Saturday, June 06, 2009

Mary Stanton Answers the Oft Asked Question, How to Write a Book?

Angel's Advocate by Mary Stanton

Due to an unanticipated conflict, Mary Stanton could not appear on one of her scheduled host sites this week so Mystery Books News is thrilled to welcome her back for another visit here. Mary is on tour this week to promote the second mystery in her Beaufort and Company series, Angel's Advocate.

In Angel's Advocate, Savannah attorney Brianna "Bree" Winston-Beaufort is back to business unusual. With her most peculiar (a.k.a. “dead”) clientele and her anything-but-angelic staff, Bree finds that money’s a bit tight at Beaufort & Company. After all, while the dead certainly need Bree’s help in appealing to a higher court, they’re not exactly paying clients. Bree finally lands a case to help pay the bills when she is hired to represent Lindsey Chandler, a spoiled teenager accused of stealing a Girl Scout’s cookie money. But this isn’t exactly a case of petty theft, since Lindsey allegedly tried to run over said Girl Scout with her Hummer. And if that weren’t bad enough, Lindsey is anything but remorseful, making this case – and Bree, by association – the talk of Savannah.

Mary’s career as a fiction writer began with the publication of her first novel, The Heavenly Horse from the Outermost West, in 1984. Mary sold her first mystery to the Berkley Publishing Group in 1994, and has since published three series with them under the nom de plume Claudia Bishop. The Beaufort and Company mysteries are her first to be published under her real name.

While preparing for this tour, Mary shared with us the most charming story, a situation she found herself in when asked the simple question, "How to Write a Book?" Here it is in her own words.

I live in a very small town—it’s a total of five thousand citizens—maybe a little more than that if you include the cows, sheep and goats. I wrote and sold my first novel twenty years ago. This was an event that hadn’t happened in our village in some time (perhaps not at all, come to think of it) and soon after the book came out, our local Chamber of Commerce president called me up and asked me to speak at the monthly meeting.

At the time, we were a farming community, and proud of it. We had several dairies, a few cow-calf operations, a lot of corn growing, and the monthly speeches at the Chamber were a high point for many of our Chamber members, mostly because it was a break in the very hard work of farming. (Plus, you got lunch.)

The topic of the speech the month before mine was “Corn Seed Hybrids: From 80 to 200 Bushels an Acre!” The month before that, it was “Feed to Market-Weight-Gain Ratios in Beef Cattle.”

“I’d love to give a speech,” I said to the president. (Which was a huge fib, actually. I’m shy in front of a crowd, but I felt it would be a civic-minded thing to do.) “But what would you like me to say?”

“We would all like to know,” he said. “How To Write a Book?”

So I put on a skirt and a nice blouse and went to the Chamber meeting armed with a bunch of notes and feeling very sweaty and scared. I was pretty sure that the Chamber members didn’t want to know how to write a book. They wanted to know what on earth had possessed me to write a book, and, perhaps, if that same thing would ever possess them.

So I told them that part of the reason I wrote the book was because of the stories my father-in-law and his father told me about farming in the old days. Those stories meant something to me, and to my step children. Writing stories was a way of preserving those stories after the older generation died off. I wrote a book, I said, because it’s the best way to pass on what I heard. And that when each of us sat down after dinner and passed around stories about the old days, we were all, in fact, writing stories. And stories are what make a book.

I don’t know if that answered the Chamber members’ question. I do know that no Chamber of Commerce, anywhere, has ever asked me back to talk about how to write a book. I have been back to talk about the live-birth rate percentages in Boer goats, though, and I figure that counts because after the speech, everyone sat around and swapped stories about the old days of farming.

Which meant that they had indeed, decided How to Write a Book after all.

We are thrilled to announce that Mary Stanton is giving away a signed copy of her book, Angel’s Advocate, to one lucky tour visitor. Go to Mary’s book tour page,, enter your name, e-mail address, and this PIN, 1383, for your chance to win. Entries from this blog site will be accepted until 12:00 Noon (PT) tomorrow. No purchase is required to enter or to win. The winner (first name only) will be announced on Mary’s book tour page next week.

A very special Thank You from MBN to Mary Stanton for visiting us today and sharing such an entertaining story. Please be sure to visit all the host sites on Mary's tour this week.

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  1. Thanks for sharing such a charming story. It put a smile on my face :) Looking forward to picking up your book for a good summer read.

  2. Interesting thoughts about "writing a book". I like the comparison to "telling a story". Of course certain people have a better knack at it than others and people have their own individual ways of doing it.



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