Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Enjoy today's interview with author Maggie Toussaint...
Hi, Maggie! Thanks for being here today. So tell us, when did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?
I’ve always been a writer. Early on, I poured out my heart in diaries and letters. I loved creative writing. In college, I ventured over to the dark side, biology, because of better job prospects in the deep South. Marriage came along, so did children and a day job. I scribbled essays or short stories from time to time. I typed up newspaper articles as a Pony Club mom. I wrote scientific journal articles for my day job. The urge to write never lessened.
In 1991, I had a snow skiing accident. I fell off the side of a mountain and landed backwards on a rock. The doctor prescribed a month of bed rest, and I read voraciously, sometimes two or three books a day. After reading a number of so-so books, I decided I could write a better book.
It took me three years to write a historical trilogy (100,000 words each) based on the colorful love story of my paternal grandparents. God bless my mother, my sisters, and my best friend for wading through those epics. Those books were rightfully rejected by publishing professionals. I purchased books about writing, subscribed to Writer’s Digest magazine, took a creative writing course at community college, discovered Romance Writers of America, and realized I needed to up my game. Years passed while I honed my craft and my voice. In 2006, I signed my first contract with The Wild Rose Press for a romantic suspense. A few months later I sold a mystery to Five Star. Since then, I’ve contracted a sweet romance to Freya’s Bower (the first in a trilogy) and a second romantic suspense to The Wild Rose Press
What a wonderful journey to success! Can you tell us about your latest writing project or published title?
No Second Chance, my second romantic suspense, was born from my love of horses. I barrel-raced as a youngster. With my friends and cousins, I rode through the moss-draped lanes and marshy flats of coastal Georgia. On a full moon we rode horses while in our sleeping bags, quite a balancing act, let me tell you!
My oldest daughter loves horses. Unlike me, she rode English style, competing in dressage, stadium jumping, and cross country events. When she became too busy in college to ride, we donated Eureka to a charitable riding foundation where sturdy mounts provided physical therapy for chronically ill children. My husband and I were on the board of that charity for a number of years before we were able to let go of the reins.
No Second Chance is about a different type of horse farm, one that rescues unwanted or abused horses. As the story opens, my heroine, Hope, is struggling to keep her farm afloat. Devlin wants to help her, but he’s got problems of his own, namely an enemy that wants to destroy his company. Devlin’s matchmaking mother binds Hope and Devlin together in a business arrangement where they must help each other. Troubles come, uniting Hope and Devlin against their mutual enemy.
Proceeds from this book will benefit a real life horse rescue operation, Days End Farm Horse Rescue, in Lisbon, Maryland. They have been involved with rescue efforts across America. Visit their website at http://www.defhr.org/ for more information on this well-run non-profit. Even better, No Second Chance is now available in both ebook and print formats!
Sounds like a terrific story! How do you go about developing your characters?
Character development is the key to my writing. I spend as much time fleshing out my characters as I do brainstorming plot events. I draw material from real life, from people I observe, from obituaries, from characterization books. I’m particularly fond of Enneagrams. (Check out my favorite enneagram book: Are you my type, am I yours? by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele, HarperCollins, 1995)
Enneagrams seem to be ready made character sketches, giving attributes of each type of person and describing the people that don’t get along.
I use worksheets to create backstory for characters. Before I begin writing, I need to know what kind of car a character drives, how many pairs of shoes are in their closet, and the name of their childhood imaginary friend. To determine a character’s outward appearance, I cruise through my extensive picture files and snip out visuals to help jog my memory. I’ll collage the images together along with pictures of furniture, pets, and anything else that seems relevant. I keep all that stuff near my monitor as I compose the story.
In general, I write strong alpha males and independent, athletic females. My heroines are tomboys, misfits, or late bloomers, which gives them plenty of conflict and angst when physical attraction hits. I also believe that opposites attract, which is another built-in source of conflict for romance.
What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?
Two words: hunker down. Believe in yourself and write to the best of your abilities. Hold that creative spark close to your heart and guard it carefully. Writing is a demanding, competitive profession. If you want to be published, you have to apply yourself. You have to be willing to miss out on TV shows, to sleep less, to forgo impromptu lunches when you’re on deadline. You have to want it bad enough to persevere when rejection letters or “constructive” contest remarks arrive. You have to make writing a priority in your life. See? Hunker down.
Challenging question: how do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
Balance? What’s that? How many obsessive, focused people do you know who are balanced? Writing is my life; it just took me a while to figure that out.
Great answer :) Maggie, what do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’ve recently undertaken a new community service, hosting a local cable television show through Comcast. The rural area where I live is economically depressed and poverty stricken. Some people here don’t know how to read, many don’t read for pleasure, and few read to their children. On my weekly program, I stress the importance of reading to children. Coming up soon is an adult literacy series. I plan to interview regional authors to highlight different types of reading material. With any luck, About Books will inspire adults to read more.
That sounds really inspirational! Okay, on another topic, when you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?
I started out composing longhand. It was so rewarding to fill notebook pages with scrawling script, to hear the scratch of pen on paper, to physically shape each letter. The downside was that I’d fall asleep transcribing my prose into the computer. Other published writers I knew swore by composing at the keyboard. I didn’t like it at first, but I wouldn’t do it any other way now. I can type almost as fast as I can think, so there’s no lag time between brain and written word. That’s immediate gratification. I’m very much into that!
Thanks so much for being here today! Anything else you’d like to mention?
Allie, thank you for this opportunity to share my hopes, dreams, and books with you. I appreciate your hospitality.
www.myspace.com/maggietoussaint (my blogs are consolidated here)
And readers, check out No Second Chance...it sounds like a winner, and it's available now in both electronic and print formats - you can't go wrong!