Hello Mary. Can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Mary Mackie. I now live in Heacham, near Hunstanton, Norfolk.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing stories at the age of eight. Have been published regularly since 1971.
What first got you interested in writing?
It was what I most wanted to do.
Do you attend a writing group?
I’ve started four writing groups — in Lincoln, in Cromer, in Hunstanton and in Heacham, which is still going.
What genre(s) do you write?
First forty-odd books were romantic suspense, that is a love story with a mystery plot involving some crime — kidnap, murder, smuggling, cattle rustling (in darkest Lincolnshire), and so on.
They sound amazing. Are there any genres you don't enjoy writing?
I only start on the ones I enjoy.
That's a good attitude to have. What types of things do you write?
Full-length books (both fiction and non-fiction), short stories, articles — have published all of these (Sixty-eight books, UK and USA, up to twenty languages. Stories for magazines, several articles in various publications.) Short plays have been performed but not published (yet). Poetry, song lyrics, I occasionally do for fun.
Have you ever received any rejections?
Rejections? Yes, of course — hasn’t everyone?
Unfortunately, yes. Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
With the market in its current state writers have to consider all outlets. Print publishers look more and more to the big book that will make a lot of money. Those of us not in that league must find other ways of reaching readers.
Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Anything and everything. Ideas are all around.
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
Sometimes they appear complete with names; other times I search through books of names to find the right one. It’s not really that important, however, and with computers you can always change a name. Personalities, for me, develop on the page, as they start to speak, move and react.
Do you have a writing routine?
No routine for me. We all have different methods, so find your own way. On the other hand, when I’m deeply into a project I work all hours. Nothing I would rather be doing.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
My own method is organic. I think of it as like a journey — I know who is starting off and I know roughly where they’re going; but they work out the twists and turns of the route as they go along. Some may leave along the way, others may join, and they may end up not quite where I thought they were heading, but that doesn’t matter so long as it makes sense.So, when I sit down to write it’s exciting — I do not know exactly what’s going to happen until the characters start interacting. A row may develop, or a character may decide to do something stupid which I hadn’t planned. One hero, who started off with good reasons to be bad-tempered, got so horrible that my heroine and I went right off him. Luckily there was another much nicer chap on scene, so he took over. I didn’t plan it, but it worked out fine. It usually does.
Do you have an editing process? Do you have someone else read over your work? Do you read your work aloud to yourself in front of the mirror?
Yes. Yes, and good grief, no! I edit myself. I’m pretty good at it. However, if and when a good professional editor finds something to correct, I am grateful for the input. I have also been driven mad by BAD editors who are semi-literate! See my book CREATIVE
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Learn the rules of written language and write as plainly as you can. Then you will communicate clearly with everyone from the twelve-year-old to the college professor. Also, when you know the rules you can break them, because you will know why you’re doing it and for what effect.
Rules are made to be broken! What advice could you give to a new writer?
Unless you are madly driven to it, don’t bother. Writing gives no guarantee of success or fame or wealth. A writer writes. He doesn’t expect to get published, he just does it because he does.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
As the writer V S Naipaul observed: ‘I do not enjoy writing, it is too much like hard work. What I enjoy is having written!’
That's lovely. I couldn't agree more! How important is it for you to share your writing?
I like to share it first with my husband, who gallantly reads all my stuff, and then with our writing friends in our small local group.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions? Have you ever won?
No. But one of my plays won all possible prizes at a Drama Festival, including Best Original Script and Best Production. I have recently written another one and shall be producing it in Hunstanton next year, all being well.
Ooh, good luck with that. Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
No, though I have done readings, during talks or as entertainment or before book signings.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Theatre (watching and performing); giving talks with PowerPoint shows; reading.
What types of things do you read? Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
Crime fiction, fantasy and science fiction, historical and contemporary fiction. Also psychology, anything about religious beliefs, ancient civilizations, cosmology… Some of this may creep into my writing but generally I’d say my work does not reflect my reading tastes.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
Harry Potter. If only for the money.
Do you have any favourite literary quotations?
The Latin poet Juvenal wrote about the ‘inveterate itch’ of writing, which well describes the urge.Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stow (Uncle Tom’s Cabin author), wrote: A home without books is like a house without windows. I have that atop my website, www.stillscribbling.co.uk.
What are you working on at the moment?
A book about my husband’s traumatic childhood, how he overcame the problems and how, only recently, he discovered his real family (as in ‘Who do you think you are?’).
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Just a startling piece of evidence collected a few years ago by the Society of Authors, who asked all their members about their earnings. This was the result:1% were earning a good living and a small few of these were really rich, such as J K Rowling, Catherine Cookson, Frederick Forsyth… the ones whose names we all know.95% were earning less than £500 a year from writing.The other 4% were somewhere in between.So I refer you back to a previous answer. Don’t even start unless you’re compelled by an irresistible urge, the ‘inveterate itch’ of writing. If it’s money you’re after, try the Lottery.
That's incredible! Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
Taken from Storm in an Inkpot
As dusk fell on that fateful Saturday evening, the familiar winter sound of airborne geese added a peaceful note to the Norfolk skies. Skein after skein they came, thousand upon thousand flying in ever-changing formation as they made for their roosting grounds on the salt marshes beyond the fishing town of Beddenham-Against-Sea. Their route that evening took them directly over the great house called Ickley Park. Elspeth Simms happened to be crossing the Cobble Courtyard, heading back to the ground floor flat which she shared with her husband, Roy (Ickley’s over-worked Property Warden), and their troublesome teenage offspring. Despite feeling harassed, rushed and unappreciated (her habitual state of mind, since Els was a born martyr), she took a moment to pause and marvel at the aerial spectacle, envying the geese their freedom. If only she, too, could fly away from here! Then she remembered that she was going to escape, that very evening. She and Roy had been invited to a party. Her spirits lifted. Momentarily. Next second reality kicked back in and she sighed to herself. 'You're a sad, sad woman, Elspeth Simms.' How pathetic to get excited over the prospect of passing a few hours at the Tupworthys' over-heated, over-furnished, semi-detached residence in a back street in dreary Stolham. With nowhere to park. And Roy in tow. It was hardly on a par with an invite to join Chas and Camilla at Highgrove. The Tupworthys, Dave and Soozie (as she now signed herself, being a leading lady in BODS, the local am dram society) were celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. Their idea of sophisticated entertaining usually meant a finger buffet (cheese or ham sarnies, crisps in a dozen exotic varieties, cocktail sausages, pickled gherkins, and trifle), and a booze-up (canned beer, warm plonk and the remains of a bottle of brandy left over from Christmas), plus (for those who wished to appear really cool) a few illicit puffs of whacky baccy. If the evening ran true to form, it would end with Roy doing his party piece (a lifelike impression of a drunken slob), and Els having to drive him home and manhandle him into bed.
© Mary Mackie
Thank you very much Mary.