Margaret is the bestselling author of more than 20 novels and her books have been published in 15 languages. Book one in her Rocky Creek series, A Lady Like Sarah, was her first inspirational, and was both a Women of Faith selection and a Romance Writers of America RITA finalist. Margaret and her husband have three grown children and live in Southern California. Margaret is hard at work on a new series.
How did you start out your writing career?
First of all, I’d like to thank you for having me. It’s a delight to be here.
To answer your question, I’ve always wanted to be a writer and wrote my first “novel” in 5th grade, a mystery with no ending (and probably no merit). It wasn’t until my children were out of grade school that I began writing in earnest. I wrote the church newsletter and, after making a church picnic sound like a Grisham novel, my then pastor suggested that perhaps God was calling me to write fiction. I wrote four books, including the world’s worst romance, before selling my first. I’ve since gone on to publish more than twenty novels. Not bad for someone who failed 8th grade English. Just don’t ask me to diagram a sentence.
What did you learn while writing this book?
In a SUITOR FOR JENNY, my heroine is terribly motivated and is never caught without her infernal notebook. In seeking husbands for her two sisters she surrounds herself with lists, schedules, and etiquette books. Worse, she puts every perspective suitor through the PHAT (Potential Husband Aptitude Test). In other words, she’s unrelenting and thinks she knows how to pick the perfect man. It takes a very strong and motivated hero to peel away her defenses and find the soft, vulnerable and lonely women inside.
In researching psychological defense mechanisms, I was amazed at the many creative ways people hide their insecurities. The know-it-all uncle, the critical mother, the life-of-the-party, the rebellious teen, the overbearing boss—we all know people like these. Perhaps we’ve even acted out these parts ourselves. We will do anything to hide an inner hurt, even if it means pretending we’re someone we’re not. Fascinating stuff.
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
I enjoy combining serious themes with humor. We’re going through tough times right now and if I can make a reader laugh and maybe even see the world through different eyes, then I’ve done what I’ve set out to do.
What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?
It was when our oldest son died. Writing comes from the heart and mine was broken. I didn’t write for five years.
If you had the opportunity to talk with three writers, who would you choose and why?
I’m very fortunate to have met so many wonderful writers. I once even had lunch with Louis L’Amour—a lovely man. But here are few I would like to have met: Louisa May Alcott because Little Women was one of my all time favorite books. When I was growing up Jo was my role model.
Shakespeare because I want to know how he penned all those works without a computer.
Mark Twain because he lived during the 1800s which is the period I write about, and I still laugh at his wit.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
I wish I knew not to take rejections personally. Rejections are part of the business and sometimes it’s the best thing that can happen to you. A rejection offers a second chance to get the story right or find a better publisher. One of my books was rejected seven times before it was picked up by a publisher to launch a new line of books.
I wish I had known to enjoy the process of becoming a writer more. The main goal of an aspiring writer should not be to get published. The goal is to learn the craft of writing and to become the best writer possible. The rest will follow.
I wish I had found my “voice” sooner. I started my career by writing angst-driven contemporaries, but I wrote funny notes to my agent. It was this same agent that suggested I try my hand at writing a humorous historical novel. Other people sometimes see things in us that we fail to see in ourselves.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?
Do enjoy the process. As an aspiring writer you have the luxury of taking as much time as you need to write your book. You can give it all the love and attention it requires without worrying about meeting a deadline and having to deal with the business of writing.
Don’t give up. Join a writers’ group and surround yourself with a caring support system that understands the writing business. Other writers know to celebrate a “good” rejection or a fifth place win in a writing contest. Your spouse won’t know this. Your children won’t know this. Your non-writing friends won’t know this. But your writing group will.
I borrowed this question from Author Carleene Brice, What is your author fantasy?
Right now the book industry is in influx. Bookstores are in trouble. Publishers are trying to figure out the e-book phenomenon. Writers don’t know which way to turn. My fantasy is that every man, woman and child in America will walk into a bookstore and purchase a book. I would then hope that whatever book each reader chooses has the power to change his or her life for the better.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
I don’t know if understand is the correct word; forgive might be a better one. I want my non-writing friends to forgive my habit of spacing out on occasion, but as a historical writer I tend to time-travel a lot. I don’t mean to be rude, but if I hear something witty, clever or just plain interesting, I may suddenly have the answer to a plotting problem I’ve been struggling with for a week. Suddenly, I’m back in the 1800s.
What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry? The worst?
The best: Don’t quit your day job.
The Worse: Quit your day job.
Or was it the other way around?
If you could visit any place in the world where would you travel to?
Right now I want to travel to Arizona because that’s the setting of my work in progress.
Our theme this month is Online Marketing. What online marketing have you found works well for you?
We authors today are so fortunate. We literally have the world—and our readers—at our fingertips.I’m on Twitter and Facebook but I have to remind myself to post. I’m also a resident blogger on http://www.petticoatsandpistols.com/. I’m not sure what works best in terms of selling books but I personally prefer blogs that allow for reader feedback. It’s the exchange of ideas that I most enjoy and makes me feel like part of a community.
Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?
Good ole Oprah, we’re going to miss her. I don’t know much for sure but I do know this: Life is tough but it’s also filled with the most amazing blessings—the greatest of which is love.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
The 3rd and last book in my Rocky Creek series is A Vision of Lucy, and it’s scheduled for publication June 2011. Lucy is a photographer and there’s nothing she won’t do to get the perfect picture—often with hilarious and sometimes even disastrous results.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
You can reach me through my homestead: http://www.margaretbrownley.com/
And if you want some light-hearted fun, check out my video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prY2q9Oasp4
A SUITOR FOR JENNY
Jenny Higgins is certain falling in love and finding a husband are matters of the mind. But her heart has other plans.
After their parents died, Jenny felt responsible for seeing that her two younger sisters were well-taken care of. Tipped off by an article naming Rocky Creek the town with the highest number of eligible bachelors, Jenny rolled into this Texas town with a clear objective: find suitable husbands for her two younger sisters and then start fresh somewhere far, far away. Jenny believes that women who fall in love at first sight often wish they’d taken a second look, so she diligently begins to follow all the rules set forth in her handy manual on how to land a husband.
But while Jenny is interviewing the less-than-promising candidates, her sisters are falling in love the old fashioned way--with men of their choosing. And the longer Jenny stays, the more her sense of control slips away. The town isn’t living up to her expectations, her sisters are rebelling against her practical choices, and soon her own heart starts to betray her, as US Marshal Rhett Armstrong stirs up emotions in her that weren’t part of her plan.
To relinquish her control to God and calm her restless spirit, she’ll need to give up her foregone conclusions about marriage, love, and faith.
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