Hey all! Recently I’ve had the good fortune of being given an awesome MG time travel adventure to read (check out my review of The Ravenstone here) and now the talented authors Mark & Diane are doing an interview for me. (Seriously guys, y’all should become book reviewers. The perks are so cool.) In any case, less rambling from me and more from the lovely authors themselves!
What were you like as a kid?
MARK: When I was in elementary school I was practically invisible. Average height, average weight, average looking and quiet as a mouse… when I was at school, at least. In Junior High I grew so fast people didn’t recognize me in the fall after summer vacation. My newfound size brought with it confidence. By the ninth grade my English teacher told me I had found the power of words but not the wisdom to wield them. Fortunately, she liked me in spite of myself and did her best to give my verbal skills direction. I hope I have lived up to her expectations. Thank you Mrs. Campbell, wherever you are.
Tell us a bit about your hometown.
MARK: I did most of my growing up in a working-class suburb in the Hudson valley of New York State. Our neighbourhood was diverse and my friends’ parents ran the gamut from tradesmen to teachers to IBMers. The county where I lived was commuting distance from NYC yet still had farms and orchards and stretches of woodland and parks. The Hudson Valley was steeped in history going back to the revolution and before. There were many state parks that held old iron mines and Revolutionary War battlefields. Across the Hudson were the home of Washington Irving and the setting of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I grew up in a place that bristled with folklore and mystery. I never outgrew it.
When did you decide to become a writer? Why did you first decide to start writing?
DIANE: I was about eight or nine years old when I realized that I could tell a story that other people wanted to read. I wrote a short essay for school about walking into an empty church. The piece was only a page long, hand-written, childish, of course, but the mood, the description, and the feeling of the piece seemed to write itself. It was a flow that excited me! My teacher was very complimentary and right then I knew that I would be an author and writer someday. It took me a long time; this is my third career.
I always knew my third and last career would be writing. First, I was fortunate to enjoy a highly successful singing career in the UK, with many TV appearances and shows of my own, concert tours, and recording. Highlights were a sold-out concert tour culminating at the Royal Festival Hall in London, and opening in major concert tours for Kenny Rogers and Glen Campbell. The dreaded Chronic Fatigue Syndrome destroyed my entertainment career and I struggled for almost eight years, years of wading through half a life that felt like all descriptions I have ever read of hell. I finally regained my health through a homeopathic remedy, which launched me into new studies and a second career: homeopath and nutritionist. Now I am an author for… uh… the duration, I think!
MARK: I would say it has always been there, playing in the background. I have always had an overactive imagination and, as a child, was often happier inside my head than out in the real world… Again when I was in school. When I was in the fifth grade, as punishment for some playground indiscretion, I was made to sit and write an essay about life inside a Ping-Pong ball. It was not punishment to me at all. It was fun! Story telling in the oral tradition is practically a ritual in my family. Writing is a very natural extension of that tradition.
Which writers inspire you?
MARK: Writers who can set a mood with a phrase blow my mind. When a few perfectly crafted words say more than a page full. Lee Child wrote in Personal: “Charlie’s place was a solid old pile, fairly ornate, built back when bricklayers were cheaper than bricks.” You don’t have to read another word to see that place. Any writer whose descriptive prose creates a world in which the characters dwell has my undying admiration.
Please tell us briefly about some of the things you’ve written.
DIANE: In The Ravenstone: The Secret of Ninham Mountain, young twins Aidan and Nadia Shaw discover a beautiful icon of black basalt stone carved with raven heads. This magical stone, the Ravenstone, can transport twins through time! Not wishing to spoil the story, all I can say is that an ancient shaman sends them on a mission to find something that will change their lives, and the lives of their family, and indeed, all mankind. If they can survive the incredible danger.
They are aided by the power of the Ravenstone, by their friends, and by their own special gifts of high intuition and photographic memory. The story is full of mystery, adventure, valor, glory, and a sweet touch of redemption and heart.
My husband, Mark Carey, and I wrote this middle-grade mystery/fantasy together. It is the first in a series of magic, adventure, mystery, shamans, pre-Columbian Native Americans, and a shape-shifting raven!
I began ghostwriting and/or editing books for other authors about 2006. A short list includes Car Wreck for Mark Ragsdale, Get Dare From Here for Liz Weinmann, More than Just a Voice for Dave Courvoisier, House-Coach for Kirsten Steno, and Plug In Your Kick-Ass Life for Denuelle Meyer.
In 2015 I published, through Eloquent Rascals Publishing, my first solo book, non-fiction, entitled: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: a guide to the homeopathic treatment of CFS/M.E. I was thrilled that it quickly jumped to the #1 Bestseller on Amazon in the homeopathic section.
Where can we buy or see them?
Smashwords: The Ravenstone
Barnes and Noble: The Ravenstone
Libraries and Bookstores can buy through Ingram
What are you working on at the moment? Can you give us a hint as to what it’s about?
MARK: Currently we are working on the sequel to our Middle Grade novel, The Ravenstone: The Secret of Ninham Mountain. Aidan and Nadia are off on another exciting adventure!
DIANE: I am also working on my next solo book, which fortunately Mark will edit for me (you really can’t edit yourself well) This new book entitled, 88 Guys for Coffee, is a book for women which falls somewhere between memoir and fiction, perhaps a little like Eat, Pray, Love. It falls into the new genre of fictional memoir. It tells the story of a 45-year-old woman who has been abandoned by her husband in a rather cruel and shocking way, and her subsequent efforts at recovery. It is a humorous, self-searching path which involves five years of navigating the online dating scene. I am using my own personal experience in this weird arena, but I developed a new female protagonist in order that I not have to relive my own painful story. Couldn’t do that! Too embarrassing!
The stories of Laura’s dating are all true and either hilarious, bizarre, hard to believe, or a little sad. And I hope you will love Laura, whose big heart is broken, yet she keeps laughing, running, helping her patients with alternative medicine, and trying to figure out why she, and other human beings, do the things we do. Feel the things we feel. Screw up the way we screw up.
Plus, I am laying out a new health book, culled from my years of practicing nutrition and homeopathy. So basically, a nutshell of the most powerful things I learned in that fifteen years that people can do themselves. Like magnesium and how much we need it and don’t get it, like the power of Omega 3 oils and probiotics, like the three homeopathic remedies which cure children’s ear infections. Great stuff like that!
What is your writing routine like?
DIANE: I don’t really follow a schedule. I write every day, and almost obsessively while in the midst of a book. At that point, it does not feel like work at all – it feels like a mission, a calling! I can’t do much else while it is outstanding; I become very single-minded, very focused. I lose track of time and will look up after hours of concentrated writing to realize I am starving and had forgotten to eat.
MARK: My best work is emotional. So the best time for me to work is when I feel compelled to. Whether it is joy, sadness, love or even anger, inspiration cannot be forced yet will not be contained. It has a life of its own and it cares not for my schedule. After decades in the work-a-day world the very idea of a “schedule” makes me want to hide behind the couch. As someone who came to writing in retirement, I can write whenever I want to… but it is very much a “when the mood strikes” sort of thing. Having to “Write” at 8:00 am would make me cringe. But, when the mood is right, I get lost in it.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
DIANE: I have to be working on a piece that has heart. By that I mean it has honor, integrity, caring for others, meaning, courage, and love in some form. I can’t write in fields of horror or terror, or genres that focus on shallow, meaningless violence. The protagonists, the main characters in fiction need to be real, to be human, with flaws, certainly, but with good hearts. The character arc of the main character must move toward kindness compassion, truth, honor. When working in non-fiction I lean towards self-help books or educational books that offer something of value to the reader. Ok, ok, yes, I am Pollyanna.
MARK: When I am writing a piece by myself I have a thing about anyone reading it till I am done. I am very protective of my process and my product during “creation.” When Diane and I write together it is completely different.
What are the easiest/hardest things about writing as a team?
DIANE: Mark is a delight to write with. His ideas are exceptional and his sparkling description is always a wonder and rather awe-inspiring. He is also great at character development, and we work well on the character arc, and on making sure the story is always character-driven.
The main secret to our writing together is that we leave our ego outside the door. We only care about what is best for the book, and we seem to know when that moment is. Sometimes it is his idea, sometimes it is mine, sometimes it is an odd mixture that grew organically so that we don’t remember who came up with what. Or care!
The only difficult part of writing together was when we realized how different we are as people. I am fast-paced and a little driven. He is easy-going, thoughtful, even measured. Which is a great combination for the quality of the book, but at first when I worked faster, I nagged him. Not a good idea! Now I work on something else until he has worked in his own time and gets it back to me. We never write in the book at the same time, but pass it back and forth. I lay it out, then he fills in, then I edit and add, then he edits and adds. And each time we read the section out loud to each other, discuss and make more edits. It is enormous fun, and very rewarding.
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
DIANE: This question is very like, “How long is a piece of string?” It very much depends on the work. The books I have ghost-written for others take from three months to a year, depending on the schedule of the author for whom I am writing and the concentration of the material.
With my own books, a non-fiction work like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: a guide to the homeopathic treatment of CFS/ME took several years due to the depth of research and referencing I had to do.
The Ravenstone: The Secret of Ninham Mountain, the middle-grade mystery fantasy I wrote with my husband, Mark Carey, took two winters of brainstorming and laying out, then four months of focused writing and editing.
It takes as long as it takes. Each book feels like a birthing; sometimes this is a baby groundhog, sometimes a baby elephant. They both hurt, but the elephant is worse!
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
DIANE: Absolutely no question about it, I prefer a real in-my-hand smell-of-paper book. I know, I know, it is all going the way of the digital book, but I am a fierce hold-out!
What is your favourite motivational phrase?
DIANE: It is better to be loving than it is to be right. For me, kindness is everything.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
DIANE: Be patient. Be hopeful. Be different. Be kind to yourself. Be tenacious. Do it because you love doing it, not because you want success or wealth, or fame. Write because you have to write. Someone once told me the best way to promote your book is to write another one. When you have a body of work, you will be improving substantially all the time. Hone your craft! And do not give up.
MARK: Never write what you think someone else wants to hear, either in style or content. Your writing will be its best when it comes from your heart and your audience will find you.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: