Mary E. Dawson is the author of two prize-winning novels, “The River Way Home: The Adventures of the Cowboy, the Indian, and the Amazon Queen,” which is now available at Amazon.com and “Code Name Nanette,” which is in production.
“The River Way Home” is a tale of old Florida for young and old alike. Rich in historical detail, it draws the reader deep into the beauty and mystery of Florida’s unique environment to experience her characters’ exploration of friendship, loss, and possibility.
A former professional photographer, editor for NASA, community activist, elected official, and attorney, Mary searched from New Orleans, to Seattle, to Houston, and Miami, before she found the place she calls home – a small remnant of Florida’s last frontier, which she shares with friends, family, and a black-and-tan hound that wandered in out of the Allapattah Flats one sunny afternoon.
You can reach Mary with questions and requests at www.MaryEDawson.com or by email at Mary@MaryEDawson.com.
What inspires you to write?
Love and beauty. When researching local history for a community project, I realized that it was a great story that no one else had told. So, I started writing it as a gift to my community using characteristics of real people and real events as my inspiration. Before long, I was so deeply involved with the characters, landscapes, and events—both actual and fictional—that I felt I was with them in their time and place and cared deeply about them. I had no choice but to treat them honestly and honorably.
Tell us about your writing process.
It’s a magical, mystery tour! Before I start, I usually have a pretty good idea of what has to happen and where the characters need to go in the long run. But once I start writing, I discover their paths are not as straight as I anticipated, and they take me the weirdest places. Situations beget situations. New challenges keep popping up. When they involve facts or history, I stop and ask “The Great God Google” to enlighten me, and I am almost always rewarded with new directions and more material than I could have dreamed of.
It appears that my subconscious mind is a lot more organized than my conscious mind, however, because things I sense intuitively often fall into place as if by design. It’s an amazing experience and more fun than almost anything else I’ve ever done.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Neither. I become them. When writing scenes, I act out all the parts, down to gestures and timing. I don’t actually jump on runaway wagons, but I envision it in so much detail that it feels as if I do. Although I don’t “listen to” the characters in the sense of having a conversation with them, I know their entire history before I start writing—down to their grandparents’ stories and their probable futures. So, I know who they are, what they care about, how their minds operate, and every time they have to act in a situation, I just ask myself what each one would do and why. And I don’t lie to myself just to get out of a sticky spot.
What advice would you give other writers?
Decide why you’re writing and run with it. If it’s for a profit, learn the formulae and use them. If it’s because you have a story to tell, be true to your heart. In either instance, develop a thick skin and be hard on yourself. Ask for criticism and listen to it. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything someone suggests, but at least try to understand where the criticism is coming from and test possible fixes out in theory before ignoring it.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Call me naïve followed by lucky. At first, like so many others, I assumed you wrote a book, sent it out to agents and publishers, and the rest would be history. It almost worked. I got “that close” with the perfect traditional publisher. But, in the end, the head of the publishing company told me honestly that she was unsure where the publishing industry was heading and couldn’t take a chance at that time. Then Fate came to my rescue. A writer I know was working with a very small publisher, one of those new hybrids, who handled all the formatting and details I was totally ignorant about and did so brilliantly. I got to learn on the job. Still learning.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Having been thrown a loop by the digital age, book publishing is in a state of transition. It must evolve or die—like newspapers, typewriter companies, etc. There are several key questions on the table. Will there be a demand for physical books in the future? Yes, at least for the next generation. Even though the profit margins appear to be larger for digital books, a substantial number of people still like the feel of a good book in their hands and see books as gifts, collectibles, or old friends.
The second question is what writers traditional publishers can afford to and will be willing to invest in. Costs of production for large traditional publishers are heavy and front-end loaded. It’s understandable why they are leery of untried new writers and drawn to proven names, even when their books are being ghost written.
How then can a new writer get a foothold in the industry? With its programs that give new writers a platform for delivering their work to readers, Amazon appears to be the trailblazer and the guiding light on this question. By creating an affordable ebook platform and market, it lets readers rather than agents and publishers identify the talent, allowing publishers, such as Amazon (imagine that) to cherry pick the most successful rather than take that up-front gamble.
This could turn out to be a viable model that is good for everyone. However, it raises the question of what the traditional publishers do to earn their very large cut of the profits, especially since they don’t invest much in marketing and publicity. Why would an indie author who’s built his/her own platform and fan base make the switch? I’m told that even some established authors are going it on their own.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
YA, historical, adventure, Florida, Southern, literary, womens
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print