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Mary Lee Painter-Miller Interview

Do you have a routine you follow when writing?

It’s not a planned routine, just what works for me. I never sit at my computer and develop a story idea. I have to go through every detail from character and back stories to the setting and plot in my mind before I can type a word and I absolutely love that part of the process. I’ll scribble down some notes but for the most part it’s me daydreaming and figuring out interesting plot twists and surprise endings. Then when it’s time to sit at my laptop, I feel like someone is just whispering into my ear what to type and it’s amazing and I’m so grateful to be able to do this.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would it be?

I’ve always written and loved it so much, but I live in the Midwest and it was difficult to get a response or interest when I’d sent out query letters. My sister is a writer as well and when our kids were young sometimes we’d go to the park and while the kids played we’d talk about what we were writing and bounce ideas off of one another. But after a few years of no good responses from my queries, I thought it just wasn’t going to pan out for me. I put some screenplays and a manuscript in a box and stored it away while I focused on other things. Five years later I came across the box and couldn’t really remember the details of my stories and when I read them I was shocked and enjoyed them and decided I didn’t totally suck after all. My advice to my younger self would be to keep writing, not to listen to the doubt that creeps in and just keep tuning and improving.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

I’m often inspired by shows or movies that I’ve watched. I had starting planning my book The Other Fork in the Road when at the same time I’d binge watched Yellowstone and like so many, I loved the character of Beth Dutton. I thought of how fun it would be to have her as the side kick for the main character and that idea turned into Zoey. Once I knew who Zoey was everything was clear, simple and so much fun to write.

What are your current/future projects?

So. Many. Ideas. I don’t even know where to start. Maybe a story spinoff about Zoey? The Other Fork in the Road started as a screenplay I wrote but I felt like it needed to be a book and there is another one I have that I’m working on now that I’m really excited about.


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