Anne Interviews Mary Ann Rivers plus giveaway
Mary Ann Rivers has rocked my world. I can’t seem to get enough of her books! Live, her newest release, will be reviewed here tomorrow but let me give you a hint: it’s amazing. Mary Ann’s strength lies in her characters and the detail in her stories. I am counting down the day until her next book, Laugh, comes out in May. I am so pleased that I had the opportunity to interview my newest favorite author.
I introduce to you Mary Ann Rivers.
Somehow, in spite of your stories having tons of details, they don’t seem to get bogged down in them. They aren’t boring details. And best of all, the emotions just clearly come streaming out of the reader, at least me. How do you do that?
In the composing and drafting stage of writing, I think that I do have scenes that get bogged down a bit with detail, and I have to carve the scene back out, but thank you. I’m very flattered by this observation, because it is something I try very hard to do.
There are so many ways to situate the reader so that they are able to feel what it is the characters are feeling, but I think I approach fiction from the perspective that readers, above all things, are curious. We want to really get inside the lives of the characters, we want to know what it is they are thinking, and we want to snoop. When we’re in that state of mind, what we’re looking for, I really think, is details.
So when I shape a scene, I try to imagine it made from the details that would be most exciting for the reader to discover and are interesting details besides. So for example, if I know that there should be something very lonely about the apartment of the hero, I might develop the detail of the kitchen table that is a little ugly and obviously the ex-wife didn’t take with her in the divorce. I could have said that his apartment looked empty, or dusty, or too big for one person, or even lonely, but instead, I describe an ugly table and put that table in the context of his divorce.
So the scene is made of a lot of details, maybe, but many of them are not explicated – I simply rest them in the context of the action of the scene and trust the reader to assign those details meaning and feeling. As humans, we’re very capable of this – we know how to look in someone’s medicine cabinet and piece together a life.
It’s fun to read that way, and what’s more, it’s fun to write that way.
Who are a few of your favorite authors and why do you like them? Or just what kinds of things do you enjoy reading?
I like to read all kinds of things, and I read many different genres and kinds of media. In romance, I do love the work of my co-contributors at wonkomance.com (or I wouldn’t have asked to contribute, I don’t think. There is a kind of shared aesthetic at Wonkomance for very character-driven and edgy contemporary). In addition to those authors, I enjoy Carolyn Crane, Grace Burrowes, Courtney Milan, Molly O’Keefe, Isabel Cooper, Laura Florand, and many others. So many others. This is an exciting time to be writing and reading.
I like to read writers who are obviously very passionate about what they are writing about, and take risks not just in the story and tropes, but also, with the writing itself. I like this kind of thing, even when it isn’t entirely working. I really like to be challenged by what I’m reading, both emotionally and intellectually, and I like to see that the author has a great deal of joy for what it is she is doing. Carolyn Crane is a terrific example of this – she takes significant risks in the kinds of stories she tells, and her pacing reveals her great joy for the work. Grace Burrowes has the kind of attention to details to deal a story and her work is so warm and passionate. Molly O’Keefe writes these amazing heroines, so edgy and risky. Laura Florand has this way of exploring very intense and challenging psycho-sexual dynamics in this effortless way. As a reader, I think we just really want to see authors trying something, pushing something, using their imagination.
Do you have a writing routine, a favorite place or way in which you write?
I actually have a very strict routine because I am a mom who also works outside the home. I work half days, five days a week, as a pediatric nurse practitioner, so the other half of the day is for writing. However, how it works is that I get up very early, and during the time between when I get up and when I get my kid ready for school, I write on anything I want. I may freewrite, or work on an uncontracted project, noodle around trying to fix something. Then, the half day of work, I usually have a set of scenes I want to try to get drafted.
I do write with music, most of the time. I also like to be at a desk or table. When drafting is going too slowly, I write in public places like libraries or coffee shops – and for a long time those were the only places I wrote.
Some days I get extra writing time in the evenings, and some weeks, I get some time on the weekends. Near deadline, I usually work it out with my husband so that I do have more evenings and weekends.
I read you were a music major. I was accepted as one but didn’t want to earn a living at it, so I changed to a music minor. I played piano and saxophone. Do you play an instrument or are you a singer? Can you share some of the songs you listened to while writing Live?
I was a cello performance major (and doubled that with an English major). Most of my performances have been as a part of an ensemble – symphony orchestra, chamber orchestra, or quartet – though because I was my section’s leader, I’ve done some solo work, as well. I also worked a little as a session musician, in a studio setting, and played cello and other stringed instruments in bands. I don’t think I’ve ever really made a living at it, though it has been additional income I depended on, at times.
My playlist for LIVE:
The Trouble with River Cities – Pela
Handle With Care — Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Take On Me — The Pickin’ On Bluegrass Series
Bloodbuzz Ohio — The National
I Melt With You — Modern English
By The Time It Gets Dark — Yo La Tengo
Ohio — Damien Jurando
My Heart’s Designed for Pumping Blood — Martin Rossiter
I Won’t Be Found — Tallest Man On Earth
Roads? Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads — Marnie Stern
So why do you write in the contemporary romance genre?
I am very, very interested in the people around me, in the world I live in, and how people engage with our world as it exists, right now. I think there is a great deal of complexity in it. Also, I like to explore issues of female agency and sexuality, and I have more access to how that works within the culture I am a part of. I do write in other genres, though I haven’t been published in them, and actually, as I say this about my reasons for writing contemporary, it seems I am exploring similar kinds of things in other genre writing.
Also, I have a lot of appreciation and joy for our world. I know it’s deeply messed up and troubled and awful in innumerable ways, but also, it’s amazing. It is. I can’t get over it, sometimes, my amazement in the world, and with humans.
I write romance because I like the constraint. I like the idea that I can write any kind of story that I would like as long as it ends optimistically in favor of the love. I liked to be constrained like that in my writing, to have a formal constraint. I think it makes my imagination work much harder.
Also, I can’t stop writing sex.
What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever been recognized as an author or talked with someone about your writing?
On my own street, when I recently moved to a new town! I was walking down my brand-new street, and a woman was carrying a tote bag that I had described in THE STORY GUY (A “Reading is Sexy” tote). I just told her I liked her bag, and then she said that she had bought it after reading about it in a book. I couldn’t help it, I asked her what book? And she said, THE STORY GUY, and then I burst into blush and told her that I wrote it. It turned out she was an academic librarian, and had heard of my book via a library listserv and picked it up (THE STORY GUY’s main character is a librarian).
It was very weird, but also awesome.
Okay, Flash Four time
Flash Four questions about books and writing ~
How long, from start to end, did it take you to write “Live”?
This is hard, because I actually wrote two and half times before I wrote it under contract. The first time, I wrote it for myself, as a screenplay called POS LIMO, then, I scrapped it and wrote it as a YA book, and then I settled it into a romance, but started it one way, and scrapped it to write it the way I wanted, and to open it up to a series. So that final version, when I opened up the official document, and it was under contact, 6 weeks.
Did you see yourself being a writer as you were growing up?
Yes. I always wrote, always. Even if I would never publish, I would always write, I knew.
In what room of your house do you write from?
I live in an apartment that was built to be an apartment to house a professor, in the late 1800s. So the apartment is built like a miniature manor house, with a little foyer, a sitting room, a little butler’s pantry, etc. I write in the miniature conservatory.
Do you tend to come up with the title for your book before you start writing it, while you’re writing it or when it’s all done?
This varies. LIVE was titled after. SNOWFALL was titled before. THE STORY GUY was titled, but with a different title, and so was changed.
Flash four questions about random things ~
Sweet or salty snacks?
What time of the month is it?
What color is your toothbrush?
Your high school experience: good or bad?
What do you like on your pizza?
Either pineapple, or all the veggies.
Thank you very much Mary Ann for answering my questions today. Ever since I read The Story Guy, I’m hooked to your books. You have an incredible way with telling stories and you have easily been added to my auto-buy list.
Giveaway details. Mary Ann is not only talented but she’s awesome too! She is offering an eARC of Live to THREE WINNERS! To enter, leave a comment below by Monday January 27th 2014 11:59pm EST. Giveaway open internationally. Good luck!
A quick p.s. If you have already read The Story Guy, Mary Ann has written a bonus epilogue for it. If you sign up here to her newsletter, she will email the link to this free story addition this weekend 🙂