Today, I’m thrilled to welcome romance writer MJ Schiller, author of Trapped Under Ice and the brand new release Abandon All Hope–a book that only sounds like it chronicles my housekeeping effort.
1. What biographical information is important to your writing journey? Well, my father was the best storyteller! He used to always talk about the Bedtime Band, which played at Mrs. White’s Party every night. The band was conducted by three brothers, Horatio Marcedes, Marcedes Marcedes, and…dang it! I don’t remember the third brother’s name. (I phoned-a-friend and am waiting for a sibling to call back.) You got to choose which instrument you would play in the Bedtime Band (which was pretty limited because I think I only knew drum, piano, and guitar at that age). And there was a song, too. Bum-da-da-deedle-deedle-bummer, bum-bum-bum-bum-bummer, bum-deedle-deet, bum-deedle-doot, bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum…I could go on, but Leslie is threatening me and it’s much better in person anyway. Any of my siblings could jump in with me, although I don’t think we all remember it quite the same way.
Dad would also make up stories about the Tangles when he would comb out our hair. I remember we used that Johnsen & Johnsen No More Tears stuff. Do they still have that stuff? I digress. But there were plenty of tears and plenty of tangles. Perhaps because my dad didn’t own a hairdryer (my parents were divorced) and he would buff our hair dry with a towel until it stood out like we’d stuck our fingers in an outlet. For any males reading, NOT a good method of hair styling. Anyway, he would make these little squeals when he’d fight a tangle out. “Ohhhh, no! There goes Tommy Tangle! And his sister, Tina Tangle!” He was awesome! I think I get some of my imagination from him. Although, ironically, he was a statistics guy, did marketing research for some major companies, (Kodak, Hallmark, Anheiser Busch, Hershey).
~By the way, for those of you just overwhelmed with curiosity about the Marcedes brothers—my older sister called back and said there were only the two brothers, but I’m pretty sure there were three by the time my little sister and I were born. My little sister was of no use to me (sorry, Chridder) and my brother didn’t even bother to call back, probably thinking I was off on another one of my crazy tangents, and it was best not to engage.~
2. In your bio, I read that you were born “in the heart of tornado alley,” and thus are “a little twisted.” Do writers need to be “a little twisted?” And, since we have both been teachers and know the drill, why or why not? Ahh! You’ve done your research. I’m impressed! I can’t speak for anyone else, but twisted works for me! My son and I, my best friend, we’re cut from the same bolt of idiocy, and we feed off each other, which makes us either hysterical, or annoying, depending on your personality. Twisted helps, I think. It means that you look at the world slightly off-kilter, but that makes your observations new, fresh.
3. What has been the most persistent and troubling obstacle on your journey so far? E.A.S.Y!!! Lack.of.time! I lack the time (because of my husband’s silly insistence that I help financially with the raising of our four children) to do this job right! What I would give to have time to read other’s romances, read books and articles on writing, explore different avenues of marketing, go to conferences, and just WRITE! To be fair, if I was more organized, and less easily distracted by social media, I would do far better. Sigh.
4. You mention that lack of time and being forced to work have been stumbling blocks towards going where you want on this journey. What have been the perks, the rewards, the kicks in the proverbial pants that keep you moving on anyway? Another easy answer. Reader feedback. I guess that makes me egotistical, or egomaniacal, take your pick. I just can’t explain how good it feels when you create a “person” (again, sounding egomaniacal) and someone else “gets” them and loves them as much as you do. But, even without that, the writing is so rewarding itself. When you create this really cool person and you can make them do your bidding…okay, clearly I have control issues and a need for the world to revolve around me.
Writing is fun, end of story. ; )
5. Couldn’t help but notice (since I teach first graders) that you have taught AND been a lunch lady. So I’m curious—which of those two jobs a) gave you more to write about and b) made you lose more sleep and pull more hair out over? Love the way you create your interviews! Umm…the teaching was, without a doubt, more stressful. You have the kids’ future in your hands. Right now I have the kids’ lunch in my hands. If I mess that up, there’s always dinner.
But more to write about, probably being a lunch lady. Teaching is, in a way, a very solitary effort, at times. On the other hand, in the kitchen, we work very closely together. I’ve worked with the same core group of people for over ten years and my one best friend/coworker has given me volumes to write about all by herself! Love you, Kel!
6. We all set out on our respective writers’ roads with hope, courage, and determination. Some of us get farther than others. Some of us are never sure where we’re going, but figure we’ll know when we’re there. Where do you think you’re going, if you know, and how would you judge your progress? Wow! I can tell you where some people think I’m going, or at least where they wish I’d go. No. I feel like I’m making progress. It’s hard not to compare yourself with others’ success and find that you’re coming up short, but this is a business where it really takes time to build a readership. Luckily, I feel like every time I get low, I’ll hear from a reader or reviewer and it will pick me back up and give me the fuel to keep going forward.
7. Please share something personal and important to you that I didn’t know to ask—about your writing, your life—whatever would mean the most for you to tell us at this moment in your journey. Okay, this question was so hard I had to take a bath so I could contemplate the answer, but I think I’ve come up with something. I guess what I’d like to do in summing things up is let people know what they are in for when they read an M.J. Schiller novel.
I had the honor and privilege of being invited to a book club Thursday evening and a sweet lady asked me about “all of the research” that I put into my writing. My answer to her, and I say it in jest, but on another level I’m not kidding, I don’t want you to learn anything from an M.J. Schiller novel. Not a darn thing.
Life is hard. I have four teenagers, believe me, I KNOW life is hard. I want to provide you with a means of escaping from all that for a while, the house, the kids, the spouse, the demands of your job, ailing parents, illness…whatever your situation is, I want you to be able to lay it down for a few hours and just feel, laugh, cry, get turned on, and experience that magic moment of falling in love all over again. For those two hours I don’t want you to think about the dishes in the sink, the report due Friday, the son failing algebra. Sure, those things are important, and you’ll get to them, but maybe after running away with a rock star for a while you’ll be able to handle them a little better.
Let me share with you a piece of one of my favorite reviews. A reader from San Marcos, Texas said that TRAPPED UNDER ICE was “the amusement pill that I needed after reading some dry Greek narratives” and a “dark…trilogy.” Reading to learn and to challenge yourself is important, but I believe it is equally important to give yourself a rest from time to time and let a book take you someplace new, some place where you just don’t even have to answer to your name for a while.
That, Leslie, was a good time! Thank you for allowing me to talk your ear off for a while!
On the contrary, MJ–thanks for dropping by and visiting here on the Rio! Loved your humor and I think you message about what’s important will appeal to readers and writers!