Monday, October 19, 2009
Interview with Maria Rachel Hooley
Today my guest is writer Maria Rachel Hooley, author of New Life Incorporated, When Angels Cry, & The Sojourner series. http://www.mariarachelhooley.com
JG: Maria, thank you so much for taking the time to share your writing experience with us.
MH: It’s my pleasure.
JG: You’ve written 20 books. Tell us a little about your creative process.
MH: I've been writing most of my life, and I think over time the process has definitely gotten a lot easier. Perhaps as writers, we not only grow into our own style, so to speak, but also our own 'skin' the longer we do this. I don't start a project thinking of a specific genre. It typically starts with character and the rest develops around that, which is why I write in so many genres. The process I typically use is what is called The Snowflake Method because it starts with one of the hardest things to write--a one sentence pitch about the whole novel. Then the steps gradually expand until the novel is plotted, and the writing begins. It is awesome for developing conflict and making sure all threads of the story are tied together.
JG: My readers would love to know how you market your books.
MH: Marketing is tough, especially for self-published authors, but there are so many different places online which can help you establish your platform and get your name out there. I have a Wordpress blog and I also have a website. I also have an Author Central page with Amazon. In addition to these, I also frequent Redroom.com, writersmarket.com, and others. One of the good aspects of marketing as an independent author is that a lot of readers take a more active approach, and a lot of the online social and marketing sites are geared toward this. One thing I will say that made it easier for me is that over the years I've built a strong publishing history with poetry and other shorter forms.
JG: How has your writing evolved over time?
MH: I think the biggest thing that helped my writing evolve is poetry. It's one thing to have the basics down, but learning how to use images really transformed my style. I can definitely see a huge difference in the first five novels I wrote and those which came after because that's about the time I started to really hone my poetry skills.
Aside from that, overall, I think the writing is a lot cleaner and tighter. While my writing has always been about characters first, I think my Achilles' heel, description and setting, is finally getting closer to where I want it.
JG: Byline is an impressive journal that does short stories, poems essays, how is Carolyn Wall as an editor?
MH: I really can’t say much about Carolyn Wall because she was not the editor in question when I had the non-fiction piece about greeting cards published. The editor I worked with was Marcia Preston, and Marcia was very good. She had a specific direction she wanted the piece to go and gave great suggestions. I do know that Carolyn is a member of OWFI and I've heard really wonderful things about her.
JG: What books do you like to read?
MH: I really love fantasy and historical fiction. I think the common element is the feeling that a journey is involved.
JG: How do you divide your time between family and writing life, do you have a routine?
MH: As far as dividing my time between writing and family, it's really a juggling act. There's a whole lot of things that vie for my time, from my job as a high school English teacher, to my adjunct job of teaching remedial English classes at a local university. I don't really have a schedule because there are so many expectations, but for me, writing is rather like an addiction. I'm always doing it. If I have fifteen minutes, I'm in the story and writing. I don't wait for huge chunks of time because that might not happen. I tend to write every day, but I never know quite when I'll be doing the actual writing from day to day.
JG: What's the literary community like in Oklahoma?
MH: I know that Oklahoma does have some wonderful writers, and there are several different kinds of events, from literary festivals to writers’ conferences, to poetry readings and more where artists can find a great place to share their craft.
JG: Do you belong to any writing groups or workshops?
MH: I do belong to the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. I have belonged to OKRWA, Oklahoma's RWA chapter. I also participate in The Scissortail Festival in Ada, among others.
JG: Have you hosted any events?
MH: I have never hosted any of the workshops. I have acted as a judge or category coordinator in different writing contests, typically in poetry, but I've also judged scripts.
JG: What are your thoughts on writing workshops?
MH: Writing workshops are valuable for numerous reasons. For a beginning writer, there's lots of information on writing and submitting that will help. For writers who are more experienced, you meet a lot of contacts there, and sometimes that makes a huge difference in opening doors. For a published writer, workshops and conferences can provide places to meet readers and places to sell books, as well as making new contacts.
JG: Favorite books, authors
MH: I love Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, and Ariel by Steven Boyett.
JG: Would you say you've had an a-ha moment as a writer?
MH: I think the biggest a-ha moment was when I entered a writing contest with two different entries, and both judges made the same comment: I was working through personal issues. I consider this an a-ha moment because both pieces were completely fictional. There wasn't a shred of reality in them, yet my words had made the judges believe I had submitted something real. At that moment I knew I wanted to keep writing because I knew I could possibly make a difference with the reality I created.
JG: Here's a silly question: I see you use Wordpress. Did you ever use blogger? Do you have a preference?
MH: I've thought about looking into blogger but because my days are so swamped, I just haven't done it. I don't really like how the widgets work with Wordpress, and I couldn't get the fReado widget to work at all.
JG: What are you working on now?
MH: My current project is a science fiction thriller called Eternity Systems. It focuses on a homicide detective investigating a string of brutal murders tied to a virtual reality corporation called Eternity Systems, a company made famous by its claim that even the dead don't stay dead in virtual reality. Yet now living women are being stalked and killed as victims to feed a serial killer's depraved desires in his own virtual reality.
JG: What is next project?
MH: The next project will probably be a second YA urban fantasy in my Dreamwalker series which deals with a teenage girl whose dreams now affect her waking life in the form of supernatural creatures seeking to destroy her.
Maria Rachel Hooley is the author of 20 novels and most recently Sojourner and When Angels Cry. Below you will find blurbs on both her new books.
Check out her website at www.mariarachelhooley.com.
Sojourner (YA urban fantasy)
Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Moon has been dreaming of her murder her entire life, and in those dreams, a dark presence is there, watching. When she returns home to Hauser's Landing, the very place her father disappeared, she comes in contact with a gorgeous boy named Lev Walker, and it's not long before she's falling in love. But there's something wrong with Lev. When she realizes he's the eerie watcher in her dreams, she'll have to discover the truth. Is he a guardian angel or a sojourner, an angel of death who has come to collect her soul?
When Angels Cry (women's fiction)
Kaylee Renard has never taken the time for love. Independence and financial security have always been top priority. Besides, she believed there will be time for a relationship later, when she can fit it in. In light of a terminal cancer diagnosis, however, her views change, and when Kaylee passes out and falls into a pond, Bastian Connelly, alone and suicidal, goes in after her, hoping that in trying to save Kaylee's life, he will end his own. But life isn't done with Bastian, and neither is love. As Kaylee comes to love him, she wonders what she's missed and seeks to find whatever gifts fate might grant her.