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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Forces of Nature 
Welcome to Marilyn!

Marilyn, could you tell our readers a little about yourself. What are some of the events that have influenced your life as it is today?

I’m an army brat, raised all over the world. I wrote about my life as a brat accompanying my army officer father to places like Seoul, Korea in 1946 (I was 8 years old and got my very own orders from The War Department) and Austria, and back to the States at various posts from 1938 to 1958, when he (we!) retired. So those early years greatly influenced my life, giving me an appreciation of being an American and an understanding of how other people live. I think I developed empathy for others and an interest in what motivates them.

Please would you tell our readers what was the inspiration that led you to write “Forces of Nature”?

I was shopping at a popular local mall one day when I heard the rumble of yet another Air Force jet taking off from the nearby runway. The thought crossed my mind that it would be unthinkable for such a plane to crash into the mall, but on the way home, I heard on the car radio that the area was to expect a severe thunderstorm with tornadoes. So the idea was born. I worked as a temp in the National Weather Service offices and as an assistant to the manager at a local mall, so I took what little I knew about those areas and incorporated them into the story. Also, Howard, the Weatherman, who has dreams of tornadoes the night before they happen, was a characteristic I developed as a teenager in Oklahoma, so I incorporated that ability into his weather forecasting.

Was your life as an ‘Army Brat’ part of the inspiration, as there is
an Air Force bomber that is a big part of the story?

I really wasn’t exposed to many airplanes as a kid, unless you count the flight overseas from Massachusetts to Germany. So, no, I suppose the KC135 tanker came from my imagination and proximity to the nearby AF base.

What makes this book special to you?

Interesting question. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of the fury of Mother Nature and human nature that makes the book more interesting to me. I think we’ve all felt powerless in the midst of any natural disaster, and we’ve all met people who are like those portrayed in the book. And we like to think that justice triumphs in the end.

Do you write a plot or outline before you start your writing?

It’s not a real outline; I think outlines should be outlawed! I do have a plot kind of sketched out, as to who, what happens, what are the backgrounds of each character, and how do they all tie in together? My books go through countless revisions as I add plot lines or dialogue and background, and the original ending was one I wasn’t happy with, so I re-wrote it. It had been all nicely tied up, but I wanted to let my readers know life isn’t like that, and sometimes lives don’t turn out the way we think they should.

Have there been any Authors in particular, that inspired the writing of this story?

I like so many authors, I couldn’t say. I will say that the old movie, The Towering Inferno, about a high-rise office building, kind of rattled around in my head during the writing of this book.

How did you choose the cover for the book?

My publisher, Vanilla Heart Publishing, offered me four proposed covers from which to choose. Tone was an aerial view of a building left shattered, with a sign hanging drunkenly off the side, in dull, muted colors; another of a whirling, dark tornado funnel, and two were of fiery red skies implying an inferno rather than a natural weather event. Besides, the colors were vivid and eye-catching, something I’ve learned sell better at book signings. So I told her which one I preferred and it was a “Go.”

Could you talk about some of the most positive experiences you’ve had while writing “Forces of Nature”?

Maybe it’s thinking about my characters and how each reacts to life’s events. I think they may have forced me to re-examine some of my beliefs and behaviors and affirmed my faith in a higher power.

How about the negative ones?

Sometimes my characters did not behave in the manner I thought they should. But that’s what makes them interesting, don’t you think? Just about the time you think you know somebody really well, up pops something completely unexpected. And sometimes I even surprise myself.

Have there been any stumbling blocks in your writing of this book?

Not really. I had thought at one time about getting with the Public Information Office at the AF Base and ask for permission to interview a KC135 tanker, but decided the red tape involved would be too lengthy. If I were writing more of a documentary, of course I would have insisted on accuracy and detail, but since this is a fictional story, I knew I could take great liberties with the statistics and probabilities (Would an AF plane REALLY take off in the middle of a severe thunderstorm? Probably not, but in my story, it did, so there!)

What other projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a sequel to Sabbath’s Room, titled Sabbath’s House, where the magical black cat moves from the isolated farmhouse to a huge Victorian house in town, and you would think all would be well after finding bodies in the cellar of the former residence. Not so…And there will be a historical romance, The Unexplored Heart, and an untitled vampire book. Also toying with a novel titled Fireflies in a Jar, about girls growing up in a small town in the mid-fifties. And, oh, yes, a sequel to The Women of Camp Sobingo, called That Cavanaugh Woman. The world is not yet done with Trudy Cavanaugh, the wealthy and powerful former army wife who lived her young married years in a remote military compound with her husband and who returned to the states with a physically and emotionally crippled spouse and who is then appointed by her father-in-law as heir to the publishing empire.

Of the books that you have written, which is you favorite?

I love The Women of Camp Sobingo. The four women were so diverse, three of them so strong, and one who carried so many demons in her soul that she chose death in that remote country. Their backgrounds, their childhoods, formed their characters to either cope or crumble under the enormous pressures of their lives. How was Maggie from Chicago different from Nell Martin from West Texas? Why did the beautiful yet fragile Leah Damon think so little of herself even though she had been a famous model? And how did the shy Trudy Cavanaugh gain the favor of her husband’s father and battle a family scandal?

Which was the hardest to write?

Even though I used pages from my personal journals in writing my book about lupus, Diagnosis: Lupus: The Intimate Journal of a Lupus Patient, I hesitated to reveal my “bad” inner self where I cursed God, felt suicidal at times, fell into a slobbering self-pity, and in general was probably pretty unlikeable, but I realized I was expressing only honest human emotions and that this book may help others to realize they aren’t alone in their emotional upheavals. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel, acceptance and even serenity amid the wreckage of this disease or any other chronic illness, such as cancer or MS. So this book was harder to put into print.

Do you write to make money or for the love of writing?

I’m laughing at the money part. I think the last royalty check I got bought me a Happy Meal at McDonald’s. So I’m definitely not writing for the money! I think it’s the satisfaction of doing what I always dreamed of doing. And when my 9-year-old granddaughter was at my house and picked up my latest book and read the back cover with my picture on it. She looked at me, eyes wide, and asked in awe: “Grandma! Are you famous?” You can’t get any kind of money for that!

Could you share some of your ways of marketing you book?

I’m just learning to market. And I hate it. The time I spend in marketing my books takes away from writing, and that makes me cranky. But market I must. I’ve been on talk radio, on television (local cable) and given speeches at civic and church groups. I I’ve had book signings and attended writer’s conferences where I’ve sold my books. I blog, I’m trying to learn to Tweet and am posting on Face book and My Space. I troll the Internet looking for markets (free, of course) where I can post my books, and since I have six of them at the moment, that’s time-consuming. And exhausting.
But I can’t give up, and maybe it will pay off in the long run. I subscribe to Google Alerts where they send me lists of anytime one of my books or my name is mentioned in press or blogs, and I’m always surprised when I see some blogger has one of my books listed as having read it. I always write and thank them and ask if they would give me a review. I have no idea how they found my book(s) but I’m thrilled they did.
I think that’s one reason I love to write. Somebody, somewhere, is reading one of my stories.
And I love it.

Thank you so much Marilyn for a wonderful interview! My readers and I wish you all the best with your writings. I can’t wait to read your books. I know you are working on a sequel to “Sabbeth’s Room”, we look forward and to more!

For More information about Marilyn's books go to her website

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