I was one of six kids and had four of my own. As if that didn't provide sufficient material about family chaos, at the age of forty-something, with a high school daughter and a four-year-old girl still at home, I decided to get a college degree. I earned, and I do mean earned, a B.A. in English with honors at the University of Virginia. My concentration was creative writing.
More recently I pursued additional studies under the tutelage of my seven-year-old granddaughter. Her refresher course in childhood perspective was invaluable in writing this book.
I was born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia by my family's black maid. She taught me love and acceptance with warm, loving humor and unending patience.
The relationship I was privileged to experience taught me much about the human heart and the redemptive power of love, especially between races. (Amazon)
BBB: What inspired you to become a writer?
MM: As a child, writing was easier than other things like running, hitting a ball – feats that required coordination, focus, and practice. I’m lazy. Besides, I liked it. That is . . . until it got to be hard. You know the kind of hard I’m talking about – a piece of paper, a blank one, and nothing is coming . . . your brain has frozen and refuses to give up even the tiniest thought on which to hang a few words. When that happens, I don’t like it so much.The interesting thing is writing is hard for me, at least not the ideas so much. I am a natural born storyteller. The nuts and bolts are the hard part. Until I discovered memory palaces just this past week, I was an abysmal speller. Thank God for spell-check, assuming I could spell a word close enough for spell-check to find it. In some ways that worked out well – if I couldn’t get close enough to the spelling to look up a word that I wanted to use, I would come up with different word, thus expanding my vocabulary. Commas have always challenged me, as has editing my own writing. I leave out words all the time and when I reread what I wrote, my brain just supplies the missing word and I am none the wiser! I learned the trick to that was to let a day or two go by before attempting to edit my writings, although it is still not my strongest suit.
MM: Lottie was my family’s maid who raised my siblings and me, which at that time was not particularly unusual. As a result, she was a huge influence on my life. As an avid reader and storyteller, I thought it was unusual that there wasn’t much written about this relationship, as it certainly has the bones for a good story. I decided to write about it, but then started almost immediately to listen to all my negative self-talk: “Who would want to read...what have you got to say? You can’t write.”It wasn’t until I went to a talk at the VA Festival of the Book given by Kathryn Stockett that Apron Strings became a book. She mentioned that at one of her talks, a woman stood up and said, “That woman that raised you didn’t love you. She was paid to pretend to love you, but she didn’t.” I didn’t hear another word Stockett uttered! I had been handed the imperative. “Write your story. Write it now!” I knew what that woman had said wasn’t true. I lived it. Love sees no color!
BBB: Tell us about your main character, Sallee Mackey.
MM: The novel begins with Sallee at the age of seven and takes place over two years. She is a keen observer of life, a natural skill honed by necessity. The world she lives in has lots of pitfalls, none of which make sense to her. Her two immediate siblings have adopted a “go along to get along” attitude about the events in their lives. Sallee can’t, despite her longing to, for it just isn’t in her nature.Her mother Ginny is hard to please and strict to the point of cruelty. Sallee finds herself at odds with her longing of her mother’s approval and her insatiable need to know. Except for Ethel, Sallee is pretty sure that grown-ups don’t really know what they are talking about – at least most of the time, and that can be very complicated, hard to figure out, and worthy of a lot of questions.
Ethel provides not only the back story, but love and answers.
BBB: What do you think readers will enjoy most about your book?
MM: I grew up in a world where it was expected that if seen, children were not heard. I noticed the help was not meant to be heard either, which struck me as odd, since more times than not they were the ones that ran the household.Apron Strings gives voice to the silent members of the household. Sallee’s naiveté and Ethel’s earthy narratives allow for humor and lightness on hard-hitting topics – racism, alcoholism, and divorce. Apron Strings, while based on observations of my own life, is just a story. A story that with a much-needed message: Love is love.
MM: Three actually: a children’s book called Quinn’s Perfect Name about a little boy with a very long name, a cookbook of Ethel’s recipes with commentary by Ethel and Sallee, and another upcoming novel that could possibly be in the Ethel and Sallee series.