Publishing Advice and Secret Confessions with Mary Calmes

July 5, 2015

A big thank you to Mary Calmes, who agreed to do this interview and answer the questions of her readers. I also want to thank you, the readers, who came up with the questions and thus made this interview possible.

I just wanted to thank everyone for the marvelous questions and to the lovely Corina for putting this together.

First of all, name one thing readers would be surprised to know about you.

That I cannot cook at all not even a little. Rhys Ford came to try and help me and gave up and cooked for my family herself. They did not want her to leave.

While being all busy with writing, do you even find the time to read? What are your favorite books you can read again and again?

I read romance novels over and over, some old ones with Scottish Highland lairds and blushing, virginal English brides, but mostly, for a few years now, I either read nonfiction or gay romances. I have favorites that I’ve read many times, like Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford or Dex In Blue by Amy Lane, Under The Skin but Bennet and Tachna, Hot Head by Damon Suede, and many, many more.

What made you start writing M/M novels? How long have you been writing, and was it a long process to become a published author?

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 12 years old, and that’s when I first started writing, but it wasn’t until I was older that I knew that I wanted to create romance. The world can be a scary, dark place and romance soothes the soul. So I started to write the traditional boy meets girl dynamic but everything I wrote fell flat. There was just no feeling behind it and it didn’t feel like it had any life. During this time I read The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley which had a profound effect on me. Before that any other gay centered story I read had a sad, horrific ending. But in Bradley’s vision, there was happiness. It was a long road to get there, but I loved it so much. Then I read What Love Means to You People by Nancy Kay Shapiro. That was another, long painful road, but it had a good ending. I was sold. I decided that this was what I wanted to write.

When I finished my first story, which was A Matter of Time, I did what I thought you did and looked for an agent. I sent out queries and no one wanted anything to do with Jory. I finally realized that traditional publishing, agent to publisher to Barnes & Noble, was not in the cards for me. E-books were just starting to get big then so I decided to find a publisher and go the digital way. Before Dreamspinner, I was with the wrong publisher so my advice is, always do your research. My first publisher was not a good fit for me in any way so I was lucky that when I finished Change of Heart, that I decided to look for a new one and found Dreamspinner. I’ve been so fortunate since then.

I hope this question is not too personal; if yes you of course don’t have to answer it. How do you unite your writing with your private life (family, friends, partner, etc.) without neglecting anyone or anything?

I don’t.  I wish I could. I do a terrible job of balancing work and my family and when my son was four he said his Mommy couldn’t play with him because she had to push buttons. Broke my heart. But writing is how I take care of my family so it’s that classic dilemma. My husband is extremely supportive and is very proud of me but sometimes I do get the whole, if the deadline isn’t imminent you better come out to dinner with us, ultimatum. I need to figure out a better way to do this all but my time management skills are just abysmal.

When you write a book, do you plan it before you start writing or do you let things just develop themselves? Do you plan a book series in advance or do you take things as they come?

There are plotters and pantsers and some people who are a little of both. I am ONLY a pantser. I wish I could plot at all but basically I name my characters and just start writing and hope I figure out something along the way. I mean I have a general idea, like where the characters are now and where I want them to be at the end of the book. But beyond that, I think it up as I go along.

Do you work at several books at the same time or do you rather focus on one? 

I used to write several at once but with my deadlines so tight lately, I haven’t had the luxury of working on 2 at once. I prefer to do 2 at once because if one slows down, you can jump to the other.

How long does it take you on average to write a story and what does your daily writing routine look like?

It really depends. I would love it to take 2 months to write a book but right now it’s averaging one a month and that’s a little fast for me. I’m better with 2 months for a novel and one for a novella. I prefer a more leisurely pace. The faster I write something, the longer the edits take. If it takes longer, my edit it shorter which makes sense because there’s less to fix.

Which novel or series did you enjoy writing the best? Did one of them give you sleepless nights?

To date, I’ve enjoyed writing my marshals the most. I like the banter between my two heroes and I enjoy figuring out what they’re going to do next. I never have sleepless nights because I don’t’ really sleep much. Whenever I see those commercials about people who need to take medicine to sleep, I’m amazed. I can fall asleep if I sit still too long. I’m always ready to fall asleep.

Are there particular songs you like to hear during the writing?

It depends on the story. For A Matter of Time, I listened to a lot of trance music. For my warders, I listened to a lot of Jazz, so it really depends.

Is there any specific type of man that fascinates you more than others? If yes, do you often tend to use that type in your stories?

I like big strong silent men who take a long time to figure out they’re in love but once they do, they fall hard and completely. Possessive, growly, grouchy, gentle men who need to be loved are my favorite and in my books they’re known as my alphas. I would say that Rand Holloway from Timing, Sam Kage from A Matter of Time, Logan Church from Change of Heart and Ian Doyle from All Kinds of Tied Down all fall into that category.

Are you one of the authors that get kicked by their muse all of the time, especially when she wants something that doesn’t really fit into your writing timetable in that situation?

I am. Whatever I’m writing at the time, I always want to be writing something else. That ALWAYS happens. It’s those little plot bunnies that come hippity-hopping into your thoughts without me wanting them at all. It’s very frustrating.

Do some protagonists grow dear to your heart more than others? If yes, which are the ones you like best? Did one couple drive you to insanity?

Lately I have fallen in love with Lazlo Maguire who is the hero of my next Mangrove book, Easy Evenings. I enjoyed writing his novella more than the others. Sometimes I can see beyond the end of the book, I can see a character’s whole life and that’s when I know I love him best. Like Weber from Frog, I could write every day of his life and be happy doing it. My couples don’t drive me insane because I always know where the relationship is going and I know that the characters are in love.

If you could have a drink with any of your book’s fictional characters who would it be? Why?

I’m not much of a drinker, but I’d love to go out for coffee with Nate from Acrobat. We’re both English majors, we like all the same movies, and he’d go shopping with me for stuff for the house. He’s very kind and soothing to be around.

Which character do you think most closely resembles your own personality?

Sam Kage is most like me, bossy, loud, a little selfish, hates change, and wants the people he loves to listen to him.

Have you ever got insulted because of your books? Or have your books ever got insulted? If yes, how did you react to it?

I’ve been on the receiving end of some scathing reviews but not insulted. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion so I can’t fault them.

Last week DSP published the German translation of Acrobat. What inspired you to write this novel?

There’s a picture, it’s called Parallel Dreams by Steve Walker. In the painting, two men are sleeping and the first time I saw it I thought, I wonder what the story is there? Steve Walker used to license some of his paintings for use with Dreamspinner Press books and so I immediately asked if we could use it for the cover. Sadly, Steve passed away earlier in 2012 and I remember being so sad when I found that out. Anne Cain, the artist who did the cover of my book was friends with Steve and so she painted the cover of my book as a homage to him. She has a touching note at the front of my book.

What was the most touching scene to write in this novel?

For me the most touching scene is when Nate and Dreo and Michael are all on the couch together having a family night at home. I really love that one.

Would you say there was one character whose muse was the loudest, or dictated more of the story?

Because I write everything, so far, in first person except for 1 novel and 1 novella, the main character is always the voice I hear the loudest because I am in his head. So for this novel, that was Nate Qells, English professor by day, babysitter by night. J

If you had to pick a theme song for the novel, what would it be?

Worrisome Heart by Melody Gardot. I listened to a lot of jazz while I was writing Acrobat but that song in particular stands out because it’s about needing someone to love you for all your flaws not just the good parts.

Are you planning to write more series about paranormal topics such as shapeshifters, vampires, demons, etc? 

I have the last warder book to write and am currently wrapping up my L’Ange series but actually my plan is to give the paranormal a rest for a while. The world building is exhausting so I’m going to take a very long break from it. I may do more but at the moment I can’t imagine it.

Have you ever thought about collaborating with other authors and writing books together with them?

I have written anthologies with other authors but as far as writing with another author the only person I’ve collaborated with has been Cardeno C. I drove CC nuts as CC is a plotter, but we made it out alive, still the best of friends.

Last but not least: What are you currently working on?

Right now I am writing the last in my L’Ange series and after that I have to jump right into Conrad’s book which is the sequel to Mine.

Again I wanted to thank you so much for all the wonderful questions.

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