1) What were your favorite books growing up?
I think we were the last house in my neighborhood to get cable, which of course happened when I was in grad school. So I can literally say that as a kid I read everything I could get my hands on. When I was really young, I read Nancy Drew, Judy Blume and (I’m blushing to say this) Sweet Valley High. Then while babysitting at a neighbor’s house I discovered a copy of Hitty, Her First Hundred Years and the complete works of L. Frank Baum. I think those really expanded my ideas about what authors could do with perspective, place, and their own take on reality. After that, I started raiding my parents' room for books that were, honestly, completely age inappropriate. I think I read The Godfather at 13, as well as 1984, Atlas Shrugged, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. My mom was a voracious reader; we went to the library at least once a week. From her, I borrowed everything from Agatha Christie to Pat Conroy to various biographies and poetry. It’s funny, considering what I’ve written, but I’ve never really read romances. I’ve always been more interested in the story and the characters than in genre.
2) Now that you have, let’s say—some life experience, what would you tell your younger self?
There’s so much. I wrote a blog about this recently, and a lot of it was “quit worrying about how you appear to others, worry instead about what and whom you love. Take risks. Find your passion, follow it.” And sunscreen, obviously.
3) Describe your typical day.
I don’t really have a typical day. Every time I think I’m going to have one, someone in my house gets a fever or projectile vomiting. I have a four-year-old and an almost-two-year-old, and I do a little consulting work in addition to my writing, so no day looks like another. For someone as, er… distractible as I am, the variety is nice. Of course, that same personality trait probably means I would benefit from more structure. I do try to set goals each week for a number of hours spent writing, exercising, etc. Sometimes I even meet them!
4) Who is your favorite character in your books?
So far, each of my books has had a different main character, and I’ve thought each of them was my favorite in turn. Marci is the most like me in real life, probably, and Suzanne with her Southern drawl and list of conquests was great fun to write. My third book centers on Rebecca, who has been sort of a villain in the earlier novels; it’s been fascinating to explore her character and find out what makes her tick.
5) What do you do when writer’s block shows up, settles in, and makes itself comfortable?
I probably sound like my therapist self here, but I have this belief that writer’s block usually means something. Either I’m working on the wrong idea, or it’s not ripe yet, or worse, I’m trying to force myself to write something readers will have to force themselves to read. I try to honor the block by allowing myself to do something else for a bit – take a walk, fold laundry, wash dishes. No TV or internet (!!), but I do let myself go blank. If that doesn’t work, I let myself write the scene I’m dying to write, rather than the scene that comes next in the book. If I have to re-write or toss that scene later, that’s still better than staring at a blank screen for hours.
6) Do you find yourself pulling details from “real life” or does your imagination rule the roost?
A little of both. Imagination is so freeing, and it allows you to see even familiar places in a different light. Sometimes it’s hard to ignore the allure of reality, though, and all its delicious weirdness. I try to use my imagination when it comes to plot and scene, but draw from what I know about human nature when I write characters, so that they can lead me to believable, immersing moments.
7) What was the first manuscript you wrote (even if it never saw the light of day)?
When I was a kid, I wrote a little book called Against the Wind, about a girl who is orphaned in the mountain wilderness with only a herd of wild horses for friends. Did I mention we didn’t have cable? Since then I’ve also started several manuscripts and tossed them after a few thousand words. There was an early iteration of what later became The Marriage Pact that I abandoned with about 30,000 words finished. I scrapped it and started over, but I learned so much from writing it.
8) Have you ever pursued traditional publishing? Or did you go straight for indie publishing?
I went straight to indie. I’d done a bit of freelancing for magazines and websites, but when I decided to write my first novel, the prospect of spending years running to the mailbox to get the next rejection letter sounded too daunting. There’s nothing wrong with the traditional route, of course, and those rejections are great teachers. But with a new baby and another career around, it was too easy to imagine getting discouraged and giving up. For me, indie publishing was a great fit.
9) What Works In Progress are brewing? Any target dates for publication?
The third book in The Marriage Pact series, called Baggage Check, is targeted for publication in November 2013. I’m also mulling over a couple of new series, both with strong female leads. One is definitely more YA/paranormal, the other I’m not sure about yet. I have a couple of single romantic comedies on my list as well. Plus, I may be collaborating with a girlfriend of mine who’s a health coach on a non-fiction work about weight, health & body image. Now all I need is more hours in the day!
10) How can fans reach you?
@MJPullen on Twitter