Friday, May 29, 2015

2 On Writing About Grief and Staring at Trees by Margo Rabb

We're delighted Margo Rabb stopped by to share more about her latest novel KISSING IN AMERICA. Additionally, her publisher is offering amazing prizes in a contest you can enter here.

And don't forget -- our Free First Five Pages Workshop opens June 6. Find out all about it here and make sure you submit!

On Writing About Grief and Staring at Trees: A Craft of Writing Post by Margo Rabb

Margo, what was your inspiration for writing KISSING IN AMERICA?

Kissing in America was inspired by thinking about how, when I was a teen and in my twenties, I believed that falling in love would change my life. I thought that if I was with the right person, then many of all the sorrows I felt so deeply—grief over my mother, who had died very suddenly, and then over my father, who died seven years later—would be easier to bear. In many ways, love does change and alleviate grief—but it’s also very complicated. In Kissing in America, Eva, the narrator, finds solace in many of the things that have comforted and helped me: poetry, which I loved to write and read; travel (I spent half of my teen years on buses and trains); and feminism, which I first learned about as a teen, and which changed the way I thought of myself and what I dreamed my life could be.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The scene with Eva and her mother at the end was difficult to write, but also the most gratifying. That’s one of the most pivotal scenes in the book, and as I wrote it I kept thinking of the love I had for my parents, and that I have for my children, and how deep and overwhelming it is.

How long did you work on KISSING IN AMERICA?

I started the first draft in 2008—I handwrote it in notebooks—and this book took me many years to finish. It really was a labor of love.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I like quiet when I’m writing, and I love having a view out the window. I spend a lot of time pacing around the house and staring out the windows. I need to be able to look at a tree—at least one tree. In my twenties, I once rented an apartment in Manhattan where I couldn’t see any trees out the window, and I felt depressed. I realized how much I like to stare at trees.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Don’t give up! It may take years to finish a novel and a million drafts, but keep going—the only difference between many books that were published, and those that were not, is the hard work of revision and perseverance.


Kissing in America by Margo Rabb
Released 5/26/2015

I loved romances because when you opened the first page, you knew the story would end well. Your heart wouldn't be broken. I loved that security, that guaranteed love.

In real life, you never knew the ending. I hated that.

Sixteen-year-old Eva has never been in love. But when she meets Will, everything changes. With him, her grief over her father's death fades, and she can escape from her difficult relationship with her mother. Then, without any warning, Will picks up and moves to California. So Eva—with the help of her best friend, Annie—concocts a plan to travel across the country to see him again. As they leave New York City for the first time and road-trip across America, they encounter cowboys, kudzu, and tiny towns without stoplights. Along the way, Eva and Annie learn the truth about love and all its complexities.

Purchase Kissing in America at Amazon
Purchase Kissing in America at IndieBound
View Kissing in America on Goodreads


Margo Rabb is the author of the novels Kissing in America and Cures for Heartbreak, and she's written essays, articles, book reviews, and short stories for The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic, Slate, The Rumpus, Zoetrope: All-Story, Seventeen, Best New American Voices, New Stories from the South, and One Story, and elsewhere. She grew up in Queens, NY, and recently moved from Austin, TX to Philadelphia, PA. She writes about grief a lot (her mom died when she was in her teens and her dad died when was she was in her twenties). (Here's a link to an essay she wrote recently, about the death of her cat and the death of her mom (it was published, coincidentally, on the 24th anniversary of her mom's death)).
Twitter: @margorabb

What did you think of our interview with Margo Rabb, author of KISSING IN AMERICA? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin


  1. What a great title and the cover is terrific. Thanks for a great interview. I'm always interested in how authors work, and I am comforted by how long some of them take to get their books out there.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)