Thursday, December 10, 2009
I first met Margaret in Denver at the ACFW national conference. Then we sat next to each other at the large booksigning at the conference. Welcome, Margaret. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Are you asking if my beautiful, slender and witty heroines take after me? Of course they do! Seriously, I write strong female characters who are survivors. I think that sums me up.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Since I couldn’t think of anything, I asked my daughter who said that the quirkiest thing I do is cook. Okay, so we all know this isn’t my strong suit, but quirky? Hmm.
I guess that means you cook interesting and unusual things. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I was always a storyteller and was constantly in trouble as a child for making up stories. The writer part was harder to acknowledge, partly because English was my least favorite subject. My eighth grade teacher told me not to even think about being a writer. Diagram a sentence? Never! I’m like the musician who can’t read music. It’s hard to let go of the negative messages of childhood and I published close to a half dozen books before I could work up the nerve to call myself a writer.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
As a historical writer, I have to read a lot of non-fiction. For fun I read historical and contemporary romance. I also like to read mysteries with an occasional thriller thrown in. I’m especially fond of quirky books with funny titles. I recently read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society because one simply must read a book with a title like that.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I’ve published 23 books and probably wrote close to 30 including the world’s worst romance. I’ve written for Harlequin, St.Martin’s Press, and Penguin. I was one of the 8 launch authors for the Topaz historical books. I do have a humorous mystery story I would love to see published one day. I also co-wrote a story for a daytime soap and have written something like 500 articles for magazines and newspapers. I simply can’t stop writing.
That's how we writers are wired. We have to write something. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Good question. Someone recently said that writing is 3% talent and 97% resisting the temptation of the Internet. There certainly seems to be more distractions today than when I first started writing.
I’m an early riser so I’m lucky. I can get most of the day’s writing done before the world awakes and the phone starts ringing. I’m really selfish about my writing time. Friends and family know not to bother me in the morning and I refuse to make doctor or hairdresser appointments during this time. We also get away frequently in our RV. I’m fortunate to live within an hour’s drive to the beach, country, desert or mountains, depending which direction we take.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Since I’m writing historical novels, the name has to be right for the times. For my male characters, I strive for a combination of one and two syllable names: Rick Armstrong. I aim for strong names with just a hint of softness to show that there’s more behind his rough exterior than meets the eye. Somewhere I read that the letter K is funny—don’t know why. Assuming this is true, I use it whenever possible to convey a humorous character. Anything goes for minor characters. One of my favorite minor characters was Miss Quackenbush.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
My husband and I are most proud of raising children who are fine citizens and faithful Christians.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A monkey so I could make people laugh.
What is your favorite food?
Anything I don’t have to cook. Or maybe I should say anything my daughter or son-in-law will cook for me. Both are professional chefs. My daughter is known as Chef Robyn and you can find her on http://www.chefsline.com/ . Ask for her. Say her mom sent her and she may even give you a secret recipe or two.
She created a special desert for the first book in my Rocky Creek series, A Lady Like Sarah. It has a nutty (rocky) crust and creamy melt in your mouth chocolate. Email me through my website and I’ll send you the recipe. She also created a luscious raspberry delight for A Suitor for Jenny, the 2nd book in the series scheduled for publication September 2010.
I have a sign on the wall in my kitchen that says, My two favorite foods are going out to eat and whatever my husband cooks. However, he's stopped cooking now. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
The most difficult thing to overcome was lack of confidence. I began my career writing articles for newspapers and magazines. I sold a humorous piece to the Auto Club magazine and they sent me a check for a $100. I was stunned. Convinced no one would pay that much for something I wrote, I called them up to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. Failing 8th grade English definitely took its toll. I overcame my lack of confidence with pure determination. That’s how much I wanted to be a writer.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Outliers, the Story of Success, he writes about the 10,000 hour rule. No matter what field you want to succeed in, you have to put in your 10,000 hours. That’s the first step. I wrote four books before I sold my first. So you gotta write like you’ve never written before.
The second step is to show up. Woody Allen said that 80% of success is just showing up and this is SO true. I heard a disturbing statistic at a recent writing conference: only 10% of the writers asked to submit chapters or proposal to an agent or editor actually bother to do so.
Write and submit. Write and submit. Babe Ruth said it best, “You can’t beat persistence.”
A Lady Like Sarah takes place in 1879. Preacher Justin Wells leaves Boston in disgrace, and encounters a wounded marshal on a dusty road in Missouri. Justin promises the dying lawman to take his handcuffed prisoner to Texas. This proves harder than he thought, for the prisoner is a woman, and she’s determined to miss the hanging party waiting for her.
The story was inspired by the escapades of Pearl Hart. Desperate to help her seriously-ill mother, she stopped a stage and, with the help of a loaded pistol, convinced its passengers to help pay her poor mama’s medical bills. (Bet you didn’t know that health care was highway robbery even back in the old west.)
Please give us the first page of the book.
Vultures signaled trouble ahead.
“Whoa, boy.” Reverend Justin Wells tugged on the reins of his horse, bringing his brown gelding to a standstill.
Adjusting the brim of his dusty felt hat, he narrowed his eyes against the bright afternoon sun and peered across the wide, arid plains. Trees grew directly ahead of him, the first he’d seen since leaving St. Louis five days prior. The graceful, tall sycamores suggested the welcome presence of water, perhaps a stream.
He mopped his damp brow with a kerchief, then lifted his eyes upward. They were vultures, all right. No question about it. The scavengers circled overhead on broad, outstretched wings, scanning the ground in waiting silence.
Something or someone was dying. An animal no doubt. He’d passed his share of buffalo skulls and cattle carcasses in recent days, and each had made him ruminate on dying and the meaning of life.
Born and raised in Boston, he never planned to travel across country, never really had a hankering for adventure. Not like most men he knew. Certainly he never expected to leave his hometown in disgrace.
He reached for his canteen, every muscle in his body protesting. He wasn’t just saddle sore; his back ached from the restless nights spent on the hard, unyielding ground. Sleep, if it came at all, had been fleeting at best and offered little respite from his troubled thoughts.
He pulled off the cork top of his tin canteen and lifted it to his parched lips. Never one to question God’s will in the past, it disturbed him that he questioned it now.
What possible reason could God have for sending him to a rough, untamed town in Texas?
I'm hooked. I can hardly wait for my book to come. How can readers find you on the Internet?
A good place to start is with my homestead (aka website): http://www.margaretbrownley.com/
Also check out Stagecoach Etiquette: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prY2q9Oasp4
Thank you, Margaret, for letting us have a peek into your life.
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