Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Marie. We are very excited and can’t wait to learn more about you. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I graduated from Colorado State University in 1997 with degrees in History and Liberal Arts. Following graduation, I worked at OB/Gyn office for eleven years and helped support my husband while he was in grad school. I met some really great people there, but I also learned that working for doctors is a completely thankless job. No offense to any doctors out there.
So by late 2008, my husband had been out of school for a few years and our daughter was four years old, and my husband said, ‘stop complaining and just quit!’ So, I did. Nobody thought I’d stay unemployed. Everybody told me I was going to get bored, and honestly, that’s what I expected to happen as well. But about six months later, I woke up one morning with an idea in my head. An image of two men in a hallway. I knew exactly what they were thinking and what they were feeling. I got up and started writing. And I haven’t stopped since then.
By the way, if you ARE a doctor and you’re reading this, go tell your staff how awesome they are. Not just your nurse, but every single member of your staff. Right now. Seriously.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
Promises was my first book. The first publisher I sent it to rejected it, but the second one (Dreamspinner Press) accepted it in a matter of days.
How many books have you written thus far?
That are complete? Three novels, one novella, and one short story.
When did you start writing M/M romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
Initially, I was a fantasy fan. But I found that every single female protag I encountered drove me completely batty. Now, I’m not saying they’re all written poorly. I’m just saying, for whatever reason, I hated them all. So I started searching out fantasy books with only male protagonists. And then I stumbled onto Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series. And it was like a lightbulb went on in my head. From there, it’s a pretty slippery slope into m/m romance. So I’d been reading exclusively m/m romance for about a year when Promises was born. That was in the summer of 2009.
Do you write full time?
If by that question you mean, is writing my only job, the answer is yes. But if you mean, do I actually manage to sit my ass in the chair every day and WRITE, then the answer is definitely no.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
It chose me. Definitely.
Now, I should say, my family has been telling me since I was sixteen that I was going to be a writer. But up until last summer, I never had anything to say. I never had any ideas. I just figured my brain didn’t work that way.
The morning that Promises was born, I got up and sat at the computer for the longest time, trying to decide if I should write it or not. And even once I got started, I just felt silly. All I could think was, ‘who am I kidding? I’m not a writer’. I was so embarrassed by it that I even kept it hidden from my husband for a while. It wasn’t until I hit about ten thousand words that I started to confess to a few close friends that I was doing it at all.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
First I have to get my kiddo off to school or daycare. After that, I just sit at the computer. Some days I end up mostly screwing around, and I may only write 200 words. And other days, I may write 5000. But I definitely spend a ridiculous amount of time at the computer. My husband teases me for it mercilessly.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I’m a pantser, all the way. I usually start in the middle, and work both backward and forward at the same time as the scenes present themselves. It’s complete chaos.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
Before? Very little. Maybe none. I just look things up as needed while I’m writing. The fact that I write contemporaries helps. I had to do more research for One More Soldier than for any of my novels simply because I wanted it to be set during the Vietnam war. So I researched the history of the gay rights movement, which helped me pinpoint the exact years. And I had to do a bit of research on the history of gay porn (especially in print), which was fun.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
I manifest myself in every single character I write, to some extent. Some more than others. Jared and Angelo especially have a whole lot of me in them. But as for people I know? Not at all. The only one of my characters that’s based on a real-life person is the martial arts instructor in A to Z. He’s a very minor character, and even then, it’s not him so much as the school he runs. The Karate school on the second floor of the building with kids occasionally puking over the railing – that was completely real. But I don’t feel like I make up my characters at all. They present themselves to me. It’s as if the just walk up to me on a crowded street and introduce themselves. And then we just start talking. They already have their own personalities and their own agendas, and we learn about each other as we go.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?
ANY someone, or a specific someone? I have a couple of friends who are plagued by random scenes from my books from the moment of inception. But assuming you mean somebody other than them, I guess I’ve been averaging about a month for a complete first draft, and then another month to pull it together enough to submit it to a publisher.
If you weren’t sitting there right this very moment answering our book of questions, what else would you be doing?
Finishing up Zach and Angelo’s third book. Or working on the other story that caused me to put Zach and Angelo on hold. Or just checking my email for the 400th time today.
Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
I revise as I go along. I’m constantly revising. CONSTANTLY.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
So far, it hasn’t really been an issue for me. I’m very grateful about that too, because I do worry about it. I worry that I’ll run out of characters to write about.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel, or experience? I just hope that they really feel my characters. I hope that I can make my characters even half as real for the reader as they are for me. I want the reader to never be able to go mountain biking again without thinking of Matt and Jared. Or never walk into a video store without thinking of Angelo. Wow. That’s not asking too much, right?
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
Usually, it comes to me VERY late in the process. I’m TERRIBLE at titles.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Lots of things make me laugh, but I don’t think I’m necessarily a funny person. Somehow some of my characters are still funny. But I’m not sure that I am.
What is the most frequently asked Marie question?
Whether or not Matt and Jared will get another book all to themselves. I love Matt and Jared, and I’m really glad that readers like them too. But here’s the thing: in order to give them a second book, I have to make trouble for them. REAL trouble. Now, I could do that. They have trouble living right down the street. But for those of you who love them, let me ask you this: is that REALLY what you want? Because the truth is, it would absolutely break my heart to write it.
What are you working on now?
I recently finished the first draft of the third book in Zach and Angelo’s series, but it needs some work. I have the rough beginnings of another m/m romance about a playboy bartender and a massage therapist. I also have about 45K words on Cockaigne, my never-ending fantasy book.
I never really know what I’ll be doing. It’s just a day by day process. I get up, sit in front of the computer, and see if anybody wants to play.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
It’s much like parenting – read every single book you can find on how to write, and then ignore them all.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
I have a website, of course: http://mariesexton.net/. I’m also on Facebook and Goodreads.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it? I have a few good friends who I constantly nag and pester and harass and harangue, and I spend a lot of time staring into space while characters take form. And I have the very best husband in the world.
What pros and cons surround the e-publishing industry, and how do you envision the future of e-publishing?
Well, I don’t claim to be an expert. It seems to me, the pros are, it’s easier to get published and there’s a shorter turn-around time from submission to having an actual book in your hand. The down side is, people are pirating this stuff everywhere. It’s infuriating to see. I think some readers think we writers are making tons of money, like rock stars or something, and it’s okay to steal the stories. Let me tell you, nobody in the m/m field is here because of the money! Some of those readers would probably be floored if they found out how little money we actually make.
Don’t get me wrong. As I said, I’m not here for money. I’m here because it’s a blast. But I still get frustrated when I see my work being pirated.
What kind of books do you like to read?
The only thing I’ve been able to read recently is non-fiction. I haven’t been able to read fiction since last fall. I can’t explain it. It’s certainly not because I think I’m better than the other authors out there, or anything like that. It just…. It creates static in my brain. It throws a wrench in things. It makes me cranky. More importantly, it makes the voices in my head cranky.
I actually miss reading. Everybody tells me it’s something I’ll grow out of and eventually, I’ll like reading again the way I did before I started writing. But for now, it’s on hold.
What is your favorite TV show?
Castle, and The Closer. I love crime-type shows that also have humor.
What is your favorite fast food restaurant? Just thought we’d throw that in for fun…
Ugh. Do sub sandwiches count? Because I LOVE sub sandwiches. But most fast food just makes me shudder. And not in a good way.
Without getting up, can you tell us what’s under your bed? (yep, another sneaky question.) There’s NOTHING under my bed except dog hair! (That’s only because we put our house on the market a few weeks ago, and we packed everything into storage. Prior to that and on any kind of regular basis, the answer would be, I don’t know what’s under there and I’d prefer to keep it that way!).
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
I’d still just be a mom and a housewife. Potentially, I’d be a more attentive mom, and I’d actually clean the house once in a blue moon. But other than that, it wouldn’t be much different than it is now.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I love the outdoorsy feel of Promises. I like Zach on the cover of A to Z. He’s absolutely perfect. I like those two boys kissing on the right-hand side of The Letter Z (they are HOT!). I love everything about the cover of One More Soldier. I think Reese Dante did a fabulous job of capturing the mood of the story.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
There are a few things I used to love, all of which seem to have fallen by the wayside since I started writing: scrapbooking, reading, and playing piano. Since last fall, I’ve pretty much had a one-track mind. I do like to get together with friends and share some wine. I like to travel, although I can’t afford to do it much. And I love to hear from readers. And I like to have my feet rubbed.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
I have a novel called Strawberries for Dessert which will be released by Dreamspinner Press on August 6th.
Here’s the blurb:
When Jonathan Kechter agrees to a blind date with Cole Fenton, he expects nothing more than dinner and a one-night stand… but he gets more than he bargained for in Cole. Cole is arrogant, flamboyant, and definitely not Jon’s type. Still, when Cole suggests an arrangement of getting together for casual sex whenever they’re both in town, Jon readily agrees.
Their arrangement may be casual, but Jonathan soon learns that when it comes to Cole Fenton, nothing is easy. Between Cole’s fear of intimacy and his wandering lifestyle, Jonathan wonders if their relationship may be doomed from the start—but the more Cole pushes him away, the more determined Jon is to make it work
If you’ve read Promises, then you’ve met Cole. He’s Jared’s ‘friend with benefits’. I had a real fondness for him from the moment he appeared, and I had enough readers ask me about him that I decided to give him his own book. If you haven’t read Promises, you absolutely do NOT need to read it first. Strawberries for Dessert stands completely on its own.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers? I don’t consider myself an experience writer, but my advice is, do what works for you. Don’t worry about what anybody else tells you. I hate when I see books or advice from people saying that there’s one way to write, because there isn’t. If it ends with a completed manuscript, then it can’t be wrong.
Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on the Internet? From Dreamspinner Press, or Silver Publishing. Or from ARe or Amazon. There are also links on my website.