MAH (Mary Ann): A very warm welcome to you. Shall we jump right in with some writer-ly tips? How do story ideas come to you? An image? A sound? A sentence? A person’s face? A plot detail?
MAM (Mary Alice): I always begin with a source of inspiration that comes from nature. The story comes from my research, volunteering, and meeting the people involved in that story world. I am an intuitive writer and an image, sound, experience can all inspire a scene or a plot twist!
MAH: You are a wonderful and also a prolific writer. We all watch and wonder: how do you do it?
MAM: Writing is not only my career, it is my passion. When I do my research, such as working with dolphins, it is a thrill for me.
MAH: Do your deadlines influence your family and friends’ schedules? Sometimes? Rarely? Never?
MAM: Naturally, my schedule influences my friends and family’s schedules. A lot. When the children were young, I turned off the computer when they returned from school to get snacks, arrange after school activities, and just chat about their day. But when I was in the office there was a sign on my door with words given to me by Nora Roberts…”Is it blood or fire? If not, go away!” My children knew that when the door was closed I was not to be bothered.
MAH: Maybe every writer needs such a sign, regardless of the age of the people who might be interrupting.
MAM: Today the children are off on their own and Markus and I are quite companionable as we get through things such as meals and laundry. We are both hard workers and respect each other’s schedules. When I ‘m under a tight deadline, as I am now, I don’t visit family, answer the phone, or go out to lunch. I pretty much “go underground.”
MAH: Well, then, we’re doubly honored that you came up for air to visit with us. I have to ask: do you ever want to take a break?
MAM: Yes, I do want to take a break! I dream of having more time between deadlines. But the demand from readers is very strong now. So at least for a while, I’ll keep pushing to give them a book a year.
MAH: Other than your passion for protecting the environment, would you say there are one or more other themes that run through the body of work you’ve created? If so, can you elaborate?
MAM: The theme that runs through all my books is connection. Connection –physical and non-physical –with other humans, and connection with nature are necessary for our well-being. Without it, we are depressed, lonely, and fail to thrive.
MAH: Do you stick to writing one book at a time? Or more?
MAM: I only write one novel at a time. The deadlines don’t allow for more. That said, I can work on a children’s book at the same time as a novel when the animal is the same.
MAH: Only if the animal is part of the plot is in your current work in progress? That is seriously focused writing.
MAM: For example, while writing The Lowcountry Summer Trilogy I’ve been creating my children’s book about a dolphin.
MAH: I love the series. i must say that I’m partial to your rich descriptions of the southern coastal settings. What do you think differentiates Southern writing (other than geographical demarcations) from other parts of the U. S?
MAM: Southern writing is regional: it includes dialect, settings, and cultural traditions from that region. However the themes and story conflicts are universal. My challenge is to write regional fiction without falling into the trap of nostalgia. There are important issues facing the south that I believe should be raised in the stories to make them contemporary, believable, and relevant to today’s readers.
MAH: Great answer. And I’m sure one of the reasons your readers are demanding more and more of your books. There’s a saying ‘We teach what we need to know’. Do you believe that we write what we need to know? If so, what lessons have you reinforced in your own life through the writing process?
MAM: I’ve learned to get outdoors! To feel the ocean’s waves against my skin, to get my fingers into the soil, to walk in a cool mountain shade, to be quiet and observe. Doing this increases my sensitivity and awareness of the power of nature and that makes me happier and recharges my batteries.
MAH: Speaking of re-charging batteries, if you were allowed to step into another career for a short time, to see what it’s like, what would you dream of doing?
MAM: I’d love to sing opera. Or sell wedding dresses. Possibly be a boat captain. Maybe train dolphins?
MAH: it would be interesting to see in what new directions those careers would take your next books. But, a subject switch: we always want to know what our favorite writers are reading. What’s on your night stand?
MAM: A lamp, a glass of water, my phone, a TV remote, and Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor.
MAH: Your favorite (among other writers) book this year?
MAM: Patti Callahan Henry’s The Stories We Tell and Neil Gaimon’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
MAH: Thank you for visiting with us. But, around here, the guest author gets the last word or words. If you had to pick three favorite – and they can be unrelated – words, what would they be?
MAM: Serendipity. Synchronicity. Serenity.
Mary Alice Monroe’s latest book is Summer Wind, Book 2 of The Lowcountry Summer Trilogy which also includes The Summer Girls (Book 1). The Summer’s End will be available in 2015 For more information: go to: www.maryalicemonroe.com
STAY TUNED FOR OUR NEXT POST: INTERVIEW WITH BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, KATIE CROUCH, whose Girls in Trucks brilliantly portrayed the cruel impact of postcollege New York life on a Southern girl. Her Latest book, Abroad, tears a story from international headlines and transforms it into a page-turning parable of modern young womanhood,