Talking with Novelist Tara Marta
Grief Dialogues: Good morning and welcome to the latest episode of grief bursts, the podcast page for the website Grief Dialogues. And today I’m with Tara Marta and she’s going to talk about her new book. It’s not available to the public until the publisher releases it in May, but there’s a lot of exciting things we want to talk about the process of writing this book. So welcome Tara. And I’m just thrilled that you’re here today with us.
Tara Lynn Marta: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Grief Dialogues: So your book is titled, Look Back to Yesterday and it’s being published by who and what’s the release date?
Tara Lynn Marta: Adelaide books in May of 2020.
Grief Dialogues: Great. And so as you know, grief dialogues, our motto is out of grief comes art. And I’m wondering, obviously this is a fictional book, is that correct? But it is based on real life for you, right? Not Autobiographical, not biographical, but definitely an art form that’s coming out of your own experience. So could you tell us a little bit about the book and how you first came to the idea of even writing it in the first place?
Tara Lynn Marta: Sure. So look back to yesterday is about a woman named Rebecca who clings to the past. She’s alone after the death of her father and the breakup with her boyfriend John, and at the heart of her inability to move on is the loss of her mother when Rebecca was nine and living in Brooklyn, New York. Now in her thirties she has a difficult time reconciling loss because she never truly dealt with the death of her mother. And this loss kind of interferes with other relationships because she’s almost cemented in the past. She can’t really deal with change very well and always refuses to go back to Brooklyn where her mom is buried until her father dies and he wants his ashes spread over her mother’s grave. So this kind of forces Rebecca to head back to Brooklyn after a 23 year absence. But while she’s on the subway, she falls asleep and finds herself back in the past in her childhood, 1980 so she encounters not only her mother, her father, her family, but her also her childhood self. And she comes up with an idea that she could probably alter the past and save her mother from an untimely death. But what she comes to discover is that the only person she could really save is herself.
Grief Dialogues: Yeah. Wow. Now I definitely want to read the book. I want to know what possibly a nine year old could do to, save her mother, regardless of the circumstances. And I know a lot of children out there, they often think that. So I’m going to be really curious to read this book. Can’t wait to see it. So how do you, do you have a mission work sort of purposed in the context of your art?
Tara Lynn Marta: Well, by the year 2009, I had lost all the people that I was close to in my life. Both my parents were gone. My grandmother, a couple of aunts I was close to and I was kind of feeling alone and vulnerable and I’d always wanted to be a writer. I had nothing published at that point. So I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could write a story about loss? And since it’s such a universal topic, I felt that readers could identify with the character of Rebecca. So I wanted to share my own experience of loss and combine it with this fantastical idea of being sent back in time to deal with your grief.
Grief Dialogues: And so I know when dealing with grief when we come to it the first time, especially a lot of us have some ideas in our heads that we think this is how grief will be, should be, and it isn’t until we’re in it ourselves that we find out that some of those ideas are actually myths. And I was curious if there’s a common myth or myths about grief and how you would debunk it or how you would like to save others from saying that that myth is so when it’s not.
Tara Lynn Marta: Well, one of the things that I had to deal with is when people were saying to me, now I lost my mom in real life when I was 12 years old, and then I lost my father when I was 32, and I had a lot of people say to me, loss is the same at any age. And this is a myth because although it hurt to lose my father and I miss him terribly every day, my mother’s death actually traumatized me. She died of cancer, but it was traumatizing because I felt so abandoned, even though I knew she didn’t leave me on purpose. You can’t reconcile loss at the age of 12, so it’s not the same experience. Plus I didn’t get to know her quite like I did my father.
Grief Dialogues: Right, that’s a big myth. Really helpful. So what would you advise people who have young children? Is there any particular advice, book, organization that you might suggest to people?
Tara Lynn Marta: Nothing in particular, but I did read a lot of books in my adolescence, in my twenties, about motherless children. And I know that was very helpful to me. I would suggest that they seek counseling if the grief carries on for too long. It’s so important to get professional help, and also to find people you can trust, whether it’s a teacher or a school counselor or somebody that you know will be there for you and take your grief seriously.
Grief Dialogues: Right. I think that’s very important, especially seeing a counselor. And you know, you said when grief goes too long and sometimes you don’t know if it’s too long or not. I often say, if you have any question about grief, see a counselor. I have a friend whose mother died when my friend was 13, and she stopped growing, period. And she had a lot of health issues because of that. Her mother died of cancer and her father basically wouldn’t allow her to see her mother the last three weeks of her mother’s life. He didn’t want to traumatize her by having her witness her mother’s skeletal body, She couldn’t really speak about her mother in the household anymore. Her father was devastated and this was his way to deal with it. Unfortunately, that meant that my friend stopped growing. She’s in her fifties today, and it really would have helped, at that time, if her father had managed to get her some therapy or counseling. Her life would’ve turned out a bit better. So are there any resources that have helped you on your journey through grief?
Tara Lynn Marta: Well, actually writing this book was very cathartic for me, and I know not everybody is a writer. But writing this book has been a huge help because I didn’t realize how many feelings were still carried over from my mom’s death when I was a child into adulthood.
Grief Dialogues: Would you recommend writing as a way to deal with grief? What kind of art forms would you recommend, or how did that actually manifest itself for you?
Tara Lynn Marta: A journal is a great art form for everybody. Even if you’re not a storyteller like me and you don’t want to be a writer, anybody could keep a journal to write down their feelings, look over them. It’s a cathartic way of coping with grief because you’re sometimes unable to realize your own feelings until you see them written down.
Grief Dialogues: Yes. I like journaling because I found people didn’t really want to hear me talk about my grief. And so I turned to journaling because I could write out my feelings. But my question to you is, why do you think people believe that grief is a taboo topic?
Tara Lynn Marta: Well, when I lost my mom, I had some insensitive things said to me like get over it or snap out of it. And those are very hurtful things when you’re going through grief. There are those who think you could just snap your fingers and everything will work out. But it doesn’t always work that way. Grief is a process and people grieve differently. It takes some people longer than others. And I think people are afraid of discussing grief with others because they don’t want to sound morbid. We live in a very desensitized culture right now. And when somebody else is in a happy place, they don’t want to deal with somebody who’s going through a hard time because they don’t want their happiness interrupted. So I think it’s really important to find someone that you respect and someone who will show you empathy.
Grief Dialogues: Could you tell me a little about your process? How has your book come to be a published? What was your journey along that way?
Tara Lynn Marta: It’s been a long journey. As I said, by the time I was 32, I had lost everybody I was close to: my grandmother, my aunts, my mother had died long ago. So I was feeling so vulnerable, and I thought it would be a great way to loosen some of that grief and write a story that everybody could relate to. So it’s been a long process. I went to college after my father. I was an adult learner. So I didn’t go to college right after high school, but I had always wanted to be a writer. So I thought, what could I do to help myself? I enrolled in a community college, then went to a university to be an English major, and then I went on to graduate school to study Creative Writing. Look Back To Yesterday was actually my thesis in grad school, which I had actually started long before grad school. And so once I got my M.A., I start looking around for publishers and I found Adelaide books, and they were willing to take a chance on my novel.
Grief Dialogues: Wow. Great. So do you have an agent?
Tara Lynn Marta: No, I don’t.
Grief Dialogues: Well good for you. That’s hard work, also to be able to share it with the world is hard work. So I applaud you for that. So going back to your book, and this is not one of the questions that I sent, but let’s say there’s going to be a billboard about your book. What would you want on that billboard?
Tara Lynn Marta: I would probably want people to know that when they pick up this book, they’re going to read yes, about grief, yes, about loss, but also about hope and acceptance. How to keep those we love who have already passed on in our lives, because you still have a relationship with that person. And many people don’t think that they can have a relationship with someone they can’t see or hear. But they’re so much a part of you, even when they’re gone. In fact, there’s a great quote in my book when somebody says to Rebecca “how can anybody who’s a part of you ever truly be gone?” And I think that’s so important for people to realize.
Grief Dialogues: So I won’t ask you how she answers that because I’m gonna wait and read it in the book. But that is a very powerful question, it’s brilliant. Grief Dialogues will promote your book quite heavily because I just know this is gonna be an important book, not only from the literature sense, but from a grief, dying sense. So what type of a reader do you see being most interested in this book? Will it be part of the new fiction table at your local independent library? Or what other areas do you see this book fitting into?
Tara Lynn Marta: I think it’s a book that teenagers and adults will be able to relate to. It’ll be available on Amazon and in local bookstores. I’m assuming it will be in bookstores like Barnes and Noble as well. And I know my publisher has many marketing ideas to get this book out to the public. Once the book comes out, I’ll be doing readings at local bookstores. I also have an author page. You can follow me at Tara Lynn Marta, author on Facebook and @TaraLynnMarta on Twitter.
Grief Dialogues: We’ll include that in the links with this podcast. And will you be sending me a list of where your readings are? Grief Dialogues has followers all over the world. I just did a reading in Chester, England with a sold out crowd and so it’s really amazing how people want these types of stories, and they want to come and hear your reading, so I hope you will let me know where you’re going to be reading so that I can publish that on our program as well.
Tara Lynn Marta: Oh sure. Yes. As soon as I get the itinerary I’d be glad to send it on.
Grief Dialogues: Perfect. And we’ll put it on our events page. So one thing that Grief Dialogues is now working on is we want to work directly with medical providers. To help them deal not only with their patients’ grief but the patient’s families grief. I found talking to a number of medical students that there is generally one, maybe two classes on death in the entire medical school experience. It’s hard for a physician, or any kind of medical provider, to put aside his or her own grief about the patient, the patient’s,family, and not have it affect how they deal with their profession. So what we’re trying to do is share ideas for medical providers about death. Is there anything you would have liked the medical provider to have said or done, or anything you would caution a medical provider not to do in the future?
Tara Lynn Marta: I would only say that it’s just so important to show understanding to your patient if he or she is coming to you with emotional pain. And I would hope that any medical provider would suggest to their patient that they seek additional help with a counselor or a psychologist. But also, it’s important to show sympathy to a patient.
Grief Dialogues: I’m really looking forward to the book. So any last words you’d like to offer?
Tara Lynn Marta: Just that if you’re going through any kind of grief, no matter who you’ve lost, a parent, a friend, a spouse, keep holding on, and know that they’re always with you. Again, grief is a process. We get through it differently at different stages, but if you find it debilitating, please seek help.
Grief Dialogues: This has been great. Thank you so much. And hopefully you will be willing to come back on when the book’s out and we can talk in more detail about the characters and the plot and so forth. I really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you very much. And that’s today’s show on Grief Bursts.
Grief Dialogues is an educational and informational community and not meant to diagnose or act as medical treatment. Professional support services based on life and grief coaching practices for moving forward after loss may be offered. If you are experiencing serious suicidal thoughts that you cannot control, please stop now and telephone 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)