Saturday, June 06, 2009

Weekend Interview with Mary Stanton

Welcome to a special Writers' Weekend interview with mystery author Mary Stanton! Mary's new release is Angel's Advocate, and at the conclusion of this interview, we'll share info on how you can win a copy!

Mary Stanton has been writing professionally most of her adult life. Born in Florida, Mary grew up in Japan and Hawaii, and came to the continental U.S. to attend undergraduate school. She attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and received a B.A. in philosophy and literature from the University of Minnesota. She dropped out of law school and a master’s program in rehab therapies.

Before starting to write full-time, Mary held a number of jobs, including a nightclub singer as part of Sheik’s Singing Sextette, a medical examiner for Social Security, an insurance claims adjuster, and a copy writer. In 1985, Mary founded a marketing communications firm which was sold to Hutchins, Young & Rubicam.

A member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the International Association of Crime Writers, Mary is married to Robert J. Stanton, and has three stepchildren: John Robert Stanton, Harry Cole Stanton, and Julie Stanton Schwartz.

Mary Stanton divides her time between an 850-head goat farm in upstate New York and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Welcome, Mary! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born in Florida, and brought up in Japan and Hawaii. I moved to the continental United States when I was 18, to go to undergraduate school in Minnesota. I remember my first winter; after being raised in tropical and temperate climates, it was the first time I realized that weather could kill you.

When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I always think of myself as a storyteller, rather than a writer. (a 'writer' is Faulkner, or Fitzgerald, or Margaret Atwood.) And i started telling stories early on--mostly to my two little sisters. My first 'novel' was a story about a girl and a horse, written in long hand, on those three hole punched lined notebook paper we all had in school. I was 12, I think.

How do you go about developing your characters?

My characters are a combination of people I know well, people I've met, conjecture about what people are like in news stories, and my own sort of fuddled imagination.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Write. You're not a writer unless you do it.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

When I'm not working, I read 5 to 6 books a week. I try to read one of everyone new in the mystery genre, and that is proving to be difficult, since there's so much of it. And I read my favorites as soon as a new book comes out. Right now, I'm reading Steven Saylor, Jane Haddam, and Lee Child. But that will change next week. Reginald Hill, and Ton and Enid Schantz' re-issues of the old English classics are favorites, too. I also read The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly The Economist and the NYTimes, the Wall Street Journal and the local paper.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

It's really hard. Somebody said you can write or have a life. Not both. Whoever said it, never said a truer word. We have 900 goats and 300 sheep here in upstate New York, and my 95 year old mother in law lives with us, and my youngest just had an adorable baby. Fortunately, we have a lot of excellent help.

Wow! That IS a lot going on! Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it? What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Garden, swim, hike, clean the horse stall, ride my horse, play with my goats, go to the gym, eat, and bake. And read. Reading is at the top of the list.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

Surprising things? As far as writing itself goes, it's surprisingly hard to get people in and out of rooms with repeating yourself. As far as book creation itself--I was surprised how much background chat goes on in my head when I work. Bits of songs, old, half-forgotten poetry, that sort of thing. I finally started beginning my chapters with some of it.

When you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?

I handwrote my first novel--which was 140 thousand words--on legal-sized yellow pads. I rewrote it seven times.

Now I write on my lap top.

Mary, thanks so much for being here today!

Readers, Mary Stanton is giving away a signed copy of her book, Angel’s Advocate, to one lucky tour visitor. Go to Mary’s book tour page,, enter your name, e-mail address, and this PIN, 9363, for your chance to win. Entries from Allie's Musings will be accepted until 12:00 Noon (PT) tomorrow. No purchase is required to enter or to win. The winner (first name only) will be announced on Mary’s book tour page next week.


Mary Ricksen said...

You have how many sheep? Holy cow that's enough for a stampede!
I love upstate New York and I can just picture your cool farm. Great post Mary, how nice to learn about you. And Allie good stuff!

itsamystery said...

Thanks for sharing your interview. I personally can't imagine that many sheep and goats! And you still find time to write . . . . .

misterreereeder said...

I can only imagine what kind of writer's block a real writer might have. Just blogging I have my blocks. Thinking about the sheep you raise reminds me about counting sheep to go to sleep (ha ha)!

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