It’s become common (even expected) for authors to publish one or more books per year but not everyone writes at that speed, like Mary L. Hamilton. She takes her time, making sure each book is exactly how she wants it (even if her fans have to wait a little while). How does she do it (and why)? Let her tell you for herself!
What genre do you write? How did you pick it?
I started out writing for middle grade readers because my story fit that age group. But my goal was always to write for an adult audience, especially people like the ladies in a book club I led for several years. Our discussions taught me a lot about what makes a book interesting. My first adult novel was a mystery/suspense, but now I’m working on a general fiction or maybe women’s fiction story.
What are your favorite genres to read? Why?
I read quite a bit of suspense and mystery, maybe because I grew up on Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes. But most of what I read is general or women’s fiction, as long as it doesn’t have a strong romance thread. I’m not a fan of romance.
How long did it take you to complete your first manuscript (published or not)?
My first middle grade book took about eight years. I was learning how to write fiction and how to write a novel. I think it took another year or two to become published. My other books have taken 2-3 years.
Have your follow-up novels been easier or harder to write? Why do you think that is?
Mostly, they’ve been harder to write. I think that’s because with each book, I learn more about writing and put more pressure on myself to improve. That’s good for readers, but every time I start to write a new story I always wonder, how do I do this? I always feel like I’ve never written a book before.
What’s surprised you the most about the book-publishing process?
What I didn’t understand until I got published is how hard it is to sell books. I believe most of us initially approach writing as a hobby, but once we get published, it becomes a business. I wasn’t ready for that. I had no clue about marketing or promotion or anything business related. The good news is you can learn about marketing just like you learned to write well. A little at a time over several months makes a big difference.
What’s been the most challenging part of getting a book published?
My middle grade series was traditionally published. But when the publisher went out of business, I decided to go indie. What I find most challenging is keeping all the balls in the air, so to speak. The writing, the preparation for publication, launching the book, marketing, website, promotion, social media, keeping records… Sometimes I want to go find a cave and hide from it all. But then I get a good review or a cool new idea, and I’m motivated to toss those balls up one more time.
What’s your favorite part of the publishing experience?
I love rewriting and revising. I know some writers hate that part, but I love taking the bland words I’ve written and rearranging them for greater impact, substituting stronger words, or whatever. Pulling words out of the air for a first draft is difficult, but once I have something to work with, I can spend hours making it better.
For learning the writing craft, which do you prefer – books or conferences? Why?
I think I’d choose books, because I can work at my own pace and they tend to be more specific. Conferences are often like drinking from that fire hose. You get so much great instruction but you don’t have time to play with it and put it to use. Conferences are great for networking and learning about marketing and getting a high level view of writing, but for me, nothing beats the personal approach of a good instructional writing book.
If you could recommend one writing conference, what would it be? Why? (If you haven’t attended one, which one would you like to attend? Why?)
Oh, that’s tough. I think it depends on what one is looking for. I’ve been to ACFW’s annual conference several times, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet editors and agents and network with other writers. Great classes, too. But I also enjoyed the smaller intimacy of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. All the authors and editors and agents seemed so approachable there in the smaller group. My goal is to attend Mt. Hermon next year because I’ve heard so much about the mentoring there. There are a lot of excellent conferences out there, it really depends on what you hope to gain from any particular one.
If you could recommend one writing book, what would it be? Why?
Another tough question! I guess the one I personally keep going back to is Jeff Gerke’s Plot Vs. Character. And along with that, I use Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey. Those two books together are usually my starting point for developing characters—figuring out the basic makeup of each personality, what motivates them, what aspects of their personality I want to bring out and what their flaws might be.
If you could pick any of your novels to be made into a movie, which one would you pick? Who would you want to play the lead roles, and why?
I’d love to see Pendant made into a movie. But I don’t watch television and I rarely go to movies, so I’m woefully ignorant of today’s actors and actresses. Nearly all the stars of my day have passed on.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s been a joy to chat with you today, Karin. Thank you so much for letting me join you. I hope it’s been fun and interesting for your readers as well.
Thank you so much for appearing on my blog! Have a blessed day!
Mary L. Hamilton writes stories inspired by real life, whether it’s mystery/suspense or her award-winning Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series for tweens and teens. She’s a member of ACFW, CAN, and Texas Association of Authors. In her non-writing hours, she enjoys knitting, photography and spending time with her family.