Mary has been an avid student of the Regency era since the 1970’s and is a member of the ACFW’s historic fiction community. She has been writing historical fiction for over fifteen years. She had to put her writing on hold while undergoing a battle with breast cancer, but is now even more excited about her writing as she tries to incorporate some of her own struggles throughout my books. She am dedicated to encouraging others in the Lord and using her gift to His glory. A native of the Washington, DC area, my husband, Craig, and I now live in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with our only child, a black lab named Darcy! When not writing, I enjoy time with my husband, reading, watching movies and weekend getaways!
How Did You Come Up with the Story?
No, I never did have a “what if” moment when planning the story. Truthfully, I never intended to write a story to begin with! I grew up reading Regencies voraciously. Sometimes, while reading another book, I would think that it would really be interesting if this is the way the plot went instead of the way it did, or you know I would have made this character this way instead of that way! So I knew I had ideas floating around in my head, but no real intention of using them.
I started to actually write as a way to kill time while my husband worked evening shifts at the hospital. The Regency period in England is just a blip in time, so there seemed to be only so many stories before some started to overlap. All I knew was that I wanted to read something completely different than anything I had read before. AND, I wanted to add an inspirational element to the story. When I started reading them in the early 70’s there were nothing but secular stories. Some were really racy, some were just sweet, but I thought it would be a whole new way to make them different. So I decided to write my own and once I had the disability idea, the rest of the story just followed.
Anything Strange or Funny Happen?
No I can’t think of anything entertaining that happened while I was writing this other than the fact that I had no intention to write at all!
That night on my couch was 15 years ago. It was handwritten and it was for my own pleasure. But once I typed it out, I figured out in my heart it wasn’t just for my pleasure, why would I have wasted time doing that if it were? I let my dear sweet sister-in-law read it (I cringe when I think of the state it was in back then) and she loved it. Don’t all of our supporting family members! I made a few attempts to get it published, but I didn’t know one bit about the process and, therefore, failed miserably! I won second place in a writing contest with the top two submissions being reviewed by a top editor in Kensington/Zebra. I knew I was on my way then. Imagine my surprise when nothing happened. I never heard back from anyone and didn’t know how to go about following up, so it didn’t go anywhere. I sent that editor my second book later, thinking she might remember me, but it went the way of the first.
Oddly enough, in 2004, while I was undergoing chemo for breast cancer, we found the box of manuscripts I had written and had apparently thought enough of to move with us from the suburbs of DC to rural southwestern Virginia. Since your body loses all track of time on chemo, nights become days and days become nights, it killed lots of time reading them all again. But this one, then The Scent of A Rose, called back out to me and I reworked it, trying to incorporate some of my struggles and apparently making my heroine more believable. And this time, God (and my persistent sister-in-law!) made me really think about trying to get it published again. And I knew this time, if it happened, it would be a ministry, not just a book.
I googled Christian literary agencies and said a prayer and picked one. God took it from there. It went into the hands of my, now, agent, Jenni Burke and she just happened to be a Regency fan. She worked really hard with me to get this polished and ready to be proposed to publishers. We communicated often by email during this phase, but when she called on my cell phone one day, I heard what I hoped. Love Inspired Historical wanted it and they were prepared to get it into a spot only nine months later. The day after my contract was signed; I received a dozen roses from Jenni to celebrate my first book and my first sale. Since then working with Jenni and Rachel Burkot, my editor at LIH, has been great and holding the finished product in my hand was just a blessing from God.
It’s been awhile since I’ve addressed this because I have five manuscripts already written. But along with the completed five, I have several that I found that were half written. I must have run into a stumbling block, however, and just turned to another story line altogether. I think it will be a challenge to see if I can go through some of the partial manuscripts and figure out exactly where I was going with each one. I’m hoping that will be the case and I don’t end up with the dreaded writer’s block. It will have to be with God as my co-pilot.
Am I a Visual Writer:
Believe it or not, I’ve never thought about it that way before, but I am very much a visual writer. When I read, I picture the people in my head, and sometimes stop and check the front of the book. If it doesn’t match, I d
on’t like it, but it doesn’t affect the story, I just go with the imagined look. I realize I took that kind of visual awareness into The Aristocrat’s Lady. There is a scene where she is wearing a green ball gown that I describe in great detail. And one of the first questions I ask those that have read the book is, “Did you picture the green dress?” LI did the most awesome cover. It was everything I asked for and more, and I think that if you read like I do, you’ll be satisfied when you flip back to the cover to be sure Lady Nicole matches her description.
I also have pictures in my head of each character, where they live, etc. I know when I watch a movie, like on BBC, the actor that plays each role sticks with me. When I read the book of a move that I like (and I always do) sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s not. If I don’t like the actor playing the part it sometimes intrudes when I’m reading. That’s why describing what my characters and where they are in each scene is very important to me.
What’s the most Difficult Part of Writing and How do you overcome it?
Actually, it came during the revision process with LI. Having never been published before, I had no idea what to expect. LIH has many requirements that have to be met as I’m sure all publishers do. I just didn’t know it! I had to delete 25,000 words which was very hard. They wanted certain scenes changed and some character left out. When there really isn’t any choice, you just hunker down and do it. And I learned a lot about my writing in the end. Even though there were hard things to do to a manuscript that I thought of as finished, the suggestions did actually make the book better and I’m thankful for that.
Where do You Write?
Oh dear, I’m preparing myself for the really professional writers to grab their hearts and moan! In case you’re wondering, the picture is of the recliner in our TV room; no desktop, no laptop anywhere in sight. I write on my couch in a spiral notebook. Has everyone calmed down a bit? I have tried and tried to write on the computer, but I’ve been typing for so long that I KNOW when I’ve hit a wrong key or made a typo. And for some unknown reason I just can’t let it go. So I go back and correct a word that may never even end up in the story! In my notebook while I’m writing away, it doesn’t bother me if I spelled something wrong, I know I’ll type it into the computer correctly later. Ideas pop into my head all through the process, and I just flip ahead several pages, make a note about what I want to put in the story at that point and go back to what I was writing. I know experts everywhere are rolling their eyes, but it is what works for me!
What does a Typical Day Look Like?
It sort of depends on which day, because I work 2 days a week which changes that whole day, but on days I don’t work I guess they are pretty standard. I do aerobics three times a week (have to keep exercising for my joints) first thing in the morning. Then, while I’m in town (I sound like Mayberry RFD don’t I?) my husband and I will do errands for the week. Mid afternoon I work on some form of my new job, that of writing. I check out emails, I work on things with a deadline (revisions, blog interviews, setting up appointments for a little publicity), then work on things I WANT to get done (which rarely do get done by that time!). My website is always a constant concern, updating it, and getting set up on sites like Goodreads and Facebook and the millions of others I’ve only heard about so far. Then dinner and the evening belong to my husband, most of the time. We love to watch old movies, or new movies that we’ve bought because we watch them over and over again. I’m a night owl, so when my husband goes to bed, I finish whatever I left off before dinner, play a few games of Text Twist on the computer, then off to bed. Wow, writing it down like that makes what I thought was dull, sound really dull!
Daily Writing – Do Scenes Flow Freely?
As I mentioned earlier, I am not at the point yet where I have to come up with a brand new story because I have others already written. But even if I didn’t, I don’t see myself as a “how many words per day” kind of writer. I wish I could and I’m always envious when one of my loops challenges each other to do a certain number a day. I’m all about deadlines at this point. I think organization is one of the gifts God has given me (although you wouldn’t think that if you saw my desk at the moment). So I prioritize based on the deadline date. I wouldn’t say the words flow freely onto the page because I have to rework a lot of what I write. But I guess they come steady enough that I can usually meet a deadline even if it throws off my entire daily routine outlined above.
The Best Writing Advice I’ve Gotten:
People have given me such good advice over the years, that it is hard to pick the best, but one that has helped me the most is about Point of View (POV). When we sent the manuscript out to target readers, I got some feedback that said they were not entirely sure which character was thinking in a certain scene. I got a little bristly (to myself, of course) but went back and read it and saw the confusion. So I fixed those specific instances. But when I was trying to cut out the excess 25,000 words for LI, someone told me to cut out the POV from every character except the hero and heroine. I was aghast at first because I realized that I want to know what everyone is thinking! And that was the way I was writing! Now I know you don’t HAVE to leave out a secondary character’s POV, but to make me do it right, she limited it and all I had to worry about was whose head do I want the scene to be in. I have to watch myself, but it has helped me tremendously to make my stories tighter and less confusing thereby making the story flow much better.
The Advice I’d Give to a Writer waiting to be Published?
Two things! Once you’ve written a page, a paragraph, a chapter, whatever length works for you, read it back to yourself out loud. Computers can do spelling and grammar checks, but you will never know how it sounds to the reader until you read it out loud. You find the same word used in two sentences, or that you started the last three paragraphs with “she” or that a sentence just needs to be turned around a little bit to make it flow better. It also helped me with that dreaded POV thing above! The second thing is just to hang in there. Use a critique group so you are not writing in a vacuum and think it sounds great to you. Try to write that cover page that is going to get you noticed. Join the RWA and ACFW for contact with published and non-published authors that you can learn from. It took me 15 years, but 15 years of refining and reworking the ms while learning everything I could about how to get the publishing process started. It’s worth the wait!
Thanks so much for this opportunity to be a part of this great blog, I’m humbled, indeed! The Aristocrat’s Lady is an inspirational historical novel set in Regency England, to be released on September 6th by Love Inspired Historical. It’s a story about Lady Nicole, whose disability leaves her feeling unfit for love and marriage. She determines God’s plan for her is to remain on her father’s estate helping the tenants she has known all of her life. But when she meets Lord Devlin in London, she embarks on unchartered territory. She likes him so much and he likes her, but she does not reveal her malady. Neither of them wants to fall in love, and they fight every inner voice that tells them that they are. When the facts about her disability become known he is devastated at her lack of honesty and she believes they were only together because he did not know about her limitations. Lady Nicole is sure her deviation from God’s plan has caused all of the pain and it isn’t until Lord Devlin understands her convictions that he proposes God has a different plan for her altogether.