Mary is the author of The Praetorian Saga, a highly rated romantic sci-fi series. She’s a sucker for romance in stories and believes that any good story needs some love thrown in. Prior to her writing career, she had lots of jobs she wasn’t cut out for, the most infamous of which was airport security. When asked why she didn’t enjoy that job, she’ll tell you, “Those guys have no sense of humor.” Mary lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast with her husband and sons, two fat lapdogs, and a cat she’s convinced is part velociraptor.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, maintaining character integrity through a series, etc.
I work a full-time day job, so writing is a second career for me right now. I also have two kids still at home, a few pets, and a husband. So, I keep pretty busy. I’m somewhat terrible with schedules, but over the last year or so I’ve managed to come up with something that works for me. I generally wake up at 5am, regardless of what time I have to be at the day job. I get myself dressed and ready for work and write until it’s time to leave for work. I try to write again in the evenings after the house quiets down for the night, usually from about 9pm-11pm. The weekends are for family time.
I have a home office that’s full of my books, tarot cards, Funko pop figures, and a photo board of friends and family. I have a massive desk that’s forever cluttered with anything and everything. I like to listen to music while I write, but I keep the volume low so I won’t get too distracted and start singing along.
I believe inspiration is everywhere, if you look for it. Music is one of my biggest inspirations. Sometimes I can imagine a scene or short story out of a song lyric and sometimes that can become a whole book. Sometimes I can plot out a whole book series from a random side character in a TV series. It’s about allowing your mind to get a little carried away, I think. Basically, the things I used to get in trouble for in elementary school.
I’m kind of a sucker for a story that rips your heart out, at least a little. I prefer happy endings, but I need my characters to struggle a little along the way. I try to write stories I’d want to read, so that’s definitely reflected in the things I write. When it comes to a series, you kind of go into it knowing that your characters are going to change along the way. Or, they should, if you’re doing it right. Not who they are at their core, but as they learn and grow throughout their journey, they adapt and change somewhat. I keep a file on every character I write and add to them along the way. I always want to make sure that whatever I put my characters through, their reactions and interactions make sense to who they are. I also lean toward character-driven plots, so it’s really important to keep who these people are firmly in my mind as I go.
Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author. Do you market the series as a whole with each new book? Will there be more in the series, or do you start a new one?
So, this is my least favorite part of being an indie author. The part that comes after the writing part is over. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said before, which is that when I started this whole thing, I had no idea what went into writing and publishing a book. I’m still learning and trying to improve as I go. Every day I’m finding things I’m doing wrong or not doing enough. I jumped into this thing head first and I’m slowly figuring out how to swim. That said, I’ll share what I do.
I try to start promoting the book a couple months before release date. I share the blurb, cover, excerpts, etc on my social media sites. I try to mix it up from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram. Not every social media site has the same type of reader and it’s important to understand that when you’re making posts.
I market the series as a whole as well as individual books within the series. Obviously, I want to bring in new readers, but I also want my established readers to keep coming back. I’m constantly learning which ads work on which platforms and which don’t. This seems to change frequently and I’m always playing catch-up.
I have a cover artist who designs all my covers based on a bit of input from me. Once the book is formatted and I know a page count, I have the cover commissioned and I do a cover reveal in my newsletter, including a link to the pre-order. I always do pre-orders for a new book. I try to have those go live around two months before the release date.
As for more Praetorian books, I never say never. For now, Bree and Declan’s story is finished. I feel like I gave them their due and wrapped their story up nicely. I’ve thought about coming back to the Praetorian world sometime down the road, but I’d have to have the right story to tell. Right now, I’m in the beginning stages of a whole new story set in a dystopian America. I’m pretty excited about it. I don’t know yet how many books it will be.
Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.
I consider myself really lucky when it comes to support. Writing is kind of a solo job and it can be isolating if you let it. You spend hours on end alone with nothing but the stories in your head to keep you company. It helps to have others in your life who understand that and who have your back, so to speak. I have several friends who are also writers. They’re always down for a plotting session or to help me bounce ideas around, even if I’ve never met some of them in real life. They’re always there to encourage me when they get a text at midnight or 6am saying, “This is all shit and I’ll never finish this book. Shoot me now.” They’re the ones who keep me pointed in the right direction.
My husband has probably been my biggest source of support. After more than 20 years together, he gets me better than anyone and he knows how important writing is to me. He’s always understanding when I tell him I need to write at night instead of watching a movie or catching up on our Netflix list. He never judges me when I take my laptop on trips to run errands so I can peck away while he drives. He’s a quiet guy, so he’s never going to be the one shouting things from the rooftops, but he always shares anything he sees about one of my books on social media. It’s his quiet way of showing his support, but it never fails to make me smile.
How does life influence your writing and vice versa?
The thing about creating things is that if you care at all about it, you’re going to put part of yourself into it. It’s hard for me to stand back and point out specific elements without delving too deeply into my own history and life. I write characters who have experienced real tragedy and loss and come out the other side. That’s probably because it’s something I’m familiar with. I don’t think I know how to write a character who’s never had anything bad happen to them. Could be a fun challenge, I suppose.
Since I started writing, I think I’ve become more open and honest with myself and the people around me. I’ve told this story before, but I kept the fact that I was writing a book a complete secret until a couple of months before the first book was set to release. When someone asked me about the book directly, I was terrified. I stumbled over my words, turned bright red and wanted to run from the room. Now, nearly two years since the first book’s release, that’s gone away and I’ve gotten to a place where I’m comfortable talking about my writing. With that comfort, I think I’ve become at peace in my own skin when I didn’t realize I wasn’t before. It’s going to sound cheesy, but I feel like I’ve found what I was supposed to be doing all along. I’m proud of myself and happy with what I’ve done so far, though I know I have a long way to go.
What do you love most about your creativity? What prompted you to write a series?
I think the thing I love most about having a creative mind is that it’s never boring. I don’t remember ever being bored as a child. Part of that was because I loved books from a young age and spent most of my time reading them. Because of that love for stories, I wanted to create stories of my own. I’ve always been a daydreamer. As a kid, it got me into trouble because I’d get lost in my head instead of paying attention to whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. As an adult, that still happens sometimes, but I’ve gotten better at muti-tasking. Or maybe I’ve gotten better at pretending I know what’s going on while I’m lost in my own head. I’m not sure.
When I first began writing The Praetorian Saga, I had no idea if I had enough story for a book, let alone a series. I had a vague idea of a scene with a girl running down a dark street. That’s it. Somehow I got four books out of it. That makes it sound much easier than it actually was, I know. I think somewhere along the way, I realized that I had more story than one book would allow. Originally, I’d planned for a three-book series. I thought I could tell the story I needed to tell within that structure, but after I’d finished the first draft of the second book, I realized that there was a lot missing. There was a lot of character development, but not as much propelling the story along (character-driven writer, remember?) So, I cut out the back half of that book, made a lot of revisions, and wrote a whole new ending that drew back into the larger series plot. What that meant was that I’d basically added another book to the series. So, it came out to four. That suited me fine, because as a reader I prefer longer series to standalone books. It didn’t make things any easier when I was fighting my way through the fourth book, cursing my past self who thought it was a good idea to add another book to the series.
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