This week, I was lucky enough to sit down with author Mara White and discuss her latest book, The Delivery. The Delivery, a New Adult Romance, focuses on twenty-five year-old Lana, who runs an arts program for at-risk youth in addition to single-handedly holding her Russian immigrant family together. The last thing Lana wants is to fall for Mozey, a talented artist and graffiti activist almost too old for her program and definitely too intense for a professional relationship. But what Lana wants isn’t always what she needs.
The Delivery is Mara’s third book, and was released last month.
RB: So I noticed that, unlike your other books, which take place in New York’s Washington Heights, The Delivery is set in Los Angeles, with the characters traveling to Detroit, Tijuana and Mexico City. What inspired you to write The Delivery and spread the setting out so far?
MW: The Delivery was really inspired by the current political climate in Mexico and what happened with the students in Ayotzinapa. When I was young and living in Mexico, I was fascinated by a literary movement called La Onda, which arose in the late 1960’s as a youth-centric, counter-culture response to an eerily similar student massacre in 1968 in Tlatelolco.
The literature of La Onda was anti-establishment and avant-garde for the time; it featured interesting POV switches and fast-talking rebellious kids out looking for adventure and doing drugs. What separated them from vandals was their high sense of social justice and belief in change for the betterment of the people. The Delivery is definitely a nod to this genre, especially De Perfil by José Augustín and El Vampiro de la Colonia Roma by Luis Zapata Quiroz. Although they aren’t part of the same genre, there’s also some influence from Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and César Aira’s, The Test , if only for their great sense of adventure.
RB: Since the book is so centered on location, what was your research process like?
MW: I was confident with LA and Tijuana because I’ve spent time in both places. Mexico City I lived in for many years so I know it well. I’ve been to Detroit but I wanted a more personalized perspective, so through a friend I found a Russian woman whose family had immigrated to Detroit. I consulted with her about growing up in the Russian community there.
RB: Obviously Lana and Mozey’s relationship is very romantically passionate, but Lana is also a social worker who really wants the best for him—as characters, they’re three-dimensional and realistic. What would you say the novel is about underneath (definitely enhanced by) their love?
MW: I’ll try to narrow this down to three major threads running through the story. First, the idea of marginalized people finding solace and community organically in other marginalized people (Lana, Mozey, Alexei, Coco, Rocco, Tommy, Reme, Lana’s parents—pretty much the whole cast of characters).
Secondly, the immigration theme and the question it asks, how do some immigration narratives hold value while others do not? If we know that to immigrate is in and of itself an intrinsically heroic feat, why are some histories of immigration valued while others are met at the border with shotguns?
Lastly, there is the allegory for corruption and the state vs. the people. Mozey’s parents are a not-so-disguised replica of the presidential couple. Their outward appearance is paramount to them and they present their cause to save Anamaría as benevolence. Yet they quite literally eviscerate Mozey to save that facade. What masquerades as benevolence is, in fact, the opposite and it’s deeply rooted in violence.
RB: What inspired you to make Lana a social worker and care so deeply for her clients?
MW: I love stories of forbidden love and that seems to be what I’m always drawn to writing. I figured it would stir up a lot of inner conflict for Lana to have to fight against her growing attraction for a client—counter to her genuine desire to help people succeed. The Delivery is thematically about social justice so it made perfect sense to me to make the heroine a social worker.
RB: Definitely. I know this comes up a lot, so I’ll come out and ask–is Lana meant to be a likeable character?
MW: Lana is a prickly pear. Whether she’s likeable or not depends on the reader’s interpretation of her. She’s hard to access and is someone who puts up a lot of defenses to cover her insecurities. I would hope that the reader could eventually come to see that underneath her rough exterior she is someone who cares deeply for other people
RB: A definite hallmark of your work is the deep and powerful emotion with which you write your love scenes–could you elaborate as to how you get there?
MW: Well, there is not that much sex in The Delivery, compared to what I usually write! I personally feel like I am fluid with the emotional component and the romance and I enjoy exploring those things –but as for the actual sex scenes, I get bored. There are only so many different ways you can write about intercourse and I don’t have the patience to write twenty page sex scenes. I’m much more into characters and plot than poking and prodding and oohing and ahhing.
RB: On that topic, your Heights series is very much adult-centered fiction—why did you decide to set The Delivery in a New Adult genre?
MW: I didn’t really decide, it just happened that way. Mozey and Lana pulled me in a different direction and I agreed to follow them there.
RB: Are you hoping to do more with the New Adult genre in the future?
MW: Yes! But I’m afraid for my next novel, Maldeamores, I just did the exact opposite, meaning I set out to write a new adult piece and it turned into erotica. I’m sure in the future I’ll switch back and forth, but more than the genre criteria, it’s always the characters and plot that drive me so I’ll use those as my compass and follow them wherever they take me.
RB: Will we see more of Lana and Mozey?
MW: I wrote The Delivery as a stand-alone but a lot of readers have been asking me for more of these two. I never say never, but I’m currently working on two different projects, so not in the near future. However, I’m really excited to share with everyone the new characters I have coming!
Thanks to Mara and her PR team for setting up today’s blog tour, and make sure you check out The Delivery!