M. J. Neary describes herself as a disaster author because she writes about natural, political and social disasters—often with a different perspective from other historians.
An award-winning historical essayist, multilingual arts and entertainment journalist, published poet, playwright, actress, dancer and choreographer, her most recent book, Never Be at Peace (Fireship Press), is the third in a series that takes an in-depth look at the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. The rebellion sought to end British rule of Ireland.
Each book in her series focuses on the Easter week revolt from a different historical figure’s perspective.
The protagonist in Never Be at Peace is Helena Molony, an orphan who was inspired by pro-nationalist Maud Gonne. Helena joined the battle and spent her life fighting for women’s rights, while also plagued by issues of alcoholism, mental illness, anger and bisexuality.
“I write as an historian and don’t take sides,” Marina said. As a Polish-Russian-American with parents who had opposing views of freedom, “I grew up with ethnic conflict under my roof and understand the principle.”
The Perspective as a Chernobyl Survivor
When Marina was 7-years-old, she survived a catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, then under the jurisdiction of the Soviet Union. After hearing doctors describe the health impact, Marina and her mother fled the area to stay with relatives. Marina was left with a mild bone marrow disorder.
Rather it being something that Marina worries about, she says, “It contributes to my understanding of ethnic conflict.”
Advice to Aspiring Authors
- Trust yourself. Marina isn’t as convinced as some people I’ve interviewed that author groups are worthwhile. “The most important thing is to talk to published authors, not aspiring and self-published authors,” she said. “If you have a manuscript, research publishers of authors you admire.” Marina spent six weeks researching appropriate small presses. Once she started pitching, the first offer came quickly.
- Don’t sell snow to Eskimos. Understand who will want to read your book, write for that market in a fresh and engaging way, and find publishers who will help you reach into that market.
- Don’t sell yourself short. Marina believes that traditional publishers, including small presses, are better than self publishing. Traditional publishing will give you credibility as an author. “Approach publishers with nothing less than your excellence,” she said. “Give them only what you want the world to see of you. And a great, tight, unique pitch is absolutely essential.”
Finding Joy in Life
Marina finds joy in achievement and in contrasts. “I love going to cat shows and dog shows, Seeing beautiful, well groomed animals gives me asthetic pleasure, but I also like to going to shelters to see the opposite. The contrast gives me a perspective on things.”
She likes to give as much as she can to help others and supports various causes. “When you’re depressed, it’s easy to feel worthless and not take pride in your achievements. Volunteering at a food kitchen or an animal shelter helps me step outside myself. That gives me joy.”