Mary Jane Black studied English and journalism as an undergrad and went on to pursue a master's in English with a concentration in creative writing. She left her writing degree program to accept a job teaching high school English when she became a solo mom with a teenage daughter. She taught writing and literature in high schools for fourteen years and is currently a literacy specialist for the State of Texas. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, She Rode a Harley.
Please give us a short introduction to what She Rode a Harley is about.
She Rode a Harley follows my journey from the timid frightened woman who left an abusive marriage to the confident and independent woman who traveled solo on the seat of a Harley. My story shows that second chances and true love can exist even in the midst of the darkest days.
What inspired you to write this book?
Writing a memoir of my life with Dwayne and our partnership provided me the way out of the grief. Sharing him in the pages of my book allows him to live again in the minds of my readers, who can also remember people they've loved and lost.
Why did you title this book "She Rode a Harley."
The title came from an old Neil Young song--She Rides a Harley Davidson. The song and an old video for it shows a woman who works at a diner but watches Harleys pass by and yearns to ride her own. One line describes her as "riding steel and chrome being the very air that she breathes."
Tell us more about Dwayne. What made him so special?
Dwayne didn't fit any stereotype. A Harley rider from the age of 13, he didn't share the common belief of most male Harley riders, and he thought a woman could ride any Harley she wanted. As a woman who was used to emotional abuse and the constant message of my worthlessness, I was constantly surprised by his overwhelming confidence in me and his conviction that I was invincible. He always said what made our marriage remarkable was that we both believed we were the lucky ones who thought we'd found a perfect partner. We were battle-scarred veterans of bad marriages, and I was his third wife.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I'm a kick-ass English teacher! I taught high school English for 14 years and now I work with principals and teachers as a literacy specialist.
One of your readers said that the opening of the book hit them in the gut. Why did you take this approach?
I knew readers needed to be with me on the day I packed my stuff in a U-Haul and escaped my first husband, and I wanted them to feel the fear and stress of years of secret planning and saving. It was a life and death situation. Only then, could they understand how Dwayne and Harleys transformed my life.
How did your love for the Harley come about?
Dwayne got back on a Harley after 14 years when we got married, and we bought and rebuilt a Harley together. Riding a motorcycle together is one of the most intimate things you can do with someone you love--body to body on a narrow leather seat with his hand curled over my knee. In my memoir, I describe how he brought me my first Harley, and it was love at first sight (man and Harley).
Abuse is a big theme in this book. Why did you find this important to write about?
It took me years to even admit I was a victim of abuse. Too often women think they're not really abused if their partner doesn't break their arm or do something physically violent. Abuse can be a pervasive emotional beating. In my case, I was pushed down the stairs on occasion or my arm twisted, but he excelled in the mental and emotional abuse. He pushed me to the brink of suicide. I wanted all women to know this kind of abuse is just as wrong, and to know that walking out will give you a future you can't even imagine.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I am a self-professed binge writer. I've got a grueling day job, and I write some on weekends. However, I'm the writer who goes off for long weekends to a hotel or AirBNB and write for hours.
What are you working on right now?
I've got a start on a novel set in the Arkansas Ozarks where I grew up, and it will be historical fiction. I want to capture that place and time in a place where I was born and my mother grew up.
Where can our readers discover more of work or interact with you?