Meet Mary Conway. She’s a teenage romance author, and blogger, who lives in the Southwest of England. Her passions include skiing and writing and she feels there is always something to learn from everyone.
I asked Mary how old she was when she started writing, and if she always wanted to be a writer. She explains, "I started writing my own stories when I was about eleven, but they were rarely finished and often lost as the computer broke. I can’t remember why I started but I do remember most of my first characters were picked up from dreams. It’s probably been about two years now since I started writing more seriously. I don’t remember thinking much about writing when I was younger, although I always had my nose in a book. I started writing without much thought and I kept doing it because I always had so many ideas and didn’t know what else to do with them. It’s only relatively recently I’ve become involved with the online writing community and started thinking of myself as an actual ‘writer.’"
When I asked Mary if she planned to make writing her full-time career she said, "I think being a full-time author would be an absolute dream and it would be amazing to be able to spend so much time working on books. I don’t know if I could do any other sort of writing as a living though as I don’t have much experience outside fiction. I don’t know what I’ll do as my career in the end because in 2019 I’ll start studying Medicine at University, but I don’t plan to give up writing either so I guess I’ll see how it goes."
A couple of months ago Mary self-published A Grey Valentine’s. This is a romance novella set in a fictionalized version of her local seaside resort town. When asked to give a brief synopsis of her novel she said, "It’s the story of the budding relationship between a lonely barista stuck in her hometown and a tattoo artist in search of inspiration, who, despite their preconceived ideas and disastrous first meeting, must come together for the event that could save the town."
When asked about her favorite character in this new novel, Mary said, "What a cruel question! Lucas, the hero, was a favorite from the start because I’m a sucker for a wannabe bad-boy whose (not so) secretly a sweetie at heart, and I love Chrissie, the heroine, for her selflessness and good cheer that borders on naivety. However, I think Jess, Lucas’ boss/best friend is my favorite for a lot of reasons. She was originally going to be a stereotypical biker man actually but I found that idea stagnated quickly and something told me this fun-loving, caring and feisty girl was the right way to go. Once I’d found her character, she opened up new sides of everyone else. She’s not perfect and there’s one plot twist I worried would make her unlikable, but despite her flaws, I’ve had others saying they loved her too. I think the best test of my favoritism is the fact I hadn’t planned for any romances other than the central one, but I couldn’t resist sneaking in the hint of one for her too."
I asked Mary if she'd always written romance and she said, "A Grey Valentine’s was my first attempt at a proper romance and although I’ve plenty of experience writing sweet romantic fanfiction, it definitely felt differently working in this new genre. Previously I’d mostly attempted children’s stories, so writing for adults pushed my skills but I found it really enjoyable."
When asked what her favorite part of the writing process was Mary said, "I’m torn between outlining and editing. I’m very much a planner and I can spend far too much time outlining without ever getting anything down if I don’t set myself limits. It’s a lot of fun seeing everything take shape and it means I can write my first draft with more confidence. I spent almost two months outlining my current work in progress. On the other hand, editing my work and polishing it up to the final product is also possibly the part of the process I look forward to the most. It’s hard work and feels less spontaneously creative than drafting or outlining, but it’s also incredibly rewarding to see how my rough work is polished up to the final story." When asked what she considered the hardest part of the writing process she replied, "I find finishing any draft hard, especially if it’s a story I particularly love. I always want to extend it so I don’t have to say goodbye, even if I know it’s only temporary, and so I have a tendency to procrastinate endings more than beginnings. Even just thinking of a good ending is challenging, let alone putting it into the perfect words. I’d had the ending of A Grey Valentine’s in mind since the start, but because it was an epilogue I still found it hard to know when to stop the main body of the story. Hopefully, I’ve learned enough from this experience to avoid that issue next time."
I asked Mary if she had any writing quirks and she said, "I try to avoid specific rituals for writing because it just limits the circumstances I can write under if I feel I can only do so with certain things. That said, I do have habits I tend to follow: I don’t like writing unless I’m properly clean and dressed, I like to listen to either Disparition or game soundtracks as I write, and I use a different page color for each draft. Getting ready for writing like I’m ready for work makes me take it more seriously and feel more comfortable, I find game soundtracks inspiring, and changing the page color lessens the strain of a computer screen on your eyes." As far as her favorite writing tools and programs she said, "I spend a lot of time drooling over fancy software and tools but I’ve never invested in any myself. I use Word for writing, Excel for planning (I wrote a blog post about how) and Write or Die online for word sprints. I also enjoy the Dramatica demo software for plotting purposes because I adore story structure, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to spend a few hours reading through the theory first."
When asked if any other authors had inspired her Mary said, "Every author I’d ever read as a child probably inspired me in some way, but I’m not really one for keeping track of heroes. Every author writes so differently that I don’t want to try to emulate someone. Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series is probably my biggest inspiration as I’m always amazed by the wit and irreverence as well as fantastic storytelling, although I don’t believe I could ever write anything like him. The only author I’ve ever met was Holly Seddon who gave an inspirational talk at my school recently. She is also an inspiration to me now because I talked to her afterward and she was really encouraging. She’s had such a varied and interesting life already and it helped me realize I don’t have to do it all right this second."
Mary also has advice for writers just starting out on their writing journey stating, "Have fun but take it seriously. By that I mean don’t expect to be amazing at first because it’s a skill like any other and nobody is any good when they start. Also, more importantly, just go for it. Don’t worry about if it’ll be rubbish or anything like that, just start and see where it goes."
I asked Mary about her plans for future books. She said, "I’m having a lot of fun with my current WIP! Tentatively titled The Guard’s Heart, it’s a YA Fantasy and tells the story of a palace guard who is secretly in love with the princess, but must work with her rival to defeat a conspiracy to reintroduce a forbidden magic to the kingdom. I currently have about 40,000 words out of a predicted 96000 for my first draft and with multiple romances, deceptions and motivations to juggle it’s easily my most ambitious project yet, but it seems to be going well so far. I hope to get a lot done in the next year and I’m aiming for traditional publishing this time around, so it’ll be a whole new journey."
When asked how long it usually takes her to write a book Mary replied, "A Grey Valentine’s is the only book I’ve ever completed so far and that took nine months, although I didn’t work on it much during the summer. That was for three drafts plus editing, outlining, cover design, copywriting, beta-reading, formatting, publishing, and research into everything. For a full-length novel, I imagine it would take several months more. I’m not a fast writer and I have a lot of schoolwork so I just chip away at it whenever I can."
To wrap up our interview, I asked Mary what she was currently reading. She replied, "I was reading Red Queen but it’s gone missing somehow so that’s been postponed. I have exams very soon so I’ve mostly been reading history books in preparation. Currently, I’m reading White Heat about the sixties in Britain and it’s taking a very long time because it's about eight hundred pages long."
If you're interested in reading Mary's books or would like to find out more information about her, you can do so at the links below: