I first met Maria Murnane a few years back when she self-published her book Perfect on Paper. I reviewed it simply because it mirrored my life at that moment. I loved the book, and I’ve loved watching Maria’s success over the years – even garnering that coveted traditional publishing contract because of the success of her self-publishing endeavors. Today, I’m so glad you get to hear Maria speak for herself.
1. Tell me about your latest project.
Chocolate for Two is my fourth Waverly Bryson novel and picks up about six months after Honey on Your Mind ends. Waverly and Jake are getting married! I won’t give away more than that…but let’s just say the trip down the aisle isn’t without a few bumps. After I finished Chocolate for Two last year, I began writing my first non-Waverly Bryson novel, which was quite a challenge yet also an extremely rewarding experience. I recently finished the first draft, and the target release date is early 2014. Stay tuned!
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
I loved reading as a child—I vividly remember sprinting to the library in fifth grade to reach the Beverly Cleary books ahead of a kid name Matt McMillan. The two of us were always battling it out for those Henry Huggins books! I was never much of a storyteller though, and I still have a hard time believing I grew up to become an author.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
When I’m working on a novel, I write Monday through Friday, essentially treating it like an office job. Sometimes I work on the weekends, but not very often. I almost always write at home—I have a great workspace that is pretty and quiet and has lots of natural light. Sometimes I go to Starbucks, but rarely, because it’s too easy to get distracted there.
4. Who are you reading now?
Just last night I began reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
1) The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
3) Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
4) McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland by Pete McCarthy
The Fountainhead is about thinking for yourself, which I believe everyone should do. Pillars of the Earth is essentially a soap opera, but it’s a great story and also very informative about what life was like in 12th-century England. McCarthy’s Bar made me laugh more than any book I’ve ever read—I would love to meet Pete McCarthy one day just to tell him that.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I spend a lot of time interacting directly with my readers, whether it’s via email, Facebook, Twitter, speaking engagement, mailing out signed copies of my book, launch events, or what have you. I love that part of being an author, and I’m still thrilled every time I receive a message from a fan. Connecting on a personal level with my readers actually helps me with the writing process because it’s a reminder that real people out there are eventually going to read the words I’m typing on my computer screen. When I’m sitting alone at my desk for hours on end, it’s sometimes easy for me to forget that.
7.What is a typical day like for you?
It always varies and depends on whether or not I’m working on a book or if I have a book coming out soon. Today, for example, I’m doing this interview, and later, I have a call with my agent and another call with the marketing department at my publisher. Yesterday, I wrote a handful of blog posts about grammar and book marketing, and tomorrow evening, I’m calling into a book club that just read Perfect on Paper. In addition to writing novels, I do a fair amount of public speaking, and I also give workshops on publishing and book marketing, so sometimes I’m off doing that in person or on the phone. The only thing I’m guaranteed to do no matter where I happen to be is read the New York Times and squeeze in a workout (I’m really into soccer, yoga, and running). I also try to take a nap every afternoon if I can. I love a good nap!
8. Describe your dream writing space?
I adore my current writing space! I’ve written five novels there and wouldn’t change a thing. It’s just a desk in a corner of my living room, but there’s something about it that works for me.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
When I was trying to get my first novel (Perfect on Paper) published, a friend of mine told me he enjoyed the manuscript but that the beginning was “soft,” which we both knew was a euphemism for “not good.” Instead of being offended, I listened and rewrote the beginning. I believe everyone’s opinion is valid, and I always ask for feedback from trusted friends before turning in a manuscript to my publisher. I make a point of telling them not to be afraid to hurt my feelings with their criticism. I’d rather hear it from them, when I can still do something about it, than from a disappointed reader in a bad review after it’s been published.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
If you have a book inside of you, then write it! It’s a lot of work, but you will be so proud of yourself when you’re done. And no matter what happens after you type the words “The End,” the feeling of accomplishment you’ll experience is indescribable, and no one can ever take it away from you.
Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the romantic comedies known as the Waverly books, which have sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide. In addition to writing novels, she has embarked on a career as a public speaker and author consultant. She graduated with high honors in English and Spanish from UC Berkeley and received a master’s degree in integrated marketed communications from Northwestern University. She currently lives in New York City. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com