Friday, August 15, 2014

Mary J. Forbes: Why Family And Strong Women Are Necessary Elements In Fiction

Everyone's Story welcomes best-selling multi-published author Mary J. Forbes. I've been blessed to know Mary for years now, having met her back in my RWA days. I just wish we lived closer than the 3,000+ miles that separate us, but then again, this is true of my many incredible, talented friends. Mary, having written romance novels for the Silhouette Special Edition line, is now not only writing women's fiction but is self-publishing. Please join Mary this week as she shares an excerpt, her thoughts on family and strong women characters, and answers a few questions. Both Mary and I look forward to hearing from you.

Mary is offering one $5 Amazon Gift Card, which is perfect for either purchasing her novel HOME SECRETS or any other e-book(s) of your choice, to one randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, August 22nd, between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

Excerpt from HOME SECRETS, Book 1 of the Hawkes Landing Series:

 HOME SECRETS by Mary J. Forbes

        The sky had lightened to a clear blue when she closed the door, stepped onto the stoop and inhaled the perfume of white lilacs crowding the corner of her little house. The sun had burned away the low-lying fog, and conveyed a fecund odor of warmed earth. Lily hurried down the stoop stairs and headed for the warehouse. At the entrance of the wide roll-back door, she discerned movement within the murky interior. I have an excuse to hide in the gloom. What’s yours, Mr. Montgomery?
         Her steps faltered. She waited for her vision to adjust. Ready or not, here I come.
         He leaned against the hood of the old, white Ford 150 Joy had parked there so Lily could use the garage for her glasswork. Ankles and arms crossed, he was a tall rangy man with large hands and wide wrists, and an eagle’s head tattooed on his right forearm. Prison residue?
         Once, years ago, Effie had mentioned her son lived an exemplary life in California. What that entailed neither she nor Joy disclosed, and Lily had never asked. Grey Montgomery, it seemed, was a blemish his family wanted to hide.
         Until Effie begged Joy to call him home before it was too late.
         “Looking for me?” he drawled.
         Lily tensed. She stood backlit by the sun, her outline clearly visible to him. Squaring her shoulders, she asked bluntly, “Have you decided?”
         “About what?”
         “Selling the farm? That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”
         He pushed off the truck and ambled toward her. The image of a big male lion sizing up a gazelle flashed through her mind.
         From somewhere he’d located a blue bandana—likely a hip pocket—and was in the process of wiping his hands. “My mother,” he said, “wants it producing again.”
         “And you?”
         “Doesn’t matter what I want. For now Mama holds the deed.”
         “But she won’t be—” Around much longer. Had she nearly spoken the words aloud? Had she become calloused to Effie’s inevitable death? Effie, who had given Lily a home on her quiet ancestral land when no one else would.
         Montgomery’s gaze softened. “I know.” The emotion in his tone surprised her. “That’s why I’m home.”
         “Forgive me.” Shoving her hands into the pockets of the hoodie, she headed back outside and started for the field road through the maple thicket. Up by the big house, the garage and Scene-In-Glass waited.
         “Ms. Wheaton.”
         He had wandered out of the doorway and stood bold and stunning as a storm rolling over the mountains. “If I decide to revive this,” he swept a hand toward the raspberry canes and apple trees, “and the place yields again, things might change.”
         She didn’t dare ask what that change might entail. “When would you begin this...revival?”
         In four days.
         Lily scrutinized the fields which hadn’t known a tender hand in years.
         “Don’t know much about fruit farming,” Montgomery remarked, following her gaze. “Didn’t pay much attention growing up.” His grin was sudden and crooked. “Maybe I should buy Farming for Dummies.”
         Lily didn’t laugh. Rather, she pictured him at eighteen. Cocky. Brash. Girls on his arm. Beer dangling between his fingers. No, he would not have cared a whit about pruning and harvesting, packing crates and marketing.
         “Well, then,” she said. “Your work’s cut out for you. I won’t stand in your way. Nor will my daughter.”
         “Likewise. It’ll be me. No crews. But it will take a couple of months. You okay with me working around here every day?”
         “Do what you want. It’s your land.”

Why I Write About Family and Strong Women by Mary J. Forbes

Elaine, thank you for inviting me to guest blog on Everyone’s Story. It’s such a pleasure to talk to your readers about writing, a topic dear to my heart, and especially when you asked what I hope to convey in my books.

Where to begin? I’ve always gravitated toward fiction that deals with dark issues and people who are splintered emotionally and/or spiritually. Reading stories that make me cry and laugh and feeling the beauty of healing within the characters is an allure I can’t resist.

For several years I wrote contemporary romances. Home Secrets is my first venture into the more complex arena of women’s fiction. While there still is a love story plaited into the plot, it is not the main focus. Rather, the story embraces the relationships between two damaged women who at first become friends through necessity, and then discover the true meaning of “sisters of the heart”.

All my books—including the shorter romances—reflect real life issues. They zero in on everyday relationships between friends and family as they find the courage to struggle through complexities and individualisms in their home and their community. These issues often are not easy. I’ve included dyslexia, autism, divorce, artificial insemination, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and prejudice, in my works. Such issues lead to long hours of research—which can be intensely rewarding! I’ve learned a great deal about the heartache and distress some people have endured. And what amazed me most in the real life cases I researched was the strength and power of the human heart. In a couple instances, the simple belief in overcoming adversity was astounding.

It’s that strength and belief I try to convey in every book with every heroine. She embodies the ‘woman’s journey’ in a dozen ways. She is the soul of the story, the rock on whom others rely even while she combats her inner demons. And in its midst she gains confidence, laughter, and the anticipation of something good and stable on the horizon. Something that can evolve into a home and, most importantly, a family.

And so, the old adage family comes first has become my inner mantra while writing each of my books. The characters may be fractured emotionally, they may face overwhelming odds, but when they need a soft place to fall they look over and over again toward home and family. It is the place where healing conquers, hope is nurtured, and love is found at last.

Questions for Mary J. Forbes:
Mary, you’ve shared with us about why you create strong heroines and tell of the “woman’s journey.” Has one specific character you’ve created ever surprised you with a major life lesson or insight you’d like to share?

All my heroines surprise me with the strength they exude in their particular problem or conflict. Sometimes they “write themselves.” By that I mean they show a side I didn’t expect, be it humor or courage in a specific situation. Case in point, I’ve had a heroine become outright audacious when she was known as the ‘quiet one’. And for good reason! More recently, one of the women in Home Secrets displays a beautiful and daring spirit that came out of nowhere when facing the man who changed her life forever at age fourteen.

For me creating and writing heroines is not easy. Too often they don’t truly show themselves until I’m far into the book. That can cause some angst in the process but, more likely, have me banging my head on the keyboard, lol. Truth is I don’t want even the tiniest part of me in the heroine. I want her to be herself. Yet we all know fiction is based on a hodgepodge of human emotions and personalities that flit in and out of our lives.

What similarities and differences have you discovered in writing longer women’s fiction from your shorter romances?

Women’s fiction allows me to dig deeper into my characters. It gives me the freedom to write plots that are darker and perhaps more daring with issues that wouldn’t make the cut in romance. And I love delving into more points of view. In my shorter works, I found it constricting at times not to give a specific character their say when I felt he/she had something important to add to the story. That said, I learned a great deal writing 70,000-word romances. Specifically, how to painlessly cull sentences and words—no matter how much I loved them!—that slowed the pace or didn’t move the plot forward. And I learned how to weave a story chapter by chapter and tie up loose ends in the plot when it was done. 

Any tips on self-publishing you’d like to share with writers who are contemplating the venue of publishing?

Do as much homework as you can on the industry. It won’t be easy, but it will be immensely rewarding. And be prepared to have a LOT of patience! There are only a handful of authors who make it big right out the gate. The rest of us know it will take any number of books for readers to find us. So write that next book and get it out there. Then write another one. And another.

Mary's Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Author Mary J. Forbes: Why Family And Strong Women Are Necessary Elements In Fiction. #Giveaway (Tweet This)

Award-winning author Mary J. Forbes shares jump from category to women’s fiction to self-publishing. (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Mary J. Forbes writes stories with an emotional depth that is reflected in each of her characters. Several of her (Harlequin) Silhouette Special Edition books were Waldenbooks bestsellers, and reached BookScan and Amazon’s respective top 100 lists. Mary loves to garden and especially enjoys the color and fragrances of the flowers she plants each spring and summer. The rain of the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her family is often portrayed in her stories. But once the clouds roll away, her heroes and heroines always find their rainbow waiting on the horizon.

Places to connect with Mary:


  1. Another author I am not familiar with but that I need to get to know. I know I keep repeating myself, but I really do enjoy your blogs and the interviews you do. Since I just won a gift, feel free to leave me out of the drawing. I definitely will be looking at Mary's books, God Bless.

    Ann Ellison

    1. I can never say this too much, Ann: I love seeing you here!

      I've known Mary for many years now. It's exciting to see her grow in her writing, yet keep true to her heart in what's important and what she values.

    2. Ann, thanks for popping by! I love Elaine's blogs too, especially because she's able to acquire so many different guests and authors. :)

    3. Elaine, thank you. You've brightened my day. :)

  2. Love strong, sassy female characters.

    1. Linda, so nice to see you here. I know you'll make Mary smile with your encouraging words.

    2. Linda, thanks for stopping in! A strong heroine is what draws me to picking up a book as well. And, of course, to writing. :)

  3. A wonderful post thank you. I do love stories with strong women in them. We are strong in truth.


    1. Thanks for visiting again, Mary. Mary J. Forbes has been one of my original writing mentors about creating strong women characters.

    2. Aw Elaine, you have me blushing... ~Hugs~

  4. This is my first introduction to this author. Her story is interesting. I wish her the best with her self-publishing.

    Deamundy(at)gmail(dot) com

    1. Hi, Deanna, and welcome to Everyone's Story. Thanks for saying a hello. You're in the drawing!

      Hope to see you again.

    2. Thanks, Deanna! Glad you could pop in. :)

  5. Mary, so nice of you to visit! Thank you for your kind words. Women are definitely strong in truth--and in spirit! :)

  6. Mary,
    Wonderful blog. Mary, I LOVE your stories. I'm blessed to know you many years, and to have for a time to have been your critique partner. You're an INCREDIBLE writer and your stories are so heart-felt. I with you every success!


    1. I'm glad you could visit, Diana… it's the next best thing to seeing you in person. How I'd love to grab a latte with both you and Mary. One day!

    2. Diana, you're such a jewel! Thank you SO much for your kind words. :) Gotta say I love every one of your books. :)

    3. Elaine, you've read my mind! We really do need to make a date of it one day with Diana and that latte! :)

  7. Hi Mary -

    A pleasure to meet you here on Elaine's blog! I can say a hearty, "Amen," to your advice. It takes time for a book/author to gain traction. This is one of the biggest reasons to begin building your author platform as early as possible.


    susanjreinhardt AT gmail DOT com

    1. Thanks for visiting today, Susan. I'm always pleased to see you. Understatement!

    2. Susan, it's so very nice to meet you here! Yes, writing and pubbing does take time but, oh, it's so incredibly rewarding when the work is out there. :)

  8. Love the excerpt.Don't know that I can take a chance on winning, so I'll go ahead and buy the book--definitely want to get to know more about the characters. And love getting to know a new author. So agree it takes a while to get traction.

    1. Pat, I believe I hear Mary squealing in delight these far too many miles away (from you both!). Blessings, my friend.

    2. Patricia, you've put a ray of sunshine in my day!! THANK YOU! So glad you enjoyed the excerpt. I, too, am always on the lookout for new authors. :)

    3. Elaine, you're right, LOL! Thank you again, Patricia--and you, Elaine for inviting me to your lovely blog. :)

  9. Thanks for the great excerpt. I love the themes that she explores in her works

    fencingromein at hotmail dot com

    1. Shannon, welcome to Everyone's Story. Mary's themes are universal in that they hit the heart.

      Hope to see you again.

    2. Shannon, thanks for popping by! I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt. :)

  10. Personally speaking, this has been a great week for me hosting a very dear friend, Mary J. Forbes. Thanks Mary, for guest appearing on Everyone's Story. I hope the many viewers and commenters spell a growing readership for you.

    Thanks too for the sweet Giveaway of a $5 Amazon Gift Card. The lucky winner is…

    Shannon. Yea, Shannon! Mary will contact you directly to make arrangements in getting the card to you. I hope it provides hours of happy reading.

    Hope to see everyone again.


  11. Elaine, THANK YOU for hosting me! It's been a pleasure talking with your viewers. :) I'm thrilled that Shannon has won the draw for the Gift Card!
    Again, a big thanks to everyone who participated! ~Hugs~


Add This