Writerly Questions with Mary S Palmer

Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time to start thinking about what to read as you lounge around the pool, while your kids play in the park, or during your hour-long commute on the transpo. To help you prepare your summer-time TBR list, every Monday for the next few months I will be talking with some really fabulous authors about their latest or upcoming books.

Today I have Mary S Palmer discussing her novels Time Will Tell, released by Urania imprint on March 9th, and later this week will be a guest post!

Mary Palmer is an English professor at Faulkner State Community College and Faulkner University. She is also active at church and in her community –helping with charitable organizations, being in charge of public relations for a music group, not to mention attending a biweekly critique group. She also belongs to the Mardi Gras Association, an Arts Council, and the Baldwin Writers Group. Though her children may be grown up, she is still very involved with them. 

How would you summarize your book Time Will Tell in one sentence?
Reporter Mona Stewart finds herself in an alien world of two factions at war over the key to immortality and cures for fatal diseases.

Longevity health-wise and cures to deadly diseases is something we strive for in the real world, so that sounds like a great story line! How long did it take you to write it?
About a year.

That seems like the average amount of time it takes a lot of authors. How many drafts do you go through?
Fewer than most of my books; probably a half a dozen.

When do you write best: in the morning, afternoon, or at night?
Any time I have the time.  Since I teach at two different colleges I have a lot of essays and tests to grade, not to mention preparing lesson plans.  More time has been spent recently at signings for “To Catch a Fish”, co-authored with David V. Wilton, which I am currently writing the sequel to it “The Callings” with  Loretta Theriot.

Where is your favorite place to write?
In my home office on the computer. However,  I sometimes write at my kitchen bar, or, if a thought strikes me, I get up at night and write a scene in my bedroom.

If you are writing at night, does that mean you wear your pajamas when working?
Usually, I am fully dressed and have my make-up on.

You mentioned the other location you sometimes write is in your kitchen, so what do you drink or eat while you write?
A sandwich and fat-free milk or a Coke.

Some authors like listening to music while they write. Do you?
No, it may distract me.

Is there anything that needs to be done before you are ready to write?
I prefer to have other chores out of the way first. In other words, have school papers graded, dishes washed and put away, clothes put up. In other words, I like to concentrate on writing and not have other things cluttering my mind.

Writing definitely requires a lot of brain power! How do you plot? Is it chapter by chapter or an overall synopsis, and do you use detailed outlines?
I never use any outline except the one roaming around in my head. I may have a general synopsis there, too. I let the characters and the action develop as it may and lead the story forward. To me, writing is like living what’s going on and you don’t know what happens next UNTIL it happens.

That is a great way to describe it, I like that. Since your characters are leading you through the experience, how do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
Sometimes I think first person is easiest to use. Limited omniscient is also one that I like. I find omniscient is sometimes difficult. My biggest problem is making sure I’m consistent and being clear when I change point of view in a book.

 How do you choose your characters’ names?
With difficulty. I don’t often use names of people I am close to or know well. I try to think of names that fit characters. Sometimes I use allegorical names if they are appropriate. I don’t like names that are hard to spell or extremely difficult to pronounce. Readers don’t want to work that hard to remember who’s who.

Your characters are named, their journey is complete, the story is finally written. Who is the first person to read your manuscript?
A good friend who has editing experience.

Someone who knows the publishing industry is a great person to be critique your story. Once your story was polished to perfection and sent off with hope in your heart, what did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
Said a prayer of thanksgiving.

Hollywood has been making films based on books for years. If yours was optioned for a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
I would like Will Smith play a character from the book “To Catch a Fish”, and I’d like to see Mariski Hargity play the lead of Mona Stewart in “Time Will Tell”. I think she has the demeanor to be believable in that part.

She is definitely well-known for her role in Law & Order and other TV shows. I heard that the one story you wish to have written was also something seen on the screen, what is it?
It’s a Wonderful Life.

Any life with books would be wonderful in my opinion, so what is the first book you remember reading?
Jack and the Beanstalk. When I first read that story, I was scared. At the same time, I wished I could climb that beanstalk myself. It made me want to read more, and I guess it challenged me to overcome fears, too.

What book is on your nightstand right now?
A novel I’m working on.

If your own work is on your nightstand, I guess that means you don’t have a guilty pleasure read?
My escape-literature would be mysteries. When I’m reading a mystery, I may also be reading a biography or a classical story. I find many mysteries predicatable but relaxing to read, and we all need some “down time.” I’m not easily stressed out–this helps.

How do you organize your library/book collection?
I try to do it alphabetically but I have about 500 books on bookshelves and they sometimes get out of place

Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes, since I was 5 years old. My aunt was a teacher and I went to school with her sometimes. I think I saw other children writing and wanted to join in. Besides, I always liked people and I enjoyed finding out what made them tick. I also liked talking to adults. I remember one time sitting in a neighbor’s swing and chatting with this older lady who was almost reclusive. I don’t recall what she said, but she kind of opened up to me. Also, I can stand in line at a grocery store and, without asking the person behind me a thing, they will tell me their life story. I was a reporter/columnist for newspapers and maybe some of that shows.

Removing you from the role of the writer and placing you into the book, if you could be any character from any book, who would you be?
Scarlett O’Hara. I’ve seen Gone With The Wind more than once and consider it a masterpiece. The characterization and casting is fantastic. I think Scarlett had “some kind of smarts.” She was a survivor who had been a spoiled/pampered southern belle, but she rose to the occasion when she had to survive. I’d like to understand her innermost feelings. She and Rhett also were wise enough to understand the value of land/property. When I think of that, I think of what an old barber once said, “Buy property; there ain’t gonna be no more of that.”

There is a limit to everything, even life. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask/talk about?
Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I’d ask him about “In Memoriam” and how long it took him to write that poem.

What is the best advice someone could give a writer?
Have a tough skin; don’t take instructive criticism personally. Stay focused when you’re writing and remember that determination pays off.

Just a final question: what is one random thing most people don’t know about you?
I am a rather private person and I don’t let people know my problems.

 Previous Interviews: Peter Lukes InterviewKarenKSamoranos InterviewJune Kramin InterviewJanis Flores Interview


Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading.

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