Q: Did your husband (who was earning his doctorate at USC at the time) have advice for you as you re-entered college?
A: I should say so! “Always sit in the first or second row of class so that your attention stays focused, and never get behind in your homework.” I listened to him, thank God.
Q: But you did not return to UCLA. Why not?
A: I needed to stay focused. In classes of 250 students at UCLA, I didn’t have a chance. So I attended a state college, CA State U at Northridge, where there were only 30 students in the class. Interestingly, the Eastern Seaboard colleges (e.g., Yale) had at that time very small ratios of professors to students (1: 8). I thrived in the smaller classes and was taken into the English Honors Program.
Q: THE PROVIDER was your first novel. Did you have trouble deciding what the subject would be for your first novel?
A: No. It was a given. That novel was all around me. I grew up living that novel.
Q: So, is it your favorite?
A. Yes. And my most personal. In the same way that Eliah Kazan’s most personal screenplay was “America, America”, and Billy Crystal’s was “Mr. Saturday Night”.
Q: Would you say your themes have a similarity?
A: Yes. Not unusual. Most writers handle the same theme over and over, but from different angles. I treat aspects of love stories, not romances.
Q. You started writing late in life. You inspire people who think it’s never to late. I think the only person who started later was Harriet Doerr with her fine novel “Stones of Ibarra”. I think it was her Master’s Thesis at Stanford, and she received lots of encouragement at age 70. She continued to write, but not as much as you. You were like a locomotive: I mean once you got started you kept going, and are still going with five published novels and two yet to be published. And there are some short stories. Do you think you will continue to write novels?
A: That’s an interesting question. The last novel I wrote was “An Incident in the Family”. It wrote itself and I held onto its coattails. What I came to the end of what I wanted to say, I simply stopped. It was unlike anything I had written. Since then, I have been writing short stories. Something happened with that experience. I’m not certain where my writing will go from here.
Often, Henry James has written short stories that he thought would turn into novels; some did. We'll see.
I just wrote a short story, “The Arrangement”, with the intention of turning it into a novella or a novel. But I restrained it into a short story. Why? There was great fun in resolving the problem early. “The Arrangement”, along with a few other new short stories, may appear in a collection.
Q: Your literary voice is distinctive. I would say that your narrative style is lyrical, and you balance it with a great deal of suspenseful dialog. Do you consider yourself a stylist?
Q: Ms. Marshall, I enjoy your writings very much. Will you permit me to interview you again in the future?
A: Most certainly.