Home for Maureen Mackey is the towering firs and misty rains of the Pacific Northwest. Writing is her life-long dream, which first surfaced when she was in the third grade. Ambitiously, she wrote an entire table of contents to an original fairy tale, and then began writing the chapters only to get hopelessly mired in chapter four. Happily, she’s never gotten stuck like that again, (perhaps because she doesn’t write tables of contents anymore), and to date she has written several contemporary and historical romances, as well as a romantic suspense trilogy.
Born in Los Angeles, California, she was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and earned her bachelors of arts degree in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara. While studying English literature and history, she fell in love with the eighteenth-century and Regency England, areas she continues to enjoy researching and writing about. Determined to become a working writer, she obtained a masters of journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, which led to jobs as a staff writer and free-lancer for a number of publications.
In her journalistic career Maureen has written feature articles and book reviews for newspapers, which include the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner and The Oregonian, as well as profiles and in-depth reporting pieces for magazines such as Learning, Change, Darkroom Photography and Monterey Life. Maureen has also written restaurant reviews in tandem with her photographer husband, Tom White, for The Multnomah Village Post, a monthly newspaper in Portland, Oregon. She is a contributing writer to Portland Cheap Eats, (Sasquatch Books, 1999) and Portland Best Places, to be released by Sasquatch Books in Spring 2001.
Her Regency romance novel, Lord Peter’s Page, won first place in the 1996 Top O’ The Trees, a writing competition sponsored by the Regency Plume, before being published by Awe-Struck E-Books. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, its Portland chapter, Rose City Romance Writers, and the Beau Monde, a special-interest chapter for writers of Regencies.
In addition to her writing, Maureen manages a technical communications business with her husband Tom. In her spare time (what she has of it!) she enjoys prowling through used book stores, gardening, listening to music (especially when played by her two teen-age band student sons) and traveling with Tom, her best friend and companion for the past 27 years. In addition to being busy with her family, she happily copes with a menagerie of animals that includes two large, mixed-breed dogs, two cats, and various assorted fish and rodents.
Q: What made you start writing and when did you start?
A: I don't really remember starting, but I do remember writing an ambitious table of contents for a fairy tale book, along with the first chapter, when I was about 8 years old. In eighth grade I wrote a humorous account of a class field trip to a military base. My teacher had me read my essay to the class, and I got a lot of laughs, which I found tremendously encouraging. In high school I elected to take an independent study, creative writing class, for which I wrote short stories, one of which I submitted to a contest that subsequently folded. After that, I went to college and majored in English, and wrote essays and short stories whenever I could. I went into journalism after college, so I could learn more about the craft of writing and make a living at it. When my first son was born, I got the courage to start writing novels, and I've never stopped.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
A: My favorite mystery authors include M.C. Beaton, who writes the delightful Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth mysteries, Nancy Atherton with her Aunt Dimity tales, and the queen herself, Agatha Christie. In Regency romance, I'm partial to Jane Austen (who actually wrote contemporary accounts of her time, which happened to be during the Regency) Georgette Heyer, and current authors Marion Chesney and Mary Balogh.
Q: What person has had the biggest effect on your life as a writer, and why?
A: Someone who had an enormous influence on me was noted American journalist Barry Farrell, who taught a writing class at UC Santa Barbara when I was a student there. He was the first professional writer to tell me I had talent, and encouraged me to believe in myself. Unfortunately he has passed away, but his advice and inspiration have stayed with me and helped me through many periods of self-doubt and discouragement.
Q: What type of books do you write? Is there a reason you write (for instance) historical romance rather than science fiction?
A: I like writing mysteries, because in those stories it is possible to be both entertaining and explore important themes. I also enjoy writing Regency romances, because as an English major I studied the time period (late 18th and early 19th century England) and I fell in love with the people and events of that era.
Q: How do you come up with the idea for a book? Once you have an idea, do you plot it out, fly by the seat of your pants, or what?
A: Ideas occur to me all the time, sometimes at the most inconvenient moments, causing me to scramble for pen and paper. Ideas aren't hard to come up with; the real trick is to like an idea long enough to develop and write a book about it. When it comes time to write, my approach is a combination of careful plotting, and seat of the pants. I find if I do not have an initial plot, I'm sure to get bogged down by the time I get to the middle of the book. If, however, at the outset I plot in too much detail, I lose interest in the story and have a hard time finishing it. I need to leave some room for the story evolve as I go, and allow my characters the opportunity to surprise me.
Q: What type of writing schedule do you have? Is it flexible, or do you have a goal for each writing session?
A: I try to devote at least two hours a day to my writing, six days a week. Some days I write more, and some days less, and there are times when I work seven days a week, especially when I'm on a deadline. When I'm in the middle of writing a story, it is in my head all the time, and I find myself making notes or writing scene outlines and snatches of dialogue throughout the day, whether I'm in a writing session or not. For this reason I keep a notebook by my bed, and always carry one in my purse. My best ideas often come to me when I'm in the shower!
Q: What one thing do you like the most about being a writer, and why? What do you like the least?
A: What I like best about being a writer is the opportunity to express myself through stories and characters. I find writing satisfies a deep need I have to create, and I am usually unhappy when I'm not at work on a book. The hardest aspect of writing for me is the necessary isolation. Writing is lonely, and sometimes even painful work, and it can take weeks, months or years to complete a book, during which time I can't really share what I'm going through with anyone else.
Q: Do you write related books, such as series that revisit characters and/or settings you've written about in previous books? As a reader, do you read other authors' series?
A: Yes, I have written three related books that feature the same characters: Bound by Blood, Marriage Can Be Murder, and Cry, Baby, Cry (due to be published by Awe-Struck in April, 2005.) As a reader I enjoy reading series, because if when I come to like certain characters in a story, I always want to know what happens to them next.
Q: How much of your own life and experiences do you put into your books?
A: I don't consciously put my own experience in my books, but when I write I draw on any and everything I may have seen, felt, observed or even read about in my life. I don't believe it's possible to write about something you don't know about, either through first-hand experience or study. My goal with any experience or emotion I write about is to make it universal, so any reader can identify with it on some level.
Q: What's your current writing project? How did you come up with the idea?
A: I am currently at work on a new mystery series set in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I got the idea for it staring at a group of larger-than-life archangels portrayed in a church's stained glass window. And that's all I'm willing to say about this project at the moment!
I am also in the process of final revisions on a Regency romance set during the Napoleonic era, at a time when England lived in hourly expectation of an invasion by France. Mary believes her gallant soldier husband is dead, and she's on the verge of accepting a marriage proposal from a wealthy squire that will secure her future. When her husband Sebastian shows up very much alive and acting like an irresponsible rake, Mary wishes he were dead! I hope THE FORGOTTEN BRIDE will be available soon from Awe-Struck.
Q: Any final thoughts you'd like to share with us all?
A: The only thing that makes me happier than writing is knowing other people are reading and enjoying my work. I am always pleased to hear from my readers; you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website, www.maureenmackey.com