We are excited to learn more about last year’s RWF Secretary, Mary Gardner.
Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?
I write more romance than women’s fiction. My stories have a strong love story with a happily-ever-after, but primarily focus on the women’s journey.
Want to tell us what you’re working on?
My current project, MISSING, is a 95,000-word contemporary Christian romantic women’s fiction novel about a thirty-one-year-old woman who wins the lottery and learns she was kidnapped from the stroller she shared with her identical twin sister while her biological mother was shopping. An ex-FBI agent seeks to protect her from her adoptive family, who set out to kill her for her lottery winnings and helps her reunite with her biological family.
What are your favorite books to read?
My favorite books fall into the category of contemporary romance and romantic women’s fiction.
When writing do you read in genre your writing in or something else?
I’m trying to read more in the genre while I’m writing. I think it’s part of the business to stay current in the area you’re writing. My time is limited when I’m in the middle of the project, so I’m selective. I also like to read craft books.
Do you have a running theme for your books?
I write small town heartwarming books with running themes of trust, hope, healing, family, and the power of forgiveness.
Which do you feel you learn more from – an online class, local workshop, or writer’s craft book?
This is a hard question because I learn different things depending on each category. I’ve had more ah-ha moments from online classes, especially if they are interactive. I’ve learned more about making connections, building networks and platform building at local workshops and conferences. I’ve learned a variety of different writing techniques from writer’s craft books.
Where do you find inspiration?
I think most of my stories are based on what-ifs from stories I’ve seen on the news. The story I’m working on now came from two types of events. We’ve all heard about people who have won the lottery. Unfortunately, we’ve also heard of children disappearing and never being found. I remember hearing about a woman who took a baby and was found living in the same city as the child’s biological parents.
How do you fit writing into your life?
It can be hard to balance writing with life. I’m learning to say no to things I’d like to do in order to make more room for writing time. I find I get too caught up in other activities and allow them to eat away my writing time. The one thing I don’t say no to is my family. In fact, I’ll always pick family first. I raised two boys and always went to their events. I don’t regret a single second of the time I gave them that might have been spent on writing. I know that will be true with my granddaughters too.
How do you fit editing into your writing life and the one you actually live in?
As an unpublished writer, I don’t have the conflict with writing deadlines conflicting with the need to edit a different project.
Are you a plotter, pantser, or combination of both?
I’ve always been a pantser. I’m learning to do a combination. My manuscripts are longer and after getting lost in a few stories I’ve learned that I need an outline. The plot outline is never set in stone for me, but having a guide keeps me focused on where I want to go. Sort of like taking a trip and knowing where you are going to go but not necessarily how many stops or detours you’ll make along the way.
Do you plan your writing time? Or do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?
I’m in a different stage of life that allows me to plan my writing time around my family activities. I don’t have the day-to-day care of anyone other than my cat. I can schedule my writing time around my granddaughters’ activities.
Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?
Home. I’ve tried to write somewhere else but unless I’m alone I get distracted by what’s going on around me. I’m a people watcher.
Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?
My stories are character driven. I know my characters before I ever sit down to develop an idea. Setting may change, but it will always be a small-town. A lot of times I know the basics of the plot at the same time I know my characters, but I have to spend time developing the journey.
Mary Gardner’s writing journey came in two phases. The first was focused on contemporary category romance and ended in 2008. Her second began in 2016 when she felt called back to writing. This phase of her writing is focused on novel-length Christian romantic women’s fiction.
She joined Romance Writers of America in 1981 and is also a member of several online RWA chapters and the local chapter. She also belongs to American Christian Fiction Writers and the Indiana Chapter of ACFW.
Prior to 2008, she attended several RWA National Conferences. During that time, she was blessed to final in thirteen contests, winning her category in seven. A previous version of MISSING won the Grand Prize in the Marlene Awards Fiction with Romantic Elements in 2006. Another manuscript, ALL MY TOMORROWS, was a 2007 RWA Golden Heart finalist in the Long Contemporary Category, and 2nd runner up in the Harlequin Super Romance Conflict of Interest Contest in 2008.
After a 2006 early stage breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, and developing lymphedema in her arm, combined with other life challenges, she began to doubt that writing was her calling and in 2008 decided to put her writing on hold. During the pause, her youngest son blessed her with two beautiful granddaughters. Sadly, her oldest son went to Heaven at age forty-two after a twenty-year battle with cancer. Seven months later, her husband joined him after a long battle with an early onset Alzheimer-like dementia.
As she began to settle into her new normal, she began writing again. Unlike the previous phase of her writing, she knew that her focus needed to be on contemporary Christian romance or romantic women’s fiction novels and began focusing on small town, heartwarming stories about love, hope, healing, family and the power of forgiveness.
Currently her agent, Cyle Young, and his Jr. Agent, Bethany Morehead, from Hartline Literary Agency, LLC, are submitting a proposal for MISSING to multiple publishers.
You can find out more about Mary at www.marygardner.net
Personal Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/mary.gardner.581525
Author Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/marygardnerauthor
Thank you Mary for being a part of our RWF Interview series. If you have any comments or questions for Mary, we’d love to hear from you.