no idea how much that helps the author with book sales – or how good it makes her feel. It helps to keep people reading books too, by reminding them of the pleasures.

Mary W. Walters author photoAbout You 

BCB: Why do you write?

Mary W. Walters: I am a writer to my very core. Writing discovered me when I was nearly thirty, but I’d been looking for it all along, I think, and I have never looked back. It grounds the very extensive solitary part of me. Even when I’m not writing, I am living as a writer in the world. I know how fortunate I am to have found my métier. It gives meaning to everything else in my life, and allows me to process everything I experience.

BCB: What is your greatest strength as a writer?

Mary W. Walters: I love the layers of writing. I try to tell a compelling story populated by interesting characters, but I also want to “push away the chaos,” to paraphrase John Gardner (all serious writers should read his long essay, On Moral Fiction). That means I want to explore issues that affect us as we live our lives today, and to debate philosophical, ethical and political questions by presenting different views, and to write something that leaves the reader (and me) feeling somewhat satisfied and optimistic at the end. But I also love love love the language that I write with. Every sentence must resonate, every word must be as apt as I can make it, before I can let it go.

BCB: What quality do you most value in yourself?

Mary W. Walters: My sense of humour. Despite how serious everything in this interview sounds so far, my biggest joy is in the ridiculousness of most of the things that happen in life. Rita shares that sense of humour with me. The laughter (both hers and mine) is quite black at times, but it is always there.

An example from my life: I had two mastectomies about twenty years ago after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  My mother had died of breast cancer when I was 14, and for many weeks, I was scared to an extent that only others who have faced that kind of diagnosis can relate to. (I was beyond fortunate: the cancer turned out to be in situ and was completely caught by the surgery. I had the second mastectomy for prophylactic reasons.) In the meantime, absolutely hilarious but weird things kept happening – and still make me laugh out loud when I think of them.

One minor example: the first day I was able to go out for a walk after the first surgery,  I carefully (and gingerly) stuffed the breast-sized wad of cotton batting that the hospital had given me into the netted bandages around my chest, checking so carefully to make sure that the cotton was even with my remaining breast, so that no one would notice that I only had one left, and then I walked precariously around the block – fearful the whole time that this damned bit of stuffing was going to slide down and make me look totally off kilter, or worse yet, fall right out of the bandages on to the ground.

I made it around the block and walked back into the house feeling totally triumphant – only to realize that I’d gone for my little walk with the zipper on my jeans wide open.

BCB: In addition to writing, what else are you passionate about?

Most importantly, I am passionate about my sons – of whom I am hugely proud – and their wives and children (all of whom are great fun to hang out with, and spoil me rotten). I’m passionate about travelling: I haven’t had enough money to travel too much yet, but I am determined to see as everything I can whenever I can afford it. For that reason, I try to stay in good health, and I love walking. Of course, I’m passionate about great books: their authors are my mentors, even though quite a few of them are younger than I am now. Music. Theatre. Dance. Opera. Living. Learning. Thunderstorms. New experiences. Several intriguing men who shall remain nameless. All of my wonderful friends. I am passionate about a lot of stuff, actually, now that I think about it.

BCB: What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

Mary W. Walters: Raising my sons and writing my books. And quitting smoking.  Even after 13 years I still can’t believe I did that.

BCB: Is there any new or established author whom you feel deserves more attention, and what is it that strikes you about his or her work?

Mary W. Walters: Too many to mention. The writers I like to read the most are ones who also have  love affairs with language. Sometimes I only get to meet them in translation (Roberto Bolaño is a recent discovery) but even with the intervention of a translator I can see the mighty scope of their achievements. When you think about writing: it’s just words on a page! But what power words have in the right hands.

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2 Comments for “Mary W. Walters on The Whole Clove Diet”

  1. An insight to the real Mary. Nobody will truly “see” you unless they’ve read your writing. Glad to have known your beautiful world of writing – and your writing tips too, of course.

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