Monday, May 18, 2009

Maralys Wills Interview on Writing

LH: I’ve enjoyed your memoirs and your workshops at writing conferences. I’m pleased you have a book out on writing now, Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead. How did you get interested in writing?

MW: When I was a little girl, I lived on a ranch seven miles from town. I read all the time. Once I ripped all the blank pages out of my mom’s books and tied them together with string so I could write a book of my own. I developed a passion for writing books and it never faded.

LH: What was your first success?

MW: An article for United Airlines’ Mainliner Magazine. I sold them an article on my kids’ hang gliding for $350. That was a lot of money in those days, enough to fly to Hawaii! We took a trip to Hawaii on United, and there was my article in the seat pocket, and it was all I could do not to run up and down the aisle pointing to my page.

LH: What has been your experience with agents?

MW: I’ve been agented for nine books, yet it was something I did myself that sold five of them. You have to be willing to help. Nobody will work as hard for you as you’ll work for yourself. Three different agents tried to sell my biggest success, Higher Than Eagles. Longstreet Press bought it after Richard Curtis and a couple of others gave up and I sent it out myself. Then I got a fourth agent to negotiate the contract. Now, I’m working with Stephens Press. Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead came out with them.

LH: What are your thoughts about marketing?

MW: With all the practice I’ve had, I’m going to write a book on that subject. I’ve had two great publicists and one bad one. They always want to send you to radio and TV interviews, but I’m not convinced that sells my books as well as being a speaker. I love to give workshops. They really connect with the audience better than these short radio talks. People buy the book on the spot.

LH: If you could go back in time and start over, tell us one thing you’ve learned that would help you succeed with less struggle.

MW: You have to take a class. No matter how smart you are or how many books you’ve read, you don’t know how to write without some formal training. It’s like going to piano recitals. You can go to a hundred piano recitals, but you wouldn’t expect to come home and play the piano. Yet a lot of avid readers think they can sit down and automatically write a book. Writing is like creating a brick wall. You want people to see the bricks, but not the mortar. Yet it’s the mortar that holds everything together. All those hidden techniques that nobody notices. Even the smartest readers don’t necessarily know about the mortar. Writing technique is what you learn in classes and critique groups. I wish I’d started taking classes years before I did.

LH: Thanks for sharing your insights with us, Maralys.

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