Marian Birch was born and raised in New York City but spent most of her adult life on the West Coast, the past thirty years on the Olympic Peninsula. She was a clinical psychologist specializing in work with mothers and babies until her retirement in 2012. Marian has been writing since she was seven years old but The Age of Reason is her first novel.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
“The Age of Reason” is the Catholic Church’s term for the point when a child is mature enough to know right from wrong, and thus can confess and repent of sin. It is also the term European invaders, enslavers, and plunderers used for the period in the 18th century they also called the Age of Discovery. Finally, it is the title of a mid-20th-century novel by Jean-Paul Sartre about, among other things, an unwanted pregnancy. All of these are reflected in the themes of my novel, and the title just presented itself to me as a fait accompli.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
Seeing and holding my book was incredibly moving. I think the cover is beautiful and captures the themes of the novel exquisitely.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I always wanted to write. I read so much as a child that my (very intellectual) parents worried about it. I wrote my first “novel” at age 9 about a girl who lived in the Scottish highlands (where I had never been). I think Laura Ingalls Wilder was a profound influence!
I wrote many professional papers and co-wrote and edited a book about clinical work with babies and their families. Somehow, after I retired, a number of fragments coalesced into the skeleton of The Age of Reason and the novel, as it were, “came to me.” The ending, for example, was a complete surprise.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I was a clinical psychologist for thirty years and wrote and published many case histories about my work with children and families.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
Having the physical object of the book out there in the world is a very profoundly powerful experience.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
I’ll Fly Away, Twa Corbies, and The Weavers are all sung or played in the novel.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
“Reality” is a mental construct agreed upon by the powerful adults in a culture. It takes time for children to settle for it, if they ever do.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I currently have four possible novels in the works but haven’t settled on one and don’t know when or if I will. I also play the Irish wire strung harp and study Chinese, French, and Italian online.
How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?
Atmosphere Press was a pleasure to work with. Everyone I dealt with was bright, thoughtful, and responsive. I would happily recommend them and use them again.