Mary Russel, author of Flickertail and Paint, Barnyward Sleuths, was born in 1948 and grew up in the U.S. in various foster homes and in an orphanage. She found her escape in books and is now a children's author and mystery writer. It is her hope that she can provide present and future generations of readers with the same enjoyment and excitement that she finds in books.
Today, Mary's sharing some of her experiences in writing with readers of my blog. I'm delighted to have this chance to interview her (the first time I've interviewed an author), and I hope you'll enjoy reading her answers as much as I have. I'm sure Mary will visit here during the day, so if you have questions to pose, just put them in the comments.
Meanwhile, if you visit Mary's blog at http://maryrussel.blogspot.com, you'll find me being interviewed there, and eager to hear from you too.
Me: What did you dream of becoming when you grew up?
Mary: Besides dreaming of being a writer, I wanted to be a singer, a dancer, famous ice skater, and the owner of a Bed & Breakfast.
Me: How did writing fit into those dreams?
I’ve written about all of them.
Me: When did you first start to write?
Mary: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love writing. Along with reading, it offered me a great way to escape from an unhappy childhood.
Me: Was there ever a time when you stopped writing or stopped telling stories?
Mary: I always wrote in my mind if not on paper. I still do that. I write complete short stories or free verse in my head, revising, editing, etc. before I even submit them to paper (or computer). For many years, I did not put anything on paper but only wrote in my head. None of it seemed worthy of wasting paper.
Me: When did you first start trying to get published?
Mary: I never considered myself good enough for publication. I doubt I’d ever have submitted anything to a publisher if not for the encouragement of a friend who told her publisher about me. He expressed an interest in Flickertail & Paint but he kept delaying the publication. I finally decided that he was just trying to avoid telling me he had changed his mind. I self published it with LuLu, figuring it wasn’t good enough to get published any other way. I thought I would just settle for selling it to a few friends and displaying it on my coffee table. Then, I thought, I had nothing to lose by trying to submit it to a few of the Print On Demand publishers. If none of them sent me a contract, I could always keep promoting it through LuLu.
Me: What sort of answers, if any, did you get from publishers?
Mary: Three of the publishers were interested but I went with this one (me: Publish America) because they seemed to best suit my needs and pocket book.
Me: How did trying to get published discourage or encourage your writing?
Mary: I have to admit, it stroked my ego to have three publishers interested in my work so it definitely encouraged me to get the rest of my novels out of the cobwebs and to start some new projects.
Me: How does social networking discourage or encourage your writing?
Mary: I have met some wonderful and motivating people through Gather.com and sellinglounge.com. The other writers on Gather have helped to inspire me to improve my writing and try new genres. That’s how I starting writing children’s stories.
Me: Flickertail and Paint, Barnyard Sleuths is a wonderful book of children's stories. What sort of thing do you most like to write?
Mary: Short stories.
Me: And what least?
That’s a tough question since I have fun exploring all kinds of writing. If I have to choose, I would have to say the kind of poetry that rhymes. I don’t feel I am good at it.
Me: Is there a type of writing that you think you do best?
Mary: I don’t know if it is what I do best, but the short fiction stories come easiest for me.
Me: Are you artistic in other ways, besides with words?
Mary: I used to have a pretty good singing voice but that’s gone with age. I love to dance, but I’m only a mediocre dancer, and my knees would object too strenuously these days. I also enjoy drawing but I have no real talent for it. I did a little acting in college and loved it but I never considered it as a profession for me.
Me: Do you think there’s a connection between using words and making music or making pictures?
Mary: From what I understand, they all use the same side of the brain. Maybe I’d be a better writer if I had more talent musically, or as a painter.
Me: Or maybe you'd be a musician as well as a writer. Do you write mostly to please yourself, to please others, or to get published?
Mary: I started out writing to please myself. Now, I’d have to say I write equally for myself or for potential readers. As far as the publishers are concerned, it’s just a happy coincidence that anyone feels my writing is marketable.
Me: To what extent do you write to help people?
Mary: Flickertail & Paint, Barnyard Sleuths was written with the intention to entertain and to encourage children to explore further any of the concepts, history or ideas they find interesting. Rudolph, A Child’s Love Story was written to help children who feel unaccepted. My Sleuth & Scribe series is pretty much just escape although the readers may find some messages that speak to them.
Me: What’s the most important thing that your recent writing and publishing experiences have taught you?
Mary: More than any book I have yet written, Rudolph helped me to accept and embrace my childhood. There are still a lot of unanswered questions but I have finally gotten beyond the bitterness and the feeling that I was robbed of something precious. Funny thing I discovered in writing it, I actually love the person I have become. My childhood had so much do with shaping me. What a freeing and powerful revelation! I hope that is what the reader will come away with too.
* Flickertail & Paint, Barnyard Sleuths can be found at
* You can also purchase autographed copies from Mary Russel's website or blog
* Some of Mary's published articles can be read here;
* For Tshirts and coffee mugs featuring the Flickertail & Paint characters check out Mary's Zazzle store.