Name: Marie Lavender
Where are you from: Midwestern U.S.
A little about yourself (i.e. your education, Family life, etc.):
I come from a pretty close-knit family of five with three kids (I was the youngest) and we had lots of pets. I grew up with a huge imagination that wouldn’t quit (hence why I wanted to write) and in college, I pursued a degree in English Literature/Creative Writing. While there, I published two works in a university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online student journal. After graduating from college, I sought out my dream to publish a book.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My last book came out in April. It is titled Upon Your Honor, and it is book two of the Heiresses in Love Series. Upon Your Honor is a historical romance set in the Victorian era, and it has quite a bit of suspense. I have another book coming out in early December. It is titled Second Nature, and it is the first book of the Blood at First Sight Series. Second Nature is a paranormal romance/urban fantasy.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing around the age of 9. I just had all of these stories in my head and they had to get out somehow.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I always did on some level. As soon as you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) with the intent of writing a scene or story, you’re a writer. When I was really young, I used to go around telling my family that I was going to be a novelist or author someday. LOL.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Where do I start? My intention was to have my first book be Upon Your Return, the first book of the Heiresses in Love Series. Life didn’t quite work out that way. I was still working on the manuscript for it when I saw the self-publishing trend get wild, and I thought I’d give it a try. My first book was Express Café and Other Ramblings, an anthology of literary fiction and poetry, and it was published in 2010. I had a collection of stories and poems, and I decided to go for it. After that, I self-published 15 more books.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes, I know I do. I really don’t know how to define it though. I have had a lot of friends and family comment that they can see some of my personality bleeding through the narrative, and that’s a major compliment because I never intended for that to happen. LOL.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Upon Your Return, published in 2013, came out of a slice of the dialogue between the hero and heroine. This is a snippet of that text:
He approached her and took her hand in his. Bending over it, he placed a soft kiss on her knuckles, burning her, while her heart clenched in her chest.
Again, it was a chivalrous gesture, but no longer expected of gentlemen. It touched her in more ways than she cared to admit.
“Adieu, Mademoiselle Bellamont. We shall reunite?”
She nodded tremulously. “Upon your return,” she agreed.
The sequel, Upon Your Honor, was a nod toward the first book’s title as well as the theme of the book. The third book, which I am working on now, will also have a lot to do with the theme or overall message in the novel.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In Upon Your Honor, there is a definite survivor theme, but that becomes clearer as you read along.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Well, it is a historical romance so a lot of it had to be pretty real. I loosely based it on historic events while giving myself a literary license. I did a lot of research on Victorian customs as well as sea life and how the ports were back then.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Wow, that’s an interesting question. Well, at the beginning of the book, you learn that Chloe is escaping from her horrible fiancé, Lamonte Beckett. I guess you could say I went through similar situations so I knew how to describe it. The plot just happened, though; it wasn’t because of my experiences. The key was to use those kinds of conditions that some women go through every day, and utilize a historic backdrop in the process. And I think we all know that times weren’t so great for women in the past.
Fiona: What books have influenced your life most?
When I was young, I read things like The Bobbsey Twins or The Baby-sitter’s Club Series. Also Sweet Valley High. And I think Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause sparked my fascination with paranormal romance. When I was in high school and college, classic literature really influenced me. And I love Jane Austen’s books. I would say as a writer, I was influenced by Catherine Coulter’s Devil’s Embrace and some books by Rosemary Rogers. My fascination with historical romance began then. There are a ton of other books and authors who inspire me. These days, the authors who influence me the most are Nora Roberts, J.R. Ward, Kris Tualla, Tessa Dare, P.C. Cast, Kerrelyn Sparks and Chloe Neill.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Hard to choose. I might choose Kurt Vonnegut or Natalie Goldberg for their witty and blatantly honest approaches to writing. I find their styles refreshing and incredibly inspiring.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward. After that, I plan to read Unglorious War by Maxine Flam.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Kris Tualla and Chloe Neill are fairly recent for me, though they’ve been around awhile. I stumbled across their books by accident. Linda Lee Williams is a great, new indie writer and she is very talented. I have read two of hers. I also would like to try reading Carole McKee as well as a few others I have come across through my guest author blog, Writing in the Modern Age.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m glad you said current because I have over 100 works in progress at all times. As aforementioned, I am working on the third book of the Heiresses in Love Series; it is titled Upon Your Love. I also just finished writing a children’s fantasy titled A Little Magick. It is part of the Magick Series and is the sequel to Magick & Moonlight, published in March. Beyond that, I have plans to work on the sequels in the Blood at First Sight Series (the first book is coming out very soon).
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I have to say that my fiancé has been incredibly supportive, my rock in this endeavor. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Definitely. No matter what side jobs I have taken, writing has always been my ultimate goal. One day, I’ll be able to write full-time, but I still see it as a career, a job, and I am accountable to my readers to put out the best quality of work I can.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I am pretty satisfied with Upon Your Honor the way it is. Even if I did want to change anything, I think that we, as writers, tend to always find something we want to fix about our own work, even in the smallest increments. You put your manuscript through the wringer in some ways; it goes through your own edits, beta readers or critique partners, your proofreader, your editor until you have something you can be proud of. Sometimes you just have to know when to say, “It’s finished, and I’ve done the best I can do.”
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Not in a specific sense, no. I just know that I was always fascinated with the written word; I would pour over anything I could get my hands on as a kid. It was fun to see how words could come together to make a sentence, and thereby a paragraph. That paragraph would lengthen into a chapter, eventually creating an essay or a novel. I just loved books. When my own creativity sparked at an early age either through art or singing or while I played on the floor with my dolls under my mom’s feet, my imagination would soar until the stories in my head needed an outlet. When I learned how to write, it just became natural to put them down on paper.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Yes, of course. I already gave you a snippet of the first book. Here is a scene from the sequel, Upon Your Honor:
When her vision cleared and she could focus, she saw that she was in a bed, a truly comfortable one. The room was a cabin, filled with books and maritime instruments, a large red chair near the fireplace, and a small chaise close by. A tall man with broad shoulders stood facing the fireplace, holding a glass.
Something had happened. They had found her. With that knowledge, Chloe became aware of her state of dishabille as well as the loose hair that fell past her shoulders. They knew she was a woman. What would they do to her now? A moan of distress escaped her lips as she tried to sit up, failing due to a bout of dizziness. She had wanted to appear composed, but she was more like an invalid.
At the sound, the man turned and stepped towards her with purpose. He set his glass on a nearby table, pulled a chair up to the side of the bed and sat down. “Perhaps it would be better if you lie still for now. You will have pain for a while. Until it goes away, I suggest you try to rest.”
His dark red hair was familiar. And now that he was closer, she saw that his eyes were a unique shade of gray. Once she realized it was the same man from before, she managed a nod. Her tongue felt leaden, thick in her mouth. How could one man render her speechless? Clearing her throat, she found her voice at last. “I feel a little silly lying here though, when there is an inquisition to attend.”
“Oh?” He nodded. “Yes, I suppose there is a lot to answer for. But, rest assured, I am at the moment the only one here that is aware of your presence, though others will know very soon. If you have an escape plan, you’d better hatch it.”
His warning sent a shiver over her. “You foresee a lot of trouble then.”
“In your position, you should expect it.”
“I do. I am prepared.”
“You are?” He smiled a little. “Even though you convinced me you were a sailor at first, I now know to expect anything from you. However, you don’t strike me as the kind of woman who has approached many of these situations.”
Chloe licked her lips before replying, “You don’t really know what I will do in order to survive.”
“I suppose I don’t know much of your character. But, you hid away in the storage room for some reason. Are you running from the law?”
She was suddenly aware that he had an accent. French perhaps? She shook her head. “Not yet. No.”
He nodded. “Are you willing to take it to that level?”
“I would like to avoid that if possible.”
“There must be a story, then, if you are willing to do nearly anything to survive. What will you divulge to me if I am your only hope? What will you do to save yourself?”
Indeed, what could she do? The minor insinuations he was making disturbed her, but did not shock her. She was aware that some men were not entirely honorable, including Lamonte. “First, I would need to know whether I was in any danger in your hands.” She swallowed hard. “And then, if that turned out well, we would see…”
“Mademoiselle, you honor me.” He paused. “I assume you are not married?”
She shook her head in negation and licked her dry lips. “If my honor is at stake, then I would expect some cordiality.”
He cocked his head. “Would a stowaway have honor?”
Chloe’s jaw tightened. “Every man or woman has a right to some dignity in the face of extreme circumstances.”
“Extreme? I would say you’re fairly coddled right now. If I had any less respect for your dignity, you would be in a prison. Or worse.”
He was right. He had been kind to her, thus far. “This is true. I am sorry, sir, if I have offended you in any way. But, to find myself in such a state begs many questions…questions others might have.”
“What liberties have you already taken?”
His eyes narrowed. “None other than a physician would do in the same situation.”
Her lips firmed. “Am I to assume that your actions were only for the sake of medicine, that what you did was platonic?”
The man frowned. “I never took any liberties that weren’t necessary. You were unconscious. I had to act. Will you apologize for jumping to such conclusions?”
Chloe shook her head. “Surely you cannot fault me for thinking it.”
“No, I suppose I cannot. But, I assure you, you have my character entirely wrong.”
She burrowed deeper under the covers. “Then I’m very sorry for assuming the worst.”
He grunted. “You are quite fortunate, you know.”
She frowned. “Am I?”
“Were I any other man, some aspersions might be cast on your character. You were dressed as a boy, nearly passed as one. But, you are not. Some men might think you are a lady of the night, here to rob us.”
Her eyes widened. “I assure you I am not!”
“Then only a lady?”
Chloe didn’t answer. The less the man knew, the better. But, she did not want him to think she was free with her favors either.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Many aspects of writing are challenging. The best part is when the scene is flowing really well and there’s no stopping it. I usually let scenes come to me randomly and I gather as many as I can until I see a plot forming. From the beginning, I have a good idea of how things will go, but I don’t have any of the finer details. Then I start planning the novel with an outline and I fill in the blanks. One challenge is finding the right kind of research for your book. The biggest challenge, however, is using the outline you made, but knowing you may have to veer off course a bit because a character has decided to tell you how the book is going to play out. As writers, we tend to think we’re in control, but we really aren’t; the characters are always going to dictate the story because it’s theirs.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Ah, it’s a cross between Nora Roberts, J.R. Ward and Kris Tualla. Of course, I have many more favorites. Of the ones I mentioned, however, they all write about strong, unique characters, male and female, and are not afraid to get into the gritty aspects of life in order to tell the story. I really admire that.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not right now, no, but I would like to do more traveling for book fairs and research for other historical novels. I have a series planned about a coven of six witches around the time of the Salem Witch Trials and it will be set it in England. So, I wouldn’t mind visiting the area to get a real feel for it.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
For all of my self-published books, I designed them, but got rights to use the photos from the photographers. For my books through Solstice Publishing, I had a different cover artist for each book. Kayden McLeod designed the cover for Upon Your Return. Select-O-Graphix did the cover for Magick & Moonlight. Deborah Melanie designed the cover for Upon Your Honor. And the cover for Second Nature, the book that is releasing soon, was designed by MLCDesigns4U.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
With Upon Your Honor, there was one part of the research I really struggled with. I kept trying to figure out how long a clipper ship journey might take when you combined all of the ports the characters visited. Once I finally figured that out, however, it was “smooth sailing”. LOL.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that every book is different and some may take longer than others to write. I also learned to listen to the characters and the way the story should be told rather than an industry standard.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Be patient, and enjoy the writing journey. Be open-minded as well. Just because you’ve submitted to tons of agents and you got rejected, that doesn’t mean the door is closed. There are other options, publishers that don’t require a literary agent. You have to remember that literary agents have a specific idea of the kind of book they want. Do your research on those agencies and, more specifically, those agents. What kind of books have they put out? Read agent descriptions. Maybe that individual prefers certain genres or hates others. Don’t submit to someone you know will probably dislike the book on the off chance that they might not. Know your audience well, and use that to your advantage.
To aspiring writers, I would also suggest having a website and blog in advance of being published. You have to develop a fan base early, and the best way is to start writing and making yourself known to people. Figure out what topic you want your blog to be about, and go with it. Keep your blog posts steady (at least once a week) and involve your readers whenever you can.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I would like to thank all of my current readers for taking a chance on this author. It has been a great journey, and I hope to share more stories with you. I would also like to reach out to anyone else, male or female, who enjoys reading books with good characters, a decent storyline and a healthy dose of romance.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not at all, but I do remember those Choose-Your-Own Adventure books that came out when I was a kid. They were so fun to read! I think the young writer in me might have been fascinated by the different plot twists. LOL.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
A lot of things make me laugh – cute or funny animals, people with an awesome sense of humor, I even like sarcasm. What makes me cry? I hate to see animal abuse or people being abused or mistreated. I believe in fairness, in doing what’s right, and in justice. I also tend to cry when I get fully invested in a character and they start feeling sad or something bad happens to him/her. Did I also mention the happy tears? An emotional moment can really move me.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I would like to see my grandmother again. She is in heaven right now with my grandpa. I don’t think she knew it, but she was one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met and I knew she was proud of all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Yeah, she had a hard-headed disposition at times, but I really admired her for so many reasons. I guess that’s just the kind of person you get when you mix Irish and whatever else with Cherokee blood.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
That’s a bit too arrogant and far too grim for me to tackle. Those closest to me will know what’s appropriate for my headstone.
Fiona: Other than writing, do you have any hobbies?
Sure. As you already know, I love reading anything I can get my hands on! My creative side goes further than writing though. I have ventured into making cards, creating art for home use, and designing home décor themes. I have also designed all of the book trailers for my books. I guess you could say that I like learning how to do something once and trying it out. If it’s not for me, I will pretty much know right away. I also cook when I have free time. I come up with random concoctions, even without recipes sometimes.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
TV shows? I currently watch Bones, Castle, Grimm, Once Upon A Time, Sleepy Hollow, Arrow, The Mentalist, Beauty and the Beast, as well as a few others. Movies? I love the movie The Princess Bride. I love romantic comedies or anything with romance, especially the historic ones like the adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. I don’t mind watching paranormal or sci-fi, action movies or good thrillers either. When I am too busy writing or promoting my books to watch any of the aforementioned, I catch up later by tuning into Hulu or Netflix, or at least getting them on DVD eventually.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
With foods, I can be casual or elegant, depending on my mood. I won’t turn pizza down. I love trying ethnic foods. I love a good risotto, as well as chicken Oscar. My favorite restaurant is The Cheesecake Factory; there are so many things choose from!
My favorite color? Hot pink.
My tastes in music are pretty eclectic. I like Owl City, OneRepublic, Switchfoot, Christina Perri, Ellie Goulding, Paramore, Fireflight, Lights, Sarah MacLachlan, the list goes on. I like electronic just as much as I like Celtic, pop or alternative. Listening to my Pandora stations helps me find new artists that I might like.
Fiona: If you were not a writer, what else would you like to have done?
Oh, I don’t know. I would have to be close to books in some way. Perhaps a librarian or working in a bookstore? Ironically, I always thought of launching and owning my own bookstore as a side job along with writing. That could work in lieu of being an author.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Definitely! I have a website and three blogs. Here they are:
You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Upon Your Return
Universal link: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00I0D9LQ8
Magick & Moonlight
Universal link: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00IRKN5P2
Upon Your Honor
Universal link: http://smarturl.it/uponyourhonor