Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday Writers: Mary Merrell

As an aspiring author, it’s always good to hear stories of other people’s success. They inspire us to not procrastinate, and reassure us that there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.

This week we hear from Mary Merrell, an animal lover who has spun an interesting tale about people who can communicate with animals, called Affinity-Bird in a Gilded Cage.

Name: Mary Merrell
Location and one thing you love about living there: I live in the Central Valley of California, Modesto, which kind of has a bad reputation. I love it here because it gets really warm, and the growing season is so, so long.
Author of: Affinity-Bird in a Gilded Cage
Book available: Amazon

Tell us a bit about yourself: I turned fifty this year. Shocking. Sometimes, I can’t believe that time has gone so fast. I live in the Central Valle, been married 23 years and have two grown sons. Right now we have two dogs and four cats. Just picked up a stray kitten, and she’s a little wild.

Tell us about Affinity-Bird in a Gilded Cage: It’s a Young Adult Urban Fantasy about a young man, Talon who has a strange relationship with crows. They follow him around. He uses this talent to find out who is burglarizing his uncle’s neighbourhood, but discovers something more sinister. With new friends, Iris who communicates with snakes, and Chloe who communicates with raccoons, Talon goes on a mission to stop the robberies. Along the way, he learns not all things are as they seem, and meets a group of people like him.

What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story? Always had stories in my head, since I can remember. I have certain expectation on how stories should go, how my heroes and villians should act and what better way than to write them myself.

Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way? I can’t pinpoint one book that has changed my life, but my favourite author is Lois McMasters-Bujold. Her books did affect how I write and develop my characters.

What was the seed of inspiration for your latest book? I decided to write a book that didn’t include ghosts or vampires and came up with this short story about Talon. This may sound corny but, when the NaNoWriMo came up that year, I asked God for a sign if I should write this young adult urban fantasy or continue on with Real Estate Paranormal Mystery Series. A few nights later I was awaken by my dogs barking like crazy. I thought one of our cats escaped the cat fence, so I went outside. The biggest raccoon I ever was on our roof. Now, we’ve lived in this house for twenty-three years and never have I seen a raccoon in the neighbourhood. Chloe’s affinity animal is a raccoon. Bam, there’s my sign.

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? There really isn’t one main message, maybe using your God given talents to do good. But there is something that I hoping to make people aware of. I can’t say what it is, because it would be a spoiler.

What challenges have you faced in your writing career? Finding the time. I work full-time, and my husband and I started a little business too. And marketing, that is a full-time job too.

What has been your best moment as a writer? Getting that out of the blue email from a happy reader asking when the next book is coming out. Makes my day.

Who is your author idol? Lois McMasters-Bujold is awesome. I can read her series over and over. If you like strong female characters, great characters and science fiction, she’s a must read. She writes fantasy as well.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters? Oh yes. My writer’s group used to call me Rosemary because of the main character in House Haunting, the first book in my Real Estate Paranormal Mystery Series. Funny, but I worked a few years in real estate myself. Hmmm…

Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? There is so much more to do. Books waiting for revision and to be written. Marketing, marketing, marketing. I need to get a handle on that.

What is your personal cure for procrastination? You know writers, always distracted by shiny objects, kind of like the crows from Affinity. Just have to keep focused. I think the lack of time keeps me on the straight and narrow, because I am so happy to be writing.

What does your workspace look like? I have one side of a corner desk I share with my husband. We just moved the office, so I have a whole board in front of me I get to put up any kinds of pictures I want. There are books everywhere, post-it notes with little tidbits of important information and reminders. My spiral notebooks with the plots of each book spread around. I try and clean up every so often.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? Insomnia? Sometimes it’s hard to sleep when the characters are so noisy in your head, and you can’t turn them off.

Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? Nope.

What do you do when you’re not writing? I work with my husband in our little planter business, planting succulents in frames we build. Fun. Love gardening and playing soccer.

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? Baby steps. I just want it all to happen at once. Take a deep breath and remain calm.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school? School was long time ago. And I couldn’t wait to graduate. Now, I wished I had paid more attention.

Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? Before I really started writing, my husband and I were watching Romancing the Stone. You know, with the writer, and my husband in his infinite wisdom turns to me and say, “Why don’t you write a book.” Like it will suddenly be a best seller. So, I did. And I haven’t stopped.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? Take some writing classes and join a writing group. Have an open mind to what experienced writers have to say, but be true to yourself. After all it’s your story. Decide your audience and genre and learn the rules for writing in that genre. Read a lot those kinds of books. Once you know the rules, you can break them, knowing you’re doing exactly what you intended.


  1. My favorite part was What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? Baby steps. I just want it all to happen at once. Take a deep breath and remain calm. Another fantastic interview best wishes for much success to you both.
    M.C.V. Egan

  2. Hi, Sarah. Hello, Mary. Since I also live in the California Central Valley, this post grabbed my attention right away. *waves from Kingsburg, south of Fresno* I find myself appreciating Mary's positive outlook. I, too, love her thoughts about those baby steps. Thanks so much for sharing, ladies.