Sunday, July 21, 2013

Straight From the Mouth of 'Three Months in Florence' Mary Carter

Mary Carter is a freelance writer and novelist.  Three Months in Florence is her seventh novel. Her other works include:  The Things I Do For You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged.  In addition to her novels she has written three novellas: A Kiss Before Midnight in the anthology, You’re Still the One, A Very Maui Christmas in the New York Times best selling anthology Holiday Magic, and The Honeymoon House in the New York Times best selling anthology Almost Home.

Mary is working on two more novellas for winter and summer of 2014, as well as her eighth novel.

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Thanks for letting us interrogate interview you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

It was never a conscious thought. I just always expressed myself through writing, and acting out stories.

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

It definitely isn’t perfect! First, if you’re a novelist, it’s extremely lonely. Second, you have to face the gnawing fear of the blank page everyday. You can never count on royalties. You can never count on good reviews. You worry about book sales. You worry you’re wasting money on promotion, but If you don’t promote you blame yourself if the book doesn’t sell well. You have to stomach bad reviews. If you can take all that, then there are many positive things about being a full-time writer.

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

I took the traditional. I think if anyone has a traditional publisher interested, they should go that direction. You can always self-publish on the side. Contracts with publishers are per book(s). I could write a dozen novels right now and self-publish them if I wanted. The landscape is definitely changing, and there are more and more opportunities available for self-publishing. But traditional publishers have a larger distribution channel, they can secure foreign rights, they can get better coverage, they do the cover, the editing, the back of the book—hopefully the agent helps as well. It’s nice to have a “team”. See above about it already being a lonely profession!

What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry (e.g. rejections, the long wait, etc.)

They are a business and their number one goal is to sell books. Sometimes that seems to conflict with an artist’s vision of their work. Their first priority is not nurturing you as an artist—it’s selling. Period.

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

Since I am now on my seventh novel and fifth novella with Kensington, the family is used to the process. I think they’re a little frustrated with how much reading homework my profession has given them. J

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

When my first novel, She’ll Take It, was published, I thought it was the first of its kind to have a kleptomaniac as a protagonist. Random House AlMOST bid for it. At the last minute they pulled out. Then the chose a new novel ALSO with a kleptomaniac as a protagonist. And she came out in hardback and got a six-figure advance. I was jealous. Flash forward eight-years later, I am on my eighth to-be-published novel, and she was dropped by Random House when she didn’t sell-through. I am not  putting down her writing—I didn’t read it—but it’s a tough world out there. A smaller publisher will give you a smaller advance, but they will also give you a chance to build a career.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

In my twenties I used to write “essays” about living in New York City. I was blogging before there were blogs. Now I just don’t have time—I focus most my energy on writing the current book. I am on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads. I don’t really get Twitter. But I’m trying.  I don’t know how people make themselves stand out. We’re so saturated.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

There’s no magic formula. I do pay for some promotion—but I never really find out if it helped or not. I knew what I was up against when good friends said things like—“I’m going to get your book at the library.” OR—“As soon as I finish it, I’m going to give it to so-and-so.” And you really want to say—“NO!!! Make them buy the book! OR I’ll starve!!!” But that would be rude. But you realize it’s going to be a rough road. Again, it’s so competitive. Your best promotion is writing the best books you can. That’s what I have to believe. If you write a terrific story, the readers will promote it for you.

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

Um--- how much JUNK I have accumulated in the past eight years. Actually I kind of want to throw myself off the roof. I am moving and I’m so overwhelmed. Books, papers, magazines, just tons of STUFF. And I have a new puppy so she wants to EAT all my STUFF. Which is fine except she’ll hurt herself and then I have to clean up the shreds. She just ate a nice pair of shoes and my brand-new eyeglasses. Lucky she’s so darn cute. I am just looking forward to my move being over. It’s going to allow me to be a full-time writer. I’ve always worked with each and every novel. But now I’m making enough of a modest income to just write full-time. We’ll see how that goes. If I survive the packing.

Wait—did it have to be about writing? I would like to jump and down when aspiring writers want me to read their work and tell them it’s brilliant. Many do not realize writing is a craft, nor do they seem to want to learn it. They think what comes out on the page the first try is writing. Writing is rewriting. First drafts are messy. Clean up your messes. I love rewriting—it’s where the magic happens. I have very little time for writers who only want praise. I UNDERSTAND the feelings, but you have to put your ego aside and learn to tell a good story. It’s not an accident. Stories are crafted. Built. I guarantee if you have not studied this then I’m going to find you TELLING instead of SHOWING. I’m going to find way too much backstory and flashback. I’m going to find your conflict is weak. I am going to find your dialogue is stilted and unnatural. But you can fix all of these common writerly problems. We all have them. It’s all about attitude. Do you want to be right, or do you want to learn how to write?

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

I think you should have offered me a martini instead. It is a thrill to have your stories and characters come to life. I love rewriting. It’s a joy to research settings, to use your creative mind each and every day, to write in your pajamas. I love printing out the first draft. I love seeing the cover for the first time. I love great reviews. I love talking to other aspiring writers. I love this conversation:

          “What do you do?”
          “I’m a writer.”
          “Oh. What do you really do?”
          “I’m a writer.”
          “I mean what do you do for money?”
          “I write.”
          “You get paid to do that?’
          “What do you write?”
          “Oh. Have I ever heard of you?”

I also love interviews like this one, so thank you very much!

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