What comes first in your writing, the plot or the characters?
Characters. Every time. I think about someone that would probably have an interesting story to tell, like an eco-tour boat captain and a wildlife photographer. I know they’ll provide me with lots of background I’m familiar with, and I have a feel for who they are before I begin to build a mystery or drama around them.
In the case of my second Wake-Robin Ridge book, A Boy Named Rabbit, a little boy alone in the wilderness came into my mind as I was falling asleep one night. I could swear I heard Sarah Gray (from Book 1) tell me he needed for his story to be told, and by the time I woke up, I knew exactly who he was and why he was alone. I went straight to the computer and started writing down every word of his adventure, just the way he told me it all happened. He still talks to me, to this day.
Sometimes, secondary characters in one of my books wave their hands around wildly, going, “Me, me, me! I have a story to tell, too.” So I write that one down, as well.
Do you outline? Are you a ‘pantser’? What techniques do you use to get started on a story?
I don’t work well from an outline. It slows me down, restricts what my characters want me to say, and in general, takes all my fun (and happy surprises) out of my writing. I keep a What-If sheet and brainstorm a bit on that, jotting down possible scenarios. And sometimes, when I start a new chapter, I’ll write down what I want to have accomplished by the end of it. That’s about as structured as I get.
What tools do you use to write? (Computer, notebook, software, etc.)
Believe it or not, I use Word. Yes, I’ve tried Scrivener, Pro Writing Aid, and others, but I always come back to the simplicity of Word. As for how I keep track of my characters, research, maps, and What-If sheets—the answer is folders. In another life, I was a secretary, then an executive secretary, then an administrative assistant. File folders were what we had, so they became second nature to me. I have a Main folder for each WIP, with subfolders inside for everything I need. The folder is pinned to my task bar as I write, and I can click on it for reference any time I want. For me, it’s cleaner, neater, and far less distracting than a writing program with either a steep learning curve or a ton of bells and whistles that distract me from actually getting a story told.
Do you write in only a single genre? If so, what genre? If not, what genres?
I started my first book, Wake-Robin Ridge, with the idea of writing Romantic Suspense. It morphed in the middle into a bit of mild paranormal—a love story with a troublesome ghost. My subsequent books in the series have been centered around Appalachian legends, and feature a little boy with a powerful gift the mountain folks call the Sight, but which might be more familiar to many as a form of ESP. So Romantic Suspense went away to be replaced by something more mysterious and a little bit paranormal.
I tried Romantic Suspense again for Swamp Ghosts, Book 1 of my Riverbend series, and it stayed true to the genre. But then, certain secondary characters (the Painter brothers) wanted their own stories told. While the next two books in the series do contain romance, the main drama in each stems from things like dysfunctional family issues, PTSD, and a few tragedies resulting in death or major injury. So again, Romantic Suspense went away to be replaced by—oh, I don’t know—Contemporary Fiction, perhaps?
Then along came my Riverbend spinoff novellas (The Emissary 1 & 2) about overworked angels using hired help to keep an eye on souls in peril. Decidedly fantasy. I think.
I think overall, my books might be breaking the genre rules, but what can I do? These are the stories my characters wanted me to tell. So I did.
What is the first book that made you cry?
As a child, I was always a sucker for animal stories, so I’m not sure, but I suspect it would have been Lassie, Come Home. But I can’t begin to count the number of books that have made me cry over a lifetime of reading. Sometimes because the plot was so sad, sometimes because favorite characters died, and sometimes because the writing was so beautiful. A truly well-written line can make me cry to this day.
Are there any authors whose work you admired at first that you then grew to dislike?
Funny you should ask. I was just talking to a friend about a writer I no longer read. There are a couple, but one in particular comes to mind. I’m not naming names here, but I was a long-time fan of this author and loved every shivery, nail-biting moment in his earlier work. Then came a spate of truly bad books that made me rethink my original opinions. Some of them were well told, but were just hateful, mean-spirited stories. Others were just bad. Period. Then, I felt like the writer found his mojo again, and his books were worth my time once more. Alas. It didn’t last. I’m no longer interested in anything he does.
Reading is such a subjective matter, I would never suggest that my opinion on any author’s work means anything at all. I certainly don’t wish this one any ill will, and I can guarantee you, he still sells plenty of books—just not to me. (A fact that probably won’t keep him up at night.) 😊
Do you view fellow authors as competitors, allies or are there some combination of the two? Why?
Allies. I find writers that I’ve met or corresponded with to be the most supportive and helpful group of people I’ve ever known. And even those I’ve never met—or the few who haven’t been particularly friendly—are definitely not competitors. I mean, think about it. Books aren’t like paintings. You don’t pick out the perfect one to go over your sofa, and then stop shopping for them. The more books you read, the more you want to read, and the more you buy. And no writer, no matter how prolific, can produce enough books in an entire lifetime of publishing to satisfy anyone who really loves to read. There’s just no way your fellow writers can use up all your potential readers. At least, that’s how I see it.
What book(s) are you currently reading?
After years of reading just about every genre, including a lot of Urban Fantasy, I have finally discovered the sheer escapism of Epic Fantasy and have been wandering other realms for the last year or so. I don’t have as much time to read as I used to, way back BW. (Before Writing) But what time I do have, I’ve been spending in strange, alien kingdoms, rife with intrigue, mayhem, and battles with creatures large and small—all slathered with large dollops of magic. Why did I wait so long? No clue. But I’m making up for lost time, now. Sebastien de Castell, Scott Lynch, V. E. Schwab, Leigh Bardugo, Mark Lawrence, Robin Hobb, and pretty much anything by Brandon Sanderson, are just a few of the fantasy authors I’ve discovered I love.
How effective do you think social media is for authors? How should it be used?
I think social media can be used very effectively, but I haven’t mastered the art of marketing. Yet. Blogging is something I really enjoy, but Facebook, etc., not so much. I’m trying to put together a social media marketing plan that combines aspects I like with ones that are effective in reaching a wider audience. It’s one of my goals for 2019.
I think I’m pretty good at building a local readership, though, and do two or three appearances each month. I’ve done well using PowerPoint presentations on various topics, including my current series on Central Florida’s Fabulous Wildlife. Happily, these tie in with my Riverbend books, and I have a signing table set up for afterward. I also do Teas/Luncheons two or three times a year, Meet the Author Eco Tours on the St. Johns River, and I visit with private book clubs. All of these are fun and have netted me good sales. I believe online media marketing is vital for bigger numbers, however, and something I do intend to master.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read! I also enjoy gardening, birding, and nature. I used to canoe regularly until my back decided it was done with that, so now I go out on the river on my friend’s eco tour boat every chance I get.
Do grandkids count? I’m blessed with three and spending time with them is pure happiness.
All in all, I’m approaching my 75th birthday filled with gratitude for all the things in life I’m still able to do. And I recommend grabbing all the joy you can every day. Don’t forget to laugh. A lot! As my grandmother used to say, it’s good for what ails ye.
Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years, four big cats, and two small dachshunds. When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. At the age of five, Marcia declared she wanted to be an author, and is ecstatic that at age 69, she finally began pursuing that dream. Her belief in the redemptive power of love is a unifying factor in both of her popular series and her poetry. Today, she’s still going strong, and plans to keep on writing until she falls face down on the keyboard, which she figures would be a pretty good way to go!
Marcia has published six novels, one novella, and one book of poetry to date, all of which are available on Amazon:
Connect with Marcia:
You can reach Marcia via email at email@example.com or on the following social media sites:
The Write Stuff: http://marciamearawrites.com/
Bookin’ It: http://marciameara.wordpress.com