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Interview with Novelist Mary Stella

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Mary Stella fell in love with romance novels while pursuing her English degree. Her writing career started while she was in college and was paid to write her first radio commercial.  It was then that her dream of writing a book took hold.  

All Keyed Up, a humorous contemporary romance set at a dolphin facility in the Florida Keys with a determined researcher and a stubborn DEA agent, was her debut novel, originally published in print format a few years ago.

Key of Sea, published a year later, proves that an ex-trophy wife can create a new life for herself, find love again with a hot younger man, and successfully battle land crabs.

Mary updated both books prior to releasing them electronically. She’s hard at work on a new project, which will also be set in the Florida Keys – the beautiful, fun, slightly abnormal island chain that she calls home.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? 

For most writers, working on a book is not their full time job.  Often, the challenge is making the time to sit down every day and commit to the book.  It’s hard when there are other demands  like a full time job and/or family responsibilities.  I put myself on a schedule to write every day.  I still took care of my other things, but my books got the attention they deserved.  From a writing craft perspective, the hardest part for me is tuning out the internal critic and editor and letting the words, characters and scenes flow without second guessing my own voice and creativity.

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I wrote my first little story when I was in first grade.  I was an early reader and from the beginning words and stories were magic and I loved playing with them and giving voice to my imagination.  Over the years I always wanted to write a book and let lack of confidence get in my way.  I started and stopped a dozen times.  In 1994, I finally firmly committed, with no barriers and finished my first book a year later.  That book has never been published – and rightly so.  🙂  It was a learner book for me and I’ve progressed a great deal ever since.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (if any)?

Persistence and determination are an aspiring author’s friends!  The industry is hard to break into and sometimes you need as much luck and timing as talent and ability.  With All Keyed Up, I found editors who loved my voice but thought there were story elements that wouldn’t sell.  One editor completely misunderstood something and rejected the book because of it.  Not every book is going to be a good fit with every publisher which is why authors need to not give up.  I was fortunate to find a publisher that loved everything about All Keyed Up and then Key of Sea.  (Note: Medallion Press published them in print form.  I published them independently in electronic format.)

 Have you written a book that you have not been able to get published?  If so, can you share a little about it with us? 

Yes, my first manuscript, but again, it has severe flaws.  Of course, when first writing it, I thought it was terrific and there are many fine things about it.  However, there are problems with the plot that I see now with clearer eyes.  Sometimes I think about resurrecting the book but, honestly, my voice is stronger and better now, so I’d need to completely rewrite it anyway.

How did you come up with the title? 

Both of my books are set in the Florida Keys where I live, so I thought All Keyed Up would be a great title for the first book.  It fit the story and characters, too.  For Key of Sea, I couldn’t think of a title at the time I was writing it, so I just sort of stuck that on as a working title.  I knew that publishers usually change the titles.  A friend of mine’s publisher once went through over 150 titles before settling on the one originally used for the book!  Color me amazed when Medallion liked Key of Sea!  I will admit that I then went into the manuscript and made some subtle additions to tie the title in better with the story. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Write stories you love, filled with characters you enjoy spending time with.  The creative process is hard work but also so much fun when you’re deep in your story.  Life’s too short to not love what you’re doing!

In both of my books, the heroines are determined to make positive progress and changes in their lives.  I think that their determination echoes the needs of the writer.  By the way, I never use the term “aspiring writer.” If you’re writing, you are a writer.  Don’t let anyone take that away from you.  You are aspiring to be published and for that, you need to hold onto your determination.  Even if you ultimately choose to publish your own work electronically, you need to put your own persistence and effort into fostering success.  Good luck.

Thanks for welcoming me today.


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About Tracee Gleichner

  • Great interview Mary. I really enjoyed reading about your books and how you write.

  • Susan Sorensen

    Absolutely love your comment on the distinction of aspiring writer versus aspiring to be published; that one statement validates a writer and his/her work. Getting published is a whole different issue that in no way makes one writer better or worse than another. All in what one’s preference is in reading material.

    If some of the current authors of the day gave up their craft based on rejection letters from publishers, we’d have missed out on a lot of great reads, not to mention movies produced based on the ideas. Just look at JK Rowling; never give up your passion!

  • Jen Wagner

    Loved your first two books and can’t wait for your future ones!

  • Great interview, Mary Stella! Your books are on my TBR pile 🙂

  • Nan

    Terrific interview, Mary Stella! I read both your “Keys” books and loved them! You’re a wonderful storyteller! Plus, I want to come visit you in the Keys!

  • Excellent interview, Mary! Enjoyed both your books and am hoping for more.