I was a reader long before I was a writer. I devour books. I write books I’d like to read.
Are you one of those writers born with a pen in your hand and ideas flitting through your mind, or did your interest develop later?
One of my earliest memories is of waking up before my parents and making up stories about the cowboys on the wall paper. I was about two at the time. I consider myself a storyteller. I’ve never wanted to do or be anything else.
When did you become serious about seeing your name in print and begin writing your first romance novel?
I’ve always been serious about my writing; I just haven’t always been publishable. I do have a rejection letter from Avon from the early/mid 1980s.
Tell us about your writing process. Soft lights and music? White noise? Child-and-pet confusion? Locked in a room alone? What sets your writing mood and pushes you forward?
While I do prefer quiet and no distractions while I’m writing, I can write whenever I need to. I spent a lot of years with an Alphasmart while waiting for my children to finish whatever they were doing. Ten minutes here, an hour there: I greedily grabbed any moment I could. I spent last fall “reclaiming” my home office. I love having that space again. It had become the catch-all room in the house. Now it’s almost perfect. If only I could get my husband’s two bookcases out there . . .
Literary Inspiration: throughout your life, what novels have lifted you, made you think, “Someday I want to create something like that . . .”
I, like so many romance authors, grew up on Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, etc. I’ve always wanted to write books with dark, dashing heroes. Now I feast on Linda Howard, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Karen Robards. I love their characters. I want to create characters other people will love.
What shining moment in your journey stands out the most as a real turning point for you as a writer?
The major turning point for me as a writing came when I joined my local chapter of RWA. I found people who “got” it. We spoke the same language. The craft and industry education have been invaluable. And I found my best friends.
Writers face many time-constraint challenges. What are some of yours? What do you do to overcome them?
Life isn’t as bad as it was when my children were at home and I worked in local TV. Looking back, I’m shocked I accomplished anything at all during those years. Since publication, all the author-related hats I wear are a time suck. I periodically whine to my critique group: “but I want to write!” There’s still a Day Job—not as soul-sucking as local TV, but still 9.5 hours of my day (including commute and lunch) I can’t write. I have been known to write blogs on my lunch hour, and that helps, but it’s not the same as sitting at the computer every day at the same time and pounding out the story. I once added up all the “get up an hour earlier to accomplish…” advice I’d read about and learned I should get up two hours before I go to bed! But I still get up at 5:15am so I can have a couple of hours before Day Job starts. When I get home, I try to catch up on social media, then write until my husband gets home. When we first got married, he told me he didn’t expect supper on the table when he walked in the door, and he’s been true to his word. Even better when I’m in deadline mania, he’ll pick up a pizza or Chinese on his way home. I don’t watch a lot of TV—never have. I also gave up trying to keep the house clean. It only gets dirty again any way. I do get away on writing retreats a couple of times a year. That is immensely helpful.
What is the most thrilling aspect of the writing process for you?
One of the most thrilling aspects of writing is when seemingly disparate events/items in the story come together at the end to create a perfect whole. Since I’m more organic than organized in my approach, it’s always an, “OMG, how did I do that?” moment.
What aspects of the writing process do you find most difficult?
Getting back into the flow of the story after a break is probably the most difficult part of writing for me.
How do you begin a story? Do you just sit down with an idea in mind and start writing, or are you a person who wouldn’t dream of starting without a detailed outline, character sketches, and pages of research data?
I’m more of an organic than organized writer, but I do like to know my characters and the main conflict before I start writing. Conflict drives the characters and characters drive the story. Research: there’s research and then there’s RESEARCH and I do both quite well. Yes, I can look up what kind of airplane flies between Boston and Saranac Lake and download a picture of the interior. But I can also attend every home game of the local minor league baseball team for three season or join the Toby Keith International Fan Club and meet him backstage (in addition to listening to his early music until my ears bleed) – and it’s all research. Immersing myself in the lives my characters might lead better helps me understand them.
Tell us a little about what you’re currently working on.
I’m currently working on a novella for an anthology my critique group wants to self-publish. It combines both of my genres (contemporary baseball romance and shifter romance) in the form of a baseball playing werewolf. I’m having so much fun with Spike! And the next book in my Toke Lobo & The Pack series is in progress.
How about some faves of yours?
When I’m really frustrated, angry, out-of-sorts, cranky, testy—you get my drift—I have a music mix I call “Dylan Says It Best,” which I crank as loud as I can and sing along with. Bob Dylan is a lyrical genius, and he’s written some of the most invective songs on the planet. My mood improves immediately. I mean, what’s more cathartic than shrieking “You’re an idiot, babe,” or “You got a lot of nerve”? And with Dylan, you don’t need to worry about being on key.
MJ’s current release with Soul Mate, And Jericho Burned:
Lucy Callahan will do anything to rescue her sister from a cult, even marry a werewolf she’s just met. But the werewolves are working undercover for the government, and Lucy fears a confrontation between the agents and the cult could be deadly.
Stoker Smith longs to be the best thing that ever happened to his human mate. He wants to take her home, start their family, and compose his music. And although his pack’s treaty with the government says he doesn’t have to work undercover now that he’s mated, he promised Lucy he’d get her sister out of the cult’s heavily armed compound. Lucy’s sister is now family and to a werewolf, family is everything.
But Operation Jericho quickly turns ugly, thrusting Lucy into the middle of her worst nightmare, where she must choose: her sister or the mate she’s grown to love.
BUY LINK: AMAZON:
MJ, thanks so much for visiting with us today!