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.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Writer's Digest

"Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail." ~Ernest Hemingway

Does anyone else get Writer's Digest? They always have some great info: articles about the writing/publishing biz, bios of new authors, contests, etc. Just got mine yesterday and I can't wait to page through it. Interestingly, the very first piece of advice in the article "Your Publishing Survival Guide" is Stop reading the trades. That is, don't drive yourself crazy trying to keep up with trends/agent sales/etc. Just write. Not sure what I think about that. I mean, I agree with the "just write" piece, but so much of the industry tells you that you should know what's being bought and sold right now, so to just abandon it altogether...hmm...

They're also apparently sponsoring a contest -- "The Business of Publishing" -- in NYC in September. Here's the website, if you're interested. Looks like they'll have some good info/speakers.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Random Ramblings...

"Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially." ~A. Bronson Alcott

I haven't written a word in a week, except my second installment of the Romance in the Backseat Short Story. Which, by the way, was intended to get the actual romance back on track. A couple of the other participating authors emailed each other to say, "Hey, what's up with all the secondary characters and ridiculous side plots...especially in a short story?" It's interesting to see that in a round robin, apparently, each author wants to up the ante and make her section a little crazier and more conflict-filled than the last.

But I think it was Anton Chekhov that said something about only needing 1 or 2 characters to tell a story. It's a good reminder.

Anyway, I did manage to get the 2 main characters in the round robin story alone together for a brief period of time. I haven't read yesterday's installment, so I think I'll venture over there now and check it out. Want to join me?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Kathy-Diane Leveille

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! I'm so happy that author Kathy-Diane Leveille is joining me today...enjoy!

Hi, Kathy! Can you start by telling us a little about your background?

I’m a former broadcast journalist with CBC radio. Seventeen years ago, when I was home on maternity leave with my youngest son, I dug out an old file of story ideas and started scribbling. By the time the date arrived when I was supposed to return to work, I had already decided that I didn’t want to keep putting my dream of writing fiction on the back burner. Since then I’ve done different jobs, including being a janitor and typing medical transcription, to give me the time and energy to pursue my passion. My first book, Roads Unravelling, a collection of short stories set on the Kennebecasis River where I live, was published a few years ago. '>Let the Shadows Fall Behind You released this spring is my first novel.

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

I wrote my first poem when I was in Grade 1:

Oh Father Dear, I’m glad you’re here
So we can celebrate this day, with a Doran’s beer.

Of course I didn’t understand why my teacher’s eyes rounded with horror when she read it. That was my first lesson in discovering that not everyone will welcome the truth in what you write. My mother sewed paper together for me so I could write books when I played library, but I really didn’t have any desire to write until I was in Grade 6. I was secretly in love with our new teacher from Toronto, Miss Matthews. One day Miss Matthews glided to my desk, scarf fluttering, to tell me how much she loved the story I’d written, and how it would make a great radio play. I was stunned. I had had no idea that the words I scribbling like mad onto the page would actually elicit such a strong and positive response in someone else. It was my first inkling that words were powerful. I wrote and produced a few radio dramas that year, and also wrote and directed the class Christmas play.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

I had so much fun writing my new suspense novel. It’s fascinating to see how my initial idea has grown into the multi-layered plot of '>Let the Shadows Fall Behind You:

On a grey morning in Northern Ontario in 1978, when the first fat snowflakes drifted down erasing all the familiar landmarks, Nikolai Mirsky headed out the door of the haunted cabin he shared with his lover, Brannagh Maloney. And disappeared…

Brannagh, a Natural Science Illustrator, struggled to collate the data from their bird count through the long winter. By the time the icicles began to melt, she was filled with a growing dread that the infamous wilderness preservationist wasn’t returning.

When Brannagh left New Brunswick, ten years ago, she swore it was for good. But now her best friend, Annie, won’t stop worrying about her, and won’t stop hounding her to come back for a reunion of their childhood all-girls club The Tuatha-de-Dannans. Brannagh finally relents, but she refuses to go to her childhood home and face her irascible Grandfather. Instead, she hides out at her Grandmother’s summer cottage, even though it is far too close to the woods where her mother was murdered. As Brannagh struggles to put to rest the questions surrounding Nikki’s disappearance, she finds it impossible to ignore the family secrets circling the most tragic disappearance of all. Brannagh learns that nothing magical will ever change her past, but the fierce love of friends holds the power to transform the future.

How do you go about developing your characters?

I usually begin by simultaneously visualizing a situation that causes an upheaval in life, and hearing a character’s voice emote their reaction to it. It’s a very strange process and definitely has my husband worried some days; especially when he dusts the books on my research shelf: Handbook of Poisons and Crime Scene Investigation.

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

Rule number one: Write. Rule number two: Write. Rule number three: Write some more. I think it’s really important to exercise your true voice, test it, settle into its strengths and weaknesses, and learn to trust it BEFORE you attend workshops. If you attend how to sessions too soon, the tendency is to try and act on the information with the left brain and copycat what is being taught. If, however, you already write in your true voice, you will trust your gut instinct to take the information taught and adapt any parts of it to your style to enhance it, and discard the rest. How do you know if you’re writing in your true voice? The words catch fire on the page, the room disappears and you are humming along on that magic carpet ride in your imagination to a wondrous new land.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult thing about writing is returning to the page when the initial excitement over a story idea has worn off and I’m riddled with doubts about my ability to translate the vision to the reader. However, I’ve learned through the years that I must keep going back, that eventually the doubts fade and something sparks and I fall in love with my characters all over again. It is that moment, ironically, that is the most exciting about writing for me, because I always learn something new from my character’s journeys.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

Of course! I believe it comes with the territory. At first, I despair, convinced whatever I’m working on should be tossed. But usually after reflection, a long walk or a trip to the library, I realize I need a break from the writing. For me writer’s block comes because the well is dry. I need to get out and enjoy life. It usually takes 1-2 days before suddenly a window opens in the block (when I’m doing something totally mundane like having my tooth drilled), and suddenly I’m antsy to be set free to grab a pen and paper.

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

In Let the Shadows Fall Behind You I learned that to live fully in the moment you need to terms with the past and let it go.

Kathy, I'm so glad you joined us here today! Anything else you’d like to mention?

Thank you so much for inviting me to be your guest, Allie, and meeting all your readers. Please let me know what you think of '>Let the Shadows Fall Behind You at I’d love to hear from you.
Happy Reading!
· Let the Shadows Fall Behind You
· Hardcover: 288 pages
· Publisher: Kunati Inc. (April 1, 2009)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 1601641672
· ISBN-13: 978-1601641670
Thank you!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Win a Copy of One Night in Memphis!

Hey, all: you can win an autographed print copy of One Night in Memphis today only, over at The Romance Studio's Book a Day Giveaway! Click right here to enter...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Cover for One Night in Napa!

Here is my beautiful cover for One Night in Napa (releasing in ebook around the end of July). Isn't it gorgeous? I just love it. And I linked it to the excerpt, so if you'd like a sneak peek, go ahead and read. Warning, though: for some reason the first few paragraphs are posted twice on the Samhain site -- it isn't like that in the book, I promise! The webmaster is supposed to be fixing it soon...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Check Out my Samhain Blog

Hey all, I have a short blog post over at Samhain today, celebrating the print release of One Night in Memphis, and I'd love it if you stopped by to leave a comment so I don't feel too lonely ;) If you've already read the story, even can leave a "You have to buy this book!"comment to entice all those on-the-fence readers to hurry out and get their own copy.

And...drum roll...tomorrow I'm posting the gorgeous cover for One Night in Napa right here! Ooh, I can't wait. The art department has really outdone itself this time!!