Q&A With Maggie Shayne

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Q&A With Maggie Shayne 

Starting off this week is a Q&A with Maggie Shayne. Maggie Shayne is the author of Women’s Fiction, Thrillers, Romantic Suspense, Paranormal & Contemporary romance novels. Many of her novels are parts of different series and they’ve been on the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists. Maggie is also an editor and blogger as well as being an author. 


Q: What fascinates you about writing women’s fiction, thrillers, romantic suspense and paranormal and contemporary romance? I like that an author can write in many genres instead of just one. 

A:  I don’t know about other authors, but for me, when I finish one novel, I want the next one to be something completely different. It’s like cleansing the palate between sips at a wine tasting. That’s how my latest, The Fatal Series got going. I just wanted to stretch my wings and write something different. I ended up with a style of story I’d never done before; definitely rom-com, but not slapstick. The first reviewer that Fatal Phantasm, (releasing today,) reads like a Scooby Doo mystery for grownups, and interestingly, my editor said something similar. I agree, except instead of a dog, my gang has the ghost of a 1960’s jazz singer, Lady El. 

I’d go crazy with just one genre. I have to hop around. 

Q: When you have writer’s block, how do you deal with it and what’s your advice to aspiring writers who deal with the same problem?

A: I used to agree with the great Nora Roberts, who is quoted as saying, “The cure for writers block is to put your ass in the chair.”

That always worked for me–until that time when it didn’t, and the words just stopped flowing. It was at the beginning of the pandemic. I have five daughters; three registered nurses and two teachers. I was out of my mind for a while with worry for them, and I think that might’ve been the problem.

But it doesn’t matter the cause. Sometimes blocks just happen. 

I tried for months to force it and wrote rubbish. The stories never took off, I was just putting words on the page. It felt like I was unplugged. Usually, it feels as if my stories come from outside me. They flow through me onto the page. It does not feel like I’m making them up. But the flow had stopped.

When forcing it wasn’t working, I thought giving myself permission to take time off would work better. So, I decided I was not going to write until I felt story flowing through me again. I spent a whole lovely summer putting zero pressure on myself and waiting for it to return. 

And then in the fall, I decided I couldn’t afford to indulge myself any longer. I’d lost about six months at that point. So, I picked a story and wrote for a few days, and then it dried up. And then a week later, it came back, I wrote for a few days, and then it dried up again. My calendar pages for that time are wild. One page reads: “The block is gone!” The next page reads: “Nope.”  

I decided to write something easy, and short, and new. I had won a RITA® Award for Fatal Fixer-Upper after thirteen or so nominations. I loved the story, and its contract ran out, so I got back the rights and decided to self-publish it. I added scenes, freshened it up, and sent to my editor. At least I was producing something this way! And my editor, who is also my oldest daughter, suggested I write a sequel. She said, “You have a Scooby gang by the end of this story. It’s light and short and funny and wonderful. If I were you, I would keep on writing these.”

So I did. The Fatal Series broke my block! And Fatal Phantasm, the latest book in that series, releases today! 

After all that, I think my advice is to take time off, but limit it, and when you come back, try to write something entirely different. I had never done romantic comedy, at least not on purpose. Turns out I love it. 

Q: If you were to write in a new genre which genre or genres would they be and why?

A: I recently learned that my 8th great grandmother, Elizabeth Clawson, was tried for witchcraft in Stamford, CT. She was even dunked…and she floated! The only reason they didn’t hang her was because the governor declared the witch trials over when the wives of wealthy men and government officials were starting to be accused. I want to write her story. And I want to use facts, but I also want to fictionalize it, make it a novel. I am dying to do this. Next time I feel blocked, this is what I’ll dive into. 

Q: Is it fair to say that the characters and places you’ve created in your novels are based off of real people you know and places you’ve been? I like it when an author can base the fictional worlds and people off of people and places they’ve been. 

A: Places, for sure. I can’t say people because that would get me sued, but places for sure. For example, The Fatal Series is set in a haunted house in Burnt Hills, NY. I used to go out to that part of NY State to visit the Ballston Book House. It was a new & used bookshop in a Victorian house that was haunted. There was this door upstairs that would be open when the owners arrived in the morning, even though they had closed it the night before. There was one piece of furniture in that same room that was always pulled out from the wall the next day. I loved that place! It was in Ballston Spa, a town very near Burnt Hills. That haunted bookshop was the model for Kiley Brigham’s haunted Victorian in the Fatal books. 


Q: When in your life did you realize that being an author was your calling in life?


A: I’ve been writing since I learned to spell. When the teacher gave writing assignments, other small children would bring in two sentences on that big paper with the broken line running along the middle of each row to help with proper printing. I would bring in a storybook with construction paper covers, Crayola illustrations, a title page, and a table of contents.


The notion I could do this for a living came one day with a sick child in a doctor’s office waiting room, when I picked up a magazine called Writer’s Digest. I’d had no idea it existed and started reading voraciously. After we saw the doctor, I asked if I could take the magazine home, and was told, “That’s ours? That’s not ours. We don’t get that magazine.” Fate, I tell you. In the back were listings of publishers and how to submit to them and how much they paid, and that was the moment the light bulb went on. I was a writer, and I could get paid for my work. That day changed my life. 


Q: What advice would you give to new authors on how to deal with terrible feedback whether it’s bad reviews, online trolls and family members who aren’t supportive of their writing goals? Did you ever have to deal with any of that? 


A: I had a family member tell me I’d do better buying lottery tickets than spending money on printer paper and ink and photocopies and postage. (That was how we had to submit back in the day.) I had a contest judge tell me my hero was a wimp. I had a woman come up to me at a book signing and say, “People like you are the reason young girls aren’t getting into math and science anymore!”  I collected more than 60 rejection letters from publishers before I sold my first novel to Harlequin in 1992. Since then I’ve published 70 some odd novels in dozens of languages for Harlequin, Harper-Collins, Penguin-Putnam, St. Martin’s Press, and currently with Oliver Heber Books. I’m publishing my vampire series, Wings in the Night, independently. They’ve been dropping every other Tuesday since last June, and will wrap up around the end of May 2023. It’s a big series. This was the first vampire series to use “twilight” in its titles, by the way, and the second ever vampire-romance series. And it’s still going. 


Look, this is not a career for the faint-hearted. You must believe in yourself and in your gift, which is a sacred calling. The storyteller is at the heart of culture. Stories are how we transmit our history and traditions and values from one generation to the next. Our entertainment says everything about our lives and our views. 

Also, never read reviews. Never, never, never read reviews. Just don’t. Stay at the top of your sales page. Do not scroll down.

It doesn’t matter to me what the reviews say. I can only write my stories the way they are given to me by my muse or whoever is sending them down. Some readers will love them, and some will hate them. Obviously, the haters have terrible taste and should be ignored by everyone on the planet. 


Q: Does Hollywood have any interest or the rights to any of your novels? We need more paranormal romance shows based on books I think. Hollywood is running out of original ideas so I’m glad they are doing more book adaptations just as long as they do them right. 


A: I haven’t heard from Hollywood yet, even though I have 6 perfect Hallmark Christmas movies just waiting for them.   I did have one film made from my vampire romance Embrace the Twilight. It’s by small, independent filmmaker Carlos Dunn, who adored the book and put his heart into it. It’s very low budget, but I love it anyway. It was Carlos’ last film. He passed away during production, and another company had to finish it up, another act of love. It’s on Amazon Prime and some other places. Go into it expecting a campy fun. It was made with love by a dear man and passionate filmmaker.


Q: If you were to collaborate with another author, who would it be with and why?


A: It would have to be someone I didn’t like at all, because if it were a friend, our friendship would be ended by our collaboration. In other words, I am a control freak about my work. I don’t work and play well with others in that area. Like I said, it’s sacred to me.


Q: If you’re writing another novel, is it part of any of your series, the start of a new series or a standalone novel?


A: I’m not ready to discuss what I’m working on next. It’s in a delicate phase right now. It’ll be spring before I’m comfortable talking about it. But it’ll likely be part of an existing series. 


Q: How do you balance being an editor, a blogger on top of being an author? What’s your advice to anyone juggling all three? What’s your advice to anyone wanting to be an editor and/or blogger? 


A: I do tarot readings too! 

I only have a very few editing clients. I do what I call a Masterclass Edit that focuses on making the book the best it can be and developing the author’s voice to its ultimate level. I do not copy edit at all or line edit. Those things require an education I do not have. You really do need to know your stuff to call yourself an editor. Little obscure things, like the correct way to use “myriad” (no one uses it right) and subject-verb agreement and point of view and 1001 other things. 

Time balance: When I have an editing client, I book in advance and set aside a full week to do nothing except their book. When I have a tarot reading client, I book in advance and set aside three hours first thing in the morning for them. 

Blogging is my favorite kind of writing. It comes easily to me. I can write a blog over a coffee break. (But then I’ll spend hours editing and illustrating it.)

Frequently, I slide into those days when I’m trying to do ten things at once while looking at notifications as they pop up, but that never works. It just doesn’t. I need to focus on one thing at a time, and only that one thing.

Which thing I choose depends entirely on what I feel most like doing. I run through my mental to-do list and stop on the thing that feels best. As I think about each task, the one that brings me a smile and a little tingle of excitement—that’s what I work on. 

When I run out of juice on that project, I take a meaningful break away from the computer. I spend up to an hour doing something completely different cooking, gardening, housework, phone calls anything. Then I move on to another to-do list item. 

Key tip: Don’t feel guilty about the stuff you’re not doing. Focus fully and joyfully on the thing you are doing. 


Q: Tell us about your latest release!


A: Gladly! Fatal Phantasm comes out today. My Scooby gang heads to a tropical paradise where Jack’s ex (Kiley didn’t even know he had an ex!) needs help with her dearly departed husband who’s not so departed! But what they find on the island is considerably more frightening than a ghost.

For more info, head over to


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