Interview with Margaret Frey

margaret frey
Q.  In regards to your story, Pillars of Salt, where did Nina’s story come from? Was it drawn from experience or a creative leap?

A.  Like most creative efforts, Nina’s story with her problematic son was a little bit of both. I’d been thinking about how much of child-rearing is based on instinct, on the way in which we ourselves were raised, and then a large dose of faith. Frequently it’s all about: if I try my very best, love my kids then everything will work out okay. Sometimes that means doing exactly what our own parents did or reversing gears–doing the opposite. But despite those decisions and/or good intentions, families can hit the wall in a heart beat. Accidents, addictions, bad choices scramble the best intentions. Of parent and child. Then it’s all about how we cope and deal with what’s in front of us. And yes, I have my own family history to tap, complete with a son’s bumpy ride.

Q.  The story speaks to Lyle’s history with addiction. What about Nina? 

A.   Nina is caught in a loop of her own: wanting to believe Lyle has changed but strongly suspecting this is same old, same old. Dozens of broken promises can do that.

Nothing But Trouble (Pillars of Salt)

Q.   How do the ‘Pillars of Salt’ relate?

A.   I had several early readers ask the same question–beyond Nina’s fight not to look back as she’s leaving Ott’s bar and grille. I’d been thinking about the story of Lot’s wife, that need to ‘look back’ at our own history, our home and friends, our place in the world. In fact, I’d written a first person narration for Lot’s wife, the infamous woman of no name. Think it’s extraordinarily hard to give up on our children, even when they drive us crazy. I understand people saying: ‘That’s it. I’ve had enough. You’re killing yourself and now you’re killing me.’ That’s what Lyle’s father has done; he’s put distance between himself and the family by starting a new, second family. I recalled the ‘tough love’ approach, something that works for some people but not everyone. It’s the struggle that grips me in these situations, the push-pull, the love/hate element, people reacting and dealing with loss and disappointment. I tend to think those jagged moments defined us as parents, as human beings, maybe even expose the what and the who of our true natures. The other thing with salt? It dilutes bitterness. My mother doctored bitter coffee with a saltshaker. Personal histories/interactions can require a salt treatment if they’re to go forward.

Q.  What about Janine? She’s pregnant. Will the whole cycle begin again?

A.   No guarantees, one way or the other. She’s young and still has faith. I think of that whenever I see a woman stroke her pregnant belly, that leap of faith about the world, the future. Those moments make me recall my own pregnant self, years ago now. So much hope, be it well-founded or not! What will Lyle do? Hold true to his promise of getting it together? Or fail again? And Nina? She takes Lyle’s call so she’s made a tentative first commitment. For better or worse, they’re all in this together.

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  1. Pingback: Pillars of Salt | Rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal

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