Good morning, Mary Ann!
RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?
MS: It’s funny that everyone talks about this now, and it’s so accepted. I sat firmly on that fence for years, while teachers, agents and colleagues said, “You have to decide! You can’t sell a book that’s not either women’s fiction or romance.” And I sat there, obstinately. So I’ll take Romantic Women’s Fiction, thank you. It perfectly describes what I do, and what I love to read, too. I focus on the heroine’s journey, the character arc, the growth and personal challenges, even when it’s also the hero that’s experiencing that arc. The function of the romantic relationship is as a catalyst to change. And, I guess, it’s the prize at the bottom of the box. But for me, it’s always there. Other WF writers use friendship or familial relationships as that foil. For me, it’s always the love interest.
RWF: Do you write in other genres?
MS: I write some science fiction. I have a feature screenplay in the Cyberpunk genre that I’m going to novelize one day soon. And I have a plan for an ambitious, branched Steampunk Time Travel story. I also have a plan for a middle grade series. Someday.
RWF: Do you have a new book out?
MS: I have two! After agonizing for years about the publishing journey, I made my decision and self-published my first book, Reconcilable Differences, in August 2016, and my second, The Art of Enchantment, in March of 2017. Now I’m in a hurry to finish and release the other three manuscripts I’m sitting on.
RWF: What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?
MS: Frustration, impatience, or patience, depending on how you look at it, growth, risk-taking, a belief that I could. Finally. The desire to move to the next stage of my career, and write for others as well as myself. Self-publishing is an enormous undertaking. I think in my gut I knew that, and put it off until I felt I “knew enough.” Or was prepared to commit to the hard work.
RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?
MS: Put it away and write another one. And another one. Don’t get hung up on your masterpiece. No matter how brilliant it is, the next one will be better. You can’t see it now, but you will. We never stop growing and improving at our craft. Don’t assume because you’ve sweated blood that there isn’t more to learn. Do NOT spend ten years tweaking your first book. Waste of time. Give it some air.
RWF: What advice would you give an author who has just published her first book?
MS: PM me! We can cross-promote! LOL
RWF: What are your favorite books to read?
MS: I’m an eclectic reader. I read a lot of romance and women’s fiction, but all kinds, depending on my mood and what I’m looking for or looking to escape from. I also love science fiction, a little mystical, magical realism sometimes, literary fiction, an occasional action/suspense with romance mixed in.
RWF: When writing do you read in the genre your writing in or something else?
MS: I shift into sidelines – romantic comedy or historical, or literary. Reading really good WF kind of intimidates me. I get inspiration from them, too, but, you know. There’s always someone who’s so much better than you, and that knocks the wind out of you sometimes.
RWF: Do you have a running theme?
MS: The more I write, the more I see that there are ideas I revisit, dressed up in different ways. I guess that’s how my first stories evolved into series. I saw that I kept coming back to the same ideas: identity, belonging, balance, self-knowledge, empowerment. Learning to be one’s true self, even if there are reasons why you’ve been denying that, as a survival mechanism. I think this is very true to life, and I like to explore it in different ways – that turning point in a life that changes everything – and brings you closer to yourself. The universe. Authenticity, I guess. And a touch of spiritual awakening, in a vague, non-religious way. A kind of Zen thing.
RWF: Do you read non-fiction? What kinds?
MS: Most of it’s too slow for me. I can’t stand self-help. I read the dust jacket and the introduction and feel – ok, got it, or I already knew that! I don’t read much non-fiction, unless I’m researching something for a book – then I’ll gobble up all kinds of weird stuff. History, geography, different professions, astrophysics or chemistry, philosophy or religion, sports, botany, whatever. And I read writing craft. Lately I read far, far too much about book marketing. 😉
RWF: Are you a plotter, panster, or combination of both?
MS: I am a plotter. I can’t write without knowing where I’m going, and that I’ve worked out the structural underpinnings of my story. The more I write, and the more I study craft, the more this has become true. Maybe because I was an architect? I don’t know. I like patterns. And symbols. And archetypes. I love story structure. It actually stimulates my imagination, and helps me problem solve. It’s fun. Right now, I’m being more conscious of navigating the heroine’s journey in a nuanced, conscious way, hitting the right notes. But even when I don’t plan everything, it’s in there, so I suppose I should trust myself more. It’s just that I like it, the planning process. A lot. It’s like a big juicy puzzle. But the reason it’s fascinating to me is that it’s inherent in us, collectively. That’s why there are both kinds of writers.
RWF: 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?
MS: Ah. Chaos. I’m a binger. I either have my writing hat on, or my publishers hat. I can’t seem to do both simultaneously, on a schedule. One is introspective, meditative, creative and immersive. The other social, rational, linear, frenetic. And I tip back and forth. Whichever job I’m doing consumes me, happens continuously, and life flows around it. I’m lucky my family is pretty self-sufficient these days, and so I attend to them when I can, and when I can’t, they manage. I’m always juggling though.
RWF: Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?
MS: Oh, I write from home. I’m very lucky to have my own lovely office, and live in a beautiful place. I also have a great coffee machine. That’s all I need.
RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?
MS: I have done, the past four years. For a long time I thought I wouldn’t like the pressure – but it turns out I like it – the focus, the frenzy and the community of crazy writers all pushing so hard to get words down. There’s something freeing about not having time to fret about whether they’re any good. I’ve got a few new ‘partial’ manuscripts out of NaNoWriMo. Too bad my books are 100k words or more! It takes me six months or more to write the second half.
RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?
MS: Well, mostly I begin with character. But sometimes with a scenario that might be inspired by a place, an event, a song, or the stories that are embedded in them. But in those cases, the first thing I do is come up with a person who finds themselves there and then build up from that, around the character. Why are they there, in that situation? Where did they come from? How are they damaged or deluded? What do they want, and what, or who, can I throw in to make their life hard, transformative. I especially like dreaming up two characters who can do that for each other simultaneously.
RWF: Thank you, Mary Ann, for sharing your time and a bit of writing world.
M A Clarke Scott is a Chatelaine Grand Prize winner for The Art of Enchantment, first in the Life is a Journey series of romantic women’s fiction about young women abroad who discover themselves and fall in love while getting embroiled in other people’s problems. Reconcilable Differences is first in the Having It All series about professional women in Vancouver struggling to balance the challenge and fulfillment of career with the search for identity, love, family and home. She also loves to weave dramatic relationships into steampunk and cyberpunk adventures.
She’s been a telephone operator, a dental hygienist, an architect, a gerontologist and an education savings advisor, and is now affectionately known as ‘Doc Maven.’ When not writing, she meditates while hiking wooded mountain trails, does yoga and Pilates to fend off decrepitude, reads eclectically, contemplates wormholes, experiments with painting abstract expressionism, kills plants and tries not to burn dinner. Her geeky fascinations include time travel, archeology, European history, French films, neuroplasticity, metaphysics, Jungian psychology, using big words 😉 Clarke Scott lives in beautiful Vancouver, Canada with three large men and four small mammals, all of them hairier than she. Although she knows she lives in Paradise, she still loves traveling the world in search of romance, art, good food and new story ideas.
You can read more about M A, her books, and ideas that strike her fancy at http://www.maryannclarkescott.com. Join her mailing list to receive a bundle of free goodies.