Today Mary Crawford the author of a wonderful romance series, Hidden Beauty, is with me. Welcome to Peachy’s Insights, Mary.
MC: Thank you so much for the invitation. I’m actually a little shy about talking about myself. If you asked me about my kids, I could talk all day. But, talking about myself is a little more difficult. I’ll try to sound interesting and articulate, but I make no guarantees.
GP: I know that you always include a little about yourself at the end of your books. But, I’m sure that the readers would like to know more about you. Tell us a little more about yourself, your hobbies outside of reading and writing, your childhood, likes and dislikes.
MC: I was always a very artsy kid. I loved to draw, paint and play with clay. In fact, I had intended to be an art major in college before my parents convinced me that I would never make a living as an artist. So, now I write romance novels for a living. There’s some irony in that somewhere. Now, I feed my artsy side by decorating cakes as a hobby. I was able to help my son make his wedding cake for his wife when he got married last year.
GP: That is a gorgeous cake. I’m lucky if I can make a two layer cake and forget decorating.
Often authors say that their desire and talent for writing manifested as a child. When did you know that you wanted to be an author?
MC: There is no one more surprised that I am an author than me. When I was in the seventh grade, my teacher told me that I was the worst writer he had ever taught. I believed that far longer than I care to admit. Honestly, there is a small piece of me that believes it to this day. I had a college professor who tried to tell me that I had real talent as a writer. I refused to believe her. I thought that she was just trying to convince me to complete her class. I had just given birth to my son and was trying to complete her writing class because I had put it off until the very last moment, convinced that I would epically fail. So, I was holding Brandon and nursing him while I was typing her papers with the other hand. I did not remotely foresee that I would ever have a career as a writer.
I became an author almost by accident. By training, I am a Civil Rights Attorney and disability rights advocate with a lot of social service worker sprinkled in my work history. Unfortunately, I developed a migraine on February 6, 2002 that never really went away. I’ve tried every diet, treatment, regimen, traditional and nontraditional out there and nothing has really helped. I found myself in a position where my brain work just fine, but my body didn’t. So, I started beta reading romance novels in an effort to keep busy. A couple of authors including the lovely, Linda Kage, encouraged me to move from an avid reader to a writer. Linda was a phenomenal mentor and cheerleader.
GP: Romance was never a genre that I was drawn to read. However, I’ve read your Hidden Beauty series and found them delightfully realistic. Your depiction of how people with various physical and emotional disabilities overcome the problems they encounter in everyday life makes your characters particularly real. What prompted you to start writing romance stories with characters that have to deal with real issues associated with disabilities?
MC: First and foremost, I come to my writing career as an avid reader: I’m a fan. When I say avid, I mean it — I used to read 700 books a year. But, what I found frustrating is that I could never find books about people like me. Romance novels featuring people with disabilities tended to depicted them as bitter, angry characters who miraculously were healed by the end of the book. Unfortunately, that’s not how real life works. So, I set out to change the stereotype.
Perhaps even more disturbing was the trend I started to see in the way women were portrayed. Romance seemed to be disappearing from my beloved romance novels. Couples stopped flirting and the love story seemed to be entirely missing. Women were seemingly dropping their panties for men before they even bothered to exchange their first names. I wanted my characters to have a little more self-respect. So, I wanted to write love stories where a shy glance, a whisper and a hug are as valued as steamy sex scenes. Let’s make courting sexy again. My tagline is Because love matters, differences don’t. My life is a testament that is in fact true. I’ve been married for twenty-seven years and I have two beautiful children. Everyone deserves a love story, regardless of who you are.
GP: How do you develop your characters and what resources do you use to obtain the information necessary to accurately depict the problems they face in everyday life?
MC: Here is an interesting oddity about me. I have what my family affectionately calls a useless knowledge gene. I store random knowledge. I can’t help it. It just happens. So, you know that Facebook garage sale site? If you posted a violin eighteen months ago, I probably remember the details about it, whether I want to or not. It’s pretty annoying. That is, except when it comes to writing or going to law school — in those cases, my skills prove to be beneficial. I’ve had several jobs over the course of my career which have assisted me in my writing. It also doesn’t hurt that my son is in his third year of medical school. I have been known to run hypothetical situations by him to ensure that they are medically plausible.
GP: You’ve started on a second series recently with the first book already published. I haven’t had the chance to read the first of this series. Could you tell us a little about your newest series and when we can expect a second book release? Do family relationships play as important a role in this series as it did in the Hidden Beauty series? No spoilers of course.
MC: I have an interesting story behind Identity of the Heart. Around the time that I started writing that book, I was having a bit of an identity crisis myself. I was a published author, but it was beginning to occur to me how much I didn’t know about the art of writing. So, I did what every psychology major/lawyer would do. I set out to research my own deficiencies. Consequently, I became so paralyzed by fear I couldn’t write. I was so fearful of writing the wrong thing, I couldn’t write the right thing. Yet, the urge to write had become ingrained. Finally, out of desperation I put away my two works in progress and started a third with completely new characters. If that weren’t crazy enough, not only was I following one couple in Identity of the Heart, I was following three. It was a crazy adventure. I personally love Identity of the Heart—although not many readers have found it. It’s one of my books that suitable for younger readers.
GP: As an experienced indie author with several books published, what advice would you give to new indie authors working on their debut novel?
MC: Okay, my advice is going to sound contradictory at first– but hear me out…
First, be a fan. Find what you love to read and the style of what you’d like to write and identify ways in which you would like as an author to make it better. If it doesn’t exist, create it.
You can do it.
You can’t do it alone.
Find your self a team of mentors and advisors and people who will tell you you’re wrong.
Wait! I can hear you screaming at your computer screen right now. I know, I know, writing is hard. It’s natural; you want to surround yourself with people that are going to tell you that you are a rock star and every word you write on paper is pure poetry. But, that’s not really who you need on your core team. It’s great for your ego, but not for your writing. Find someone who will tell you the truth, even if it hurts. When you find that person, treat them like gold.
Learn the tools of your trade. Writing is a serious craft. It requires many skills. In the end, you’ll save yourself a lot of money if you know how to do things like basic formatting, photo shopping and proofreading.
Learn how to punctuate dialogue. Your readers will thank you.
There is no “one way” to correctly write. It’s a matter of learning what works for you. However, the more you write, the better you’ll get.
Always take in advice with an open mind, but if it feels wrong feel free to ignore it. It’s a little known fact that the publishing world is changing so quickly that even the so-called experts– yes, me included– are largely making it up as we go along.
GP: Just for fun, who is your favorite character of all those you’ve created and why?
MC: Mindy has turned out to be one of my favorite characters. When I first introduced her, she was a charming plot device to help bring Kira and Jeff together, but she has grown into her own lovely young woman. I can’t wait until I get to write her love story. It is going to be spectacular.
GP: I love Mindy! She is one of my favorites too.
Well, Mary, it has been a pleasure to have you here today. Please give readers links to your pages and books so they can find out more about you, your books, and where to buy them.
MC: Thank you for the opportunity to share. This was fun!
GP: Thank you for being my guest today, Mary.
Readers please be sure to click on the links she’s provided and come back Friday for my reviews of the Hidden Beauty series.