Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mary Deal: Down to the Needle

My guest today is Mary Deal from Hawaii. Aloha, Mary. Please give us a brief bio.
I’m retired and living out a life-long dream of living on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Most of my time is spent writing, though I do get to the beach now and again. Oil painting and photography are business hobbies in which I take great pleasure and community activities too. Presently, I have four novels published, suspense and thrillers, with two additional thrillers now being written. I also write short stories and poetry which are published in various magazines and anthologies.

Briefly tell us about your latest book.
It’s a thriller called Down to the Needle. (ISBN 978-1-4401-9820-5)

The story is about a woman’s decades-long search for her abducted daughter. Her search leads her to a young woman on Death Row facing lethal injection for a crime she didn’t commit.

All of my books are available from online book stores as well as from the publisher, Just do a search for my name and all my books should come up on the same page.

How do you determine that all-important first sentence?
The first sentence, even the first word, must grab attention. Try never to start your first sentence with “I” or “The” or “There” and similar words. Actually they say nothing so it’s a lost chance to get the reader’s eyes riveted to the page. Some of my first words or phrases were “Blood red letters…” or “‘Witch!’ Randy Osborne said…” Should you find it necessary to use “the” as your first work, the next one or two words should be grabbers, as in “The jagged scar…” Or, as in my latest book, “‘The perp torched himself.’” My advice is to shoot for an attention-grabbing first word or phrase, not just the sentence overall..

How do you develop characters? Setting?
Usually with me, and with both novels and long shorts stories, I have an idea for the story and where it might take place. I see the character in my mind. One of the first things I do is to make a character sketch. That’s as simple as listing each character’s physical features, habits, traits, quirks and even disposition. I’ve written an article about setting up characters. Making a thorough list enables the writer to get into the mind of the character. Guaranteed, by the time you make this list for each of your characters, you will know them and how they will act out your plot.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
I make notes anytime I think of some bit of information I can use in a story. I may not use it all in my present story, but if something comes to mind that’s way too good, I must write it down and save it. When I’m starting a story, I gather anything that may be usable in that story into one file to refer back to.

The way I write is not a way I can recommend to anyone else, unless it is their habit to begin with. When I begin a story, all of it is jumping around inside my mind begging to get out. I write what seems to be the most important scenes that I cannot afford to let get away. That means I may write the ending even before I begin the first chapter. Of course it will change later, but at least I have captured the idea while it contained the original spark of creativity. Too, I may write different scenes knowing, of course, the general order in which they should appear. Later I go back and join them together, maybe by adding more scenes, more story. I’ve also written an article about this subject. I write about anything I experience in order to clarify points for others.

Many people start a story at the beginning and that’s what I usually recommend others do. I can write like that, but invariably while I’m writing one chapter, it will trigger something that needs to happen much later in the story. So I write that part as soon as I can and then store it till I can work it in. However, especially for fledgling writers, know your plot. Make an outline or usable list of scenes. Start at the beginning.

How do you promote yourself online and off?
More promotion today is done online. Join as many sites as is feasibly possible to maintain a presence. A writer MUST have a website and, hopefully, one with PayPal buttons or other means of payment. Readers love autographed books.

I travel a bit so I always try to line up book signings even a year ahead of time. However, book signings don’t sell books. In rare cases it does, but appearances mostly help to come in contact with readers so they get to know you.

Other ways to promote is to make your book available as an ebook and downloadable for Kindle and other hand-helds. The publisher should do this for you. Too, if there are charity drives in your area, donate books. I am in charge of the Silent Auction for the local annual Kauai Coconut Festival. We love books! We have tourists coming here and they read books. Find locations in your area where you can make yourself and your books known. The ultimate goal anywhere is to build readership.

Enter your books into the best, the biggest contests. Even just making Honorable Mention gets your book publicized beyond what you might be able to do.

And finally, send your book out to reviewers. Reviews sell books.

What are your current projects?
My third novel, River Bones, a thriller, won a huge award in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards competition. I’m told by my readers that they loved the characters. So I am already in the process of writing two sequels to this book. River Bones has a subplot of a man traveling back and forth to Viet Nam searching for his MIA brother. Since he and the protagonist, Sara Mason, have fallen in love, the first sequel will begin deep in the Vietnam jungle. Most of the book, however, will take place on Kauai where Sara solves another cold case of a missing child. The second sequel will take place both on Kauai and in the jungles of Borneo, where Sara finds answers to an international cold case.

I read River Bones. It was great.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
My mega-website, offers my books for sale, and is also meant to be a resource for writers. All information on the site is free for the reading. I keep adding to the number of pages so there is a great deal on information available. The site covers creative writing of all kinds – fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc. - and business writing. Chapters from my books are analyzed. We discuss how to choose character names. Aspects of how my books are put together, and how writers can get help with their books, are to be found on

For those wishing an autographed copy of any of my books, PayPal Shopping Cart buttons are available on all the book pages. Notices about my book signings are also posted on the book pages when I have confirmed travel arrangements.
Thanks for the interview, Mary, but I think next time I really should do this in person. LOL.


Mary Deal said...

Thank you, Susan, for the opportunity to be interviewed. And, yes, I know why you want to do this in person the next time. You wish to come to Hawaii. Well, keep hoping for balmy breezes and swaying palm trees. Maybe it will help melt your snow. See you next time in the Islands?


Joylene said...

Great interview, Susan and Mary. It's always fascinating and encouraging to see another author's perspective. Best of luck with all your novels.

オテモヤン said...
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Susan Whitfield said...

Thanks, Joylene. I'm looking forward to posting your interview on March 19th.

Mary Deal said...

Joylene, thanks for stopping buy. If I read this correctly, you're up soon. I'll be watching.

Susan, thanks again for the interview.