Many thanks to Maressa Mortimer for book cover pictures and author headshot photo.
Images for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones.
Most of the other images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
One of the joys of the writing life is meeting other authors. I met Maressa Mortimer via the Association of Christian Writers.
Maressa, who is originally from The Netherlands, and I, as well as meeting at ACW events, regularly meet on her Zoom event held most weeks where ACW writers get together to chat. It can be very funny and at times therapeutic. There is nobody like another author who understands when you have had a rough week.
Likewise, those same authors will rejoice with you when things go well. What goes around comes around in writing circles. Most authors are supportive of each other’s efforts. We know it is not an easy thing to do. We know marketing and drafting the next work is tiring (and invigorating). You do need a shoulder to cry on sometimes (yet another reason to network well and develop friendships).
Maressa and I took part in the Share Your Story Writing international summit in March and will be taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival in November 2021.
Maressa is a self-published author and is the only person I know who has published a book by accident! (More on that from her shortly as it is too good a story not to share!). She has four books to her name and writes amongst a hectic life of homeschooling her four children. (So you know you were thinking you haven’t got time to write… it won’t wash with Maressa. Or with me! What does matter is making the most of whatever time you do have).
Maressa writes Christian fiction but her books so far have included time travel (Viking Ferry), the issue of religious freedom and when there isn’t any (Walled City and Beyond the Hills), and domestic violence (Sapphire Beach). So not cosy fiction by any means then.
Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, England with her husband and four (adopted) children. Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. She loves writing Christian fiction, as it’s a great way to explore faith in daily life.
Her debut novel, Sapphire Beach, was published in December 2019, and her first self published novel, Walled City, came out in December 2020, followed by Viking Ferry, a novella. Beyond the Hills is the second book in the Elabi Chronicles, and was released on June 18th 2021.
Maressa has two chapters in an anthology coming out in September, called Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing. All of Maressa’s books are available from her website, www.vicarioushome.com/shop or from Amazon or local bookshops.
So now over to Maressa…
Allison: Maressa, a huge welcome back to Chandler’s Ford Today. Many thanks for taking part in my Judging a Book by Its Cover series too though it is lovely now to have a full chat.
1. When did you start writing? What led you to decide to write stories?
I started in 2017/2018 with a fictional blog for friends, based on a video game. That made me realise how much I enjoyed making up other people’s lives and conversations. I decided to tackle longer stories, and here we are!
2. What led you to tackle the topics you have in your novels? How much research did you need to do?
I love answering what if questions, and when I learned about domestic violence I needed a way to process what I had read and heard, so I decided to create a character to work her way through my questions, as I like living vicariously. The same with the question about giving in to peer pressure, which led to Walled City. Even though Walled City is set in a fictional world, I was amazed how much research I still ended up doing. I enjoy research, although it can be a rabbit hole…
3. Why self-publish? How have you found doing this? What would you recommend to anyone thinking of self-publishing? Is there anything people should go out of their way to avoid? (Am always happy to red flag potential scams here!).
Sapphire Beach was done by a wonderful publisher, but as it’s a hybrid project, it was expensive. I decided to self publish Walled City, as I wanted to use a friend’s artwork for the cover. It has been a steep learning curve, and with each book I learned something new. My main problem with self publishing is that you need to be fond of details, which I’m not. I looked into things beforehand, carefully checking options. There are different ways to self publish, so it’s worth checking out what suits you. I would avoid going with a private self publisher, as they charge you a fortune for things you can do yourself. If you find a publisher, double check they will do what they promised you.
4. Now you are the only person I know who has published a book by accident (!) so how did that happen? What have you learned from this?
I hadn’t read the instructions on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) carefully, one of those details I’m not keen on, haha. I half assumed it would be like Ingram Spark, where you can set the release date weeks ahead, making the book available for pre-order. I knew Viking Ferry needed another round of editing, but I decided to get it set up, then simply order a proof copy, finish editing then release it. That worked fine with the ebook, but when I pressed the button for the paperback, it was live! So there will be a second edition sometime soon, to get rid of the last few typos…
5. I always ask my interviewees this so no getting away from it! Name your top three tips for writers.
First, write what and how you like the story to go. Don’t write what you think you ought to write, it will take your joy away.
Secondly, join up with other writers, even if you haven’t gotten past Chapter 1, once upon a time… That’s the time to join.
And my third tip would be to work out which times of writing work for you. Find time, make time.
6. Who do you like to read and why? Have they influenced your work at all or do you prefer reads that are totally different to what you write?
I love (Christian) crime books. I love that the language is clean, the characters are interesting and it’s a calm, smooth read with enough tension to keep me interested. I would love to do a crime novel, and have in fact started one called Cameo Sleuth. I did the first few chapters as a serial on my website. I’m not familiar with lots of police procedures or weapons, so anything with crime in it will take a lot of research. My favourite books as a child were a Viking series, so at the moment I’m researching Vikings even more, ready to start a brand new series that involves time travelling and Vikings in different areas.
7. Are you a planner or a “pantser” when it comes to writing your stories? I swear by an outline. Some authors would rather swear at an outline rather than write one out so where do you fall here?
I’m a pantser, although I do write a character study. There are normally a few things I know will end up in my books, either scenes, Bible verses or a particular character. From there, it’s up to my characters and my mood.
8. Can you tell us more about what you write and why you love writing in your chosen genres? What are the particular challenges? How have you worked out how to deal with these?
I write about all kinds of things, from sunny Crete dealing with domestic abuse, time travelling Vikings as well as a fictional world called Elabi. The overarching factor is faith. I love stories of faith, and writing them is something I enjoy. It gives me an opportunity to ask the What If questions.
One of the challenges is to make the stories authentic. I dislike books where faith is attached onto the story or where the characters come up with glib answers. When I write the story, I always ask myself, Would this be logical, would I believe someone’s story? It comes down to telling your characters, don’t do what I wouldn’t do. So don’t walk through a suspiciously open door into a dark house, calling out to see if there’s anybody there…
9. Where do you stand on the question of having a writing routine? For me it’s crucial but I know of writers who do just “go with the flow” (or say they do. Can’t see how that would work but there you go!).
I write in the evening, once my kids are in bed. Occasionally I try to write in the day when they engrossed in an activity, but as soon as I open up my laptop, the emergencies will start rolling in… I have some evenings where I’m doing other things, but I feel a lot more satisfied if I have managed a chapter before going to sleep.
10. What aspect of writing do you love the most and why?
The story telling itself, just writing down the story as it comes to me. At the end I will sit back, feeling relieved and tired, which is a great feeling. I enjoy being in a make-believe world just for a few hours; it’s like daydreaming on paper.
11. What aspect of writing do you LOATHE the most and why?
Editing. I rely on my editor, but I want to give her a reasonable product to work with, so I check it over before giving it to her. I dread to think we have missed something once it’s all done.
Many thanks, Maressa, for a wonderful interview. In Part 2 next week, Maressa shares with us her thoughts on marketing and how she feels her writing has developed. Whatever you write, whatever stage in the publishing “game” you are at, there should be development in your writing. You learn what works for you. You learn tips on how to improve what you do and so on. I’ve mentioned before the writing journey, like life itself, should not be static – and Maressa’s definitely hasn’t been! More next week.
Read interviews with Chandler’s Ford writer Allison Symes: Part 1 and Part 2.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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