Today, we are lucky enough to have New York Times Best-selling author Marie Bostwick on the blog! Thank you so much for being here, Ms. Bostwick, and for sharing your thoughts with us!
AN: How did become a published author?
MB: Before I ever even considered submitting my work, I spent years learning the craft of writing. For the first three, I wrote a short story every month, never with an intention of getting them published but only with an eye to honing my skills. Those were the years of my apprenticeship as an author, devoting myself to becoming the best writer I could be. At the end of those three years, one of my short stories kept getting longer and longer until, finally, I realized it was a book. I spent four years working on what became my first novel, FIELDS OF GOLD, published in 2005.
Once my book was done, I let it sit in a drawer for nearly a year before finally working up the courage to send it out. I knew absolutely no one in the publishing world and had no idea of how books got published so I did what I always do when I need information – I went to the library.
After some reading, I realized I was going to need an agent and that to get one I’d need a query letter. I poured over the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, looking for agents that I thought might be interested in my kind of book. Next, after reading examples of query letters that worked in Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Agents, I started working on one of my own.
I spent three weeks on that query letter – no kidding. I polished that letter like a diamond. When it was ready, I started contacting the agents on my list, about ten at a time. Then, I waited. That was the hardest part. I kept careful track of all my responses, making sure I followed up appropriately. I got a lot of rejections. But I was encouraged to note that 25% of the agents I contacted wrote back and asked to see more. Most of them ended up passing on my book but if that many people were interested enough to want more, I felt like I must be on to something.
And, as it turned out, I was. After about four months, I found a very enthusiastic agent. Once that hurdle was cleared, it started all over again – more queries, more rejections, more waiting until, finally it came – the call.
AN: What was it like when you got “the call”?
MB: For me, getting the call is one of those things I’ll always remember but, at the same time, if you were to ask me for details, I’d draw a blank. But I do know that on April 14, 2004, my agent called to say we had an offer for a two-book deal with Kensington and after that…I pretty much didn’t hear anything else she said. I was so happy that none of the words really registered. It wasn’t the most satisfying and thrilling moment in my career, but it was as close second. First place goes to the day when I came home and found the galleys from the actual book on the dining room table. I sobbed when that happened – all happy tears.
All told, it took ten years from when I first began writing in a serious way to when my first book was published.
AN: Can you tell us what a day for you is like, in terms of writing?
MB: I am a very slow writer compared to a lot of people, so I have to spend a lot of time at it. Much of my morning ends up being spent on the business and promotional side of things so I am usually not able to get down to serious writing until after lunch. I try to wrap up by 6pm or so but it really just depends on when my deadline is and how the work is going. If I’m in a good place and don’t have to be anywhere, there’s no reason not to keep going – especially if the book is due soon. Sometimes 6pm stretches to midnight or beyond.
I am fortunate enough to have a lovely basement studio – half is devoted to writing and half to quilting – with a great window looking out onto our property. It’s a wonderful space to work in. Oddly, however, one of my favorite places to write is on airplanes. I’m not sure why but I’m incredibly productive at 30,000 feet. I do have one odd little habit; at the beginning of each book, I choose a CD and I play it over and over and over as I’m writing. It seems to help me get focused quickly and stay focused.
AN: I’ve noticed that there is often a very strong spiritual thread woven throughout your books. Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose to include a subject that could be considered controversial and why it was important for you to do so?
MB: It’s so funny to me that issues of spirituality would be considered controversial – no matter what conclusions you reach, this is something that most everyone considers at some point so it seems entirely natural to write about it, at least to me. Because my faith is entirely woven into my being, including spiritual elements isn’t something I think of as a choice but as part of painting a complete portrait of the characters. However, I have chosen, quite deliberately, not to write in the genre of Christian fiction. For me, that would just present too many limitations of what I could write and how I could write it.
AN: Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for my readers hoping to publish a book? If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were just starting out, before you had any success, what would you say?
MB: For those wanting to publish I would say, spend time really studying the art of writing and honing your skills before sending out your work. Give yourself permission to have an apprenticeship and then enjoy every minute of it! There is sometimes so much pressure to be published that I think people sometimes miss the joy of writing and that’s a shame. From a purely artistic standpoint, these pre-publication years are the most liberating and potentially creative times you will ever know as a writer. Right now you have all the time you want to make your book the absolutely best it can be. Not having a deadline is just a huge gift.
Okay, I know that a lot of you are probably rolling your eyes about now. But if I were talking to my younger self today, that’s exactly what I’d tell her. She probably wouldn’t believe me, but it’s absolutely true.
Marie Bostwick’s newest release, The Second Sister, is available now!
Years of long workdays and little sleep as a political campaigner are about to pay off now that Lucy Toomey’s boss is entering the White House. But when her estranged older sister, Alice, unexpectedly dies, Lucy is drawn back to Nilson’s Bay, her small, close-knit, Wisconsin hometown.
An accident in her teens left Alice mentally impaired, and she was content to stay in Nilson’s Bay. Lucy, meanwhile, got out and never looked back. But now, to meet the terms of Alice’s eccentric will, Lucy has taken up temporary residence in her sister’s cottage. There she discovers a trunk filled with exquisite quilts made by her sister and mysterious inscribed “To Maeve”, a name Alice never mentioned. As the days pass, Lucy begins to see the town, and Alice’s life, with new eyes.
Alice’s diverse group of friends appears to have little in common besides their love of quilting. Yet deep affection for Alice united them and soon Lucy, too, is brought into the fold as they share problems and stories. And as she finds warmth and support in this new circle, Lucy begins to understand this will be her sister’s enduring gift—a chance to move beyond her difficult past, and find what she has long been missing…
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