Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Guest Bloggers - Mary Reed & Eric Mayer

Tell me your back story about how you became a mystery author.

Mary always liked reading mysteries. After reading a few that
disappointed her, she thought maybe she could do at least as well and started
writing her own short stories. She sold her first mystery, "Local Cuisine," to
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 1987, straight out of the slush pile.
As for Eric, after he and Mary were married she convinced him to start
collaborating with her on mysteries, which he read but had never tried
to write. The first Reed/Mayer co-authored story, "The Obo Mystery"
appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 1995. Of course, both of
us spent many years writing a variety of nonfiction, both professional
and amateur, before we tried our hands at fiction.

How many books have you written and published?

We've written eight Byzantine mysteries beginning with One For Sorrow,
all of which have been published by Poisoned Pen Press. Mary long ago
wrote a mystery, and even longer ago a romance, both unpublished. Eric
wrote one unpublished mystery -- he claims that was for practice. We have
collaborated on an supernatural thriller set in Victorian times that we
feel may be our best work, but no publisher has yet agreed.

Let's talk about your daily writing schedule. Do you write a daily word
count or page count or is it a chapter or two a day?

Aside from working towards whatever our deadline might be, we don't
generally set daily goals. A day might be entirely devoted to necessary
research, resulting in no word count at all. We tend to write as much as
possible when we have the time. That being said, when a book is outlined
in detail and the bulk of the research has been completed, Eric does try
to apply himself to start and finish a scene during a working day. Of
course, scenes vary in length, and sometimes they become too long to do
in A day, or an unexpected question turns up which has to be researched.
Eric has noticed that he'll often end up with 1,500 words in a writing
day, although he doesn't aim for that number. It is much harder to
quantify Mary's efforts since she's constantly composing things in her head
and when everything falls into place she simply sits down and
rattles off a few words.

Tell us a little about your personal life and what keeps you busy when
your not writing mysteries?

We're pretty much homebodies. Most of what we do revolves around books
and reading.

What conventions, workshops, guest panels and other writing related
events do you attend?

We only make online appearances, like this one! As new authors we did
try some public appearances but neither of us are public people. We are
most comfortable with the written word and neither of us likes attention
directed towards us personally. We prefer to send our books out into the
world on our behalf. They are much more interesting than we are, or at
least we certainly hope so. Mary was spotted hanging around the chat
room at last year's Poisoned Pen Press Webcon, however, and may very
well be back for Webcon II. http://www.ppwebcon.com

If you were to mentor a writer what are some of the do's and don'ts you
would tell that writer about the publishing business and of course the
business of writing?

Getting published requires patience, persistence, politeness, and a
sense of humor. Don't take rejections personally. Don't waste time and
energy complaining about the unfairness of the publishing business. Of
course publishing is unfair, but then what business isn't? Just realize
that, yes, there is a lot of luck involved, and then get on with the
task of improving as a writer. Every writer needs some luck but the
better the writer the less luck is necessary.

A few specific points:

Worry about the writing first. Don't be thinking about selling your book
while you should be thinking about writing it.

You don't need an agent to sell a book to many quality independent
publishers. We didn't have an agent when we sold out first book.

When you've sold a book be prepared to promote your work in some manner.
It is time consuming but hopefully time well spent.

Your editor is always right.

Help other writers if you can, because we're all in it together.

If you must snark, do so privately. You never know who's watching.

Of all your book covers do you have a favorite cover?

We love all our book covers. Poisoned Pen Press wisely chose to use
original mosaics from the Byzantine period which, naturally, reflect the
contents perfectly, not only as to the period but also the fact that we
try to make our setting as authentic as possible. However, we must say
that the current cover, for Eight For Eternity, with its rich coloration
is probably our favorite so far.

Just for fun tell me what your favorite meal, dessert, movies and place
to vacation?

We both like a good egg curry, and custard and peaches or cheese cake
are good desserts though not necessarily with the egg curry. Movies we
enjoy range from Lawrence of Arabia to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
There's nothing like heroes who favor eccentric dress! As for vacations,
we understand spring in sixth century Constantinople is nice, at least
if you're the emperor. The dungeons get a little damp.

Do you have a favorite minor character that you would like to share with us?

In Eight For Eternity there's a garrulous old physician who regales his
unfortunate patients with rambling and detailed accounts of horrific
injuries he's treated. Eric was thinking of an old family doctor with no
bedside manner.

Please share with us how you plot and outline your mysteries?

We're not exactly sure ourselves how the process works. We seem to start
off with an amorphous cloud of unrelated facts from research. Gradually
some of the facts start to coalesce around vague ideas we have tossed
about. What if plotters sought to use the Nika riots for their own
purposes? What happened to those miscreants who, historians tell us,
survived that botched hanging just prior to the riots? Scenes and
characters begin to form. At that point we start writing things down.
One scene suggests another. We list the scenes, shuffle them. A plot is
born. Basically we sit and talk (and talk and talk) and take notes until
we figure we have an outline for a novel. This requires massive amounts
of coffee. We do try to insure that we keep the plot moving at a decent pace and
intersperse action with more sedate bits, but we really don't have any
formula, or any mechanical way of constructing the books. Self-taught
writers that we are, we work pretty much intuitively.

Is there something you would like to say to your readers?

Just that we hope they enjoy our books. Feel free to email us at the
address on our website:

In closing leave us with a quote from you or one of your characters.

"We can't always choose what we must endure. Indignity, at least, can be
survived." -- John, in Two For Joy.


  1. The supernatural thriller sounds great. I hope that you find a publisher for it soon.

  2. I find that supernatural thriller has caught my interest as well. I'm not actually all that big on that genre, but I know that you guys would not have created a Friday the 13th type blood and gore book.

  3. Thanks for taking time to comment.

    Jim, you're quite right! There is some blood spilt but not in an in your face way. Plus Jack the Ripper is only once mentioned in passing and that's by a guttersnipe to his grubby friend!

    Mary R


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