Today, we’re featuring Mary Ann Marlowe, author of Some Kind of Magic and A Crazy Kind of Love (Kensington Books). In addition to writing smart self-aware heroines circling the world of rock & roll, she’s a Pitch Wars veteran both as mentee and mentor. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and of course at maryannmarlowe.com. Read on to learn more.
Introducing Mary Ann Marlowe
Mary Ann lives in central Virginia where she works as a computer programmer/DBA. She spent ten years as a university-level French professor, and her resume includes stints as an au pair in Calais, a hotel intern in Paris, a German tutor, a college radio disc jockey, and a webmaster for several online musician fandoms. She has lived in twelve states and three countries and loves to travel.
Welcome, Mary Ann! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. I just finished devouring your second novel (really, I couldn’t get enough), A Crazy Kind of Love, the sequel to Some Kind of Magic. When you were working on Some Kind of Magic, did you have the sequel in mind? If not, when did the idea for the second novel pop into your head?
I wrote Some Kind of Magic as a standalone. The idea to write a companion book actually came up as I was talking to agents after I got my first offer. I kept getting asked, “Will there be a sequel?” And the next obvious question was, “Would it be about Micah?” To which I laughed because it seemed ludicrous to write a romance about a guy we last see in Some Kind of Magic hooking up with a stray groupie. But once the idea was planted, I couldn’t shake it.
Where did the inspiration for the book come from?
Micah posed a challenge—ironically because he’s so easy. He’s open to sex in a way that makes him hard to pin down. I started to ask myself who could get close enough to him to get to know him beyond his reputation, and I realized it would have to be someone from the very tabloid that so vexed Eden in Some Kind of Magic. From there my brain exploded with all the potential ethical and personal conflicts such a pairing might engender.
I know from personal experience that you’re attracted to romance novels featuring rock stars (or at least musicians). What is it about this subset of contemporary romance that lures you in?
I mean, is there anything sexier than a man with a guitar? I confess I might feel less attracted to musicians if I had any talent myself, but my god, strong fingers chording frets and making gorgeous music works like an aphrodisiac. Throw in an artistic temperament, poetry in the soul, and you’ve got a swoon-worthy combination.
Second Book Blues—most authors I’ve spoken to have had them. How did you get past them to continue writing?
Well, Some Kind of Magic was the third book I wrote. A Crazy Kind of Love was my fourth, and although it was the second in my contract, I’d already finished it before we signed with Kensington. However, when my option came up, and Kensington turned down several completely finished manuscripts, I found myself with a new contract for an unwritten novel, which Kensington bought on proposal. Fortunately, I had enough experience with my own process to know that what passes for “blues” is actually the way all books progress. I’ve never drafted a book that came easily. And I’m always shocked at how hard it is to write a manuscript. The only way to get past the blues is to write the book. Feels like a paradox, but nobody’s hiding any secrets. Writing is just hard.
What are the best and worst things about writing a sequel (or another book set in the same universe, at least)?
Best: It’s fun to get outside the brain of your MC from one book and see them from another perspective. Worst: You constantly worry you’re repeating yourself.
Do you consider yourself to be a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between? Are there certain plot elements you need to have in mind before you start crafting a story?
I’m a pantser who starts writing a book with a fairly decent idea what I’m going to write. I don’t know many details, but usually whatever the major conflict is going to be has to be clear because it’s that concept that gets me excited to write. The who and the what come through the writing, but I generally can see where there will be problems between the protagonists early. Villains emerge more dynamically as I go.
If you could only pass one one piece of advice on structuring a novel to new romance writers, what would it be?
Don’t fight against the rules. I get the sense some people want to call their books romance but also want to be “original” and fake out the reader with something unexpected, like an unhappy ending. Upending tropes, etc., is great, but there are certain structures that a romance novel must adhere to, or you’re just writing a novel in a different genre. And your twist might not be so unique when you correctly name your genre. You wouldn’t write a mystery that didn’t solve a crime. You can’t write a romance that doesn’t have a happy ending.
As a Pitch Wars mentor, I’m sure you’ve seen it all. What’s the most common piece of feedback you’ve given with regards to plotting?
Know what motivates your characters. If you can identify the points where your love interests’ goals collide, you can more easily understand what conflicts will organically arise.
Any advice for writers currently querying their novels?
It’s a numbers game. Everything about publishing is talent + luck + timing. Talent is the only thing that authors can control, but you can overwhelm the other two with persistence and volume. Keep writing and query a lot. And remember: subjectivity is a chaos agent.
If you could be anything other than a writer,what would it be?
Lead singer, duh. (Thank God for karaoke.)
I won’t make you choose a favorite character from your own books, but do you have a favorite from someone else’s work?
So many book boyfriends. Kelli Newby’s character Griffin is the love of my life. I’ve written fan fiction about him. I can’t wait until her books are in the public sphere. As for published books … I fell hard for Rhys from A Court of Mist and Fury.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now?
I just turned in a book that will be published next December. It’s called Dating by the Book. The Publisher’s Marketplace blurb reads: “An unlucky-in-love author begins corresponding with the book reviewer who criticized the romance in her latest novel and challenges her to first find love herself before writing about it.” There is a musician character involved somehow, of course.
The book I’m eager to start writing is going to be a deep dive into Reggaeton because I’m completely obsessed with Latin music. I’m thinking of a Bieber-like villain. This all may just be an excuse to write off a trip to Spain.