Welcome back to Musings! I am thrilled to have New York Times Bestselling author Mary Buckham visiting with me today. She’s also agreed to an interview in which she offers a number of wise, helpful insights about the craft and business of writing. Enjoy, take a look at some of her new and upcoming projects, and please let us know what you think in comments J
1. What 3 things would you like readers to know about you?
Oh, this is a fun question. Hmmm, I think that unlike my characters I am not high-energy, smart-mouthed, go-getter. I wish I was. Actually I tend to be shy, until you know me, then watch out! I really, really, really enjoy sharing craft information with other writers. It gives me a deep and profound satisfaction to hear I was able to help another. On the other hand I am always gob smacked when someone says they enjoy and like my work. It’s a thrill and a gift and a surprise. It’s one thing to have your mom, or spouse, or a good friend to say they like what you’ve written because how likely is it for them to say otherwise? But a total stranger? One you haven"t bribed or coerced or is a blood-connection? That’s scary and life affirming and the most amazing gift to receive.
2. You are one of the few authors I’ve interviewed who has written USA Today Bestselling novels as well as nonfiction books. Tell us about your books. Genre, titles, any favorite characters? What can we look forward to from you in the near future? WIP’s, upcoming releases?
This is a huge question so I’ll try and chunk it down into smaller bite-sized pieces so I don’t go on forever. Currently I’m writing an Urban Fantasy series based on 5 women recruited to fight preternaturals in a world where most humans don’t know preternaturals even exist. The women all have some element that helps them in their new careers—being a witch/shaman, able to turn invisible, being a psychic or a Spirit Walker. But they’ve also been raised to not necessarily value their gifts, or themselves as a result. It’s called the INVISIBLE RECRUITS series and in the last year and a half I’ve published 4 full-length novels and 3 novellas with 2 more novels coming out this year. I love gutsy women who give it their all doing a dirty, dangerous job while juggling fears we all have—being good enough, finding love, helping those who can’t help themselves, feeling overwhelmed and undervalued, etc. Next year I hope to bring out a new Urban Fantasy series set in Settle and, hopefully, a light paranormal mystery series also set in Seattle. (Must be all that rain that’s conducive to unusual people and murder!). Then there’s the craft book series that I’m working on. The WRITING ACTIVE series with 3 books on Writing Active Settings and next Writing Active Hooks, the first book in that series available for pre-order now and coming out on October 3rd. After Writing Active Hooks Book 2 look for Writing Active Body Language in 2015. Plus, in my spare time I write with NYT author Dianna Love, under the pen name Micah Caida. We created the Young Adult Red Moon series—Time Trap, Time Return, Time Lock— Sci Fi/Action Adventure novels that have earned glowing reviews and reader response. And this has just been the last year and a half. J
3. Is there a common thread in your books? How do your values show up in your writing? What do you want readers to take from your writing?
I actually think it can be challenging to find the common threads in our own work, and much easier to do so in others, because we’re not so immersed in all the details required to craft a compelling story. If I had to answer I think I create characters who are faced with hard choices and still take actions for the sake of a larger good. It’s under duress that we as people discover our core values; we can be kind when it’s easy or expected to be kind, but a real challenge when we’re hurting or heartbroken or have a lot to loose. What I’d like readers to take from my stories is a sense of hope, a sense that every person matters and every person no matter how they might feel on a given day, or what obstacles they are facing, can make a choice to make a difference. We may never end up in a history book or with a glowing obituary, but we can still change the world, one choice at a time.
4. Assuming writers have studied the craft and continue to develop their writing skills (I don’t believe anyone ever actually “masters” any of the arts), what advice would you offer to help them achieve “NY Times or USA Today Bestselling author” status? Any suggestions for getting our books into the right hands?
Great question and I think you’ve already answered it. None of us are master writers, no matter what awards we’ve won or number of books we’ve published. However, there are writers who continue to challenge themselves and work at the craft, making sure each book they create is a culmination of everything they’ve learned up to that point. One of the most impressive sights I saw at a National RWA Conference was attending a workshop and seeing 7 NYT authors sitting in the front row, ready to glean more insights into their craft and the understanding of their genre. That’s impressive and a lesson I think we all need to take to heart. There’s always something more to learn and ways to improve as writers and it’s our responsibility to do so. Take this to heart and the next question is answered. How to get our books into the right hands? If readers appreciate and enjoy what we write they share, and they share with other readers they know will also “get” what we write. It can be that simple and that profound.
5. Along those lines, what are some of the best social media, marketing, and publicity tips you’ve come across to help boost sales and exposure?
Focus on your writing first so you’re releasing the highest caliber book you can. Make sure that you have something for readers to discover. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding a new author and loving their work only to discover they only have 1 or 2 books out and we have to wait for more, especially if that wait time is counted in years not months. Keep the “social” in social media. I think we all hate it when we connect with someone and the first thing they do is overwhelm us with “Buy My Book” messages, or “do this for me” messages. Bottom line: treat others as we would like to be treated. Experiment with whatever social media venue gives you juice as opposed to sucking your energy level dry and concentrate on that. Many writers are solitary people, shy even, so adding in a social media agenda that feels forced or uncomfortable, can be a disaster. Try all the venues, expect a learning curve, and only then decide which venue works best for you and thus for your followers.
6. What are some things you know now about writing and being an author that you wish someone had told you at the very beginning?
LOL! Everything. First off, getting published is not an end goal. It’s a means goal. Too many newer writers think getting published will make the world a perfect place and that’s all you need to accomplish. The reality is that being published only means different issues to grapple with, not a lack of issues. Plan long term otherwise you can spend your days in a reactive mindset that can quickly suck up your creativity. We can react to every email, every direct message, every request to do something for someone—most of them things we want to do, but there’s a limited resource. That’s you. You have to learn to manage the demands on your time once published in order to continue to create your next book. Enjoy the process, which includes hectic days, exhaustion, frustration and nail biting, as well as awards, interactions with some of the most amazing readers and writers, and the chance to make up stories and earn a living.
7. What tips can you offer towards building and maintaining a strong support system as a writer?
Another excellent question! Something I’ve found over the years is to figure out what you as a writer, or creative, need before you create such a system. Do you need accountability, meaning someone who won’t listen to excuses as to why you couldn’t write or whatever it is you’re struggling with. Do you need a goal group? People who will help you brainstorm bigger and better ways to reach your goals? Or do you need a group that will simply let you blow off steam in a safe environment, i.e. none of your comments will come back to haunt you? Knowing what you need makes it easier to find or create your support system. Have different needs? It’s okay to have more than one support system in place. Remember though that the care and feeding of such a system does require you to give back to others in ways they need, too.
USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham writes the Amazon best selling WRITING ACTIVE SETTING series for writers (in e-format and now in book form) as well as Urban Fantasy w/attitude. Love romance, danger & kick-ass heroines? Find it in her Invisible Recruits series: www.MaryBuckham.com or www.InvisibleRecruits.com.
INVISIBLE PRISON (novella) Currently free as e-book
INVISIBLE FEARS (4th novel of the Invisible Recruits series)
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1lDNIbX
WRITING ACTIVE SETTING BOOK 1
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1j5Efp7
WRITING ACTIVE HOOKS BOOK 1