Hi Maureen, thanks for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.
On your picture I see you like the beach, but given the choice, would you trade in a beach holiday where you lounge about, read a book or two and generally do not much, for a hiking holiday in the mountains?
That’s an easy question for me to answer. I was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota where sometimes it seems we only have two seasons – winter and not-winter. Obviously, we Minnesotans choose to live here for many reasons, but for me, winter isn’t one of them. This past season was particularly brutal, ranking in a three-way tie for the 7th coldest and the 6th snowiest. Our average temperature was 9 and we had 53 days of below zero temperatures – that’s right – 53! So, unless I move near an ocean, and that beautiful place is available to me at my whim, I will always choose a beach holiday over a holiday hiking in the mountains.
In addition, my husband burst out laughing when I mentioned that I thought the idea of hiking in the mountains might be a fun experience and would provide loads of inspiration for my work. He reminded me how irrational I become even when a small bee buzzes near me. Imagine, he said, if I encountered a fox or a bear. It would be the only time I could run a sprint! I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not a very outdoorsy person and would not fair very well in the mountains. I’m better off going to our neighborhood park to look for inspiration. So much for hiking in the mountains, but I’ll go to the beach anytime!
What was life like before you were an author?
Before I was an author, I was still a writer. I’ve always loved to write. However, my sister was the first person to inspire me to become a better writer. She’s a lawyer, and for several years she was a legal writing professor. One day, I asked her to look over my college paper and tell me what she thought When she gave it back to me, it was covered with edits from a red pen. There were scratch-outs, lines with arrows, and suggested changes. It was a mess. That was the day I learned I wasn’t as good as I’d thought, but it was also when I started working hard to improve my skills. Back then, I wrote simple things, like letters and song lyrics, while I stayed busy working, raising our kids and enjoying life with my family and friends.
When my ten year old daughter came home and showed me her one-page creative writing assignment, my writing life changed forever. Her paper about kids going into a gumball machine and meeting gumball friends inspired me. Together, we wrote a 60-page story. She grew up, but I continued working on that project until it was published in 2012.
Would you say you are a thinker or a doer? Do you have a plan or do you take what life throws at you and roll with it?
I’d say I am a thinker and a doer. I believe doing both is better than doing one or the other. I am constantly thinking about my work-in-progress, and while doing so, sometimes the books I plan to write later come to the forefront. If an idea or inspiration hits me, I try to jot it down right away so it’s not lost forever. I’ve lost many ideas because I thought I’d remember them later. So I can’t just think, I have to act on my thoughts and put them to good use.
I do have a plan for my writing career. I’ll be busy for the next few years with the books I have lined up. I’m still learning how to market my work and I have so many things to do on that front. My plan is to build my brand with a good website and an increased use of social media, while at the same time, continuing to produce good books so my readers will look to me as one of their sources for enjoyable reading material.
I work full-time as a legal administrative assistant at a large Minneapolis law firm, so my writing and marketing has to come after work. This makes for long days, but I love my writing career, so that never seems to matter. It can be overwhelming and discouraging at times, but the reward of writing a good book and introducing it to a world market makes it all worthwhile.
Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?
I have yet to introduce my favorite foods into my books, though that may change with my upcoming novel. I’m married to an Italian-American and my next book will be loosely based on his family (with a little love, revenge and murder added to the mix). We enjoy great Italian meals at our home, and my husband and I enjoy cooking together and coming up with new recipes of our own. I must admit, however, that Italian food comes a distant second to my all-time favorite food, which is Mexican. I don’t cook Mexican food very well, but I will order it at any restaurant that has it on the menu.
What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?
As I mentioned above, Mexican is my favorite food, but my husband and I make a deliciously spicy spaghetti sauce and meatballs which we created based on his father’s original recipes. Sorry Lucy, I can’t give you those recipes – they’re top secret!
But I can give you my recipe for a delicious Taco Dip that’s quick and easy to make:
- In a large bowl, mix on medium speed two blocks of Philadelphia Cream Cheese and three-fourths of a jar of Pace Picante Sauce until creamy.
- Spread evenly on a cookie sheet or plate.
- Sprinkle shredded lettuce across the entire plate of cream cheese.
- Sprinkle shredded Mexican cheese over the lettuce.
- Top with chopped onion, diced tomatoes and black olives. Serve with tortilla chips. Delicious!
What is the title of the book you would like to talk about, and can you give us a small taster of it?
I am very close to finishing the first draft of my third book. It’s another children’s fantasy-and-magic chapter book. I haven’t firmed up the title yet, but I’m leaning toward The Magic Trap Door. I haven’t started working on the cover yet, but I have several ideas in mind, and will be drawing something soon to give to the illustrator.
The story is about a middle school girl who has developed a rotten disposition toward her family, doing chores and doing her schoolwork. She is shy at school with few friends, and is lazy and cranky all the time. She often crawls under her bed to avoid her parents and their constant demands that she do her chores and complete her homework.
One night, while under her bed daydreaming, she discovers a handle to a trap door which excites her and scares her. After a few nights, she finally drums up the nerve to open the trap door and climb down a steep ladder. Once there, she discovers a world of cotton candy trees, caramel apple bushes, a soda pop pond, and willow trees with long, red licorice branches that she can swing on and eat.Best of all – there are no adults. She is finally free. She’s free from her miserable life at home and school, and can finally eat whatever she wants, stay up as long as she wants, and just play and have fun.As she travels along, she meets four other kids, and together, they explore their strange and exciting surroundings. Throughout their journey, they can hear, but cannot see, a very powerful and massive waterfall.
After a few days, things start to change. The protagonist suddenly doesn’t feel very well. Her stomach hurts from too much candy, her teeth feel disgusting, she’s tired from sleeping on the hard ground, and her clothes are damp from a fall into the river. She begins to reminisce about her warm bed and a hot meal. Eventually, she realizes she misses her family. It doesn’t take long for the others to feel the same way. They decide it’s time to return home. They learn from a magical frog that the only way to do that is to crawl behind the massive waterfall. heir journey takes a treacherous turn as they encounter a serpent and a boy who wants to keep them there forever, all while trying to find the waterfall that will help get them home.
Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?
Since my publishing journey began two years ago, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of selecting the right title to ensure strong visibility in search results. The importance of a unique and visible title is extremely valuable and I find myself second-guessing my choices for fear of overlooking a title that might be better. In selecting my title, my first priority is to find one that captures the heart of the story and is interesting and appealing. Once I have selected something I like, I then do an internet search to make sure it isn’t already in use. Next, I check the Kindle Store to see how it would fair in a search there. After these steps, I keep the title in the back of my mind as I continue my drafting. I want to be absolutely sure I have the right title before I work with my cover illustrator.
Of course I’d also love to mention my two books: Life in the Gumball Machine and the sequel, Life in the Gumball Machine – Vinnie and Gordy’s Return. These are fun chapter books for middle school readers.
If anything, what would you change about being an author?
I would have liked to have had more training. I was a music major at the University of Minnesota. I played piano and sang in the U’s 300-voice symphonic chorus. At the time, it was my plan to have a career in music education. However, life got in the way of that career, and now, as an author, I wish I would have spent more of my college education on creative writing, and had spent more time working on writing projects, if for no other reason than to improve my craft. These days, I feel that I’m a student of the blogs, and there are a few blogs I follow that have wonderful daily content to help me hone my skills. My favorites are: Wordplay: The Writing Life of K.M. Weiland, Quick and Dirty Tips, The Creative Penn, The Kill Zone, and of course, All That’s Written….
I also wish I could have started publishing earlier, but many of us had to wait for the internet explosion of indie publishing, didn’t we? My first book was written seventeen years ago and sat in a drawer collecting dust because I had no platform, and was unable to get the attention of even one publisher. However, none of that matters now. Today is what counts, and I’m happy for the opportunity to do something I love and share it with the world.
What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?
There is no doubt that the free promotions offered by KDP Select has generated the most attention and has led to most of my sales However, I have noticed a steady decline in free downloads. I tried the KDP Select Countdown promotion just once so far, with little results, but I’m hoping as readers become more familiar with it, my downloads will increase. I’m also hoping that with those free or discounted downloads, more people will read my books and recommend them to their friends and families. Word-of-mouth, in my opinion, is the best promotion an author could ask for.
In addition, I have a Facebook author page and a page on Goodreads. My website should be up and running soon. I also have a Twitter account (@BartoneMaureen), though I must confess I’m having a hard time finding a voice for that outlet. That sounds silly, I know. I also recently started a Pinterest board which focuses on character features and settings. I hope this will help authors get ideas on what their characters might look like, and give them ideas for settings. I must admit, I really enjoy “pinning.” I will be looking into submitting sample chapters to Wattpad as well. I’m committed to increasing my social media presence and my brand in the coming months.
Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!
Well, I guess I have the same excuses that everyone else has: job, family, chores, obligations – and fatigue! But more importantly, the main reason I don’t write for a whole day is because I work best as a “spurt-writer.” (I made up that word). What I mean is, I do most of my writing in small sessions. I write every day, but it might be one small bit in the morning before work, another one on the bus on my way into work, another one on my lunch break, and I always – always take time to write before bed.
My initial draft (which I refer to as my pre-first draft) is always handwritten on a notepad. I carry it with me wherever I go which makes it easy to quickly jot things down – even if it’s just a blurb of inspiration. For me, the blank page is the hardest part of writing. After I have finished my “pre-first draft,” that is when my fun begins. I love taking that hot mess, inputting it into the computer, and changing and molding it into something great. I find taking breaks from writing is necessary for a fresh outlook. I like to mull over my most recent input, and contemplate what I want to say next. I often do that in bed after finishing my evening writing. If something inspires me, I pick the notebook back up and jot those ideas down for later.
Once I have my first complete draft typed, that’s when I really start putting in the hours. I work non-stop after work until bedtime and several hours each weekend day. Seeing the improvements in the story and getting closer to the finish line are huge motivations for me to keep going. What a rush!
And Finally, can you tell me something no one has ever heard before from you? I’m sure the readers love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂
I’ve always (and secretly) wanted to be either a singer or an actress. I’d be perfectly content singing in a local blues band, but if I were an actress, I’d want to go beyond local theater and do commercials, television or movies. Ahh – dare to dream!
I am also most proud of receiving my black belt in Taekwondo, and competing in both form and sparring events. Putting on the gloves and duking it out was something I really enjoyed!
I also trained and competed in an adult women’s dance group. Getting up on stage and performing jazz and tap routines was the best thing I’ve done to improve my confidence in a public setting. Dance is one of my top loves!
Here’s a picture of our group dancing to a Michael Jackson medley. I’m in there somewhere!
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with the world. Happy writing and happy reading everyone!
Thank you for being here and hope to see you return when you have more to tell us.