Author Terry Kay on writing “The Book of Marie”


Terry Kay: This is a book that is about the Civil Rights movement. It is not a book dictated by a love story. Even though, obviously, the love story is there, it’s not dictated by that. It’s dictated by what went on during that period of time, which was a transitional period, and the people of my generation. You will note Cole Bishop is based on me. I was that quarterback for the football team. (Giggles) Yea, I know guys. (laughter) You gotta remember it was a long time ago, for crying out loud. I wanted to bring in Marie Fitzpatrick in a a dramatic way. Well, the most dramatic way I could think of was for her to confront the entire football team, not one person, but the whole team. And to say: “Ray, “who are you guys?” “You don’t intimidate me.” “I’m not bothered by you at all.” So she uses two things. She uses that incident to establish an instant reputation, and she uses her brain to terrify everybody. The character of Marie, the one it came from, came from a woman from Tennessee. When I was going to college, I worked in New York City on 43rd Street in Time Square, as a waiter in a place called Toffanetti’s. And there was a woman that worked in that place, who was from Tennessee, and she was a hostess. She was exactly like Marie. She was tough as nails and would say anything. And it didn’t bother her at all if it upset you. And this is what I’m talking about, when the characters tell you this. I had no idea that Marie was was going to teach these little children, when I started that book. I had no idea! But, all of a sudden, one day she said, “I’m teaching these kids.” I thought, “Ah, good.” I wrote, typed over 8,000 pages to get to this, and six different versions. Actually, the first version I wrote, is a better book. And it’s A LOT more controversial, a lot more controversial. I like that lingering thing, that means that when you close the book, you walk away, you think about it. I don’t care how you think about it, but you think about it. And that matters. It also matters, That, no matter what you say, you will realize the importance of the relationship between Marie and Cole. That Marie brought in the message, Cole got it. And the reason I didn’t make it a love story is because I wanted the emphasis to be on what was the impact on on young white people my age during that period of time. How many books on the Civil Rights Movement have you read written by some white southerners my age? (Laughter) Who actually lived in a segregated world, went through the Civil Rights period and, you know, now lives in a desegregated world? This is the most important thing I have ever written. It is the most important thing I will ever write.

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