Today I am joined on The Things That Catch My Eye by Maria Grace.
Maria has just released her All the Appearance of Goodness.
Our regular posts will return, but now, our interview:
Thanks for hosting me David. I’m more used to interviewing authors and its fun to have the shoe on the other foot.
What moved you to become an author?
It’s not something I ever really decided, I think. Like most things in my life, I kinds of walked into it and looked around and realized it was happening.
I have been writing and making up stories as long as I can remember. But, on reflection, I think my third grade teacher had the biggest influence on me. We had just moved into the school district and I was the new kid in class. I wrote my first poem and short story about that time and showed them to her. She encouraged me to continue writing and even helped me to format some of my pencil scrawl correctly. So I just kept at it from there.
In middle school I wrote a short story anthology and two novels that I shared with friends. They were enthusiastic about them. In high school I added another standalone novel and a six book series to the mix, again written mostly for the entertainment of my friends. So, I suppose my friends who read those early efforts also had a big influence as well. I still have those old scribbles, hidden in a box in my office, they remind me I’m just getting back to one of my first loves.
Tell us about your novels.
My latest novel is the third in a series of Jane Austen inspired novels. I have two additional manuscripts in this genre sitting in the drawer waiting to be edited.
My novels are unique in that I like to explore the ‘what if’ aspects of the characters. In my current series, I explore what might have happened if a mentor had been present to influence the main character’s lives. Would there still have been a story to tell? In this case, the answer was happily, yes.
Though I have borrowed Jane Austen’s characters, their new situations makes for a very different story. I strive to keep true to her character’s personalities while exploring how they might have realistically been different due to changed circumstances.
I have several other projects in various states of completion. One day I was at the gym lifting weights with my sons—always fodder for creativity—and the thought winged by ‘what would the social structure and culture of Regency England look like in an advanced/space faring technological society? True, it was an odd thought for the gym, but, it gave birth to a trilogy that is also sitting in the drawer waiting for the attentions of a developmental editor later this month.
My academic training is in sociology, psychology and education more than straight history, so I love to explore the person in the context of their society both in the large sense of a nation and the smaller sense of a community. That’s where I tend to find my plots.
How did the story begin to develop in your mind?
In the series I just published, the inspiration was very personal. I found myself caught in the midst of a situation where someone, actually several people, who knew how to behave better and should have, but did not. I ended up being the brunt of their ‘stuff’. It was exceedingly painful and left me with a lot of junk to work through.
Around that time, I reread Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and the line “as a child, I was given good principles, but left to follow them in vanity and conceit” jumped out at me. At the time it described what I had been on the receiving end so well I could hardly believe it. That got me thinking, what would have happened, both in my situation and in Jane Austen’s, if people would have followed their ‘good principles’ and how that might have happened. One thought led to another and a series was born.
The real key to all of this was trying to figure out how it might have happened realistically, with people you would want to be with, not simply a ‘know it all’ who shows up and tells everyone what to do. Thus my character, the curate and later vicar, Mr. Bradley was born. He gives very few answers to the characters, but he challenges them with his own hard-won insights and then allows them to wrestle with their choices. Sometimes, the characters stomp off in a huff, sometimes, they get quite upset that he will not give them a straight answer, but always they are offered the opportunity to grow.
What did you find most challenging about this book?
Without a doubt, the most challenging part of the process for me is the editing and proofreading stages. Doing the research and putting together the basic story is the easy and fun part for me. Polishing it and making it beautiful is hard.
Part of the challenge is that there are so many levels of the process. Once the story is roughed out, the developmental editing process insures that the story hits all the right notes in the right places and that the characters are active participants, not just passive players that things happen to. Pacing and subplots have to be balanced to fill out the story enough so it is satisfying, but not bloated.
Elements of developmental editing can actually be fun and creative, but the line edits and proofing, for me are as challenging as piping the icing on a wedding cake—which I have actually done. In cake decorating, every stroke, every dot, every line has to be perfect both on its own and in relation to everything else on the cake. In the same way, each paragraph, each sentence, each word, each comma has to be right and when there are eighty thousand of them to review individually and in relation to one another, the process is pretty daunting.
How did you choose your publishing method?
After considerable study of the industry, I chose to self-publish. Being a closet control freak, I balked as the lack of control many publishing houses offer authors. I just could not bring myself to turn my ‘babies’ over to someone else. I liked the control and flexibility offered by doing it myself, though it has meant over a year of very intensive study, not just on research for the books, but on everything from graphic design and learning to use photoshop to copyrights and estate planning. I do not regret a moment of it though.
Now I am with a small publishing imprint, White Soup Press. I love it because it offers all the control of self-publishing while giving me a small community of expertise and support from which to draw in the process.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I have always done things in an odd and round-about sort of way. My parents convinced me from early on that I was supposed to be an engineer. That lasted one semester in college before I realized that while I could do it, it would drive me crazy. I ended up with a quadruple major (yes really and in four years) of economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavioral sciences. From there I did a master’s degree in counseling and a doctorate in education psychology. All the while I took nary an English nor a history course, having placed out of them one way or another. Perfect fodder for being an author of historical fiction—right?
I ended up marrying an engineer and producing three strapping sons who are also destined to be engineers. Said strapping sons have dragged me kicking and screaming into their activities, which among other things, led to me earning two black belts along the way. Surprisingly, these have been pretty useful in relation to writing as I can block out a terrific fight scene!
All in all, I think these experiences give me a singular basis from which to write. I have a distinctive perspective on culture and what makes people tick and why. Living with so much testosterone give me some insight into my male characters and I regularly check with my resident experts to make sure my male ‘voices’ are accurate and authentic. All of this together gives my work a unique voice and perspective—and a bit of quirky humor that is some fun along the way.
What is your next work, and beyond that, what do you want to work on.
I have several directions for a ‘next’ work really. I have an Austenesque manuscript in the drawer screaming for editing time. It features a physically disabled character whose condition is the basis of the ‘what-if’. I love that story and want to get it out. But then my Regency-cum-sci-fi trilogy is also begging for attention. In another stack, I have a novella calling out to me that is the bridge to a new, original Regency series that will focus on the people of a parish between two smallish towns. So I’m not entirely certain which one will be calling the loudest.
Who do you think influenced your writing, this work, and who do you think you write like.
I think everyone I have ever read has influenced my writing though I try to be true to my own voice and write like me. People have compared my writing to Asimov, Orson Scott Card and Jane Austen, which is about as desperate a group as you could name. I honestly do not know what to make of that.
When writing, what is your routine for the day, for crafting a scene, for the entire cycle of first work to published copy?
I usually start my day with dealing with the ‘business’ side of things, correspondence, blog, marketing and other chores. About mid-morning I get to the fun stuff.
My favorite part of the process is rough drafting everything. I often strap on my running shoes and it the trails and just let my characters loose in my head. Running has a meditative quality to me and I can really set creativity free then. When I come back, I’ll clean up and either hit the keyboard or grab my pen and paper and let the characters speak. Once they have had their turn, I need to clean up the mess they leave behind. And they are a messy lot.
They leave it to me to rewrite their conversations into properly constructed scenes with goals, conflict and motivation, with properly established points of view and resolutions. Sometimes the process is fairly simple, more often, it requires hours of shaping and revising. My work typically goes through four to five drafts, a different focus for each one. Each scene is drafted, then edited and added to the manuscript, then I work on it all at the story level, then down at the word and sentence level. The entire process takes on the order of fifteen hundred hours to complete. Oooh, I really did not want to think about that!
Where should we look for your work.
My books are available in paper back and ebook on Amazon right now. I will be adding Barnes and Noble (Nook) and Kobo versions in the next few weeks.
I also write for two group blogs, English Historical Fiction Authors and Austen Authors as well as at my own site Random Bits of Fascination.
You can find me:
Visit her website Random Bits of Fascination (AuthorMariaGrace.com)
On Twitter @WriteMariaGrace
On Pinterest : http://pinterest.com/mariagrace423/
English Historical Fiction Authors (EnglshHistoryAuthors.blogspot.com) (DWW-Which I blog at as well)
Austen Authors (AustenAuthors.net) (DWW-I got to get me into this group also.
You can click on the images below to find Maria’s books or at amazon.com/author/mariagrace
Six months after his father’s passing, Fitzwilliam Darcy still finds solace in his morning reflections at his parents’ graves. Only in the quiet solitude of the churchyard does he indulge his grief. None but his unlikely mentor recognize the heartache and insecurity plaguing him as he shoulders the enormous burden of being Master of Pemberley. Not all are pleased with his choice of adviser. Lady Catherine complains Darcy allows him too much influence. Lord Matlock argues, “Who is he to question the God-appointed social order?” But the compassionate wisdom Darcy finds in his counselor keeps him returning for guidance even though it causes him to doubt everything he has been taught. In the midst of his struggles to reinvent himself, his school chum, Charles Bingley, arrives. Darcy hopes the visit will offer some respite from the uproar in his life. Instead of relief, Darcy discovers his father’s darkest secret staring him in the face. Pushed to his limits, Darcy must overcome the issues that ruined his father and, with his friends and mentor at his side, restore his tarnished birthright.
With the regiment come to camp in Meryton, many young ladies are pleased. Not all share their enthusiasm. Among them, Mr. Carver, who removes his family from Meryton’s savage society. He blames, not on the militia officers, but the Bennet family. The flirtations and boisterous ways of the youngest sisters are too much to be borne. Not even Jane’s renowned beauty and charm can make up for them. Elizabeth denies the allegations at first, but rapidly uncovers the shocking truth. The Carvers are not the only family to cut the Bennets from their acquaintance. Their reputations materially damaged, the family borders on social ruin. The news is too much for Mrs. Bennet who collapses from the shock. So, Elizabeth and her sisters must manage the estate until she recovers, a task for which none of them is prepared. Warned by Mr. Pierce, the local curate, that several of the officers have unsavory designs on the local girls, Elizabeth must find a way to honor her father, rein in her sister and salvage the family’s reputation, all in the most ladylike way possible.
What is a young woman to do? One handsome young man has all the goodness, while the other the appearance of it. How is she to separate the gentleman from the cad?
When Darcy joins his friend, Bingley on a trip to Meryton, the last thing on his mind is finding a wife. Meeting Elizabeth Bennet changes all that, but a rival for his affections appears from a most unlikely quarter. He must overcome his naturally reticent disposition if he is to have a chance of winning her favor.
Elizabeth’s thoughts turn to love and marriage after her sister, Mary’s, engagement. In a few short weeks she goes from knowing no eligible young men, to being courted by two. Both are handsome gentleman, but one conceals secrets and the other conceals his regard. Will she determine which is which before she commits to the wrong one?