Galen: Congratulations Mary on the release of, Love's Little Instruction Book! Tell us about your book.
Mary: Love’s Little Instruction Book is a romantic comedy about a guy who decides to use romance novels as guidebooks to winning the woman he adores. His theory is that by reading the books, instead of approaching romance through a guy’s perspective, he’ll be able to figure out what it is that women want and plan accordingly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t turn out quite the way he’d planned. It’s kind of unusual for a romance because the hero is a sweetie rather than a hottie. He’s short, a little chubby, but he’s also funny and honest and a generally nice guy.
Galen: What was the inspiration for your Love’s Little Instruction Book?
Mary: Actually, it came from a lot of different ideas. I’ve always been a sucker for the Beta Male; the second banana who never gets to be the hero. Think of the character of Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or Leonard on The Big Bang Theory. The hot ones are great to look at, but I prefer a man who doesn’t take foolish chances, has a heart of gold and a sense of humor, and who will love and stand by the woman he loves with all his heart. So I invented Dave DiSciullo, who’s named after the chubby stripper in The Full Monty and has my mother’s unpronounceable maiden name (I couldn’t give it to my kids, so I gave it to my hero instead!). The heroine, Denise, looks a lot like my cousin Denise, only taller, since my cousin is only four foot ten. A lot of the misadventures in the story were actually my own – I’ve bought lobsters at the grocery store and “liberated” them, have watched meteor showers while munching on Milky Way bars, and own a cockatiel named Cookie.
Galen: Are you a pantzer or plotter?
Mary: Actually, I’m a piecer. I’ll have a general idea of what’s going to happen, then I write the chapters out of sequence. Afterwards, I got back and smooth things out for the sake of continuity.
Galen: What’s your favorite line from one of your books?
Mary: Oh, that’s tough. How about this one? “Let’s just assume that I have nothing in common with these horny, muscle bound, bald-chested, long-haired contortionists and take a look at what’s actually in the books, okay?” It basically sums up the male perception of what romance books are like while setting up the premise that they’re going to have to read them to see what they can learn about romance.
Galen: Do you remember the first romance book you read? If so, who was the author? What made it stick with you?
Mary: It was probably Jane Eyre, and I think I was in about fifth grade. I developed a life-long crush on Mr Rochester!
Galen: What started you on the road to writing romance?
Mary: Honestly? The laws of probability. I read that more than half of all books published in the US were romances. And I’m a sucker for a happy ending. I’ve also written three books on parrots (someone had to do it!) and I’m working on a book on the life of a Civil War sailor named Fred who died at Andersonville Prison.
Galen: Did you sell the first book you wrote?
Mary: Not the first one I wrote – I think my first attempt was when I was about eleven. The first few I sold, I never pitched; Barron’s hired me to write books on pet birds for their line of pet owner’s manuals. By that point, I’d already written for every bird magazine in the US and the UK, plus Ranger Rick, so I made the sale based on my established reputation. Love’s Little Instruction Book is my first published fiction.
Galen: Best and worst part of being a writer.
Mary: The best part is that it’s something you can do anywhere. I’ve written while in the hospital, waiting for my daughter to get out of school, in a motel room in Cape Breton and sitting in the back of boring college classes. The worst part for an independent freelancer like me, it’s really hard to know when or if you’ll make a sale, and sometimes you’ll sell to a place that is REALLY slow at issuing checks. It’s not a good day job if you like to know where your next meal is coming from!
Galen: If you could have any other job, (not your current writing or day job) what would it be?
Mary: I think it might be fun to be a flight attendant. I’d love to travel, and my youngest is moving out in the fall, so I don’t have to stay close to home any more.
Galen: Where would you like to travel to if you had to research an area?
Mary: I’m a big time genealogist and I’d love to go to all of the places where my ancestors lived. Any one of them – Yorkshire, England; the Hebridean Islands off the coast of Scotland; Versailles, France; Cape Breton, Canada; a small town in the Abruzzi region of Italy; and several different towns in Ireland – would make a great setting for a romance novel.
Galen: Describe your workspace.
Mary: If I need to be online, I’m at the local library, which is very pleasant. If I don’t need to be online, I usually write sitting on my bed, wedged in between my four cats, usually with my amazon parrot sitting close by on his portable perch. The cats are pretty quiet, but want to lie on whatever I’m using. The parrot stays put, but frequently offers his own opinion on things, or yells something obscure like “Look at me! I’m a pretty flower!” or “I’m a dinosaur! ROAR!” He also sings operatic arias of his own composition.
Galen: What are the three books you’d have if you were stranded on a deserted isle?
Mary: The Bible, the Guinness Book of World Records and a guide to what plants are safe to eat!
Galen: Name two blogs you read everyday.
Mary: I’m not actually a big blog reader. I’ve been following the blog put up by Jennifer Lawler, the editor for Crimson Romance, but that’s generally only updated twice a week. I try to stay focused when I’m online, and not to spend too much time surfing – otherwise I’d never get any writing done!
Galen: What do you do when you are not writing?
Mary: I herd cats. I’m a genealogist, raise exotic birds, and I read like there’s no tomorrow.
Galen: What was the best piece of advice given to you?
Mary: Honestly? On my first day teaching at a new school, the teacher next door told me, “Look, there’s serial arsonist loose in the building, so when you get here, put your car keys in one pocket and your wallet in the other, because there’s no telling when we’ll have to evacuate the building and not be let back in.” It was the middle of winter, and it was very, very good advice.
You can find Love's Little Instruction Book at: