Margaret Dilloway Interviewed by Zoe Gharehmani
Margaret Dilloway grew up in San Diego and graduated from Scripps College. She lives in San Diego with her husband, a former Army Ranger, and their three children. How to Be An American Housewife is her debut novel.
When did you start writing?
I was a quiet and shy child, one of those who hardly ever speak – some call it ‘selective mutism’? So I started writing as soon as I could and have been writing all my life.
Did you pursue writing in your education?
No, I actually studied studio art. My writing career began after I was married and when I started working for a newspaper.
What inspired the story in your novel?
I had a difficult relationship with my mother, a Japanese bride who came to the US with her American husband. I think her stories have inspired much of my writing. However, the book is mostly fiction.
Would you please elaborate on that?
My novel tells the story of a Japanese mother and her troublesome relationship with her American daughter. But these characters are not real. My mother was born in Japan in the early 1930s. She passed away when I was 20. Toward the end of her life, she tape-recorded some of her stories and I have incorporated those in my book. However, despite the similarities, Shoko is not my mother and Sue is much older than I was while she lived. My mother died years before her grandchildren were born.
In your novel, you have made regular references to a book, which was to familiarize Japanese women with the American way of life. Tell us about that.
Each chapter begins with an excerpt from such a book. Although my father had given my mom a similar book, that was an entirely different kind. The excerpts I have presented are pure fiction. I used the idea and made up a book that was written for Japanese women to help them adapt to their new lifestyle.
How did it feel to grow up bicultural?
I didn’t know any other Japanese people besides my mother, and I don’t speak the language, either. My mother refused to teach it.
Some of the descriptions in your book indicate to a visit to Japan. Did you ever go back to see your mother’s homeland?
No, those descriptions came from research! I’d love to someday visit my relatives and also maybe see some of the places in the book.
Tell us about the most rewarding aspect of your success.
Several readers have thanked me for writing it. The story seems to resonate with a lot of readers. I have met a few Americans who also have Japanese mothers and my story seems to help them come to terms with their own cultural issues.
Have you had any negative experiences?
Not so much with readers, but some writers approach me and ask for guidance about publication. They think the fact that my book is published qualifies me to find them an agent or a publisher.
What is your next project?
My next book, The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, is due out in August of 2012. The novel is about an amateur rose breeder who works as a teacher and suffers from kidney disease. She is breeding a new type of rose when her defiant niece shows up at her door and changes her life. In addition, I am working on a novel about a female samurai. This one is more of a historical fiction.
Thank you, Margaret. I look forward to reading your next novel.
For more information, visit Margaret at: http://margaretdilloway.com