Monday, May 17, 2021

TBR: Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize by Margo Rabb

TBR [to be read] is an invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe. 



Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?


Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize is an Agatha Christie-meets-The Secret Garden tale. It’s the story of a girl whose life is transformed by a garden and a mystery, and through these challenges, she discovers an inner strength she didn’t realize she had.


Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why? And, which character gave you the most trouble, and why?


One of my favorite parts of writing this book was the research I did—part of the novel is set in a fictionalized version of one of my favorite places, a real-life garden called Chanticleer outside Philadelphia. I interviewed a horticulturist there, Chris Fehlhaber, for research, and we had many long, philosophical conversations about the meaning of gardens and how they can change our emotions. These interviews helped shape several of the characters in the book, including Lucy, Edith, and Mimsy. I also wrote this essay about the experience for The New York Times. Writing is never easy for me, so I think creating every character—and every page!—is a combination of joy and trouble for me.


Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


I spent over five years writing this novel, but the hardest part of the whole process was doing the last revisions during the pandemic, with my two children home in remote school and my husband working from home also. I’ve never before had a more challenging time to write—there were constant interruptions, and to be able to focus, I wrote outside in the backyard a lot, hiding behind the garage. I also wrote in my children’s playhouse, in a tent in the backyard in the rain and snow, and sometimes I’d wait until after everyone went to bed, and I’d write until two or three o’clock in the morning. A few times, when I was working through whole drafts for copyedits, first pass, and second pass pages, I’d stay up the whole night, all the way till 8 o’clock the next morning. The crazy thing is, I actually enjoyed staying up all night so I could have that uninterrupted time. I hadn’t pulled all-nighters like that since college.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


My favorite advice is from Lynda Barry, who quotes her own teacher Marilyn Frasca--when Lynda was complaining she didn’t like her own work, Marilyn told her: “It’s none of your business.” I love the idea that how we judge or feel about our own creative work doesn’t matter—what matters is the process of making it.


My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


My favorite chapter is one in the middle called “Sea Change.” Writing it was one of those moments when it sort of just poured out. It felt like it came from the deepest part of me.


How do you approach revision?


All my best work happens in revision. I do very messy, long first drafts, often handwritten, and then I edit the hell out of it for years. Even with shorter pieces like essays or book reviews, I spend an enormous time editing and revising. I also keep handwritten notebooks for all the characters in my novels, to get to know them better. Little bits and pieces of writing from the notebooks always do end up in the final book. 


Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)


Food is a huge part of Lucy Clark—part of her journey in New York is eating many delicious things she’s never had before, and having a sort of awakening through food. There’s a meal in the chapter “Sea Change” that’s at a fictional cafĂ© that’s based partly on two restaurants I love: Buvette in the West Village, and also it’s based on a life-changing meal I had at Curtis Duffy’s Grace restaurant in Chicago. Here is the chef at Buvette making “Anchoiade Tartines”—they’re very simple, with butter, anchovy, and caper berries. They’re delicious!




BUY THIS BOOK FOR YOUR OWN TBR STACK: Signed and personalized copies can be ordered and shipped here from one of my favorite indie bookshops:





DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.