Thursday, October 29, 2009
Interview with author Marilyn Meredith
Today as my guest, I'm pleased to talk with the talented Marilyn Meredith. Ms. Merdith has agreed to answer some questions about her books and the writing craft.
1. Marilyn, would you first tell us a little about yourself and what led you to a writing career?
I've always written--stories and plays when I was a kid; as a young adult and mom, plays for my Camp Fire Girls, PTA newsletters, then my first novel, an historical family saga based on my own family genealogy. That was the first book published--but took a very long time to get to that point. I wrote a second family saga based on the other side of my family too. After it was published, knew I wanted to continue writing, but wasn't sure what. Decided on mysteries since that's what I loved to read.
2. What is your writing process?
When I'm starting a new book I begin gathering materials about some of the subjects I think I might like to write about. I think about what I'm going to write, jot down notes and information about characters, but I don't really do a detailed plot. When I have enough to get started, I try to think of a good place to begin and I sit down in front of the computer and write.
I try to write every single day except Sunday. Mornings are my best writing time, but when I really into the story, I might write whenever I have a free hour or two.
I read every chapter to my writing critique group. I think of them as my first editor. I do a lot of rewriting too.
3. How did you become interested in writing mysteries?
I sort of answered that in the first question. I've always loved mysteries and it seemed like the logical next step in my writing career.
4. Does mystery writing have certain rules a writer should follow? What are they?
Yes, of course. The rules about writing well apply to mystery writing too. That's why there are so many books about writing and writing mysteries.
The biggest rule for mysteries is to play fair with the reader. The reader ought to know as much about what is going on as the sleuth and be able to try and figure out who the guilty part is--though it's always fun to surprise the reader.
5. In Dispel the Mist, Tempe eats out and cooks a lot. Why do you feel food is so important to your story telling?
I like to read about food in books--in fact it irritates me when food or eating is never mentioned in a book. In real life people are always wondering what they are going to have or fix for dinner. Tempe isn't much of a cook--but her husband Hutch is.
6. Tempe Crabtree is Native American and you have set this series on a fictional reservation. What are your ties to Native Americans and have you spent time on a reservation?
We live very close to the Tule River Indian Reservation (the reservation that I borrow from for my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries) and in fact, I can see the back of the mountains that is part of the reservation from my house.
I have a great-grandaughter who is a quarter Tule River Indian, and a daughter-in-law and granddaughter who are part Yaqui. Except for the fact that they are all beautiful, I know they are not any different from the rest of us because of their Native American blood.
7. How do you research your books?
My research is different for every one of my books. For Dispel the Mist I learned about the Hairy Man and was fortunate to be able to go with the college's anthropology class to visit the Painted Rock to see the pictorgraphs. Once I saw these 500 to 1000 years old drawings, I knew I had to write a story about Tempe that incorporated the Hairy Man. Often the idea comes first, something that intrigues me, and I do what research is necessary after that.
8. You've published a number of books. What other genres do you write and which is your favorite?
Besides the historical family sagas, I've written ghost stories, psychological horror, and Christian horror. Whatever I happen to be writing is my favorite at the time--but right now mystery is my favorite.
9. Are all of your books published with Mundania Press, and how did you find your publishers?
I've had many publishers over the years. Right now Mundania Press is publishing my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries. I met the publisher at a writing conference and asked him if he'd be interested in publishing the series. This was after the first publisher passed away.
Oaktree Press publishes my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. The previous publisher decided to cease her business. I'd met the Oaktree Press publisher at a conference and asked her if she'd like to publish the next book in the series. I spoke at a conference she was giving, and I signed the contract while I was there.
10. Do you have an agent, and do you think an agent is important for new writers?
Over the years I've had several agents, but don't have one now. Because I'm with small, independent publishers, I don't really need an agent. But if an author wants to be published by a larger New York publisher, an agent is the only way to get one. Because I kept writing books and wasn't getting any younger, I decided finding a publisher myself was the way to go for me.
11. What is your marketing technique, and, if you don't mind my asking, how much of your own money do you spend promoting your books?
I do a lot of online promotion like this kind of interview. I'm on Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites. I belong to MWA, Sisters in Crime, Epic, and the Public Safety Writers Association.
I go to conferences and conventions every year--my favorites are Epicon, Mayhem in the Midlands, PSWA's conference, and next year I'll be going to Bouchercon again. I also like Left Coast Crime, but haven't attended for a couple of years.
Book and craft fairs and festivals are also favorites of mine. I love speaking at libraries and for service and social groups.
When I go out of town, of course it's expensive if I have to fly and stay in a hotel. My hubby often goes with me and it seems like a vacation.
12. I see you are an instructor for Writers Digest School. How did you become involved with doing this?
I'm no longer working for them, but I was an instructor for ten years. I loved it. It's been awhile, but I believe I applied and was accepted more or less like any job.
13. Where can readers find out more about Marilyn Meredith?
My website: http://fictionforyou.com has lots of information on it. Also I have a blog:
http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com and I try to blog every day. I also have a monthly newsletter and if anyone wants to subscribe she/he can write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and put Newsletter or Subscribe in the Subject.
14. Do you have any tips for new writers hoping to become novelists?
Learn as much as you can about the craft of writing. Read the kind of books you want to write. Then write, write, write--and rewrite until it's as perfect as you can make it. When you are at the stage where you're ready to submit to an agent or editor, read their guidelines carefully and submit exactly the way they've asked.
Marilyn, I appreciate your taking time from your busy writing schedule to share this information with me. Thank you.