Why We Write…
Today I am pleased to have two very talented writers on my BLOG. Let me introduce you to best-selling authors Marni Mann (“Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales”) [@MarniMann] and Tess Thompson (“Riversong”)[@tesswrites]. (APPLAUSE PLEASE!)
I titled this BLOG “Why We Write” because I believe that there is always a good reason to be a writer and write. For me, I write because I have to. My creative imagination implores me to do so. The stories, plot points and characters swimming around in my head urge me to get my words on paper. I also write to have a voice, or a message, and to try to make a difference in the world.
I’d like to know your reasons, Marni and Tess, for being a writer and writing. What inspires you to write? What is your process? How do you work? So, let’s begin…
CASSIUS SHUMAN: Where did you grow up and what is your career background?
MARNI: I grew up in Bangor, Maine, the same town as Stephen King, and my background is in writing. I have done business/technical writing in some capacity since college, in both the real estate and advertising sectors.
CS: I read King’s book, “On Writing,” where he asserted, “You must not come lightly to the blank page,” which had a profound impact upon my approach to writing and what I think is great advice.
Tess, what about you (same question)?
TESS: I grew up in southern Oregon and went to USC theatre school where I studied acting.
CS: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
TESS: From the time I could read, I always had my nose in a book. There was nothing more interesting to me in school than Literature class. I think it grew from there and was solidified in college when I studied all the great playwrights. There was just a yearning in me to tell stories. I cannot explain it exactly.
MARNI: I’ve been writing since I was big enough to hold a pen and formulate sentences. As for a career in writing, I think I was in high school when I set that goal.
CS: How did you go about pursuing your dream of being a writer?
MARNI: It started with education, and choosing a major that would strengthen my skills. Then it was my career choices, working in fields that tested and honed my abilities. I switched from technical to creative writing when an event occurred that shook my core. That’s when Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales was born.
TESS: I wrote on an off during my twenties, but decided to pursue it more seriously the year I turned 30. I wrote my first full-length play that year and it won a local contest. That gave me the confidence to continue forward.
CS: Who (what writer, teacher, etc.) inspired you to be a writer?
MARNI: When I was in sixth grade, I ran into Stephen King at a pizza shop. He was sitting at his table, pen in hand, paper tablet on the wood, writing between bites. He could have been writing a note to his mom or a grocery list, but in my mind he was working on his next best-seller. I was already inspired to be a writer at that point, but seeing him triggered something inside of me. He was my inspiration.
TESS: Harper Lee. “To Kill A Mockingbird” is still my favorite book of all time. I dream of writing something even half as good someday.
CS: Did you ever take a writing class, a tutorial about writing, or read a great book about writing? If so, please tell us about that experience and how it influenced you…
TESS: I have read and studied extensively, literally, every book on writing ever written. I revisit them frequently. I take the craft of writing fiction very seriously, knowing that to study craft and practice craft is the only way to become better.
MARNI: I was a journalism major so most of my classes in college were writing-based. They influenced me by helping me find my voice.
CS: How have you applied what you’ve learned to your writing process?
MARNI: Although I don’t have an MFA, I feel as though I’ve earned one from the editors I’ve worked with. I’m a better writer because of them. I apply their feedback to all of my pieces.
TESS: I think it seeps into your writing after a time. If you make your goal to incorporate every element of craft into your work, eventually it shows itself.
CS: What’s your inspiration for writing? Or, how do you find your inspiration for writing?
MARNI: At first it was a need, like a hunger, that demanded I put my thoughts on paper. Those feelings are still there, but my fans really inspire me as well. Reading their feedback, their sweet notes of encouragement, their support, it really drives me to give them more words.
TESS: Usually ideas just pop into my head out of nowhere. Sometimes I take events from my own life or people I know.
CS: What is your writing process? For instance, do you use an outline or create a character-closet before you begin writing?
MARNI: I do both. I use note cards for my outline and, as of lately, I use Pinterest for my character sketches, wardrobe, and images of different scenes.
TESS: I create a story arc and detailed character sketches before I begin. Sometimes plot elements change somewhat as I go along because my characters are so firmly cemented in my mind.
CS: Please explain how you create a story in your head. Do you see an image, have a dream about it, or riff off of a concept idea?
MARNI: It starts with the character. They pop into my head–whether from a dream or a daydream–and they won’t leave, demanding I write their story. The plot usually changes during the writing process because I’m inspired constantly by different elements in life.
TESS: Sometimes I have a strong image. Sometimes I get the idea from something in the news. Other times it’s an event that happened to me that I use as a starting point.
CS: Do you write to appeal to a particular audience of readers? Or do you just tell a story without regard for your market audience?
MARNI: I write what comes to me. If I’m feeling a particular emotion, have experienced a tragedy, have been affected by something I’ve seen or heard, I’ll write about it. I write books that I would want to read. I guess that makes me my target audience.
TESS: I tell the stories that come to me. Fortunately they seem to appeal to a wide range of women.
CS: How do you feel about writing sex scenes in your books?
TESS: I find if quite fun actually. As a women’s fiction/romance writer, it comes with the territory, of course. But I love to write about all sensual experiences. Especially, apparently, food and sex.
MARNI: I’m really starting to enjoy writing about sex. Since it’s a huge theme in my next novel, it’s becoming much easier. Because of the nature of my books, my readers shouldn’t expect a vanilla, Nicholas Sparks scene. My only fear is not meeting their expectations or not turning them on with my words.
CS: At what time of day, and how often do you write?
MARNI: I do my best writing early in the morning or late at night, but I write whenever I feel inspired. On average, I probably write six days a week. I don’t set rules or a schedule. My muse doesn’t work that way.
TESS: I write every day. I write for the most part when my children are at school or gone to their dad’s for the weekend. I prefer to write in the mornings when I’m fresh but sometimes I have to work even when I don’t feel like it. Sometimes I write in the middle of the night because I am an insomniac.
CS: Do you listen to music or have the television on while you’re writing?
MARNI: Music is a must. What kind of music depends on the scene. Currently, I’m listening to dubstep because it inspires sexiness and that’s a major theme of my current novel.
TESS: No, I write in silence. I love music but I’m too influenced by the poetry in lyrics and it messes with my own ‘voice’.
CS: Where do you like to write?
MARNI: I usually write in my lanai. One of the many benefits of living in Florida is that the weather allows me to spend lots of time outside. On days that require something a little different or when I’m struggling with a scene, I head to the beach.
TESS: At my desk. I have major carpal tunnel issues if I don’t sit at my desk and use my ergonomic keyboard.
CS: What does your support group consist of? Or are you a solitary writer?
TESS: I am mostly a solitary writer until I have a draft of something I feel good about. Then I send it to several trusted writer friends.
MARNI: I have a local writing group who I meet with once a month. We support each other personally and professionally, and it’s a great place to vent, get other opinions, and be surrounded by people who share the same interests. My family and friends are also really supportive. Some of them are beta readers; others give me shoulders or ears, or loving hugs. I’m really fortunate.
CS: Do you use Social Media like Facebook and Twitter to promote your work?
MARNI: Yes, but only when I have a new release coming out, a guest post that was published, an article, or media that pertains to a certain book. I mostly use social media to interact with friends and fans.
TESS: Absolutely. These tools were instrumental in the success of “Riversong”. All writers must embrace these tools if they want to make any dent in this business of selling books.
CS: Can you please tell us a little bit about how you use Facebook and Twitter to benefit your writing? You don’t have to divulge your secrets, just explain your daily usage routine, etc.
MARNI: For my posts on social media, there is no pattern or routine. My comments are random, describing something I have just eaten, watched on TV, witnessed, experienced, wished for, and want. They’re sporadic and messy. They’re so…me.
TESS: I use them mostly to promote my blog, which in turn finds readers who might be interested in my books.
CS: What suggestions would you have for someone who wants to pursue a writing career?
MARNI: You can’t become an author, pitch your work, or share your ideas until you write that book. So stop procrastinating. Write, write, and write. Edit. Re-write. Find a team of beta readers and be open to their opinion. Edit again. Pitch. Find that “magic pill” that will add several layers to your skin because it needs to be thick for this business.
TESS: Write as much as you can, even if you feel like it’s terrible. The more you write the better you’ll get. Study craft. Tell the truth.
CS: Tess, I like your comment about ‘telling the truth’. I think it is vital to story creation. For me it is the lifeblood of your work.
What’s your favorite genre?
MARNI: Literary Fiction.
TESS: Women’s fiction.
CS: What’s the last book you read?
MARNI: The Hunger Games.
TESS: “We Will Not Fight”. It’s nonfiction about conscientious objectors in WWI – research for a novel I’m working on.
CS: What’s the best book you’ve read this past year?
MARNI: Little Bee by Chris Cleave.
TESS: It’s a children’s book by a wonderful writer name Kate DiCamillo called “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”. I read it to my children. It’s so beautifully written it made me weep.
CS: What is the next project (book) that you are working on? And, what made you decide to write/work on this new book?
TESS: My latest novel, “Caramel and Magnolias” comes out February 1, 2013. It was inspired by something I read in the news years ago – about a pregnancy pact amongst high school girls on the east coast.
MARNI: The novel is tentatively titled, Reaching for Shadows. It’s a dark, literary piece about sex, trafficking, loss, death, and tragedy.
CS: Those both sound like fascinating projects. I will be watching for their release.
And, finally, please tell us ‘why you write’…
MARNI: I write because I have to. It makes me whole. It gives me reasoning and purpose. It transforms me into different characters, throwing me into their worlds, tasting their breath, giving them a voice that can entertain, teach, and hopefully do lots of both. Words are like tea, they calm me. They bring out my emotions, turn me completely vulnerable, and reveal my darkness.
TESS: I don’t know, honestly. It’s a strange profession – making up stories and trying to capture with words elements of the human experience. All I know is that without it I am not me. It is my destiny. It is what I was made to do.
CS: Are there any other comments or thoughts you would like to share?
MARNI: Random fact: I can touch my tongue to my nose, wiggle my ears, and do jumping jacks all at the same time.
CS: Wow! Now that takes some skill!
Thank you, Marni and Tess, for taking the time to appear on my BLOG! I really enjoyed having you here. And, I think everyone can take something away from your answers. So, thanks for contributing to “Why We Write”.
Where can people find you (your website) and your books?
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/marni-mann?store=allproducts&keyword=marni+mann
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/riversong-tess-hardwick/1101315048?ean=9781935961147
You can also go to Booktrope Editions to peruse their fine collection of books: http://www.booktrope.com/book_publishers/booktrope/
Btw, they make great Christmas gifts!