Author Spotlight

 

This month, I was given a chance to spend a bit of time getting to know a great author. So, without further delay, let’s hear from

M. Jean Pike

How and when did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
My mother was an avid reader and she passed her love of books on to my siblings and me when we were very young. I remember evenings spent sitting in the den while she read to us, feeling completely swept away into other worlds. That's when I knew I wanted to be a storyteller, to create my own worlds, my own "people." In elementary school I learned how to make words and put them together, and that's when I became a writer. At that time I thought boys were 'icky' so romance was out of the question. Setting my sites on (paranormal) mystery, I wrote dozens of stories featuring Mac the Mysterious Mutt, a dog with magical powers. I stapled them together and created my own cover art with construction paper and magic markers. My family were my biggest fans then, and probably still are :-)

Tell us what makes you…you.
People who know me would probably tell you I'm complicated. They might even go so far as to say high maintenance (grins). I'm definitely a product of all my life experiences and they all come out in my writing sooner or later. I have a tremendous capacity for depression and an equally great capacity for laughter. I beat myself up for my shortcomings and I don't always learn from my mistakes. I'm the type of person who would give you the shirt off my back...as long as I had a way to cover my boobs :-)

How do your stories come to you? Do they start with a character or does the whole story just come to you all at once?
My characters always come first. Most specifically, my male lead. I can't say that a whole story has ever come to me at once, though that would be wonderful. I start with a character and a key scene and the story usually grows from there.

Tell us some of your favorites. (i.e. foods, books, authors, movies, music, and any other favorites you would like to share.)
Books, movies, music... my tastes are pretty diverse. It's got to speak to me on some level and I love nothing more than to be taken by surprise. Some movies that have really grabbed me were A Beautiful Mind, Somewhere in Time, The Others, The Jacket and Mystic River. As for books, I like romance, family saga, and coming of age stories. I'm in awe of the talent of Eudora Welty, John Steinbeck and Gail Godwyn. Some of my favorite recording artists are Counting Crows, R.E.M. and the Indigo Girls, and my favorite song of all time is probably Chrissy Hynde's "I'll Stand By You." Food? I adore black olives and strawberry cheesecake, but not together--except when I was pregnant :-)

When writing, do you need absolute quiet and an office setting or can you write anywhere?
With a first draft I need absolute quiet both inside my head and out in order to think through my plot and the general direction I want the story to go in. After I have a rough draft set down I can write just about anywhere. My best ideas seem to come while I am driving. I have had to pull over on many a country road and highway to jot down a great story idea before it got away.

What do you find to be the most challenge part of writing?
I would have to say my biggest struggle is with word count restrictions, especially in short stories. My works always tend to finish out at least 5,000 words too long, and I don't like to part with any of them!

What appeals to you about the paranormal genre? Do you see yourself writing in other genres?
In reading, I love to be taken by surprise, and paranormal stories never fail to do that. In writing, I love the challenge of making the impossible seem possible to a reader. Do I see myself writing in other genres? Absolutely. As long as they are genres that interest me. In addition to paranormal romance, I have done numerous literary short stories, and might even try a mystery some day (one that doesn't include dogs with magical powers!)

Do you believe there is one person out there for everyone and have found your special someone?
I do believe that. I have seen too many soulmates brought together by incredible circumstances not to. I think people aren't always in tune with their heart of hearts, and that sometimes leads to mistakes. Many women settle for jerks, and some end up with great guys who maybe aren't so great for them.

I married my 'Mister Right' on my fortieth birthday, so it's never too late!

Do you enjoy hearing from your readers and what is the best way to contact you?
I'm always happy to hear from my readers. When you send a book or story out into the world you never know if people are going to like it and see what you "saw" while writing it. It's good to know, either way. Praise is wonderful, and criticism helps you learn. Readers can contact me through my website: www.freewebs.com/mjeanpike.

Are you able to write full time or do you have to balance your writing with one of those pesky day jobs?
Though I would love more time for my writing, I'm one of the lucky few who actually enjoy their day job. Working with children with severe/profound mental retardation is challenging and sometimes heartbreaking, but the rewards are huge. I sometimes think if I didn't have to go out and work every day I would never leave my quiet, country road. But that wouldn't really help my writing, because I get my story ideas out in the big wide world, by watching and listening. It's amazing the things people will tell you!

What is the most unusual thing that you have ever done?
I sometimes dream things shortly before they happen. No idea how or why.

What was the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I stumbled and fumbled for a lot of years. I didn't know anyone who knew anything about writing, so what I learned when I was starting out, I learned on my own. Eventually I took a short story writing course through Long Ridge Writer's Group and my instructor pointed out some deadly mistakes in my writing that I wasn't even aware were mistakes! After conquering them, my stories and articles started getting published. It was the best thing I ever did for my writing.

How do you promote your work?
Promoting is probably my least favorite part of the whole process. I'm constantly trying new ways to get the word out about my books. I find book reviews, interviews, and press releases (both online and in the local papers) good ways to do that. Of course, nothing beats word of mouth.

What would a perfect day for you be?
My husband has a big old Oldsmobile convertible, the kind that seats eight adults comfortably. On a perfect day, it would be autumn. The sun would be shining and the leaves exploding with color. We'd put the top down and cruise to one of the nearby state parks and walk the trails, hand in hand, enjoying the scenery. On the way home we'd come across an abandoned house and it would speak to me and tell me its story. We'd stop somewhere for an ice cream cone. I'd get strawberry cheesecake. As days go, it doesn't get much more perfect than that

:-)

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?  Any current or upcoming releases?
I currently have three books in print and one in progress. My first paranormal romance (ghost variety) The Winds of Autumn, was published in 2005. Paranormal romance number two, Waiting for the Rain, was released in 2007 and features an enchanted cottage. My latest release, Heatherfield, is a time travel romance. I hope to complete novel number four, In The Shadow of the Dragonfly, this spring.  

 

     

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