Welcome to the hundred and third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Marilyn Meredith aka F M Meredith. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Marilyn. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Marilyn: I’m a mother of five, grandmother of eighteen, and great-grandmother of twelve. I’m the author of over 30 published books and don’t really know how many I’ve written that never went anywhere. I started writing when I was a kid; short stories, books, articles for a magazine I produced myself, plays for the neighborhood kids to perform. I didn’t get published until 1982 after a zillion rejections. Perhaps not quite that many, but since it was in the day of the typewriter and carbon paper, sending the whole manuscript in a box with another box inside with return postage—over and over again, it certainly seemed like a zillion. When I married, my writing centered for a while on PTA newsletters and plays for my Camp Fire Girls. When my sister did our family genealogy I embarked on the huge project of turning what she’d found out into a fictionalized versions of the two sides of the family making their way west. Those two books were the first published. (Took a long time to write them and even longer to find a publisher.)
Morgen: Wow, what a wonderful life and so much to write about. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Marilyn: I’ve written historical family sagas, Christian horror, psychological horror, romance with a touch of the supernatural, and many mysteries and crime novels. I write whatever interests me and seems like it would be fun to write.
Morgen: It really helps if the writing process is fun, even when writing something dark… OK, maybe not fun but enjoyable anyway. What have you had published to-date? Can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Marilyn: The list is far too long to list…
Morgen: It is, I’ve seen your website. 🙂
Marilyn: …but several stand-alones, and seven in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, the latest, Angel Lost, and nine in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, Invisible Path the most recent. My first book was on the shelf at a local bookstore in the next town, it was called Trail to Glory and has been out of print for a long, long time.
Morgen: So maybe you could bring it back as an eBook? 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Marilyn: Marketing or promoting is part of the publishing process these days. I enjoy interviews on blogs like this…
Morgen: phew, that’s a relief 🙂
Marilyn: I always do a blog tour when a new book comes out and I do a lot of promoting via social networking, and I have my own blog where I try to have a fresh post everyday, including having guest authors.
Morgen: You do? Ooh, I wonder if… no, sorry carry on.
Marilyn: I also do a lot of book and craft festivals, give talks in libraries and book stores, when invited I love being an instructor at writers’ conferences, and I go to mystery cons.
Morgen: How exciting… to be asked to instruct. 🙂
Marilyn: As far as brand is concerned, I think I’ve gotten my name out almost everywhere. I have a webpage, http://fictionforyou.com a blog http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com where I blog everyday, often doing interviews of other authors like this one, I’m on Facebook and Twitter. I also post every other Tuesday on http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com and http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com and at least once a month at http://criminalmindsatwork.blogspot.com.
Morgen: My goodness, and I thought I was busy. 🙂
Marilyn: When I have a new book coming out I always do a blog tour and I look for other opportunities for interviews and book reviews. Posting on DorothyL is another place I promote, though I also put reviews up of other people’s books. I do lots of reviews on Amazon and my name is connected to various of my books.
Morgen: Speaking of names, do you write under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?
Marilyn: My Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries are written under my own name, but for my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series I use the name F. M. Meredith (that’s my name too, but not the one I commonly use.) Now I wish I hadn’t done that, but at the time it seemed like a good idea.
Morgen: Oh dear, but it’s not a million miles away. I’ve had articles printed under my real name, which is very different so at least you have a connection between the two. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Marilyn: I’ve had several books be finalists in contests and I’ve won a couple of first places in others. It’s nice to say I’m an award-winning author, but not sure how helpful that is.
Morgen: I agree. Although it’s a great achievement to have accolades, sometimes they can be overused although I think if any writer had won something like the Booker or Orange Prize they’d be entitled to shout it from the rooftops. Do you have an agent, Marilyn? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Marilyn: I’ve had about 5 agents over the years. Not one did anything for me. If you want to be published by a New York publisher you must have an agent—I’m quite happy with small presses and not having to give them 15% of my royalties.
Morgen: That’s the way I feel about eBooks. Although the percentage seems quite high with the likes of Amazon (I’m planning to release most if not all of my books at 99p so would only receive 35%) it’s still way above what a traditional publisher (i.e. the big boys) would pay, especially after an agent’s cut, as you say. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Marilyn: Most of my books are available as e-books. I’ve been e-published long before they were popular or even any available e-readers. My publishers do both, print and e-books. I owned the very first one, the Rocket eReader and I have a Kindle which I do read on though I still read paper books too. I love to read, just wish I had more time to do it. E-books are definitely here to stay.
Morgen: I sincerely hope so. 🙂 What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Marilyn: When Trail to Glory was accepted I was ecstatic. I jumped up and down all the way from the mailbox, I’m sure the neighbors thought we were having an earthquake. Of course I’m always thrilled with each new publication—it’s sort of like giving birth without the physical pain.
Morgen: That sounds good to me. 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Marilyn: I had nearly thirty rejections for my first book and many, many more after that. I always turned around and sent out the manuscript again to someone else. And I was working on another at the same time.
Morgen: Good strategy. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Marilyn: Writing two books a year is complicated. At the moment, I’m expecting my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Bears With Us, to be available soon—supposed to be this month. I’m reading the next in this series to my critique group now—which means I’m editing it at least once a week. At the same time, the next in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series has been sent off to that publisher and should make its debut sometime after the first of the year. I’m writing the next one in that series now. In the meantime, I’m still promoting the last one in that series, Angel Lost, and I already have a promotion schedule worked out for Bears With Us.
Morgen: Although complicated, it sounds like a pattern you’re getting (or have become) used to, and one I’m sure many writers will envy. 🙂 Presumably with all this productivity, you manage to write every day?
Marilyn: I write something every day, but not necessarily writing on a book. I usually write for two or three hours on a manuscript when I’m working on a book.
Morgen: What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Marilyn: I never have writer’s block. If I’m stuck on one thing, I go on to another. One trick I use is to always stop in the middle of a scene so when I start up the next time. That way I know exactly where I’m going when I begin again. I think procrastination is what people really suffer from, and sometimes I do spend time doing other things when I ought to be writing—promotion is one of the “other things”.
Morgen: A question some authors dread: where do you get your inspiration from?
Marilyn: That one’s easy. I get my inspiration from everywhere. Eavesdropping on conversations in airports and restaurants, collecting unusual names, intriguing crimes from the newspaper, and for my latest book, my grandson is a police officer in Aspen, and a couple of years ago he began posting photos on Facebook of bears he chased out of people’s homes. The whole idea fascinated me and I emailed him and asked lots of questions about how they knew a bear invaded a house, what the bear did once he got inside, what they looked like, how they smelled. If you read Bears With Us you’ll find out the answers to some of my questions.
Morgen: Yes readers, please do. Marilyn, do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Marilyn: With mysteries, there is a bit of plotting that you have to do like who is going to be murdered, who might have wanted the person dead, who had the opportunity, etc. In the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, it’s more about the characters and what is happening in their lives and how whatever crimes that happen affect them. I don’t outline the whole plot, but I do plan. I gather information (research) and begin thinking about how I can use that information, what dilemmas the main character will have to face, characters, in this case, Tempe, will have to confront or deal with. Once I feel like I’ve got a good start, I’ll begin writing. I’ve learned I need to keep a time line because in one book I skipped a whole day. Fortunately my editor pointed that out to me.
Morgen: I found the same thing with my first novel; I had to date the chapters as I had some instances of skipped chronology. You mentioned your characters a moment ago, do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Marilyn: I collect lists of names from graduation and play programs, or when I see an interesting one in an obituary. I pick a first and a last name that seem to fit my vision of the person I’m naming. Giving each character a different personality and character traits is important to making them seem real. Tempe Crabtree is part Native American. I borrowed her name from my great-grandmother. She’s no longer with us and I loved her name. Tempe has the attributes of a young Indian woman I met several years ago, a female deputy I wrote a personality piece on for the newspaper, and a female police officer I did ride-along with. I know Tempe better than I know anyone in my family because I know how she thinks. I’ve written about her and her family enough that they are very real to me—and I hope that carries over to my readers.
Morgen: I’m sure it does and isn’t that great when you’ve created a ‘whole’ person. 🙂 Talking about readers, who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Marilyn: My critique group hears and reads my work first, chapter by chapter. They are my first editor. I’ve belonged to the same group for nearly 30 years. People come and go, but I can tell you honestly that I learned more from being involved with this group than from any writing conference, class or books.
Morgen: I think you’re right but having both is great too. 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Marilyn: Everyone’s work needs to be edited. I’m reading a published book now that could have been made better by some good editing.
Morgen: Oops. At least I can be rest assured that it’s not mine (yet). 🙂 What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Marilyn: I do a lot of note taking, and I keep notes from Sisters in Crime meeting and wonderful conferences like the recent PSWA. I begin to think about and do some scribbling about events I want to see in my next book. I don’t outline, but I do write down a lot of what I think I’m going to write.
Morgen: Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Marilyn: My notes are on paper, when I’m actually writing the book I do it on my computer.
Morgen: I’m the same, it saves a lot of time although I prefer to edit (with a red pen :)) on paper. Do you listen to music when you write?
Marilyn: I don’t. I think better without any more noise than what goes on in a busy house like mine.
Morgen: 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Marilyn: I always write in close third person. In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree books, almost everything is written from her POV. With the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, I use multiple POVs, but still in close third person.
Morgen: Third I’d say is the most popular and certainly what the agents / publishers prefer. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Marilyn: I only used epilogues in my historical family sagas. I have used prologues but they’ve fallen out of favor. Now what I might have called a prologue I make Chapter One.
Morgen: I’ve only ever written one prologue and that was originally Chapter one and may revert to that before it goes out. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Morgen: 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Marilyn: I love it when all is going well and I am writing, writing, writing. My least favourite is probably when I have to interrupt the flow to go do something else.
Morgen: Which if you’re anything like me is too often. What has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Marilyn: How much fun I’ve had teaching others and giving talks.
Morgen: I love running my writing group; it’s split into critique Mondays and workshop Mondays so the best of both worlds. It’s workshop tonight so I’ll actually get to write something new today. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Marilyn: Learn as much as you can about the craft of writing. Read the kind of books you want to write. Make sure your work is as good as it possibly can be before sending it off. Always do exactly what the editor, publisher or agent has put in their guidelines. Once you’re finished with one book, start the next. Don’t let rejections get you down. Never, never give up.
Morgen: A wonderful answer, thank you. 🙂 What do you like to read?
Marilyn: I love reading and don’t have near enough time to read—especially when I’m writing. I mostly read mysteries, but I’ve enjoyed reading some YA novels lately.
Morgen: Ah ha. I did wonder whether, being a grandmother and great-grandmother, children’s (albeit YA) writing would feature in your life somewhere. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Marilyn: I’m in the United States and I’ve never really thought about it.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Marilyn: I’m on several email lists for mystery writers and e-published writers. I’m not thrilled with forums because I forget to go to them. I’m on one list called Murder Must Advertise that is truly helpful about promotion. I love Facebook and I Twitter though not as much as I probably should—there’s only so much time in a day.
Morgen: Tell me about it. 🙂 Murder Must Advertise sounds intriguing, I’m definitely going to have to check that out. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Marilyn: My website is http://fictionforyou.com and all my books are listed along with the first chapters of most. My blog is http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com and I always welcome followers and friends on Facebook. And of course Amazon.
Morgen: 🙂 What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Marilyn: What I’d like to say here is things have changed so much for the writer since I began, computers, copying machines, the Internet, email, sending manuscripts as attachments, e-books, who knows what will come next? It’s an exciting time and I’m excited to be a part of it. The future will open up with even more opportunities for writers than there are now. Pay attention to what is going on and try new things.
Morgen: Couldn’t agree more, I’m really excited. Thank you Marilyn.
Marilyn: Thank you so much, Morgen, for this opportunity.
Morgen: You’re so welcome (you can come again). 🙂
Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Bears With Us from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Angel Lost, the third from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America.
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