It’s the last day of my January celebration of Indiana Romance Authors, so it seems appropriate to end the month with an budding author–Mary Gardner. Mary is as yet unpublished, but she’s doing all the right things to move her career in that direction. Mary wears many hats as a Christian, mother, grandmother, writer, reader, and manager of her homeowner’s association. She writes romance and romantic women’s fiction with small town settings. Although she is not yet published, she has been a finalist in several contests and won her category in a few. She was a 2007 RWA Golden Hearts finalist and the 2nd runner up in the 2008 – Harlequin Superromance® Conflict of Interest Contest. Mary is a member of RWA and is a RWA PRO. She lives with her cat near her family in a small town in Indiana.
NAN: Mary, I’m so glad you could stop by today. Tell us what you are currently working on or promoting.
MARY: Thanks for having me, Nan. Currently I’m finishing Missing for the Christian/Clean Reads market. I am also working to build my platform and mailing list. Since I don’t have a book to give away, I’m holding a monthly contest and giving away books by authors I know and/or whose work I have enjoyed reading.
NAN: What genre(s) do you write in?
MARY: I write Christian Contemporary Romantic Women’s Fiction. If I had to break down the blend of that genre I’d say 60% romance and 40% women’s fiction. I like the freedom of adding other character’s POVs and telling their stories as well as the romance.
NAN: Do you have an agent and/or publisher, or are you self-published?
MARY: I have always wanted to be traditionally published. In December, I signed with Cyle Young who is an Agent at Hartline Literary Agency LLC. I am working with him and Bethany Morehead, his Jr. Agent. They are currently sending my proposal for Missing to publishers.
NAN: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
MARY: Follow your own vision when it comes to your writing. That doesn’t mean you may not have to revise, but don’t follow a trend or base your writing on what someone else thinks you should do. There are plenty of writers and nonwriters, who mean well, but can steer you down wrong paths. Be careful about the advice you take.
NAN: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
MARY: Be confident in yourself. Invest in yourself without feeling guilty about the money you need to spend. Don’t let others put you down because of your interests. Don’t try to make your writing fit into a genre that you aren’t comfortable writing. Learn as much as you can about writing, by whatever means you have available to you. Read books on writing. Read even more books in a variety of fiction genres with an eye for what works in fiction and especially for what you like. Never sell out by writing to a market or publishing path that is working for someone else because it might not be right for you.
NAN: What great advice, Mary! Is there a theme/message underlying your book(s) that you hope comes across?
MARY: All of my books have an underlying theme of love, trust, hope, forgiveness, and honesty.
NAN: How do you keep sane as a writer?
MARY: Hmmm. No one has ever accused me of being sane. I think when you spend time with your character’s voices in your head the definition of sane becomes something different to a writer than those who do not write. I had a period of time in my life when my characters were not talking to me and I didn’t feel sane. During that time, I felt lost and sad because my friends had left me. I am grateful to have them back, even though I wish they’d let me sleep a little longer some mornings.
NAN: Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?
MARY: I don’t believe there is a writer who doesn’t want a giant bestseller, but one book doesn’t make a career. If I am to be totally honest, I want a string of giant bestsellers. Since I know how rare that is, I’d be happy to have a long string of moderate sellers.
NAN: Do you think a writer should write every day?
MARY: I think a writer should write the way it works best for them. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. If you write every day and that works for you that’s great. If you binge write on the weekend and it works for you that’s great too. It’s not about how often you write, it’s that you write.
NAN: What do you do in your spare time?
MARY: I spend time with family, granddaughters. I read, and watch tv.
You can find Mary Gardner online at:
Facebook. My personal page is https://www.facebook.com/mary.gardner.581525
My Facebook Author page is: https://www.facebook.com/marygardnerauthor
Excerpt from Missing
“Ladies and gentleman, it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to South Dakota’s newest lottery winner, Maddy Parker.”
Maddy had never been to a press conference. She didn’t like having the media attention directed at her. With her heart racing, perspiration dampened her face. She didn’t need a mirror to know red blotches were popping out on her neck, they felt like branding irons pressed against her skin.
The lottery director turned to her. “I’d like to present you with this ceremonial check for two hundred fifty-three million, two hundred eighty-five thousand dollars.”
Fastening her fingers on the edge of the lightweight, oversized check, she tried to inhale normal but she felt a light headed.
Her ticket numbers had matched the winning numbers but it still didn’t feel real.
She glanced around expecting someone to rush out to claim there had been a mistake, but no one came forward.
Two weeks ago, her life had been normal. Living in the small town of Cartersville, South Dakota, real excitement didn’t happen. Every Saturday, whether she needed gas or not, she stopped at Quick’s Convenient Store and bought one lottery ticket. Each time Sara, the weekend clerk, tried to talk her into buying two and they’d joked about her ticket being the winner.
Buying a lottery ticket was as much fun as anyone could have in Cartersville unless you went to one of the two bars in town. Since Maddy didn’t drink, buying her lottery ticket, ordering a pizza, and renting a movie had been her weekend fun after coming back to her hometown to teach third grade in the Cartersville Community School. She followed her wild Saturday night with a quiet Sunday morning breakfast, a church service with Jim, and checked her lottery numbers on the internet to see if she won a free ticket.
Winning the big lottery happened to other people. People like her dreamed about what they’d do with the money. She never believed for one minute she’d ever win and was unprepared when all of her numbers matched.
Thinking there had been a misprint, she’d driven to Quick’s Convenient Store and asked them to print out the winning numbers for her. When they matched too, she rushed to the City Police Station where she’d hoped Jim House would be in his office. As the Chief of Police with a small staff, he didn’t take much time off on weekends.
She’d lived next door to Jim as long as she could remember. Over the years he’d become more father than friend. He’d been the first person she wanted to share her news with and the person she trusted to help her figure out what she needed to do to cash in her ticket. He’d never let her down. He didn’t this time either. Jim not only helped her figure everything out, he’d driven her the three hours to the lottery headquarters in Pierre.
“What do you plan to do with your winning?” The lottery director asked.
“I think I’ll take a vacation.” She forced a smile.
“Do you plan to quit your job?” a reported shouted.
“Not right away.” she said.
Except it wasn’t quite true. While she didn’t have a real plan, once her adoptive family realized she’d told them the truth about winning the multi-dollar lottery, she’d have to move if she wanted peace.
Sharing her wealth with them wasn’t the problem. Nothing short of giving them all of the money would make them happy, especially her mother.
Leaving Jim behind in Cartersville would be hard.
She hadn’t told him yet, but he knew. She’d seen it in his face. His smile had been forced when she came out of the camera light toward him.
Maybe they could talk about it on their drive back home.