Welcome to another installment of Wicked Writer Wednesday! Today I want you to meet one of my favorite people, Mary Hagen. It is my pleasure to showcase this amazing woman and author. She has done so many things – it’s just fascinating to talk with her and hear about her life. So go grab a cuppa, sit down, and scroll your way through my interview with Mary and learn all about her newest book, Secret to Hold!
~ How did you get started writing?
I’ve written since ninth grade when I won 2nd place a school short story contest put on by my English teacher.
~ What book are you going to tell us about today? Is it part of a series? If so, what’s the order in which the books should be read?
My book Secret to Hold is not part of a series, but I’m thinking it could. I want to see how the book fares before I write another as a series.
~ How did you come up with the story?
My book is a western historical set in Wyoming Territory, l886 located on a ranch I’ve visited. The house is listed as a national historic site but the ranch and house have been sold to an oil company. My sister tells me, the house is boarded up and falling into disrepair.
That’s kinda sad. Seeing a house that has so much history abandoned is almost like seeing books tossed by a dumpster. In the rain. : (
~ Who’s your favorite character in the book? Why?
My heroine, Jessica Bradley who must conquer her fears to get on with her life.
~ What’s your favorite line in the story? “It’s not our past that matters. It’s what we do with the present and the future.”
~ What genre(s) do you write in? Why?
I have a difficult time staying with one genre, but short contemporary romance is a favorite. The book I’m working on currently is another western historical located in Wyoming which is my home state, incidentally. I have a request to send a “Women in Jeopardy” novel with elements of romance to a publisher. The book is one of my favorites.
~ Tell us about your latest release.
Jessica accepts a position to teach two children on a remote Wyoming ranch. Before she arrives, she is warned by two individuals that the hero, Cameron McPherson, murdered the previous teacher. As she falls in love with him, she determines to prove the rumor false, but events lead her to question her decision.
~ What inspired your latest book?
I grew up on my father’s sheep ranch where cows were queens. All western ranchers I’ve known called all cattle cows so I use the term. It includes cows, steers, bulls. When I visited the ranch I write about and learned the owner was a sheep rancher who had enough wealth and water, he could hold off powerful cattle barons in spite of prejudices against sheep, I knew I had a story.
That sounds amazing, Mary! Nice conflict. Yep – you’ve got a great story there!
~ What is your favorite thing about being a romance writer?
I’m a romantic at heart. It follows I would love reading romances and writing about romance. I think of my books as love stories. One of my favorites is PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. It’s a love story.
~ What is your favorite part of writing?
Becoming involved in my stories puts problems of my own out of my mind. I call the writing “My great escape from reality.”
~ What is your least favorite part of writing?
Getting them ready to send to an editor followed by marketing.
~ What is your next project and when will it be released?
Good question. I’m working on my western I call “Day of Reckoning,” but I have a long way to go before I finish the novel. I haven’t put out a proposal but my new contract says I must submit it to Desert Breeze Publishing.
~ What is your typical writing day like?
Sometimes I work all day for several days. Then I take a break from writing for several days. I admit this is not a good practice because I lose continuity. In another way, I sometimes come up with a different way I want to go with the book or some incidents I think will strengthen the story.
~ How much time do you spend promoting your books?
Very little. Avalon sold to libraries, but they’ve sold to Amazon so if they take one of my books, I’m going to have to work at promoting.
~ What works best for you?
I’m hoping my connection with CRW will give me ideas. After all, we have some super writers in our group who are doing very well with their books. They always seem willing to help the rest of us.
~ How has your experience with self-publishing been?
I’m not into self-publishing. I think I’ll leave that to the published writers in our group who are super good at promotion.
~ Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Experiences, newspapers, old journals, speaking with people. My list could go on and on.
~ What advice do you have for other authors wanting to self-publish?
Go for it. I think self-publishing is great and will help the industry by making editors and agents take notice of very good writers who have been passed over for one reason or another and open doors to new writers.
~ Do you have critique partners?
Yes. My favorite activity every two weeks is meeting with my critique group. They’ve helped me become a better writer.
~ What is your favorite dessert/food?
Unfortunately, I have a sweet tooth. I like candy, cake, cookies, you name it. I can’t say one thing is favorite, but I’d list banana cream pie high on the chart.
~ How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?
My characters are composites of many people I’ve known not people I meet.
~ What is most difficult for you to write? Characters, conflict or emotions? Why?
I think characters because they have emotions that lead to conflicts. They force me to think of so much making up individuals for my books. No easy task.
~ Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?
It’s never a walk in the park, but not always fraught with peril either.
~ Do you have a view in your writing space? What does your space look like?
I have an office but no view. Darn. I could use one instead of looking at my computer screen all day. My office is messy and I’m always searching for things, swearing I’ll come up with a filing system that works. I never find time to do the filing.
~ Tell us about your hero. Give us one of his strengths and one of his weaknesses.
My hero has lost the love of his life and is certain he will never love again. He’s left with the responsibility of bringing up his daughter. Because his brother was killed, he is, also, the guardian of his niece. His hands are full.
~ Describe your hero in five words.
He’s a dream. He wears his dark hair long to his collar. He has brown eyes and when he smiles, wrinkles radiate from the corners of his eyes. His voice, to the heroine, sounds like a cello. He’s tall, 6’1″, muscular, and sun-tanned from spending time in the out-of-doors, and he sits his horse well, the fringe on his jacket barely moving as he rides. His laugh is contagious. He smells of sage and leather.
~ What physical aspect does your heroine love most about your hero? Least? Details, please!
He’s kind to his children, tells them stories, and shows her respect in her duties as a teacher. She has a secret, she hopes he never knows. When he finds out, he tells her the past is not important. It’s what she’s doing now that matters and he loves her. When she first becomes attracted to him, she is disappointed at his cool reaction to her.
~ Tell us about your heroine. Give us one of her strengths and one of her weaknesses.
My heroine enters the story with insecurities that overwhelm her. In fact, she isn’t certain she wants to live until an accident makes her realize life is valuable. She’s able to defend the children she teaches against destructive prejudices of the antagonist who threatens to reveal her secret.
~ Describe your heroine in five words.
Plain, beautiful eyes, tall, slender, insecure.
~ What genres are you drawn to as a reader?
Regencies, historical, mysteries, contemporary romance.
~ Do you prefer to read in the same genres you write in or do you avoid reading that genre? Why?
I read almost everything.
~ Has your muse always known what genre you would write and be published in?
~ Do you write under a pen name? Why or why not?
No. I haven’t found it necessary.
~ How far do you plan ahead?
I don’t plan ahead. I’ve been accused of being a “free spirit”. Whether that is good or bad, I don’t know.
~ Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring authors?
I have a picture of a stork holding a frog in its bill. The frog says, “never give up.”
~ What did you want to be when you were a child? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I read a great deal and I usually wanted to be the heroine in whatever book I was reading so I wanted to be lots of things. My husband is a fantastic writer. To entice him to write, I decided I would spark the competitiveness in him by becoming a writer. It didn’t work.
~ Do you or have you belonged to a writing organization? Which one? Have the helped you with your writing? How?
I get an enormous amount of help from CRW. I love the meetings, the speakers, and talking with other writers especially.
~ Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself?
I didn’t have several manuscripts finished. I sent them out myself.
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Mary, and congratulations on getting under contract for this book! I can’t wait until it comes out! Readers, be sure to check back here later this year for more about Mary Hagen and her upcoming release, Secret to Hold!