Charleston Paranormal Fiction Examiner (CPFE): Who, or what, is your inspiration to write?
Ann Tracy Marr (ATM): My inspiration is a dream. Like all good romantics, I dream of the knight on a white charger and am compelled to put the dream to paper. That’s a sappy answer, isn’t it?
The truth is that the more I write, the more I dream. Real dreams, as in going to sleep and dreaming. Once I put a dream on paper, I stop dreaming it. If I don’t write, my dreams get so cluttered that eventually I feel I’m not sleeping well. I wake up dragged out as if I am neglecting my health. So, I write. BTW, this is opposite most writers I know. They dream more if they don’t write. Me, I dream, write, and dream more. Being a prolific reader of romance, I am pretty sure my delicious ideas have not been used by anyone else, and I can’t stand the thought that they don’t get read. But that is the publishing end of writing. I’m back to my sappy answer. My inspiration is a dream.
CPFE: When did you start writing?
ATM: Serious writing? That was eons ago, when my kids hit high school. It is eons because they have graduated college, gotten jobs, and don’t need me to manage them anymore. It has been so long that this distractible author has finished several more books than have made it into print.
CPFE: When did you realize that you wanted to become an author?
ATM: I toyed with the idea of writing in high school when teachers nagged that I had a gift that should be used. It was the specter of my two daughter’s tuition bills coming that pushed me into writing a novel to publish. Naïvely, I thought I would knock off a book or two and have the money to finance Harvard and Yale.
CPFE: What is your advice for aspiring authors?
ATM: Don’t count on writing to finance a dinner out, much less college. Write because you enjoy doing it. Write because a story nags you. Write because you feel empty if you don’t. Ignore the rules and write what you want. Just be sure it works well enough that editors will also ignore the rules and print it.
CPFE: Do you do research for your books/stories? What kind of research do you do?
ATM: I do tons of research, on earth shaking concepts as well as niggling details, almost all over the Internet. Wikipedia was a great starting point for finding the scanty information available on the Green Man, a minor but pivotal character in “To His Mistress.” You probably only know him as the garden plaque of a man with leaves growing out of his nose, but he is an ancient deity. Mapquest tells me if I have a town in the right place. There are sites with information on body language, which is great when you want to reveal that a character is lying without typing, “he lied.” Universities upload archives of rare writings about Camelot. I could use pictures of the Battery in Charleston to facilitate the description of a pleasant walkway. “A line of comfortably antique houses, two and three stories tall and bordered by tootsie roll trees, pushed the couple to the water’s edge.” Oh, yes, I do tons of research.
CPFE: Do you outline before you start writing?
ATM: Heaven forbid I should write an outline. I would fail to look at it, much less follow it. That said, I do have a firm idea in my head about the general direction of a story, with many of the main plot points memorized. I do that before I start a book. In “Round Table Magician,” military secrets are stolen. When I started writing, I knew there was a theft, but I didn’t figure out what was stolen until the plot forced me to it. Then I spent three days wandering the Internet until I found a historical fact that fit the theft. I didn’t know who the bad person was until I had to reveal his/her identity, and I didn’t choose the villain’s fate until it was unavoidable. But I knew about the theft and I knew what the protagonists would do about it before I started writing. Once the characters told me who the villain was, I had to go back and write in clues pointing to that person. The red herrings were already there because I knew while I was writing who was NOT a bad guy.
CPFE: Do you let the story take you where it wants to go?
ATM: This question doesn’t apply to my writing. Or does it? Most of my episodes of ‘writer’s block” are periods when I actively (and maybe subconsciously) adjust my mental outline. I plan the major plot points of each story, but then a character refuses to follow along. The youngest sister in “Thwarting Magic” is an example. She started out quirky, but I didn’t plan her to be more than comic relief. There I was, merrily writing, and she demanded a starring role in the story. She may be imaginary, but that girl had her own ideas on how to behave. I tried to whip her into shape, but caved in and changed the story to suit her. After all, she was living the events while I just recorded them; her ideas ended up being more authentic than my preplanned ones.
CPFE: Do you write at a desk, or do you have a laptop that you drag around the house with you?
ATM: I have a desk with a huge desktop PC, nice big monitor, lots of clutter and a muscle saving ergonomic keyboard. I also have what I call Baby — a smaller laptop with a barely adequate keyboard and screen. Usually, I am parked in front of the desktop, but Baby goes where I need it. Right now, I am at a restaurant in the building where Daughter Two works, waiting for her release from paid bondage at five o’clock. Baby is downright helpful. The two computers communicate via flash drives, except when I forget to copy a file and have to wing it.
CPFE: Besides a pen/pencil/notepad/computer, what is a must-have while writing?
ATM: A brain. Fingers to transcribe the brain’s output. All else is fluff.
CPFE: How did it feel to sign your first publishing contract?
ATM: I’ve signed three publishing contracts and the second and third were much the same as the first. They were fleeting moments of elation and joy in a life mired in the mediocrity of “doing fine, thank you.”
CPFE: What is your favorite genre to write? Your least favorite?
ATM: Don’t got no favorites, ma’am. I like writing about people who could be real, including those who don’t speak proper English. If I can get in a character’s head and make them come to life while I tell an entertaining story, I am happy. I do love the Regency era – so far, my published works are set in England during that romantic time. I don’t have any unique ideas about vampires, so I’ll probably leave them to other authors. But no way am I going to write anything for teens. They don’t speak English, they speak slang.
CPFE: Is there a genre that you haven’t written yet, but you want to try?
ATM: How about a full blooded mystery? Who killed Jimmy Hoffa? Why did the UFO fly over O’Hare? What were the mysterious booms heard on Kiawah Island — were they Seneca guns or was someone performing secret experiments to construct a fountain of youth?
CPFE: Tell me a bit about your books? What do you think makes them stand out from the rest?
ATM: My published titles are paranormal Regency romances. Paranormal because King Arthur, Camelot, and Merlin’s magic are not myth, but history. Regency because they are set in early 19th century England (specifically 1812-1815) and romance because a woman and a man find lasting love in each.
I started with a plot and edited until Merlin’s magic found a home in the Regency. When the Banshee Brigade wandered into the room, I kept finding more and more silly things for them to do. So it turned into a series. The latest is a keeper, if I can be forgiven a play on words.
Someone, somewhere, loves bossy women. Sir Sloane Johnstone, Keeper of the Grail. runs circles around the Banshee Brigade and grapples with a challenger to his title, all the time keeping a weather eye out for Sarah Frampton’s missing Fra Angelico painting. It will be released by Awe-struck Ebooks before the end of the year if all goes well.
The published books in the series are:
Whimsical Adrian Hughes stumbles over holes and Margaret Treadway’s far from perfect marriage in Thwarting Magic.
Round Table Magician sees the privacy loving Lord Brinston doing his damndest to keep Lady Martha in her place.
To His Mistress. Alexander, Earl of Shelton, is perhaps the most stubborn man alive — so muleheaded that he is going to divorce Katherine if it is the last thing he does. Then he can make her his mistress.
The Banshee Brigade parades through every book. . If you are a lover of the Regency you will recognize the word that describes the Banshee Brigade: they are fribbles. And there is always a mystery incorporated into the plot, whether serious or inconsequential.
I kept the Regency setting authentic. Compare my concept to Charleston’s history: many Huguenots moved to Charleston where they could exercise their religious beliefs in peace. Today, few people refer to their presence, but the Huguenots left a mark on the city. That is what I have done with Camelot. The most obvious reminders of King Arthur in my Regency are the curses people use and the presence of the Round Table, which replaces Parliament as the ruling entity. Magic exists, but practitioners keep it secret. But Lady Jersey is a patroness of Almack’s and Prinny’s antics are a constant source of scandal.
When you see the phrase, ‘Romance with a splash of magic,’ you have run into my Regency series. I have had uniformly good reviews – one reviewer commented that the paranormal element sounds odd, but it really works.
CPFE: There are many fascinating historical places in Charleston, South Carolina. Are there any within your books?
ATM: I apologize, but I have nothing from Charleston in any of my books. I could work in my English hero sending condolences to an acquaintance, Nathaniel Russell, when he hears the distressing story of a tornado ripping the roof off Russell’s Charleston home in 1811. (See what a bit of Internet research can do to authenticate a plot? My hero becomes more 3-dimensional, having connections in ‘the colonies’ regarding a historically correct event.)
CPFE: And, for fun, if you could be anyone for a day – real or fictional – who would you be?
ATM: I want to be a time traveler. It would not last just a day; I would go back to that one day again and again and travel at will throughout history. Imagine taking a camera back to take a photo of Jesus delivering a sermon, investigating the 1902 apparition that frightened and mystified Charleston, staking out Area 51 when the UFO supposedly crashed, and visiting my great-great-great grandfather. Where were you born, Joseph Keeler? I could answer great and obscure historical questions, adding richness to our lives.
Ann Tracy Marr writes award-winning paranormal Regency romances. Her books include: Thwarting Magic, Round Table Magician, and To His Mistress. For contact information and details about her series, visit her website at www.anntracymarr.com. A computer consultant in the Midwest, Marr lives with her husband, two cats, and plots that bounce off the wall.
Links for Ann Tracy Marr
Brand: Romance with a splash of magic
(Buy links are on my website and through the publisher)
YouTube Trailers: http://www.youtube.com/marr794
Excerpt from Keeper of the Grail, coming soon from Awe-Struck Ebooks
Sir Sloane Johnstone set down the cup with a twitch, but his movements were smooth, practiced. Glaring towards the door his voice roughened, demonstrating the impatience his hands were trained to suppress.
The Beefeater who opened the door was past the age of retirement, but he would not be demoted to half pay. He was Ravenmaster. He tended the ravens. Legend had it that if the birds departed, the White Tower, the monarchy, and the entire kingdom would fall. Foolish Prinny, the Regent, walked on eggshells around this man. King George himself in his madness wouldn’t interfere with him. Sloane sighed.
“What can I do for you?”
Glancing at the thick desk pad and stone cup, the Beefeater complained, “Sir, there is not enough meat in the bin t’feed the ravens past Monday week. I can’t have the birds hungry. They’ll peck.”
“Then order more.”
“Quartermaster won’t; not without funds.”
“Squire Montagu says there are no funds?”
“Yes, sir. He sent me to Lieutenant Judge, but the lieutenant’s no help; he says there ain’t no funds. It won’t do, sir. The ravens must be fed.”
A muscle knotted in the back of Sloane’s neck. No funds? Oh, hell. He dug in his pocket and flipped a golden coin to the Ravenmaster. “Order your meats. If the butcher balks, tell him the Keeper will be personally responsible for the bill until the snafu is ironed out. I’ll look into the matter.”
“Yes, sir. Thank ye, sir. The ravens thank ye, sir.” The Beefeater bowed his way out, closing the heavy door silently. Sloane strode through the darkness of the office to the arrow slit window and peered out into broad daylight, absentmindedly rubbing the nape of his neck. There was no sign of poverty to be seen in the bustle in front of the barracks.
Sunlight flowed over his shoulder and warmed the desktop, but his face was in shadow. No funds? Bloody hell, the Tower should be swimming in lard. The Round Table voted an increase in budget, something to do with giving the appearance of prosperity in face of the massive debt piling up behind the war. Visitors to His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London should see sleek, well-fed ravens. But if Montagu said there were no funds, then there were not. So where had the money gone?
Merlin, he was tired of problems. His shoulders ached with the weight. At least the Ravenmaster could retire. Sir Sloane Johnstone, the Keeper of the Grail, was chained.
© 2011 AnnTracy Marr