Welcome to the three hundred and seventy-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with novelist and screenwriter Mary Firmin. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Mary. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Mary: Hi Morgen. I am presently living in Rancho Mirage a few miles from Palm Springs, California, and I hate to tell you but it is 83 degrees today. I was born in Oldham, Lancs, England and at an early age moved to Canada, then to Florida, and on to California. I lived in Santa Monica, Ca. for many years and raised three children. I first began writing because my friend and I wanted to go on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Ha! Ha! When that didn’t pan out, of course, we decided to take a class at UCLA called How to Write the Bestseller. I immediately fell in love with the process and was hooked on writing. Our UCLA teacher, Marjorie Miller, had a unique group of authors she mentored and I entered that group located in a small studio in Westwood. Several published authors came out of that group. Since then I have moved through several writers groups and gained invaluable lessons from other authors. The other reason I continued to write was because I was a very light sleeper and would get up and wander around in the night. Writing gave me something to do and I did my best work, at night, when the house was quiet.
Morgen: A ‘How to Write the Bestseller’ course sounds like fun. I think we’d all like to know how to do that. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Mary: I love to make things up so I write Fiction. I have not been tempted to write anything else. I did write a screenplay with a friend called, Rhumba. I rather liked that work.
Morgen: I wrote the first 102 pages of script (a lad-lit TV show) for Script Frenzy back in April 2010 and didn’t like the process but enjoyed the story so converted it into the beginning of a novel. What have you had published to-date?
Mary: Deadly Pleasures is the first book I have had published.
Morgen: Ooh, how exciting. I don’t want to be morose now but it’s an important aspect of a writer’s life… Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Mary: Many rejections. But I know from my sales career that every no moves you that much closer to a yes.
Morgen: It does, a great way to think. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Mary: I won a couple of short story competitions at the Palm Springs Writers Guild.
My book was awarded Editor’s Choice, and given Rising Star status at iUniverse. I received fabulous reviews from Kirkus, ForeWord Clarion, and Blueink Review called it, “Sex in the City Meets James Patterson”. Deadly Pleasures garnered many five star reviews.
Morgen: Wow, you must be thrilled. I’d love to be there when James Patterson did meet Sex in the City. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Mary: I had an agent in the past, and I believe if you want to reach the big publishers it is vital. Hopefully that will come for me in the near future.
Morgen: More and more authors are being found online so you never know. Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Mary: My book is available on Kindle. It is also available in soft cover and hard cover at Amazon.com, Amazon UK.com, barnesandnoble.com, also iUniverse. I just ordered a Kindle Reader for myself so we’ll see how much I use it. I do like the feel and smell of a paper book.
Morgen: I have one (just upgraded from a Kindle 4 to a Touch) and I love it. It will never stop me reading paper but I love that there are no spines to break. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Mary: I am just starting to brand myself and my book. I have a professional PR person who has sent out many Press Releases, I have done several radio interviews, a couple of TV appearances, and I also hired someone to handle my Social Networking, Stormi@lightningbookpromotions.com.
Morgen: Who I deal with a fair amount. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Mary: Deadly Pleasures is my favourite and I love the main character of Megan, she is a recovering alcoholic, working hard to make a living in a defunct real estate market, and all the time trying to keep up with her wealthy pals at the yacht club. (Megan would be cast as a Renee Zellwegger type) Detective Matt Donovan seems to be the reader’s favourite and I think I would cast him with Alex O’Laughlin (Hawaii 50) or Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas). In their search for the Bondage Murder, Matt and his partner, travel through L.A.’s private sex clubs, bondage parlours, and the homes and yachts of the rich and famous, all the while keeping his cool and a great sense of humour.
Morgen: That does sound like fun and having had Renee as our Bridget Jones I think she’d do a great job. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your book(s)? How important do you think they are?
Mary: Yes, I decided the book was to be named Deadly Pleasures. The Rising Star department of iUniverse were very helpful with the cover. They found the original picture but I asked them to edit out a few things and they complied beautifully. I think the name of the book, and the cover, is very important to entice the reader.
Morgen: I agree. One of my interviewees earlier this week said she’s been put off even reading the blurb because the title and cover were so dull. With so many to choose from we have to make an impact don’t we? What are you working on at the moment / next?
Mary: I am planning on a Deadly trilogy and I am presently working on the second book, Deadly Secrets.
Morgen: Good plan. Publishers love series because readers love them. You just get to know a character and invariably (if it’s a good book!) you don’t want it to end. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Mary: I suffered from writer’s block for two full years until I decided to self-publish my book. I had sold the book to a publisher who suddenly went bankrupt and I had to sue to get the rights back. I felt very disillusioned and almost quit writing all together. I am trying to get back in the habit of writing every day but there is so much going on with the promotion of Deadly Pleasures I don’t seem able to do it. We have very hot summers here in the Desert and I think that is when I will get Deadly Secrets finished.
Morgen: I think when something’s been hard-fought it makes it all the more worth it and your book is doing so well already. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Mary: With Deadly Pleasures I did get an idea and ran with it. But that method takes a lot longer. So this time I am planning and writing a pretty detailed synopsis. That way I have a map to follow and it is easier to find your way if you have a map.
Morgen: It must be harder with follow-up books to keep the consistency because readers will tell you if they spot something. No pressure, Mary. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Mary: My characters come to me as a need arises in the book. Of course the main characters are more thought out before I even start the book. The names I try to pull out of the air. If I have trouble with a name I search a baby’s name book.
Morgen: A very popular book in its own right. Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
Mary: I do write short stories and I am thinking about publishing 3 or 4 of them that I really like. I have no talent whatsoever for poetry and I admire the genius of poets with all my heart and soul.
Morgen: So do I. I say I don’t “get” poetry but I don’t read it, study for it and rarely write it so that doesn’t help but then my love is prose so you stick with what you know and enjoy. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Mary: I have edited Deadly Pleasures to death. I am noticing that now my writing is a little more fully formed, but only a little. I believe in serious editing by myself and others.
Morgen: It’s practice isn’t it. If someone sat you in front of a piano or easel they wouldn’t expect a masterpiece would they? I’ve not read Dan Brown’s novels (I’m only using him as an example, Dan Brown fans) but his writing has been criticised (often by other writers) but he tells a good story and really that’s what we all want. Do you have to do much research?
Mary: I did a lot of research on the history of Catalina and then I did not use very much of it. I find that with research that’s what happens. If you research something well it kind of comes out in little drips as if you know what you are talking about. The Bondage part of the book took me a while. I did research on line, went to porno shops, porno bookstores, studied the psychology of it all and then acted like I knew all about it. All my friends now suspect I have a secret life of Bondage Sex. Not true, but it was fun doing the research!
Morgen: I was just thinking that… I wonder if it’s tax deductible. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Mary: I prefer third person from the viewpoint of just a couple of my characters.
Morgen: It is the most popular. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Mary: Yes, I do. But I will take parts of them to use in other books.
Morgen: Very wise. It does seem a shame not to do something with them. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Mary: I must admit I am not fond of the Promotion part of selling the book. Surprisingly, since I am kind of extroverted, I thought I would love this, hence the motivation of The Tonight Show, but now I am finding it rather difficult. I think when you are self-published, more of this duty falls on you than if you were traditionally published. Although, recently, I have met some wonderful people while trying to promote my book, it is amazing how authors go out of their way to help each other. Stormi is a brilliant gem I have discovered in this complex world of book-selling. She has been invaluable to me.
Morgen: I’m grateful for anyone who asks to be interviewed as my blog wouldn’t be what it is without them so when someone like Stormi comes along and offers me half a dozen at once I’m delighted. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Mary: Just keep writing. Harold Robbins told me that you need to put Ass Glue on your chair in front of your computer and just stay there until you have written something.
Morgen: I love that. I wonder if you can buy it over the counter. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Mary: Jack the Ripper, Elizabeth Bathory, and Stuart Granger, (who I have loved since I was a little girl). As you can see my tastes are eclectic, leaning towards horror. I would like to know why Jack did what he did and how he got away. And I would l love to know if all that blood helped Elizabeth’s complexion, also how a woman could do those things to other women. I would want to hide the take-away cartons.
Morgen: Nice. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Mary: I love to dance, as I used to be a teacher. I play lots golf, and I have a gorgeous grandson, Charlie, who now takes up every spare moment.
Morgen: But you love every second… Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Mary: I belong to my local writer’s guild, PSWG, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and Women in Film. There many seminars and online classes I am interested in and I participate in a number of blogs.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Mary: All of the above groups have websites and networking sites. I love Goodreads Groups and there are many. I participate in Bookbuzzr, Wattpad, Stormi@lightningbookpromotions.com, WAE network of Writers, Authors and Editors. James Mason Book Club on Goodreads.
Morgen: I’m on Goodreads but I must make more of it (mental note). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Mary: Personally, I think if you write because you love it, it really doesn’t matter. It is wonderful to get the book printed and feel it in your hands and see your name on the cover, but I wrote for many, many years before that finally happened. So we do not write for money or even recognition, we write because we are writers and we love it. I also think that the general trend is towards e-books.
If a hard cover book costs almost $30, and a Kindle Copy can be bought in 60 seconds from your own home for $3.03, I can’t say there is much of a future with traditionally published paper books. More authors, and readers, are turning to the internet, the online bookstores and using their Kindles.
Morgen: Like eBay, postage is killing paper books online. I love both formats but as you say it’s so easy and I love not have any spines to damage. I like pristine-looking books but they need to be read, don’t they. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Mary: My books are for sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iUniverse, Kindle, Nook. A preview is listed on Wattpad. Also, my web site is: www.maryfirmin.com and my blog site is: http://maryfirmin.blogspot.com. Here you will find my profile and on the blog most of my book related activities.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Mary: Yes, there is. It is never too late to follow your dream. If you feel you have something to say about your journey through this world, sit down and START to write. You will be surprised where it will take you. I certainly was. Last Christmas, in 2010, my husband bought me a self-publishing package with iUniverse because he wanted to see my book in print with my name Mary Firmin on the cover. At the time he did not know he would pass away in his sleep on June 6, 2011, six months later. It was a great shock to me and to our family. But right after his passing, I received the copies of my book for editing, book cover, and all those things that go into publishing a book. I was so busy I didn’t know what to do. While all of this did not eliminate my grief at the loss of this dear man it certainly mitigated it somewhat. Later, in January and February of this year a return of the paralyzing grief incapacitated me for a time but since then it has somewhat passed. I am so grateful for my husband’s decision to publish the book and I thank all the people who have bought it.
Morgen: What a shame he didn’t get to see it. My father died (just before 9/11) and never moved in the house he and my mum were going to buy… and he never got to see my dog. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Mary: Where are you from? And have you written a book, Morgen? I would like to read it if you have.
Morgen: That’s very kind of you. I’ve written four and a half. One and half lad lits, a (very large) chick lit, a general fiction vaguely suspense if it had to be something and a crime suspense novel but they’re all still in files. I left my job two months ago to get cracking on them and I’ve managed the chick lit so far. Oh and your original question. I’m from Amersham, Buckinghamshire originally, at the end of the London’s Metropolitan tube line but moved an hour north for (sort of) work (a long story but I moved and they didn’t!) and am settled in Northamptonshire which is greener than most people would think (especially if they know Corby’s in the same county). Thank you, Mary.
I then invited Mary to include an extract of her writing and this her prologue…
Sherrie Weston scrambled onto the big brass bed and rolled over onto her back. Naked, but for a red satin garter belt trimmed with lace and equally red mesh stockings, she struck a lewd pose for the fat, sweaty trick ogling her from the foot of the bed.
This guy loves garter belts, thought Sherrie.
A sudden sweep of euphoria mellowed her out from the top of her platinum head to the tips of her painted toenails, and she thanked the universe she’d snorted multiple lines of coke before George Fisher arrived, or she’d never be able to carry out her plan. On top of the other drugs in her system, it was enough to fly her to the fucking moon.
She set down the ground rules. “No games today, George, I had a rough night.” And tonight is going to be worse. Sherrie tried not to think about the session she had planned for later that evening. To distract herself, she fixed George his favourite scotch-no-ice from the bottle on her dresser.
George took the proffered glass and smiled around the cigarette pinched between his small, nicotine-stained teeth. He moved into the narrow space beside her bed, tugging at his tie. His piggy face oozed perspiration; his eyes glittered, and his fingers, thick as sausages, plucked the cigarette from his pale, wet lips. “That’s okay, babe, I just got time for a quickie.”
English born, Mary Firmin was raised in Canada, lived in Santa Monica, California for many years where she raised three children. Rising from a sales person to Vice President of a large Real Estate firm, Mary, and her husband Bill, owned a power boat and were members of a Southern California yacht club. They travelled up and down the Coast and spent many weekends on Catalina Island. Upon moving to the Desert in the Palm Springs area, Mary wrote a society column about local celebrities and charity events. She now lives in Rancho Mirage, California and is working on her second book in a series of three Deadly books. Deadly Secrets will be another mystery / thriller set in a wealthy Country Club in the Desert. Mary loves to dance, play golf and spend time with her son, daughter, and her grandson, Charlie.
Update November 2012: When Morgen first interviewed me the book had been just released and I was a “Babe in the Woods” as far as what was ahead. It has been, and still is, a very exciting run. Deadly Pleasures still maintains a top 10% rank on Amazon, and went as high as top 3% on Kindle and is presently on sale at .99 on Kindle. Deadly Pleasures was selected as one of the top 100 Indie Books of the Year, and won a 1st Place Gold Medal in the Mystery Genre in Readers Favorites International Book Contest. It was named Book of the Week on Reader’s Den and is presently on their Hot List. I am so thankful to all my readers some of whom gave me fabulous reviews. I am eternally grateful to Stormi@lightningbookpromotions who has guided me through the maze of Social Media. I presently have a large presence on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact me at https://twitter.com/FirminMary, or on my blog: http://maryfirmin.blogspot.com.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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The full details of the new online writing groups, and their associated Facebook groups, are:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
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