Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful.
She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six cats, seven Regency-era fiction projects and notes for eight more writing projects in progress. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
Yeah! An easy question—Chocolate! Seriously, chocolate. I have a little square of chocolate every morning, yes my kids pick on me that I have to have dessert with my breakfast, but can you tell me a better way to start the day, especially when you’re not a morning person?
Do you like the spotlight or lurking in the shadows?
I spent a lot of years teaching and doing large professional workshops so I really am comfortable in front of a crowd. But given my druthers, I’d rather be behind stage helping everything to run smoothly than be in the spot light.
We’re cat people, even my dog thinks she a cat, momma cat to three of the biggest boy-cats you’ve ever seen, the sweetest too. We’ve got five cats and our cat-wanna-be dog, so the house is pretty furry. The cats take shifts on my desk so there is nearly always one lying between my chair and my keyboard.
What is your favorite Quote?
It is a Biblical quote: Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. I think what a person says—or does not say—reveals volumes about them and that if you learn to listen really well, you can know a tremendous amount about people without ever asking a single question.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t think it would ever happen because I was ‘supposed to be’ an engineer. I married one instead—does that count?
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Do it afraid.
It is easy to let fear stop us from doing things. There are times when we just need to be afraid and do it anyway. I think there is an awful lot I would never have done if I hadn’t been afraid and done it anyway.
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
The best piece of advice I have ever come across is that you can fix anything but a blank page. Get it written before you worry about getting it right. It is easy to get so wrapped up in perfectionism that you never get anything written.
How long do you generally let a story idea ‘marinate’ in your brain before you start the book?
It really depends. The one I’m finishing now marinated for all of 15 minutes. I was napping under a pile of large cats and I think the oxygen deprivation got to me because this cute little plot bunny came hopping by and I chased it right to the computer and started writing. On the other hand, I have one that I’ve been posting sticky notes on a project board for several months now, just waiting patiently for its turn at the keyboard.
Who or what inspired your last book?
Wondering how a real life situation might be been different if people had chosen to do the right thing rather than the easy thing. I couldn’t change what they did, but I could make some fictional characters live up to their good principles and a series was born
Where do you write?
Pretty much anywhere I can. I have my computer in the office, but I will drag the laptop around with me if the spirit moves me. I am rarely without a pen and notebook and a great deal of my writing happens the old fashioned way. That means an extra step to transcribe it all, but it is a small price to pay to be able to steal away a few moments standing in line at the grocery store or stuck waiting in traffic.
Do you write as you go or do you have the book all planned out from page 1?
I have a general idea of where the story is headed at the start. But if I try to have it all planned out from the start, my muse packs up and leaves until I destroy that dreaded outline. So mostly I let the story have its head and go with it, and it tends to follow a path I had my eye on to start with. It gets really fun when unexpected things happen and I have to figure out whether to force the story back to the path or rework the path to reflect the new surprises.
Where is your favorite spot to write?
I don’t have a favorite spot to write so much as a favorite spot to eavesdrop on my characters. For that, I strap on my running shoes and hit the local trails. There’s something very meditative for me about running. All the noise in my head quiets down and I can really listen to what my characters are up to. I also meet new characters and plots on the running trails. An upcoming project was inspire and mostly plotted over the course of a hundred miles or so—in two to three mile increments mind you!
How do you come up with the characters names/personalities?
The story really drives who the characters are because it is a result of their personalities. The real challenge is figuring out WHY they are the way they are, because that makes all the difference how they will respond to the plot.
As for name, sometimes it just jumps out and I just KNOW. Other times I will consult my favorite website and look for names with specific meanings or variants on names that sort of feel right but aren’t quite it. Sometimes I just have to eaves drop enough on the characters for them to tell me each other’s names.
Do your characters really talk to you?
They don’t talk to me so much as they talk to each other and let me eavesdrop. When I’m ‘in the zone’ I can just close my eyes and watch what is going on in the scene and if I’m really lucky type it out at the same time. Of course, sometimes it results in my typing looking like a bunch of monkeys trying to write Macbeth…
What is your favorite scene in the book? Which scene or characters were the most difficult for you to write and why?
I love writing dialogue and back and forth banter is my absolute favorite. There a couple of scenes which have my hero and heroine teasing back and forth and I just love that.
The most difficult character for me to write was the difficult teen-aged sister. At the beginning of the book, she is a real twerp and I didn’t even like her much. The other thing I don’t like to write is character deaths. Even when it is the ‘bad guy’, I dread killing off characters.
What drives you insane about the writing process?
Hands down, it is proof reading. I don’t proofread my own stuff very well. I read what I intended to write not what is really there. I have lots of little tricks to help me, like changing the font, printing it out on paper, letting the computer read it to me, and they help. But I still have to make like eight passes through something before I can call myself done with the proofing. Even then, I still prefer to have someone else double check it for me.
What is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process?
Writing the rough draft is by far my favorite part. I love crafting the story with abandon. In the rough draft stage I am free to run with ideas and run wild. When I start editing, the discipline starts. That isn’t quite as much fun.
Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
Probably way too many. I have two manuscripts in the drawer to edit, both Regency Romances. I have a sci fi trilogy in developmental edits and an historical fantasy laid out and screaming to be written. I have a file called the ‘plot bunny corral’ that is just bounding with little bunnys demanding attention. I just need to learn to write faster!
All the Appearance of Goodness
What is a young woman to do? One handsome young man has all the goodness, while the other the appearance of it. How is she to separate the gentleman from the cad?
When Darcy joins his friend, Bingley on a trip to Meryton, the last thing on his mind is finding a wife. Meeting Elizabeth Bennet changes all that, but a rival for his affections appears from a most unlikely quarter. He must overcome his naturally reticent disposition if he is to have a chance of winning her favor.
Elizabeth’s thoughts turn to love and marriage after her sister, Mary’s, engagement. In a few short weeks she goes from knowing no eligible young men, to being courted by two. Both are handsome gentleman, but one conceals secrets and the other conceals his regard. Will she determine which is which before she commits to the wrong one?
1 copy of All the Appearance of Goodness
Print to US only, Ebook Internationally