Part one is here.
Part two is here.
AA: Welcome back, Theresa. Let’s talk for a moment about writing gamma characters instead of writing alpha or beta characters. How would you describe why that is a better fit for you and your stories?
TM: They’re a blend of the two and I think they make the best romance heroes. Alphas are too into themselves and their own ideas of the world to really care about the heroine until it’s almost too late. Betas wait for her to make the first move, even though they might be passionate about her. Gammas have enough self-confidence to be bold, but have that emotional core that allows them to love her, say so, and want an answer back. Now. For example, Tom Hanks and Hugh Grant often play Beta heroes, Bruce Willis and Steven Segal play Alphas, and Adrian Paul, Tom Selleck, Taylor Lautner, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson often play Gamma roles. (Han Solo is the perfect example of a Gamma hero.)
AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?
TM: I think my description has grown more complex, creating a more sensory experience for readers. I want them not to just see or hear what my characters are experiencing, but to feel and smell, taste and sense at a gut level what’s happening. I also think my plotting has developed to a greater degree allowing me to make my pacing within the story very tight and action-oriented.
AA: Writer’s block happens to everyone and can be rather frustrating. What is your solution to overcoming it?
TM: Sometimes it’s to do something very mundane, like clean the horse’s pasture. Other times it’s to resort to pen on paper. (I hate writing long-hand and prefer to type, but something about making your hand do the work of creating the words often jiggles things loose.) I often find having a playlist of music that’s unique to each story and a specific scent of candle that I burn only when writing on that book can be shortcuts to getting back on track.
AA: How is the great Pacific Northwest for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc
TM: I think the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of creative talent for a good reason. The rain. Seriously, though, there’s something about confluence of nature, serenity, abutted next to the leading edge of technology and those gloomy days that makes us sit and think more. These days location isn’t as big a deal as it once was in terms of a writer getting noticed. The Internet has removed that barrier, as has social media. Ten years ago if you wanted to do a radio interview you either had to do it in person or over the phone. Now you can reach millions on a podcast on the Internet radio.
AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. Your day job is your own public relations company. How did you make the great circle from writing to PR and back and forth now? How has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?
TM: I’ve actually moved away from the day job completely and am writing full time now. Well, more than full-time. I’m on back-to-back-to-back deadlines on books through 2013 at the moment with seven stories currently contracted for three different publishers. I began writing my first novel at age 17, so I was writing far before I started a professional career in public relations. At the time I didn’t believe I could write full time and make much at it but I knew I loved writing so I went into journalism for a time, working at a daily paper. I quickly found it wasn’t the environment I’d hoped for and switch my degree track to mass communications, which involved broadcasting and public relations. I figured it didn’t matter what industry I went into, they would need good writers. Turns out I was right! I ended up working in public relations, corporate, agency and then on my own for a time. But it wasn’t until a critique partner asked for help promoting her books that my fiction writing background and my pr experience merged. And it spawned an entire agency in a matter of months allowing me to promote several New York Times bestsellers and work with some of the largest publishers in New York. I believe that ten years gave me an incredible insight into the traditional publishing world, and what it truly means to be a bestselling author. I learned that national book tours are incredibly grueling and that the green room at most big television network talk shows aren’t really painted green at all. I learned the importance of defining your author brand from the beginning and knowing who your readers are and the value of being good entertainment.
AA: As a publicist, what are three quick items that authors should keep in mind or do in general?
TM: There were several basics I always used with my clients. First was the Rule of Three: If you don’t have three good reasons for spending money on something in your promotions, advertising or marketing plan, then don’t spend the money. The second was know your message points. No matter where the interview goes, know how to get back to those message points. The third was nothing is ever off the record. When you are in public YOU are your author brand. Think about what you want people to remember about you and be that, no matter what you are like when you are home writing away.
AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for your work? What kind of reactions have you received?
TM: I’ve had lots of recognition in the publishing industry for my work in public relations, especially once I got two of my clients selected as some of the total seven picks made by the Kelly Ripa Book Club for LIVE! But people are just now discovering me as a writer as well and the books are doing well with some of the largest industry reviewers, so it’s a good start!
AA: When you are at conventions or on a book tour, who would you really like to stand in your autograph line to meet you? In addition to Jensen Ackles from Supernatural, that is.
TM: LOL. Are you sure we couldn’t just stop there for a bit? Realistically, I’d love to see people who love the stories I write. OK, well it would be cool to meet J.K. Rowling and James Rollins in person, but I’ve already met so many amazing bestselling authors and well-known people via my pr work that it kind of puts a twist on my reality. I’ve met with Dean Koontz, with Jackie Collins and Nora Roberts. I’ve talked with Nicholas Sparks. I’ve sat in Kelly Ripa’s dressing room and snapped pictures.
AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, you have some interesting hobbies like scuba diving, horse riding, cooking and gardening. Are there other interests which fill your time?
TM: I love to sew and design clothes. In fact I sew my own costumes for steampunk events. I also enjoy painting, collect teapots and teddy bears and love to have tea with my non-writer mommy friends once a week.
AA: How long have you been scuba diving, and were have you been? Any pictures to share?
TM: I became a certified scuba diver at age 19 primarily so I could scuba dive with my husband on our honeymoon. Since then we’ve done diving in Grand Cayman, Hawaii and off the west Coast including Monterey and some spots on the Oregon coast. I think the worst time I had was during one of my certification dives when we were in a murky lake with about 2 feet visibility and the plastic mouth-piece detached from my regulator. One minute I had air, the next I sucked in a big mouth-full of water and you couldn’t tell where you were in the water because it was so muddy. I ended up budding breathing with the instructor all the way back the surface, but it scared me a bit. Best time I’ve ever had diving was in Monterey in the kelp forests playing with some harbor seals. It truly is like being in an underwater forest. Absolutely beautiful.
AA: With your gardening and cooking, what kind of meals are you preparing with fresh foods that you grew yourself? Any favorite recipes?
TM: We’ve eaten a lot of zucchini and tomatoes this year! But we also have blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes, apple and cherry trees, and a yard filled with fresh herbs. Right now I’m making a lot of cobblers, blueberry coffeecake, applesauce, apple pies and using herbs out of the yard for stuffings, savory sauces and teas.
AA: You’ve traveled to Italy to meet extended family and experience the culture firsthand. Where else have you traveled, what still on your list, and will those places show up in upcoming books?
TM: I love to travel. I’ve been several places, but there are so many more I’d love to see. I’d like to go back to Italy again and see more of it. The most I really got to see of Rome before heading south to Sicily was the train station! I’d love to go to Australia and New Zealand, because they have an allure all their own. I’ve been to London before, but with my fascination with steampunk, I’d love to go back again. I’d also love to see the rest of Europe because I have all my family roots there. History absolutely fascinates me as does amazing natural settings. And there’s also much of the United States I’d still like to see because it’s so vast and different from state to state. I’ve done a lot on both coasts, but kind of missed out on most of the middle!
AA: It has been a real pleasure chatting with you. Are there any final thoughts to share with our readers?
TM: Buy the books! LOL. Wait, that’s probably not what you meant, now is it? OK, on a more serious note, one of the things I love most about steampunk is the sense that anything is possible—the great unknown. I have a quote on the back of my business cards that I put there because I want to keep it in mind: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~ Goethea I think we’re all capable of greatness if we dig deep enough and accept what we must to achieve it. That’s part of why the maker culture, and in particular steampunk, are finding an ever growing appreciation in the mainstream. It means something; it has power, genius and magic in it. What’s in fiction today, become the reality of our tomorrow. Just look at depth of surveillance of our activities in 1984, the communicators from Star Trek or the ability to fly to the moon from Jules Verne and you see how our future was there, the dream waiting to be turned into reality. Imagination is powerful stuff!
Thank you, Theresa, for joining us for this conversation, it was very enjoyable and informative to hear more about your books and your writing process.