Mary Ellis has
written twelve award-winning novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances set during the Civil War. Her
latest, Midnight on the Mississippi, first of a new mystery series, Secrets
of the South, is set in New Orleans. Before "retiring"
to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey
Chocolate, a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. Mary enjoys traveling,
gardening, bicycling and swimming, and lives in Ohio with her husband, dog and
cat. She can be found on the web at: www.maryellis.net or on Facebook.
TBB: Hello, Mary! Welcome to The Borrowed Book. How long were you writing before your first publication?
ME: I started writing around fifteen years
ago, finishing two historical romances set during the American Civil War. At a
writing conference I was able to land an agent who had faith in my work. She
suggested polishing the first manuscript which I did to the best of my
abilities. She, however, was unable to find “a home” for my books. Although I
received positive feedback from several publishing houses, I was also told
“there was no market” for Civil War romances. My agent suggested a genre change
and I took her advice. After publishing a dozen romances set in the Amish
culture, my publishing house decided to publish my historical romances,
although the current books bear little resemblance to my freshman efforts. I
learned much about writing over the years, and both books were completely
rewritten. However, I’m proud to say nuggets of my original inspiration remain
today in all their glory.
TBB: Are you a morning person? A night owl? How do you arrange
your schedule to allow the most efficient, productive time for writing?
ME: I am
definitely a morning person, but the creative muse only visits after several
cups of coffee. I start out with emails, social media, and promotional
endeavors, and then open my work-in-progress and give-it-a-go, as my British
friends would say. Evenings are for relaxation and family. As far as nighttime?
I’m usually in bed by nine-thirty, so a “night owl” I am not.
TBB: Do you ever read your dialog aloud to see how it sounds?
Have you ever performed an action you want one of your characters to carry out
in order to help you visualize or describe it? Have you ever embarrassed
yourself doing this?
ME: I usually read my dialog aloud for a realistic feel. Often
when I walk my dog, I talk to myself and work out plot twists and conversations
between two key characters. I find this helps me once I return to my computer.
My neighbors initially thought me quite mad, however, I’ve lived on this
dead-end road for so long, everyone has more or less gotten use to me. My
husband and I are still invited to our quota of neighborhood get-togethers.
TBB: If you felt the Holy Spirit urging you to quit writing,
would you do it?
ME: Absolutely, I would. The Holy Spirit, which dwells in my
heart, is never wrong. Every time I heed the Holy Spirit I thrive. And each
time I attempt to “go it alone” I flounder. So if the Holy Spirit was urging me
to quit, I would do so.So far that
hasn’t happened, but our Lord knows His children and what is best in each
“season” of their life.
TBB: Do you prefer writing the initial draft, or do you enjoy
the revision process more? Do you revise as you write, or do you first produce
a big mess that you later have to fix? If your first draft is rough, do you
usually have to cut out a lot of dead wood, or add flesh to the bare bones?
Harvest House, 2015
ME: Oh, my…what an easy question! I absolutely
hate revising. So I must edit as I go along. Yes,
it’s slower that way, but I
can’t stand having a mess on my hands when I get done with my story. That’s not
to say the book doesn’t need a thorough “going over” before I send it to my
editor, but I do fix a lot of errors as I go along. I have left all the
“editing” until the end, and I almost pulled out every hair on my head trying
to untangle the ball of yarn. Everyone writes differently, but after twenty or
so books, this works best for me.
I hope you’ll look
on the Mississippi at your favorite bookstore or online retailers.