Q&A With Mariah Stewart
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Q&A With Mariah Stewart
Today’s Q&A is with author Mariah Stewart who writes romance novels. Many of her romantic fiction has been on the New York Times and USA Today Bestsellers lists.
Q: Mariah what is it about writing romance that you enjoy so much?
A: I love happy endings – even my suspense novels had happy (or happy-ish) endings!
While my current works are all women’s fiction, there’s always a romantic element because most people have, want, or are seeking love in their lives.
When I close a book, I want to leave that world feeling that all will be well with the characters. I believe that the “people” I’ve been reading about will be happy and will go on to have good, productive lives! Same as you wish for your friends and family in real life – live a good life and be happy!
Q: When did you know that being an author was what you wanted to do with your life and that it was your calling? Growing up, who were your biggest supporters of your writing talent among your family and friends?
A: I never really wanted to be anything else. I started writing stories when I was seven. No one in my family ever took it seriously, though. My first and greatest supporter I had was a substitute teacher in 5th grade. The following year, our district made 6 – 8th a sort of middle grade/junior high, and she was hired to teach English. Her name was Edna Dey, and she promised me that if I continued to grow in my writing and stuck with it, that I would be a writer someday. I carried her words with me through high school, college, my teaching days, and everything beyond. Whenever I told myself “I can’t”, hers was the voice I heard inside my head saying, “You can.”
Q: What is your advice to new authors on writing great romance?
A: Read! Read, read, read! Read the great writers of romance – there are so many! Historical romances – Mary Jo Putney and Mary Balogh and Julie Garwood (who we lost so recently). Victoria Alexander and Julie Quinn for humor. I’m more familiar with the contemporary authors because that’s what I write, but again – so many! Nora Roberts (and J.D.Robb) and Robyn Carr and Barbara O’Neal. Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Julianne MacClean. Mary Ellen Taylor and Susan Mallery. I could go on for pages. But if you read the best, you will learn to recognize great stories, great characters, great plotting, and great writing. You’ll also be more likely to spot the not so great.
Join a writer’s group and maybe a critique group is one that is available to you.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing everything you hear. The old rules about what you can and can’t write about are yesterday’s news. When I wrote my first book, which was about a rock star, EVERYONE told me it would never sell because publishers will not buy books about rock stars. The book sold. Also was told NO ONE would buy a book about a woman politician. My second book was about a woman who became mayor in her city. So write your story.
Learn how to take constructive criticism. Trust me, your work will be criticized, some well-intentioned, some maybe not so much. Learn how to look at your work objectively and you’ll learn how to spot the difference. I have two good friends who are writers, and they read my work often as I’m writing it. If something doesn’t read well, or doesn’t make sense, they do not hesitate to tell me. Not to be mean – on the contrary. They don’t want me to fall on my face!
Learn to spell and learn proper punctuation and good grammar! Don’t think it’s okay because it’s the story that matters (only true if you are a genius writer and most of us, alas, are not!). I have actually heard people say that grammar, spelling, and punctuation don’t matter because the publisher will hire an editor! If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, put your house in order. Be professional.
My first book (see “rock star” above) would never have sold if I hadn’t listened to the feedback from the editors who’d rejected it (“You can’t kill off the hero and the heroine at the end of the book.” – and yes, I had done that.). Every one of my 45 + books have been made better because I listened to my editors and made changes that felt right to me.
[Author’s note: These days, I’ve been reading a lot of suspense/thrillers. Karin Slaughter and Lisa Gardner are long time favorites. Linda Castillo writes about an ex-Amish woman who’s the chief of police in a community heavily populated by Amish. We live in the country and have a lot of Amish neighbors, so this series has been at the top of my list. James Lee Burke is one of my favorite authors – I think he’s brilliant – and I love Lee Child’s Reacher series (and the TV series – that guy is HOT! LOL) and everything that Michael Connelly has written (especially the Bosch series, and again the TV series is so good. OH, and The Lincoln Lawyer (the TV series is great – and again, HOT lead actor!).]
Q: What are healthy ways you deal with writer’s block if or whenever it strikes you?
A: There’s a healthy way? Seriously? If so, I haven’t figured that out yet. When I hit a point where I’m stuck, I usually grab the potato chips and head for the deck and stare out into the trees. Honestly, I don’t know what other writers do besides procrastinate, and I do that too, alot.
Q: Is it fair to say that the characters and places within your novels are taken from bits and pieces of real people and places? It’s always amazing that authors can create fictional people and worlds from real people and places.
A: Yes and no. I absolutely do not use real people in my books. For one thing, if it turns out badly, you’ve lost a friend or someone in your family no longer speaks with you. For another – suppose you reach a point in the story where your character has to do something or say something that you know your real-life person would never, never do or say. No way around that for me. So I just don’t do it.
That said, sometimes I will take something that happened in real life if it fits naturally into my story. Example: In my forthcoming book, THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN, which will be out in October (10/10/2023, actually), there’s a scene where one of the sisters is relating something from her past. She recalls that when she graduated college, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, but her mother had asked her what she was most interested in, what did she like, and she said, “Jewelry.” So her mother told her to find out what she had to do to get a really good job in that field. She researched it and found out she’d need certification from the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), so that’s what she did. That was pretty much verbatim of a conversation I had with my youngest daughter after she graduated college. She did take the courses, made some jewelry, then gave it up and went to law school (the character in the book became an interior designer, not a lawyer). But the conversation fit into the story, so I used it.
Q: If you’re working on any new projects right now, are you continuing with the Wyndham Beach series, beginning a new series and/or writing a standalone novel?
A: Right now, I’m working on a follow-up book to THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN. It’s not part of a series, though – it’s a standalone book that takes place in the world I created in the CROWN.
Q: If you were to write in any genre besides romance, which genres would you explore and why?
A: Well, I have! I wrote many romantic suspense novels set that featured the FBI team I created in BROWN-EYED GIRL and VOICES CARRY. Right now, I’m writing women’s fiction, and I’m enjoying it, but I would love to go back to my suspense team at some future time because it was challenging in different ways from either contemporary romance or women’s fiction. I really enjoyed writing the FBI series and some days I am so tempted! Some of those books are really old – BROWN-EYED GIRL came out in 2000 – but I still hear from readers who have read the entire series and are hoping for more, it’s not in the cards right now but I never say never.
Q: Has Hollywood shown any interest or bought the rights to your work? The entertainment industry is lacking in originality. Some great books would give them great original content again.
A: We’ve had a lot of interest over the years, but haven’t sold anything yet.