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Interview with MaryJean Adams

How did you become a writer?

Through a lot of trial and error. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but that doesn’t mean I was any good at it. I first tried my hand at it back in the late 80s. I started with science fiction, but soon decide romance was easier. (I know more about romance than I do about science!) I didn’t get very far before life got in the way, so I shelved that idea for several years.

Then, when my kids were in grade school, I started my own business as a freelance writer, creating content for businesses. My degree is in marketing, so this was a big part of what I did before I struck out on my own. Since I was writing so much anyway, I thought, why not try my hand at fiction again?

By that time, I was in my forties and had a couple more decades of life experiences. Writing fiction became so much easier when I could draw on those experience to color my stories and my characters.

What inspires you to write?

I tend to create backstories to explain things...the way someone behaves, events that happen, things people say. I started out writing historical novels because I love history, but history books never contain enough of the lives of real people to satisfy my curiosity. It’s all dates and facts. And all pertaining to the “important” people. I can’t help but fill in the gaps with stories about ordinary people and the extraordinary lives they led even if they never made history.

Smitten is my first contemporary romance. I got the idea from a tweet. Someone had commented that she overheard her plumber talking to her cat about getting a sandwich when they were finished fixing the sink. I commented that it would make a great scene for a romance novel and got a ton of replies from people, encouraging me to write it. So, viola! Smitten was born.

Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?

Like many people, the biggest challenge is time. My kids are college-aged, but they still need their mom from time to time. My business is also busier than ever. And, I’m involved in a couple of local associations. Persistence is key. I don’t work on my manuscripts every day, but I do work on them regularly. It helps that I belong to a critique group that’s built writing sprints into our regular schedule.

What are your current/future projects?

I have a fifth historical romance that I shelved to write Smitten. I plan to dust that off and query it. I’m also working on a second contemporary. Finally, I would love to go back to the four historicals I’ve published and do some rewrites. Among other changes, I’d like to change their heat level. I’m seeing a lot more demand for sweet/clean romances, and I feel better writing those stories as well.

Do you have a routine you follow when writing?

The big divide among writers seems to be the pantsers (those who just let the words flow) vs the plotters (those who create an outline). I think it’s a spectrum and I’m probably somewhere in between, but leaning more toward plotter.

My first step is to come up with an idea and just start jotting down things that might happen. It’s not an outline. It’s more of a brainstorming session with myself. Then, I turn that into a sketch of about 10,000 to 15,000 words. This is more than an outline, but way less than a draft. Chapter by chapter, I spell out what happens. Sometimes, I’ll dive a little deeper into the chapter if, for example, I have an idea for some snappy dialogue or a scene that’s playing out in my head. At other times, my chapter sketch will just be one or two lines. This needs to happen here...

Once the sketch is complete, I start drafting. The sketch really helps because I can see the story, but it’s amazing how often the story ends up not following the sketch. I let that happen. Before the manuscript sees the light of day, I’ll go through it a couple dozen times or more, reading it out loud, sharing it with a couple of beta readers, bringing chapters to my critique group etc. I’m not obsessive, but I am through.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Lots! First, don’t quit your day job. It’s a lot easier to write when you aren’t worried about putting bread on the table.

Second, look for a low conflict spouse or significant other that understands the needs of a writer, e.g., the need mental space. It’s also lot easier to write when you have fewer personal problems going on in your own life.

Third, embrace your introverted side. Most of us are taught that it’s better to be a people person, but that’s not true if you want to earn a living as a writer. Introverts can enjoy observing people, it’s the interaction that tires us out. We need the time alone to process what we’ve seen and practice our craft. The need for people gets in the way.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?

Twitter is my preferred social platform. My handle is @MaryJeanAdams. I’m also on Goodreads, so if you have a question or comment that requires more than 280 characters that’s the place to find me.

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