Mary Carter is a novelist and writing coach. Three Months in Florence is her seventh novel. Her other works include: The Things I Do For You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged. In addition to her novels she has written three novellas: A Very Maui Christmas in the New York Times best selling anthology Holiday Magic, The Honeymoon House in the New York Times best selling anthology Almost Home, and A Kiss Before Midnight in the Spring of 2013. She has a Christmas novella coming out in an anthology in 2013, a summer novella in 2014, and another Christmas novella in 2014. She is currently working on her eighth novel, Meet Me in Barcelona. Although she will always be a New Yorker at heart, Mary is making a move to Wilmington, NC where she can focus on writing full time. She can be reached at marycarterbooks.com, Facebook/MaryCarterBooks, or twitter @marycarterbooks.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Three Months in Florence. When did you start writing and what got you into contemporary fiction?
Thank you. It’s always exciting to have a book released. My first novel was published in 2006, and I’ve been doing a novel a year (plus novellas) since then.
Did you have a mentor who encouraged you?
Books on writing became my mentors. Ditto for great novels. And along the way I’ve had support from agents, my editor, writing teachers, friends, and family.
Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?
I used to have trouble finishing my works. I would start projects and abandon them. They’re probably all piled up on the Island of Misfit Stories.
I finally had the chance to visit Italy two years ago and absolutely fell in love with the country. I knew I had to set a novel in Florence. I also liked the idea of a wife confronting a mistress. It progressed from there.
What do you tell your muse when she refuses to collaborate?
Do I have one of those? How can I get in touch with her? Writing is work. I wish I had a muse.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to write. Can you relate to this?
Yes. Just reading the question makes me anxious. Always. It takes me a few hundred words before the anxiety lifts, and thankfully it usually does. Then it’s back the next day. You have to write through it.
Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?
No, and no. Again. I wish. But I’m also proof that you can be totally unorganized and undisciplined and still WRITE. I squeeze it in. It adds up.
How do you celebrate the completion of a novel?
I’m starting to sound boring. No muse, no celebrating. What is this — a job? By the time a book comes out I have to worry about promotion, and I’m already writing the next one. I don’t throw big parties — I only did that with my first novel, She’ll Take It, and with The Pub Across the Pond at a local pub where a lot of the characters were based. That was a ton of fun. I guess I celebrate now by releasing it into the world with a prayer and a hope.
How do you define success?
Book sales and royalties are definitely in the mix. But my focus needs to be on the actual process of writing, because no matter how much money I make, that is where I “live” on a day-to-day basis. And my relationship to the page isn’t interested or affected by money. I strive to do the best job I can with any given work with the amount of time I have to do it. I try to improve some element of craft with each story. I always strive to write the kind of book I would get excited about reading. I have to remind myself to enjoy the process, that writing can be fun. If it’s torture to write, it’s probably torture to read. We writers think that the more “serious” we are about our work, the better it is. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. Worrying and writing are polar opposites. One does not serve the other.
What do you love most about the writer’s life?
I love when I have a first draft completed and can begin rewriting. That’s where the magic and fun lives for me. That’s when I say — “Aren’t I lucky? I get to play with this all day.” I also like that the dress code is often pajamas. And I can take naps.
Where is your book available?
Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and I think Sam’s Club, Target, Walmart, etc. I love independent bookstores, but I think more often than not you have to order it from them first. There are also independent venues online which sell my novels.
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
I didn’t major in creative writing in college. Anyone with a desire to learn the craft can do so through books, novels, and workshops. You don’t need hours a day to write. Even a page a day consistently, would add up to 365 pages at the end of a year. Also, thank you for being readers in the first place!