As a Multiple Sclerosis patient, it has become necessary for me to reinvent myself. I have ... and continue to ... refuse to lie down and die, or in this case, follow the normally prescribed drugs and treatments that do nothing to defeat my disease. I am not only surviving by pursuing alternatives, I am thriving. I do the things specialists told me I would never be able to do. I walk and hope to one day even run regularly. I retain my cognitive and creative abilities for the pleasure of my readers. Although you may never see me on my daily walk, you are welcome to read my novel(s) and in doing so, come to ask yourself, "How can the 'out of the box' protocol she has followed, help my loved one with an autoimmune disease like Multiple Sclerosis?"
Getting toknow Author Marsha Ward (her latest: Spinsters's Folly is coming out Nov. 10th!)
A: I am a hermit. I love solitude. I am very quiet, very shy. I'm quite uncomfortable in crowds because I usually end up a wall flower without anyone to hang out with. However, I'm also a ham, and have enjoyed being in musical productions through the years. I was raised in a musical family, and studied in college for a career in opera. That plan took a sidetrack, though, and never came into being. Instead, I've taught many subjects in many venues.
Q: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
A: According to my older sister, I wrote from the time I could hold a pencil, and constantly talked about writing “my novel”. Although I believe her, I have no idea how a child so young as I was even knew about novels. Be that as it may, there's never been a time that I didn't have some kind of story to tell. I was editor of the 4th Grade class newsletter. About that time, I wrote a play dealing with the Acadian people’s migration. I wrote a couple of screenplays for a film club I was involved in during my high school years. And of course, my "Great American Novel" began its life in 1965. I didn't get the commercial I-think-I'll-actually-let-other-people-read-my-work bug until the 1980s, though.
Q: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
A: I began my "Great American Novel" in 1965, when my train to opera stardom took a detour and I had to give up my full-ride music scholarship and come home to help out financially. I created a huge Southern family, wrote what was, essentially, a twenty-chapter narrative outline, and lugged it around with me for the next 35 years or so. Then my interest in writing commercially got very keen when I read a truly badly-written book. "I can do better than that!" I exclaimed, and hauled out "The Book." I eliminated some children, found some juicy conflict, read 150 books for background, and worked on the novel for a while. I took classes in fiction writing, and started sending the novel out to editors as I wrote the sequel. I even had an agent for a year. I was getting some good rejection comments, but no offers. I decided a re-write was in order. Then life happened.
My daughter was killed in an auto accident. My creativity dried up. It didn't come back, oddly enough, until my husband died. He was my biggest supporter, and I'm eternally grateful to him for that.
Then life happened again, and during a health crisis, I determined to leave published works behind, even if I had to publish them myself. I polished up The Man from Shenandoah and Ride to Raton. Because I didn't want to start a publishing company, I chose to use the cheapest services available from iUniverse, and get feedback from writers and readers I knew. When The Man from Shenandoah appeared, I hand-sold a bunch of copies, and lo and behold, other readers liked it! Several months later, I brought out Ride to Raton. Trail of Storms took a while to write, but was published in 2009. I'm working on the fourth novel about members of the Owen family, Spinster's Folly.
Fortunately, I survived the health crisis.
You are an inspiration to me personally. Thank you. Q: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
A: I'm often discouraged. It's part of the writer's makeup. I have to muddle through, with a lot of prayer and communicating with other writers to get my balance back.
Q: What is your writing schedule like?
A: I'm supposed to have a schedule?
I fall into the category of “Writers who wish they had a more structured writing schedule.”
I hate that category (it includes me). Terribly hard to realize one is in a writing slump. Q: What do you hope readers will get from your books?
A: Actually, hope itself. I had an epiphany several years ago when I realized that I write to let people know there is always hope, and to show them through the experiences of fictional characters that they can get through hard times, even really, really terrible times, and find happiness at the end of it all.
One of the hallmarks of my fiction is fast-paced adventure, peopled with believable characters. Readers tell me when they're forced to put a book down they worry about my characters until they can read about them again. If I can take people out of their own worrisome lives enough to be concerned about fictional folks and see them through to a satisfying ending, then I've done the job of relieving some of their day-to-day stress. Isn't that what books are for?
Q: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
A: That terrible sound you hear is me groaning in agony. Yes, I encounter snags. My favorite way of dealing is to avoid and procrastinate, but that doesn't get the book written. The best way is for me to set very low expectations for myself so I don't self-sabotage. A lot of highly creative people have oppositional defiance, and I find that tendency is well-developed in me. To counteract it, my goal is often to write 25 words a day. I could do that on a sheet of toilet paper, right? Surprisingly, the tactic works.
Twenty-five words…one word or two? Yeah, I can do that…Q: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
A: Right now, I'm listening to the music of my dryer drum turning. I don't need absolute quiet, but since I'm very easily distracted, music with lyrics is a no-no. I use instrumental music to get me in the proper mood for certain scenes that could be hard to write. Exceptions to the no-lyrics rule? Neil Diamond and "Sweet Caroline." That will put me in the mood.
(Me in the other room rummaging through old records)…Neil Diamond…Yes…Oh pooh! It doesn't have "Sweet Caroline" hey, but I can sing it! (Is this another one of my self- sabotage thing-ys?) Q: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
A: Mindless activities are great for letting the mind wander while I accomplish a task. Taking a walk, taking a shower (water seems to inspire, or relax or something), getting enough sleep so the characters come to talk to me.
I'm all for the walk and even the water (okay, I go for a drink of water) but sleep? That sounds like one of my self-sabotage tools. Q: What’s your secret to making the characters in your books come to life?
A: I get to know them very well. I have a sheet of questions I fill in about them, and I also interview them. Then I don't overwrite them with too much description. I let their actions define them, instead. That way, the reader invests the characters with their own unique qualities and peculiarities, and they come alive in the reader's mind.
Okay, so I'm going to have to wheedle a copy of those questions…a worksheet perhaps…Q: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to publish their manuscripts?
A: Two words: Indie publishing. There's nothing stopping a writer from making the connection directly to the reader anymore. Get started by reading the blogs/websites of JA Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith. Google will find them for you.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm doing research for the fifth novel in the Owen Family Saga, entitled Gone for a Soldier. This is Rulon Owen’s story of his experiences as an infantryman during the Civil War. We’re going to see what made Rulon the caring big brother you see depicted in Spinster's Folly. I’m very excited about the project. The American Civil War has had a deep pull on me since I was in high school. Let’s see how many errors I can avoid. Civil War enthusiasts are very picky.
I listened to a couple of enthusiasts at the library critique their costumes. Whew! were they picky! Q: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
A: All the online booksellers, such as amazon.com and bn.com, have the trade paperback books. The easiest way to find all my online eBooks is to go to my author pages at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/marshaward and at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Marsha-Ward/e/B003RB9P9Q/
The eBooks are also on Kobo Books, and Diesel Books, in Canada.
Q: Any final words you would like to share?
A: I'll address this to writers: Believe in yourself, but learn all you can about writing, too. No first drafts are set in stone. Don't hang around negative people. Write at least 25 words a day. Listen to people to learn the flow of language. Find a good, encouraging group of writers who will show you the ropes. Read, read, read! When you start writing in earnest, find a good critique group. Reach down and help another writer along the way. Is that enough?
Books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Marsha-Ward/e/B003RB9P9Q
Ebooks on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/marshaward