Thank you Mary for taking the time to answer my feeble questions. I have been a fan of yours since Petticoat Ranch came out. The books keep getting better and better. Since my husband retired, he’s been reading your books.
KA When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
MC I wrote my first book when I was twelve. A romance novel of course. I shudder to think what a twelve year old knows about romance. That book is long lost (and no doubt good riddance). I started writing seriously with a goal of publication, a full length romance when my baby went to kindergarten. (for those keeping score at home, that is a gap of about twenty five years.) So honestly I don’t know if I ever exactly wanted to BE a writer, I just AM a writer. I can’t seem to control that.
KA Are you a plotter or a seat of the pants writer?
MC I’m going to answer this in an odd way. I think Plotter and Panster is one of those discussions writers have while they’re trying to define something that is just intrinsically difficult to define. I think plotters fly by the seat of their pants quite often, abandon their plots quite often, ignore their early decisions with few qualms when the creative direction changes as they write.
I think writers who say they write by the seat of their pants, do a lot more plotting than they think. After all, you’ve got to have some idea where you’re going when you type Once Upon a Time to begin a book, right? So we all plot and we all (okay, what’s the word ‘pants’?) Anyway, I’m more panster than plotter, but I do some of both.
KA How do you come up with those crazy things that happen in your books?
MC A lot of the craziest stuff that happens is the result of a LOT of hard work. Scenes, especially action scenes and comic scenes do NOT spring fully created from my magical fingertips. I write them, then I start revising. Comedy and action particularly are hard work. I do a lousy job on the first draft and each pass I get better. It’s tricky to get action to not stumble, to not include lines that don’t sing, that don’t flow, that grind the action to a halt. So I have to add and cut and polish and build and cut and add some more and it never ever stops getting better. So I accept that the first draft will be slow and awkward, then I start fixing it. The crazy usually isn’t there to begin with, that comes eventually and in bits and pieces.
KA How does your writing day begin? I am an unscheduled person.
MC I try to be disciplined about producing and write everyday. But I forgive myself when I fail. I usually spend the morning answering email and working on blog posts like this one. I’m an insomniac so it’s not unusual for me to be writing late at night. Being an insomniac is part of the reason I started writing. Something to do on those long, sleepless nights.
KA Out of Control was such an interesting book. Was it hard to come up with the plot and setting?
MC I’ve wanted to write Out of Control almost since the very beginning. I just had a lot of ideas and it was a while before the turn came for my Carlsbad Cavern idea. I visited Carlsbad Cavern years ago, as a young bride, and that place caught my imagination like no where I’d ever been. It’s so beautiful and I was chilled by the danger. Not for us. We were safe in well marked and fenced off trails with good lights and lots of people around. But when I saw it caught my imagination, I mean I could just time travel myself back to the first person who found that cavern. What would it have been like? There are bottomless pits. Ledges everywhere. Places that look like the ground has broken through. It was stone that was thin as glass and it looked like a bubble. What if you walked on it and it cracked and you’d fall forever? You look at stone under your feet and think you’re safe, but it is as fragile and thin as an eggshell. And in the modern, safe Carlsbad, the stones far below are lit up so you could see how far there was to fall. But it is sooooo beautiful the lure would be almost impossible to resist. I wanted to tell that story about the deadly danger and the staggering temptation because of the beauty of it.
KA The historical books are my favorite. What made you want to write one like The Ten Plagues?
MC I wrote for ten years before I got my first book published. At the end of that ten years I had twenty finished books on my computer. During those years of writing in mole-like anonymity, I reached a point where I just thought, ‘No one’s going to publish me anyway, I might as well entertain myself.’ And I wrote anything and everything that interested me. Almost all romance, but within that genre I wrote widely. And that includes Ten Plagues. I have about ten more books on my computer in about six more genres and I love them all and would love to see them all in print. Maybe someday.
KA Do you pattern your characters after actual people?
MC You know, most people aren’t really crazy enough to sustain a book. Sometimes a person will give me a starting point. In Petticoat Ranch I sort of patterned Sophie’s daughters after my daughters. But only in the most general way. The orderly oldest child, the animal loving soft hearted middle child, the tomboy youngest child. But I had to abandon my real children pretty quickly…to their everlasting relief.
KA There will be two more in The Kincaid Brides Series, and I have an idea who Ethan will marry. What about Seth?
MC Oh, you’re gonna love who Seth ends up married to. I’m not telling but you’ll have the general idea by the end of Ethan’s book. I just finished Seth’s story and I just loved it. Of course I tend to love the book I’m working on at the moment so that’s not a really FAIR test. But his wife was so much fun to write. Who is woman enough for crazy Seth Kincaid? Callie can handle him, or die trying…and when I say ‘die’ I’m talking about Seth not Callie. Cuz she puts up with no nonsense. I’m grinning while I type this.
KA Each writer I know has their own routine and dress when they write. If my hair is combed, I’m happy. What about you, are you fully dressed, pj’s, completely made up, or what?
MC I’m a really low maintenance writer. I don’t have any of those things. (or maybe I do and I’m kidding myself? Subconscious perhaps???) But I can write in a distracting situation. I don’t need music or my favorite tea or utter silence or a muse. I just start writing, if something interrupts I deal with that interruption then go back to writing. Ten broken-up noisy minutes, five unbroken hours. Whatever I can get.
KA How many books do you write a year?
MC I can write a 90,000 word book in about three months. I was writing four a year for Barbour. But the pace was making me nervous, and I worried I’d slip up and start falling behind. I’m writing two that length now for Bethany and I’ve got spare time. So in my spare time, I’m writing other books that may or may not ever see the light of day. I know, like it would kill me to talk to a friend or take a walk or something.
KA Do you have a goal to write so many words a day, week, or month?
MC My goal is 1000 words a day seven days a week. However if I’ve got revisions or if the publisher sends me pages to rework or galleys to proofread, then those take precedence. I’m working well ahead. For example, Seth’s story, which I’ve already turned in, isn’t due until January 1st. So the pace of 1000 words a day isn’t as urgent as it was with the four books a year situation I had.
KA Tell us about “the kiss.” It makes for interesting reading, but my husband is driving me crazy each time he reads a book of yours. Is this going to be a trademark of yours?
MC The kiss, huh? Hmmmm….so I have a trademark kiss? What this brings to mind is my first book, Petticoat Ranch and the fact that one of the standard questions I got from readers was, “How did she get pregnant?” I just censored myself until it was almost undiscoverable the moment they became intimate. But I wanted to be so careful and not offend anyone and not upset my publisher with anything inappropriate. So I asked my editor about it. What’s allowed? How careful do I need to be with … ahem … marital intimacy. He said, “Stop censoring yourself and let me do it. I know when you’ve gone too far.”
So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve relaxed my own censorship (I think I still write really clean stuff, nothing ever graphic) but the kissing can get heated. I trust my editors to tell me when to settle down and behave myself.
Mary, I’m sure my blog readers will find you a very interesting person. Thank you so much. Tell us how to reach you.
Thanks for having me on, Katt.
You can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or find me online at:http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com/">Seekerville
http://petticoatsandpistols.com/">Petticoats & Pistols