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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TOPIC: An Author's Life...with Maree Anderson

Being a published author is an ... involved ... process, and I take my hat off to those who've been in the business more than a few years now.

As a pre-pubbed author I was always curious about what happened once you received THE CALL and stepped into the world of publishing.

What did it involve? How did they handled the day to day pressures? Did they developed routines, set goals etc.? What did they like/dislike about the process?

So I asked my special guests these questions and many of them have offered some intriguing insights into their lives. Maybe they'll even give you a heads up on what to expect if you're thinking of entering the world of "getting published".

Please welcome my next guest... 

MAREE ANDERSON always knew she had a re-e-e-eally warped imagination. The trouble was finding a socially acceptable outlet...which is why she became an author.

The other great thing about being an author is having a valid reason to read loads of books -- all in the name of research, of course. When she's not 'researching', Maree's writing romance of the paranormal persuasion.

She's a Kiwi, a New Zealander, and she's addicted to chocolate -- the darker the better. Not to mention coffee and  excellent NZ wine. She's not quite so addicted to her local gym but she's working on it ;-) 

Author Facts 
Pseudonym or Given Name? Given name—plain old Maree Anderson. I didn’t really think about the pseudonym thing until after I was published... in erotic romance. Ooops. *face palm*
Location: Auckland, New Zealand.
Published Genre/s: Erotic Romance of the science fiction/fantasy/paranormal persuasion, paranormal romance, Young Adult paranormal. (If you’re sensing a theme here, you’d be right *g*) 
Website: http://wwwmareeanderson.com 
First published in: 2009. 
Number of books published: 8 (3 novella-lengths, 5 novel-lengths). 

The Nitty Gritty
List up to 5 significant events in your journey to publication?

  1. As Barbara Clendon would say: “Finishing the damn book!” Or in my case, that very first manuscript.
  2. Someone asking me shortly after I’d finished that very first manuscript, “What scares you about taking the next step toward publication?”
  3. Finalling in the RWNZ Clendon Award in 2004 with that very first manuscript, and having Barbara Clendon say something to the effect of, “It needs a lot of work but for some reason, I just wanted to keep on reading the darned thing.”
  4. Writing an erotic romance novella specifically for a contest, just to challenge myself, and being offered a publishing contract. (I’d never written a novella or an erotic romance before, so that was The Best feedback *g*)
  5. My second Red Sage editor, Judith Harkins. We worked on four stories together before she left the company, and she was an incredible mentor, who really “got” me. She pulled scenes from me that I didn’t know I had it in me to write. We still keep in touch regularly via email.
What resources/techniques/events did you find useful to develop your writing skills/craft?
I read widely, across a variety of genres. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for writers to read heaps. And heaps. And heaps.

For me, inspiration for a story strikes at the strangest times—in the middle of listening to a song, reading an article in an ancient magazine in the takeaway shop while waiting for my fish ‘n chips order, watching TV, glimpsing a photo as I flick through a magazine, waking from a dream.... I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sprinted round frantically looking for a pen and paper to scribble down the idea before it vanishes.

So the best resource a writer can have? Pen and paper always at hand! (And preferably a pen that works, too.)

Entering contests can be a great way to get feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of your story—and your writing in general. I have a special fondness for the RWNZ Clendon Award, because it’s a full manuscript contest, with romance readers (not writers!) reading your whole manuscript and giving you feedback.

And having a group of writer-friends that you can meet with regularly is a must. “Normal” friends—and even family—don’t truly don’t understand what it’s like to have characters talking inside your head, and the muse cracking her fluffy whip and compelling you to write. Other like-minded writers “get” it and they’ll “get” you. And that’s a huge gift, because writing can be a lonely, very isolating, business.

Plus, I’ve always found other writers to be incredibly supportive and generous with sharing their knowledge. Our RWNZ Auckland chapter meetings have sometimes been the only thing that’s kept me writing through the tough times. 

Can you share the special moment when you received THE CALL/THE EMAIL?
I wrote an erotic romance novella—just to see if I could 1) write a novella, and 2) erotic romance. I entered the finished novella in a publisher-run contest, and to my delight, I finalled.

The editor who read my entry sent me an email saying Red Sage were “so impressed by the quality of your manuscript, we’d love to publish it.” I cried all over the place. It was a dream come true.

I printed out that email and still have it pinned to my notice board.

Looking back over your writing career, how have you grown as an author?
When I first started out, I thought I was a fantasy writer. Period. Then I discovered I like to challenge myself as a writer, so I started to experiment, and learned I could write in a variety of genres, and lengths, and POVs (third or first.)

I also believed that I was a dedicated pantser, who would “never” be a plotter. But I’ve taught myself to outline if needs be.

For me, I’ve kind of lived by “if it isn’t working, try something different” when it comes to my writing. So now I’m pretty flexible. And if I get stuck, or parts of a manuscript aren’t working, I have lots of tools in my arsenal to help me fix the story.

How important is it to set career goals? Can you give an example of one you have for yourself?
Here are the career goals I had when I first accepted a publishing contract with Red Sage:
  1. to have a novella published
  2. to have a novel-length story published
  3. to have a novella accepted for a Secrets anthology, so I’d have a story in print.
Those are the goals that I worked towards, and I achieved the last one with the July 2011 release of Kat On A Hot Tin Roof in the SECRETS Volume 30 “Desires Unleashed” anthology. 

Can you describe your writing process/timeframe from when you start a new book to handing it in at deadline?
Because Red Sage is primarily an e-publisher, and they generally contract already completed manuscripts (i.e. they don’t usually contract on proposal), deadlines weren’t such an issue for me. I’d complete a manuscript, send it to my editor, we’d work on it, and when we were happy with it, I’d be sent a contract.

That said, my editor liked the idea of SCENT OF A MAN (a fantasy I’d written a few years back) so much that she contracted it without reading the entire manuscript.

So for me, that was my first taste of a tight deadline. I had to drastically cut the word count and rewrite a fantasy as an erotic romance. It was a mission, and then some—especially since I had a large cast of characters, multiple points of view, and my hero and heroine spent far too much time apart!

But every time I panicked that I might not be able to do this, my editor would tell me how much she believed in me. So I had to believe in me, too.

I recall things getting really tough when we decided quite late on during the rewrite process that the last quarter of the story wasn’t working. In the end, I decided to cut a chunk of the story out, outline what needed to happen, decide which of the scenes I’d cut (if any) still fit the new outline, paste them back in, and then write to fill the gaps.

I made the contract deadline with about three weeks to spare, I think. But it was an incredibly stressful process.

What I took away from that process was that I can completely pull apart a story and put it back together again while working under pressure to meet a deadline. So nothing much scares me anymore ;-) 

One of the things I found challenging about being a published author is the constant juggling of tasks ie. writing a book, editing another, planning promotion, writing the proposal for another (and usually this all happens while holding down another job or dealing with family/life etc.).

What do you enjoy the most in the publishing process?
The writing! Because for now I’m not contracted to a specific publisher, I get to pretty much write what I want and try different things. For example, although I’m published in erotic romance, I also write non-erotics and YA.

I’m currently pulling out old manuscripts and rewriting them, which is a fun process—and a humbling one, when you see just how far you’ve come as a writer!

So far I’ve published three of my manuscripts—my 2006 RWNZ Clendon Award-winning manuscript, THE CRYSTAL WARRIOR, and a paranormal YA, FREAKS OF GREENFIELD HIGH (winner of the Maryland Romance Writers ‘Reveal Your Inner Vixen’ contest) are now available at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Diesel eBooks, iTunes & Sony.

And the second Crystal Warrior book, RUBY'S DREAM, (a Clendon Award finalist) is available at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

The third Crystal Warrior book, JADE'S CHOICE (also a Clendon Award finalist) will be released in the next few months. It’s an exciting time to be an author *g*.

Unfortunately, my muse is a slave-driver, and she doesn’t count “re-writing” as real writing! So I’m currently querying a recently completed YA that placed second in the From The Heart Romance Writers Golden Gateway Proposal contest for published authors.

I had a full manuscript request from one of the judging editors, so at the time of writing this interview, I’m waiting to hear what she thinks of the full manuscript. And once I’ve finished rewriting the third Crystal Warriors book, it’ll be back into writing something shiny and new to keep Ms Muse happy.

What do you like least in the publishing process?
Writing the dreaded synopsis! Followed closely by the dreaded blurb. And the dreaded tag-line...

What's the most memorable fan-mail you've received?
I received an email from a lady who’d bought the kindle version of THE CRYSTAL WARRIOR on Amazon, telling me how much she loved it, and what a fantastic story it was. I cried all over the place—it was just so wonderful to hear that.

Is there anything you think pre-published writers need to know about the business/industry before they're published?
Do the research. You (hopefully!) wouldn’t jump into a car for the first time, stick the key in the ignition, and just automatically expect to be able to drive it. Writing is the same.

If you don’t know how to say, format a paragraph or conversations in your manuscript, pick up a few books and see how it’s done. Same with a synopsis, and a query letter—there’s a wealth of information and excellent advice out there. All you have to do is be prepared to look for it and learn from it.

Besides, once you’re published, writing becomes even more of a business, so why not be professional right from the start?

Other than that, the most important thing to do is write, get into the habit of writing, and get into the habit of finishing what you start. Good things take time, and so does learning the “craft” of writing.

A Bit of Fun
Favorite color:
Hunkiest hero ever: Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair.
Most daring thing you've done in your life: Bungy jumped off the Kawerau Bridge in Queenstown.
Greatest love: My husband, my kids. And really good quality dark chocolate.
Timeout/relaxation for me includes: Reading a book. In bed. While juggling cereal and a mug of coffee.
Special quote/saying you like: “Begin at the beginning,” the King said, gravely, “and go till you come to the end, then stop.” (Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland.) Pretty much my mantra when it comes to writing a book!

Thanks heaps for inviting me to participate in this questionnaire, Kylie—I had heaps of fun putting the answers together!
You're welcome, Maree! :-)

And to finish off, you can find Maree lurking in all kinds of places:
Website/blog     Facebook author page     Twitter     Google +     Writers Gone Wild Blog


  1. Great blog. My favorite color is purple too. I can't imagine bungie jumping. Just the thought makes me break out in a sweat.

    1. Cynthia, it took me 40-odd years to pluck up the courage to do it.... and even then it was only because my son, then 10, was keen as mustard to jump so I had to suck it up and go, "What the heck. If he can do it, so can I." It was terrifying and exhilarating as heck!

  2. Great post Maree!

    YOu I love Scent of a Man - will have to catch up on some more of your books! =)

    1. Hey Mel! *waves from across the ditch* Thanks heaps and heaps for dropping by to chat. And for the shout-out re Scent of a Man. It's one of my faves, too :)

  3. Hello ladies,
    No, sorry to disappoint, not the Old Spice man. Good luck with the YA proposal, Maree. Hear you on the Lewis Carroll quote. The only mss I haven't finished are those still waiting to be written. :)

  4. Hi Sandy -- I assure you, I'm not disappointed at all! The Old Spice man might have great abs, but he's not a writer so he wouldn't "get" me at all. He'd just think I was strange, LOL.

    "The only mss I haven't finished are those still waiting to be written" -- LOVE that! And so very true.

  5. Hi Maree,

    Kylie does a great interview doesn't she? It was fun to learn a bit more about you.

    I love your early goal setting. I did something similar and still have the 'seeing my work in print' to make happen yet - but I'm determined it will!

    How wonderful to receive the fan mail about your book! Makes all the hard work and late nights worthwhile I bet! :)

    1. Kylie does an awesome interview--her questions are always good ones :)

      LaVerne, the way the publishing industry is changing so rapidly at the moment, seeing your book in print might well be figuring out how to reformat your independently published eBook for via a POD company! I've had so many requests from Wattpad fans for my first YA, Freaks of Greenfield High to go to print so they can buy a copy to keep, I'm considering doing just that. It's an interesting time to be an author. We've never had so many options.

  6. Great interview! You touched on so many truths about writing. The most important being - keep doing it! Keep writing, keep learning, keep perfecting. Best of luck with the new releases!

    1. Thanks, Roz. And you, too, on your new adventure. Exciting stuff, huh?

  7. Loved the interview!! It had a heap of *sigh* moments picturing what it would be like if I ever get the chance to reach your milestones.

    Thanks heaps for the insight.

    1. Thanks, Jodie! I hope you have your own *sigh* moments, too. We all have them. Sometimes we just lose sight of how far we've come!

  8. Gosh, I hole up in my deadline cave for the day and take a break for dinner and thought I'd better check on Maree and her visitors.

    You've all been busy commenting! Thank you for keeping her occupied :-)

    PS - Maree, you can have bungee jumping, I'll stick to leaping out of airplanes with a parachute strapped to my back! :-)

    1. That, you can keep, Kylie! I'd rather wear silk than hang under it ;-)

  9. Wonderful interview. Great learning more about you, Maree.

    I have seen those jumping in that river, Maree, but from the river's POV seeing as I was white water rafting - that was adventurous enough for my aching body. :)