(Interview) Margaret Dilloway Talks to BlogHer
By Karen Ballum on October 28, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
We recently caught up with BlogHer Book Club author Margaret Dilloway about her novel How to Be an American Housewife. Here's what she had to say about her novel, her favorite English class and we even wrangled a little bit out of her about her next book.
BlogHer: Throughout How to Be an American Housewife, different characters repeat the phrase, "The past is the past." It seemed that the more the characters tried to force themselves to just move on from past events, the harder they found everything. Do you think the past is ever really just the past?
Margaret Dilloway: Leaving the past in the past is certainly something I struggle with, which is probably why it's a theme in the book. It's poisonous to have regret and dwell on past actions or lost opportunities, because nobody has a time machine. If you made mistakes in the past, learn from them and move on. Concern yourself with how things are now, and how they will be in the future. I think the people who know how to do that tend to be more content. This book is all about letting go of the past, so you can move on.
BlogHer: Sue didn't want to be like her mother, even though she wanted to please Shoko. Yet, she and Shoko were very much alike. Do you think that Sue and Shoko ever recognized their similarities?
Margaret Dilloway: Yes. Though they seemed to start out on opposite spectrums (disobedient vs. obedient), they were falsely labeling themselves. In the end, they both realized that they didn't have to be "perfect" housewives; and that there was no shame in it. They both just wanted what was best for their kids, and to be true to themselves.
BlogHer: I know that you wrote another book before How to Be an American Housewife. You had an agent, but you said the book didn't sell because it straddled the line between literary fiction and chick-lit. Did that experience influence how you wrote your subsequent books?
Margaret Dilloway: It was actually between literary and commercial; I understand this to mean literary is more character-driven, while commercial fiction is more plot-driven. I took it as a compliment. I like to read stories with plot and great characters, so that is what I aspire to write. It didn't affect how I write.
I've always written in a certain way, where the characters fall out of the present and recall memories mid-stream. Or perhaps my characters are always heavily influenced by their pasts.
I try to make the writing reflect what it's like to be in the character's skin, to know what their inner lives are like. In Housewife, Shoko goes back and forth into her past, sometimes recounting events out of order. In my new novel, the main character, Gal, is a scientist, and she's got a no-nonsense straightforward way of thinking.
BlogHer: On your blog you've mentioned that your best English class experiences were in junior high. I think most of us feel that we'd rather not remember most of those years. What made those classes such positive experiences for you?
Margaret Dilloway: I just did a book club where all three of my junior high school English teachers showed up, and we talked about that! It was because they had really interesting