Meet Marilyn Rice. A passionate writer who is growing her family one novel at a time. Learn how she stays motivated, inspires and ends her novels in a very unique way. And if you think I’ve missed anything please comment and ask, I’m sure she’ll be back again to reply.
1) What about writing inspires you most?
I love the creativity. I took a writing course many years ago and have written short stories, articles and non-fiction but my forte is the novel. The inspiration, for all of my work, comes from anywhere and everywhere, people, incidents and events. I firmly believe that all fiction is a combination of imagination, research and experience on the part of the author.
My novels are labours of love and my babies! I spend a lot of time planning and plotting, weaving ideas and creating characters before I begin writing and I always write the ending first. This may sound strange, but then I know where everything is leading to. I usually have to make a few changes when I’ve finished writing because the characters or the story has taken a slightly different route from the one I had expected, along the way; but I love it when the characters take on a life of their own and do something I had not planned. In Look After Each Other, for example, I had no idea that one of the main characters was going to die in a car accident, it was not supposed to be like that. It just happened and felt right.
I also made a decision early on that all of my books would have the title as the final words. So, the last sentence and words are easy, it is just the first 100,000 or so that are slightly more difficult!
We all know that the first paragraph is the most important. If it does not engage the reader, he or she is unlikely to want to carry on, however good the rest of the novel may be. I tend to spend a lot of time waiting or praying for inspiration to get it right. However, while I am actively writing I become completely involved in my work, my characters live with me night and day. Yes, they are “real”. If characters are not real to the author, then the book will not work; it will not be a convincing story. I share their time and environment; I love being in that fictitious world and unaware of reality. While writing Time & Tide, I spent two weeks in a hayloft with Irene and Danny in a Derbyshire village, in 1966; it was lovely and nostalgic.
2) When did you know you wanted to write? Was there a defining moment for you?
I have always wanted to write. As a child I loved reading and writing. Reading is a form of escapism.
A book will transport you to mysterious, magic and unknown pastures and I loved that.
Sadly, writing for the majority of us is not a way of paying the bills, but teaching is. I left school in 1969 and went to Crewe College of Education to train for the teaching profession. I taught in secondary schools, in the UK, during a period when there were many changes in our education system. The 70’s and 80’s were difficult and challenging times, and I was one of many teachers who seemed to become exhausted after twenty years. I retired through ill-health at the young age of 42. This was the defining time for me. In one way, it seemed like a heaven sent opportunity to be able to do something which had always been impossible. I was in receipt of a pension, and could have spent the rest of my days as a couch potato, but why idle away the days wasting time? One of the great advantages of writing is that it is not essential to work for, or at, a set time daily. I can work at my own pace.
3) How do you define success with regards to your writing career?
Success, initially, was getting my first book into print. It was that moment of ecstasy when I opened the first box of books and saw that FIRST copy of my book. I ran next door, screaming and shouting, ‘Look… look…’ and proudly thrust my book at the neighbours.
Secondly, success is when people want to read my work and then say how much they enjoyed it.
Thirdly, success is when I’m getting advanced orders for the next book before I have even finished it.
Fourthly, I said, when I started Look After Each Other, that if I could help just one woman change her life for the better, after being at the mercy of a control-freak or a victim of domestic violence, I would be happy. I now know that at least one lady has used Sofia as a role model and starting a new and better life.
4) Reviewing blog at http://lookaftereachother.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html I see you visited many different cities and countries in your blog. Have you been to each location or do you want to go?
Both, the idea and how to do a blog, came from my publisher. Clearly, the main aim is to sell books. Incidentally, I have only just found out that “blog” is short for weblog! I gave considerable thought to how frequently I should do them and the content. I decided that it should be a weekly one and with as much variation in content as possible, and finishing with a positive thought for the week ahead.
In the summer months, at least in the northern hemisphere, we tend to go on holiday. Therefore, July and August would be good months to get my virtual jet out of the hangar and ‘hit’ some of the capital cities and give readers twenty facts about each one.
I have always loved travel, visiting different places, meeting the people, learning about their way of life and culture, enjoying and experiencing the traditions and cuisine. My first experience of jet travel was on a Jumbo Jet to Israel in 1975. In those days, the airport and the journey were exciting and stimulating. There is an old saying that the journey, to a holiday destination, is half the fun. Since the advent of sky-jacking, terrorism, volcanic ash and numerous incidents which have tightened up security, and led to luggage restrictions, the journey has ceased to be fun. It has turned into a nightmare. Now, I hate the journey with all its hassle. It is only the fact that, I know I will enjoy it, when I reach my destination. Hopefully, I will be reunited with my luggage at the “praying” carousel, leave the airport and then it will all have been worthwhile.
Last summer, the jet visited London, Canberra, Washington, Tokyo, Cairo and Paris. Canberra, Washington and Tokyo, I have never visited but after researching them I would love to; although, I have popped across the pond to both Canada and the USA.
I have been to London many times. As a British Citizen, I am proud of my country, our heritage and Monarchy. I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Tower, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s, Trafalgar Square, the museums, the parks, the shops and of course, the West End. I have yet to try The London Eye or take a boat ride on the Thames.
Cairo? I visited in 2003 on a day trip from Cyprus. It was an unforgettable ‘once in a life time’ experience. We left Paphos airport early in the morning for the hour flight to Cairo. Before lunch at the Hilton Hotel, we had a city tour and visited the Museum. In the afternoon, we went to the Sphinx and Pyramids at Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the only surviving one. I had always imagined having nice sunny photographs as a memento of the day. Sadly, we picked one of the six days in the year when it was raining. Such is life! In the evening, we were taken on a cruise along the Nile and entertained by belly dancers. Then, exhausted we had a late flight back to Cyprus. It is amazing what you can achieve in a day.
Paris? Yes I have been to Paris. It was for a long weekend in 1990. I did all the tourist things, visited the main sites (Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Opera House, Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame etcetera) and a river cruise. So, I have cruised along the Nile and the Seine and a few other rivers but not along the Thames!
This summer my jet, with Sofia and Donald on board, visited Ottawa, Buenos Aires, South Africa, Wellington, Beijing, Moscow, Athens and Rome. I am afraid I have only actually visited Moscow and Athens. The rest? Maybe one day. Sofia and Donald certainly seemed to have had a good time and I have definitely enjoyed doing the research and adding to my general knowledge. Did you know that South Africa has three capital cities?
I spent the New Year in Moscow in 1976, visited the Kremlin and saw a performance from the Bolshoi Ballet. That was when Russia was the USSR and under a communist regime. I am sure it is very different today,
Athens? Yes, it was a day trip while staying on the Greek island of Evia. The Acropolis is magnificent!
At the end of August our round the world trip ends in Rome. In September, Donald and Sofia will be hosting the second year of ‘Stimulating September’; a month of general knowledge quizzes, so do pop along and test your general knowledge.
5) You said “I found writing my first novel, Time & Tide, a fascinating experience and wonderful journey down memory lane.” Please elaborate on this and what this book personally meant to you?
In the mid 1990’s I was trying to write a book especially for the Millennium. At that time the world was looking back at events of the 20th century and noting the changing times. It seemed like a good idea to write a saga and incorporate a diary spanning through the second half of the century and having the main character, Irene actually born on January 1st 1950, which would make her 50 at the turn of the century.
Irene, is a typical woman of my own generation, she has several relationships and marriages. Her mother, Charlotte and grandmother, Elizabeth are also typical of the early part of the last century where a woman’s ‘duty’ was to be a wife and mother. Charlotte’s role, in my novel, is to keep this diary of social and historical events, as well as family ones.
Some of the story, particularly the village life of the 50’s and 60’s was very much based on my own experiences; it was this part which led me down ‘memory lane’ to recall childhood memories which was a ‘fascinating experience and wonderful journey’. It made me realize that I had had a happy, carefree childhood in idyllic surroundings at a time before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and the world was a very different place. The pace of life was much slower and it was prior to the modern technology which rules our lives today. It is said that childhood days are the best days of one’s life; it is so sad that one does not realize this until adulthood with all its responsibilities is reached. Yes, there were moments of sadness, particularly the deaths of my younger sister and grandfather; such moments are strongly imprinted on my mind but they do not detract from the overall halcyon days.
I did a lot of research for the diary aspect; likewise this brought back memories of events which had been dormant in my mind.
Time & Tide was my first novel and published book. I had written Innocent Victim during the summer holiday in 1987, this book was never published but rewritten as No Regrets and became my second published work. I learned all about the publishing game, editing, typesetting, jacket, blurb, pricing, library copies etc from self-publishing this particular book. I will always be indebted to Steve Connors and his ‘Citron Press’ company for all the help and information I received from them. Sadly, like so many publishing companies, this one no longer exists. I launched Time & Tide on my own 50th birthday in Kings Square, West Bromwich. The publication and launching of this first novel marked a turning point in my life and the real onset of a new career which is why, whatever else I write or achieve, this book will always remain the cornerstone and special.
6) You now have five books out: ‘Look After Each Other’, ‘Time & Tide’, ‘No Regrets’, ‘Stay in Touch’, and the sequel to ‘Look After Each Other’, ‘Sofia’s legacy’. Did you enjoy writing one more than the other? Did you find your sequel a difficult one to write to ensure it was readable by itself but didn’t repeat the first story?
I tend to enjoy the book I am working on. All of my books are different, personal and exciting journeys. I have written a saga with an integrated fifty year diary; one in the format of a journal through the year of 1986; a black comedy in three parts; a novel with a ‘sixth sense’ twist and the fifth one, or sequel to Look After Each Other has characters in two universes, some have passed over and are living in a parallel world and integrating with characters who are still alive. . .now that is a REAL challenge! The final part in the ‘Sofia’ trilogy is equally challenging. I am working on that at the present time and answering all the unanswered questions. What was all the mystery surrounding Charles Urquart-Latterley? Does Derek marry Miranda? Does he ever find out the truth about his wife? So, number six, Love You For Ever is definitely my favourite at the moment.
I did not find it particularly difficult to write the sequel. It begins where the first book ends, namely at Sofia’s funeral. I found it quite easy to summarize the preceding events in the first two chapters. From chapter three onwards the story moves forward. Sofia is discovering her new life or death and Derek and his family carry on without her.
7) You started blogging by answering some pretty typical questions for writer’s to be asked. Have you been asked anything unusual since you’ve started writing or since you became an author?
Yes, I began my blog with an “Ask the Author” session and answered the most usual questions we get asked. That was followed by “Derekisms” and the one on the subject which I feel passionate about, “Keep books alive!” In this age of technology eBooks’, Kindle, Nook etc I feel that the traditional paper book is dying. We are watching the independent bookshops and even the chain book stores close down. Borders were the last one to disappear. It is up to us to ensure that the traditional book with beautiful, crisp pages to turn over does not become as extinct as the dinosaur. I never pass a book store without going inside, browsing and buying at least ONE book. Please, everyone, try and do the same.
It is not the questions which I have found unusual since I became an author, but people’s change in attitude toward me. They seem totally amazed because they have met someone who has written a book. They stand back, stare and gasp. It’s like they really believe that books do just fall out of the sky! Then come the usual questions and I sigh!
I went to a store to get some poster size copies of the cover of Time & Tide for the launch. The assistant refused to photocopy on the grounds that it would be an infringement of copyright. The only way I could convince him that the copyright was mine was by producing my driver’s license! That was the first time I got the “look” and gasp! I’ve lost count of the number since then.
On one occasion, I was engaged in conversation, while someone else was reading the blurb on Stay in Touch. He asked me if I had done the necessary research for the book. Like all authors, I do research things thoroughly. Still engaged in conversation, and not taking a lot of notice of what this person was reading, I gave him the obvious ‘Yes’ answer. After all, it is one of those common, boring, routine questions. He repeated the question a couple of times before handing the book back and laughing. Only then did I realize what he had actually been reading,
Just what can drive a woman to murder? Or even three murders? Men. How can she become a serial killer undetected and rich on the proceeds of her crimes?
Of course I had done my research!!!
I have been to various events, when the opportunities have presented themselves, in an attempt to both promote and sell my books. At the Hay Festival in 2005, where I shared a stand with another writer, we had our name badges on and mine, said Publisher/Author. We learned from that experience that more people were interested in finding out how to publish a book than buying ours. If I had charged for giving information on “How to Self-Publish” I could have made a fortune.
After that, I produced a five-page booklet titled, “Write It! Publish It! Market It”. It has information learned as a result of my experiences of writing, self-publishing and marketing in the UK: advice, addresses, marketing to shops and libraries including the online library link for all libraries, in the UK and much more. This is available from me as a Word doc, and I would be happy to send it to anyone who feels it may be of use to them, but please be aware that all the addresses are in the UK and not international.
8) How do you find the marketing has been for your books? Do you find you sell more the more you publish? Any clever tricks you want to share?
It is easier to sell ice cream to Eskimos than sell books.
In the present economical climate no one appears to be buying anything other than necessities. One of the first things I realized was people’s preconception that if you were an author you must be extremely wealthy and can afford to give books away. The general consensus of opinion seems to be that books do not cost anything to write or publish; they just fall out of the sky. Then, there were friends, relations and colleagues, the first people you approach. Most of them, even people who were just on the Christmas card list and not seen for years, assumed that as they knew me they should have a free copy. Those first months in 2001 were a real eye-opener!
Marketing is the hardest part. I try to sell my books at every opportunity but I accept ‘No’ as a ‘no’ and I never pester people. Holidays are very good times.
I have one particular line I use in marketing, which always leaves people laughing, whether they want a book or not. If they are laughing when they leave me, then I know they have not been offended, upset or felt pestered in any way. I just tell them that they MUST buy the book, a first edition, but not read it. They should put it in the attic in pristine condition and leave it for two hundred years until their great-great-great grandchildren find it. It will be worth a fortune and their descendents will be eternally grateful for their foresight. Just think of Jane Austen!
I think humour is a most useful tool in marketing. If someone is undecided, I will ask if they would ‘like to phone a friend’, ‘ask the audience’ or use the ‘fifty-fifty’ option.
At the moment, I am offering to send a personalized signed message on a small sticker to those who buy my books outside the UK, from Amazon or B & N or any other retail outlet. It is extremely expensive to send books abroad and this seems to be an acceptable alternative. Feel free to try it.
Definitely! It is easier to sell more having published more. It gives people a choice. I can also do ‘deals’; two for £15, saving almost £3 or four for £25.00 plus p&p! Then, there are those who want to buy all of them and others who try one and then return for the rest.
9) You’ve been with Strategic Book Publishing since the beginning. Was it difficult for you to pre-sell 100 books like it requires? What do you like the most about dealing with them?
My first three books were self-published. I was with a Literary Agency in New York when I was first approached by the SBP with an offer of republishing Stay in Touch in hardback if I could pre-sell 1,000 copies. At that time I had not got 1,000 sales with three books, on the market, never mind one.
I, then, published Look After Each Other in paperback and tried extremely hard to sell 1000 copies. I contacted the SBP submissions department when I was around the 300 sales mark and because of the content they took it on and published a hardback edition. My contract stated that they would have first refusal on any future work. When the sequel, Sofia’s Legacy was ready for publication, I contacted Lynn Eddy (Contracts Manager); she read the ms and offered me a ‘300 book’ contract; which simply means that there must be 300 sold within one year or I purchase extra copies. I do not foresee a problem; sales are going well at the moment. I did not know anything about the pre-sell 100, but as it was 1,000 at the beginning it looks like the company are on the ball, realized that 1,000 is unrealistic, and moved the target accordingly.
The SBPRA (Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency) is the umbrella for several companies, all owned by Robert Fletcher. Three of these companies are the Strategic Book Publishing, Eloquent Books and Strategic Book Marketing. The SBP is a traditional publishing company which pays publishing cost and the Eloquent Books is a self-publishing company.
I was taken on by the SBP traditional publishing and only paid the editing fee. I did question why Look After Each Other needed editing when it had all ready been edited for the pb edition in the UK but one of the conditions is that the company edits all ms before publishing. I realized why, when I received the ms back, after the first editing stage. Believe it or not, the English (US) is different for English (UK). It is not just simple spellings like ‘traveling’ as opposed to ‘travelling’ but punctuation, vocabulary, and sentence structure. There were some things in Look After Each Other which were completely incomprehensible to the Americans. My ms had many comments of, what is this? Some examples are ‘L’ driver which for us is a learner drive; the editor asked if it meant lorry. I had Derek wearing a jumper, the question was, Do men wear dresses in England? Apparently, a jumper is a dress to the Americans, I changed it to sweater.
The company explains everything in detail at every stage of the publishing process. Again, the process and terminology do differ from the UK, for example, we have type-setting, US has text-blocking! When complete and the book is signed off the author receives three complimentary copies along with the first order at discounted author prices.
The marketing is the hardest part; the SBPRA’s policy is to help authors who help themselves. Times have changed in the book world just like everywhere else and no longer can you sit back and expect a team to sell the books for you. However, the marketing department has numerous suggestions for selling and is constantly updating and having new ideas. Some of these involve expense for the author, even those with the traditional publishing contract, some are free.
I am aware of the fact that the company and Mr Robert Fletcher have had some bad publicity in the past. I met Robert at the London Book Fair earlier this year. I found him to be a very genuine man, amiable, helpful and extremely professional. I also met Nancie Liles, his VP of Book Expos and Lynn Eddy, his Contracts Manager and likewise, I found these two ladies to be genuine, helpful and professional.
Overall, I am extremely satisfied with the SBPRA and have found them to be helpful and caring about their authors, while producing beautiful, good quality books. They now take books to the main Book Fairs around the world. I believe, so far, either by marketing or publishing and marketing, they have helped 3,000 authors achieve their dream of seeing work in print and/or on the market.
Long may the company flourish!
10) Is there a question you’ve wanted to be asked but haven’t been? If so, what was it and what is your answer? If not, was there anything more you’d like to add?
First of all, thank you very much for this interview, Sarah.
I think the question I would most like to be asked is, “How can I/we help you?” I’ve always been asked for help or information regarding writing and publishing. Quite simply, BUY my books; please put a review on Amazon/Goodreads/Barnes and Noble, place an order at your library and tell your friends.
I would like to add a plea to all readers, please help to keep traditional books alive. They do make very nice gifts!
Please have a look at my blog and books; it would be nice if you were to buy one or become a follower on the blog.
Do pop along to my author page on FB and click LIKE, Author, Marilyn L Rice – Fan Page (Strategic Book Group)
If I can help anyone, or you would like a download of “Write it, Publish it, Market it” please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks so much for answering my questions, Marilyn. All the best!
And thank YOU for reading,