INTERVIEW WITH BESTSELLING AUTHOR: MAGGIE SHAYNE
BY: Pamela James
MM2: Maggie, give us the backstory on your writing career?
Back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth my goal was to get published before the youngest of my five daughters started kindergarten. I sold my first novel, Reckless Angel, to Silhouette Intimate Moments for a $4000 advance with just a couple of weeks to spare: August 24th, 1992. I had also submitted a vampire novel, Twilight Phantasies, to Silhouette’s new Shadows line, and a few weeks later, they bought that one too. It was the beginning of my vampire series, Wings in the Night, which I’m still writing today.
For the next several years I alternated between writing paranormal stories for Shadows and writing westerns and romantic suspense novels for Intimate Moments.
When the Shadows line folded, I was told no more vampires. I wrote another one in 8 weeks flat, because that’s how I react to being told not to do something. (I’m sure this was challenging for my mother.) Harlequin eventually published that as a “Silhouette Single Title” which I didn’t even know was a thing.
Over the next 22 years I published novels with Avon, Berkley, and Harlequin MIRA, continued writing category length romances for Silhouette Intimate Moments and wrote numerous novellas for all of the above plus Pocket, St. Martin’s Press, Spilled Candy Books, and others.
I spent a year writing story arcs for CBS’s GUIDING LIGHT and AS THE WORLD TURNS and was offered the job of co-head writer for GL. I tearfully turned down CBS's million dollar offer because my heart was in my books.
In March of 2014 Harlequin and I went our separate ways. We’d had a very good working relationship and because of that, I was able to leave with a sort of a severance package that included two of my western series, The Texas Brands and the Oklahoma All-Girl Brands. Several books in each of those series had already reverted to me, and as an act of good will, Harlequin reverted the remaining titles. (There is a lesson in this!)
I was in a panic having no other source of income. My oldest daughter Jessica, who had been helping me re-publish reverted backlist titles here and there, did a happy dance and promised to make me rich now that I could finally focus on being a completely independent author. She’d formed her own company by then, (Authors Lifesaver, Inc.) and she had a real handle on how to manage indie books.
During the remaining months of 2014 while I finished writing the two remaining books on my final Harlequin contract, Jessica formatted, packaged and uploaded all the 14 westerns. My oldest daughter Jena also launched her own business, Practical Proofing, and she took over the editing end of things. By the end of 2014 year, my income from those backlist books was double my best year ever with traditional publishers.
2015 has left 2014 in the dust. I’ve incorporated Thunderfoot Publishing Inc. I’ve written several new titles and have more in the pipeline, and I’m having more fun than ever before in my entire career. Better yet, two more of my daughters are coming into the business as authors in their own right and will be publishing their work through Thunderfoot in 2016.
August 24th, 2015 marks my 23rd year in this biz. My first book was contracted in August '92 and released in August '93.
MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?
Mainly I write in my office on the second floor of my home. It was originally the master bedroom. Its walls have giant peel & stick sections of dry erase. My view is spectacular and it holds all my favorite thing including my antique typewriter collection. (Well, I have three. It’s the beginning of a collection.)
MM2: Take us thru your writing day?
It has evolved. A lot. Nowadays I spend about two hours a day writing, and about that same amount of time running the rest of the business, which includes a lot of time on social media.
I start each morning with a cup of coffee or tea, and if the weather’s nice, I take that out on the back deck and listen to the birds and sip and think. I like to get my mornings off to a quiet, peaceful start. Often during this time I make a list of my priorities for the day. This seems to help a lot in keeping me on track. I ease into a half hour of yoga, shower up and get to work. After that it’s email, social media, and any business items that need attending to. I’ve found it’s best if I set a timer for those things, or they’ll take up the entire day. An hour in the morning, no more. Then up to the office to write for a couple of hours, and after that, if there’s more business and online stuff to be done, I tackle it in the afternoon.
Now this can vary a lot. When I’m approaching deadline, the online and business stuff takes a back seat and the writing takes up much more of the day. Other times, I feel like writing first. I kind of go with what I feel most like doing at the moment. It never steers me wrong.
MM2: What are the genres that you write in and tell us about the latest book in each series ?
Contemporary Western Romance, Paranormal Romance, Romantic Suspense and Thrillers, and Paranormal Romance are my genres, with a little non-fiction self-help for good measure.
My western series are: The Texas Brands, The Oklahoma All-Girl Brands, and coming soon, The McIntyre Men. These series are all related, and The McIntyre Men will launch with a very special holiday anthology this year. The latest book in the Oklahoma series is SWEET VIDALIA BRAND.
My suspense series are: The Mordecai Young Series, The Secrets of Shadow Falls, and The Brown and de Luca novels. The first two of these are related, and the third is its own series. My most recent Brown and de Luca novel, Deadly Obsession, was also my final book for Harlequin.
My paranormal series are: Wings in the Night and Wings in the Night: Reborn, The Portal Series, The Immortal High Witches Series, The Fairies of Rush duet. The most recent releases are Twilight Guardians and Twilight Vendetta in the Wings in the Night: Reborn series.
MM2: Dead or alive if you could interview three authors who would they be? What would you ask them?
I talk to authors all the time. There’s this vast pool of knowledge and experience that is right there to tap into. When I want to ask a living author a question, I just ask it. I love living in the internet age where that is possible. When I want to ask a “dead” (no such thing) author a question, I do the same. And very often, I get answers. Nor orally, but I’ll get a blinding insight, a new idea, a sign, something. And I’ll know.
MM2: What is your greatest fear? Do you plan to conquer it someday?
I don’t have any fears. Everything’s going exactly the way it’s supposed to. Nothing happens to me, everything happens for me. There’s never any reason for fear. When something unwanted happens in life, it is always coming for a reason, often to clarify what would be better, to spur growth in a particular area, to point out a place where more balance is needed. The secret is to get your focus off the problem and onto the solution as quickly and completely as possible. There’s never anything to fear. Not death, not disease, not debt. Nothing.
MM2: Where would you like to spend your golden years?
Every year is a golden year. I always do exactly what I want to do, and I spend my time exactly where I want to be now, rather than waiting until I’m older or retired or whatever. I live every day in bliss, and that’s what I want to keep on doing. Whether rich or poor or anything in between, I choose happiness and joy every single day. I adore where I live, I love my home, I am madly in love with my soulmate, and I absolutely adore my life. And this was as much the case 8 years ago after my home was gutted by fire as it is now. I’m the happiest person I know. My happiness never depends on conditions around me. It depends on me looking at what’s good, realizing how blessed I am, appreciating all that I am, and loving just being alive on Planet Earth.
MM2: As a writer what is the best advice you have read, been told or spent some time implementing?
Find your joy first. Find what makes your heart sing, and do that. Being joyful in what you do is the definition of success. You do that, and the other trappings of it will follow. The money, the things. But it’s not about money or things. It’s about joy. Love what you do. Don’t strive, don’t struggle, don’t fight for it. Relax into it. Life is short. There is no reason to spend it striving and stressing and working hard. Spend it doing what you love to do. That’s what it’s for.
MM2: They say it takes a village to write book. Who are the members of your village?
My husband, spiritual partner, and co-plotter, Lance.
My daughter Jessica, who’s my right hand woman in all of this.
My daughter Jena whose editing skills have reached the level of the best NY editors I’ve worked with.
My daughter Katie who keeps me laughing and finds the humor in every situation.
My daughter Stacie, who’s expecting her first baby and writing her first novel, which is absolutely delightful.
My daughter Lisa who’s also writing her first novel and is a better writer on number 1 than I am on number 85.
My grandchildren, all 10 (almost 11) of them!
My critique group, affectionately known as The Packeteers.
My street team leader Michelle Leah Olson of Literal Addiction.
My photographer, Paige Wissenbach.
My dear friends in RomEx.
The fabulous NY editors I’ve worked with, who taught me so much, Leslie Wainger, Cindy Hwang, and Melissa Senate who “Discovered” me.
My agent of many years, Eileen Fallon.
Rose Sversky and Mitch Gary, two high school teachers who had a huge impact on my early years.
MM2: Now or some fun questions. Be the tour guide and tell us where you live? What is your favorite drink? Meal and dessert?
What is your favorite song, television series, movies and place to vacation?
I live in the rolling hills and forests of Cortland County NY, which is the heart of Wine and Dairy country. My nearest neighbor has a 700 acre farm. I look outside, and see nature. Deer, wild turkeys and coyotes are rampant here. Bald eagles, red tailed hawks and turkey vultures are constant companions. It’s far from what most people think of when they think of New York.
Favorite drink: Coffee. Then water. Trying to reverse that.
Favorite meal: The local volunteer fire department’s bbq chicken.
Favorite dessert: Chocolate Lava Cake.
Favorite song: Some of my top picks are Happy by Pharrel, Rhiannon by Stevie (that song inspired my vampire character Rhiannon) and Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran.
Favorite TV Series: Ever? Buffy and Breaking Bad. Current? Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
Favorite Movies: The Princess Bride, Young Frankenstein, Legend
Favorite Places: The red rocks of Sedona Arizona. That place takes my breath away. And my home, Serenity.
MM2: What comes first the plot, the setting or the characters?
Usually it’s the conflict. I come up with a situation where if one wins, the other loses, and both goals are vital. Then from there I start trying to figure out who these two people are and what makes them tick.
MM2: Give us a sample of what your characters have to say about you?
Rhiannon talks about me all the time. She loves me when I’m writing about her, and resents me when I’m writing about anyone else. (She’s @VampRhiannon on Twitter.)
Mostly, I think they would say that I do my best work when I stop trying so hard and just let them whisper their stories into my head. It’s all about relaxing and opening, and then just taking dictation. Any sort of struggle or effort blocks it. It has to flow like water.
MM2: In closing what would you like to tell your readers?
I give away a lot of prizes and a whole lot of free reads, including a free serialized novel in my newsletter. I truly enjoy interacting with my readers, so I hope you’ll come join me on Facebook and elsewhere.
Also, I want to let you know about my current freebies and bargains:
TWILIGHT GUARDIANS, Wings in the Night: Reborn Book 1 is FREE
TWILIGHT GUARDIANS, Wings in the Night: Reborn Book 1 is FREE
THE LITTLEST COWBOY, Texas Brands Book 1 is FREE (contemporary westerns)
THE BRANDS WHO CAME FOR CHRISTMAS, Oklahoma All-Girl Brands Book 1 is FREE (contemporary westerns)
ETERNITY Book 1 of the Immortal High Witch series is FREE. (Epic paranormal romance)
DREAM OF DANGER, a Brown & de Luca novella is FREE (romantic thrillers)
And if you want to connect, here are my digits, so to speak.
Law of Attraction Blog: www.MaggiesBlissBlog.com
MM2: Lastly what comes next in your career?
Coming up next THE RHIANNON CHRONICLES (Wings in the
Night: Reborn, Book 3) releases on Halloween Rhiannon Chronicles
Night: Reborn, Book 3) releases on Halloween Rhiannon Chronicles
And we hope to have a very special holiday anthology, tentatively titled “Country Christmas” featuring stories by me and four of my daughters.
After those, I’ll be giving the vampires a brief break to focus on a new western series, The McIntryre Men.