Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Fighter Pilot's Daughter banner
 By Mary Lawlor
Crystal: Today I have the pleasure of hosting Mary Lawlor. Welcome Mary! I'm excited to have you visit today.  Would you share a little bit about yourself with us today?
Mary: I’m a military brat and a child of the Sixties.  I grew up on military bases in America and Europe. My family moved twenty times, and I attended fourteen schools by the time I was eighteen. My father was a Marine Corps and later an Army pilot.  He and my mother brought me up to be a good, dutiful, Catholic daughter.  That lasted until 1968, when I left their household and started college.  I was involved in the legendary student uprisings in Paris during the spring of 1968.  These involved French students and workers demonstrating against government policies, plus students from elsewhere speaking out against the Vietnam War.  At the same time, my Dad was in Vietnam fighting that very war. This caused huge strife in the family that marked me in many ways. Later we became very close, and that’s hugely important to how I understand myself now.  Fighter Pilot’s Daughter is an account of all these struggles.
All the moving made my school experience quite difficult, but I made it through graduate school, earned a PhD in English, and became a professor at Muhlenberg College.  I’ve been writing since I was very young, but I published my first book in 2000.  That was Recalling the Wild: Naturalism and the Closing of the American West.  Then in 2006, I published Public Native America: Tribal Self-Representation in Casinos, Museums, and Powwows.  Both of those were published by Rutgers University Press.  Since 2006, I’ve been concentrating on fiction and memoir writing.  Fighter Pilot’s Daughter is my first work of non-fiction creative writing.  
Crystal:  Do you have a favorite scene you would like to share with us?
Mary: Tough question, as there are many.  I’m thinking now of one that appears in Chapter 4, where my mother and sisters and I are settling in to a new house (for us) in New Canaan, Connecticut while Dad went off to war.  The house was outside of town, in the country, and my mother was more than a little nervous about being alone.  A local policeman gave her a dog to help protect us.  She also had a rifle my Dad had left with her.  One night the dog started barking, so Frannie (I call my mother by her first name throughout the book) stood on the front steps of the house and started shooting into the dark.  The next day a a very upset man, the owner of the neighboring field, came over and told her “lady, you almost killed me last night.”  It turned out he was trying to build a house illegally on his property, so he had to work at night to avoid anybody seeing him.  My mother didn’t think much of him for this sneakiness, but she didn’t turn him in; and he promised to help look out for us.  They became allies of a sort, across the distance of the field, and Frannie stopped shooting her rifle into the night.
Crystal:  Where did you come up with the idea for your latest release?
Mary: For many years I’ve wanted to go deep into memory and try to get as close as I could to the feelings I used to have as a kid when we moved.  We moved so often that in some ways it was a very familiar experience, but because moving brought confusion, sadness, and surprises it was always, at the same time, a jarring thing to go through.  For a long time I thought I’d gotten past the old feeling of being a stranger everywhere and of belonging nowhere; but somewhere in the middle of my teaching career I realized I still carried those feelings with me.  So when students in my courses on lit & film of the Cold War urged me to tell them stories about those times, I decided to start writing.  I’d written academic books before but never anything like this.  The book is a story, a narrative of my life through all those moves in the context of the Cold War.  I spent a great deal of time living in those old memories while writing Fighter Pilot’s Daughter.  I tried to stay with the old feelings and convey them on the page by describing sights, smells, and the sounds of daily life under those conditions.  I came up with the idea for the book, then, via my own memories, a great desire to explore them, and the encouragement of my students.
Crystal: What are you currently working on?
Mary: I’m writing a novel set in southern Spain.  It’s called The Time Keeper’s Room and features a young woman just starting university who gets very interested in her own family’s deep past.  She has visions of figures out of medieval Spain, and these figures enter into her own life in ways that aren’t science-fictional.  Her boyfriend comes from a different kind of family from her own, and he too becomes interested in the distant past.  The two of them learn a great deal about themselves, their families, and their country’s history by a combination of love in the present and sympathy with the past.  
Crystal:  Do you have any special routine that you follow when you are writing? 
Mary: In Allentown, I actually have a rather strange practice—or so my friends tell me.  I get up in the morning, make some tea, take a big pot of it upstairs to my writing room, and sit down on a stationary bicycle.  The bike has a ledge where I set my laptop.  I peddle, write and drink the tea at the same time.  The peddling isn’t very vigorous because I’m focused so much on what I’m writing, but it helps my metabolism and keeps me healthier than I think I’d be if I were sitting still at a desk for the hours I write.
In Spain, I write on the front porch where I can look up at the mountains and see the Mediterranean.  I don’t have a stationary bicycle here, so I’m sitting still for hours at a stretch—something I make up for by hiking a lot!
Crystal: Did you have to do a lot of research for this book or any other? If so do you have a fascinating fact that you have learned you would like to share with us?
Mary: The research I did for Fighter Pilot’s Daughter mostly consisted of getting ahold of and studying my father’s records, other printed histories of Army family life and the Cold War, and online materials.  I was able to access much of this through my university library privileges.  And I had interviews with family members, journals, letters, and photos to work with as well.  I should say that beside these materials, memory was the most important resource I had.  
Crystal:  Who are some of your favorite authors that you like to read?
Mary: Among contemporary writers, I like Colm Tóibín, Don DeLillo, Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, Thomas Pynchon, Bathsheba Monk, and David Mitchell.  I also love Henry James, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Frank Norris, and Virginia Woolf.
Crystal:  Is there a genre you haven't written that you would like to try? 
Mary: Hm. That’s a very interesting question.  I haven’t written a screenplay, but I’d very much like to learn how to and try out a screen version of Fighter Pilot’s Daughter.  A couple of people in the film industry are looking at it right now, and I’d like to be able to at least do a draft of a screenplay for it if the interest that’s been shown continues.  I understand it’s a very different process from writing a narrative, but I’d be very interested in trying it out.
Inside the Book:
Fighter Pilot's Daughter 2
FIGHTER PILOT’S DAUGHTER: GROWING UP IN THE SIXTIES AND THE COLD WAR tells the story of the author as a young woman coming of age in an Irish Catholic, military family during the Cold War. Her father, an aviator in the Marines and later the Army, was transferred more than a dozen times to posts from Miami to California and Germany as the government’s Cold War policies demanded. For the pilot’s wife and daughters, each move meant a complete upheaval of ordinary life. The car was sold, bank accounts closed, and of course one school after another was left behind. Friends and later boyfriends lined up in memory as a series of temporary attachments. The book describes the dramas of this traveling household during the middle years of the Cold War. In the process, FIGHTER PILOT’S DAUGHTER shows how the larger turmoil of American foreign policy and the effects of Cold War politics permeated the domestic universe. The climactic moment of the story takes place in the spring of 1968, when the author’s father was stationed in Vietnam and she was attending college in Paris. Having left the family’s quarters in Heidelberg, Germany the previous fall, she was still an ingénue; but her strict upbringing had not gone deep enough to keep her anchored to her parents’ world. When the May riots broke out in the Latin quarter, she attached myself to the student leftists and American draft resisters who were throwing cobblestones at the French police. Getting word of her activities via a Red Cross telegram delivered on the airfield in Da Nang, Vietnam, her father came to Paris to find her. The book narrates their dramatically contentious meeting and return to the American military community of Heidelberg. The book concludes many years later, as the Cold War came to a close. After decades of tension that made communication all but impossible, the author and her father reunited. As the chill subsided in the world at large, so it did in the relationship between the pilot and his daughter. When he died a few years later, the hard edge between them, like the Cold War stand-off, had become a distant memory.
Publisher: Rowman and Littlefield
Pages: 336
Genre: Memoir
Format: Hardcover/Kindle

Book Links:

Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War is available at Amazon.

Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Meet the Author:

Mary LawlorMary Lawlor grew up in an Army family during the Cold War. Her father was a decorated fighter pilot who fought in the Pacific during World War II, flew missions in Korea, and did two combat tours in Vietnam. His family followed him from base to base and country to country during his years of service. Every two or three years, Mary, her three sisters, and her mother packed up their household and moved. By the time she graduated from high school, she had attended fourteen different schools. These displacements, plus her father?s frequent absences and brief, dramatic returns, were part of the fabric of her childhood, as were the rituals of base life and the adventures of life abroad.
As Mary came of age, tensions between the patriotic, Catholic culture of her upbringing and the values of the sixties counterculture set family life on fire. While attending the American College in Paris, she became involved in the famous student uprisings of May 1968. Facing her father, then posted in Vietnam, across a deep political divide, she fought as he had taught her to for a way of life completely different from his and her mother’s.
Years of turbulence followed. After working in Germany, Spain and Japan, Mary went on to graduate school at NYU, earned a Ph.D. and became a professor of literature and American Studies at Muhlenberg College. She has published three books, Recalling the Wild (Rutgers UP, 2000), Public Native America (Rutgers UP, 2006), and most recently Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War (Rowman and Littlefield, September 2013).
She and her husband spend part of each year on a small farm in the mountains of southern Spain.
For More Information
Tour Schedule:
Monday, January 4 – Interview at I’m Shelf-ish
Tuesday, January 5 – Guest Blogging at Confessions of an Eccentric Bookaholic
Wednesday, January 6 – Book Featured at My Bookish Pleasures
Thursday, January 7 – Interview at As the Page Turns
Friday, January 8 – Book Featured at Write and Take Flight
Monday, January 11 – Interview at The Book Connection
Tuesday, January 12 – Book Featured at The Writer’s Life
Wednesday, January 13 – Book Review at Books, Reviews, ETC.
Thursday, January 14 – Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book
Friday, January 15 – Interview at The Dark Phantom
Monday, January 18 – Book Featured at Literal Exposure
Tuesday, January 19 – Interview at Reviews by Crystal
Wednesday, January 20 – Interview at The Book Rack
Thursday, January 21 – Book Featured at A Title Wave
Monday, January 25 – Book Featured at Book Cover Junkie
Tuesday, January 26 – Book Featured at 3 Partners in Shopping
Wednesday, January 27 – Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner
Thursday, January 28 – Book Featured at Bound 2 Escape
Friday, January 29 – Book Featured at Around the World in Books
Friday, January 29 – Book Review at My Life. One Story at a Time.

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