Friday, February 28, 2014

Welcome Author M.S. Spencer today and a Giveaway

First, I'd like thank you for having me at Love Romances and More Reviews today. At the end of the interview I pose a question in answer to one of yours, and will happily give a copy of my latest romantic suspense the Mason's Mark: Love and Death in the Tower (an Old Town Romance) to the best answer.

Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?

As I like to say, I figured out I wanted to be a writer while schlepping down the birth canal, and only waited the few years it took to learn to grasp a fat stub of chalk to start putting words to paper. More or less :).

Who or what has been your biggest influence as a writer?

I'll answer both. English writers from Jane Austen to Evelyn Waugh, and modern essayists like Calvin Trillin and Edwin Newman introduced me to the versatility and beauty of the English language. As to what influences me as a writer, it would have to be all the experiences—travel, educational, life—I've been lucky enough to have.

What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?

I think the importance of setting is much underrated. The setting can act as a plot element; for example, in my latest, the Mason's Mark, the George Washington National Masonic Memorial takes center stage. A Washington landmark, it has nine floors and stands 331 feet tall. The rooms diminish dramatically in size as you go up the levels, and the elevators that begin 61 feet apart on the first floor are only 4 ½ feet apart by the time you reach the top. So you can see how, in the tiny space housing a replica of Solomon's throne room,  it would be difficult to hide a body. Or a murderer. The setting for Mai Tais and Mayhem is  the Gulf coast of Florida, the obvious spot for a heroine to deal with sea turtles and feral pigs. In Lapses of Memory, two journalists meet every few years as they compete for scoops in international hot spots while both their love and flight technology grows. Crucial to the plot is how the setting changes over the years but the characters remain in love.
As for other elements: of course you want characters that act like real individuals, warts and all. If they're too perfect the reader might as well go off and play with Barbie and Ken. Lastly, a plot that is consistent and complex.

Could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?

I confess I don't have a lot to do with it. Before I start writing I may jot down the physical characteristics and careers of my hero and heroine. Then they pretty much take it from there. Some are quite assertive; some timid—one (Rose in Lost and Found) was downright wishy-washy, but that's because at forty she'd lost (literally) the only man who was willing to marry her and found the only man who really loved her. You'd be confused too! Generally as the characters interact and the plot develops they find themselves. I enjoy getting to know them, although I admit Sydney Bellek in Lapses of Memory may have had an advantage for autobiographical reasons (I will say no more).

Please tell us about the projects you are currently working on; what can readers expect to see in the coming months?
I write full-length novels, so while I have a few children's stories sitting around that I will likely never get to, I work on one project at a time. Right now I'm on the second draft of a crazy story entitled Whirlwind Romance, about a jelly maker who finds a man in her mangrove swamp who turns out to be the prince of a tiny grand Duchy in the Caribbean. Along the way we have pirates, Puritans, and Communist propaganda. And a really sexy royal. I’m also writing the first draft of The Wishing Tree, a romantic suspense set on Chincoteague Island. Legend holds that if a person leaves a token on an old tree on the beach and the wind takes it away, the wisher will find true love. The heroine, Addison Steele, hopes that her token will bring back the husband she lost at sea. Instead she finds unexpected danger and romance—so far no murder though!

Where can readers find out what's new and how can they contact you?

The best way is to check out my blog:

I have a regular page on Romance Books 4 Us ( )
which lists upcoming events and works-in-progress.

They can also go to my author pages:

Secret Cravings Publishing:

And they're always welcome to contact me here:

Do you have a strict writing schedule? How do you balance your personal and writing time?

Oh God I wish I had a schedule—and I wish I knew how to balance my personal and writing time. I'm retired and live alone (kids far away) so my time is my own, which means I write in fits and spurts. I recently moved to Florida, which makes it even worse, since my study windows are huge, taking in the tropical sun and Gulf-blue sky. I'm torn every day, all day, between writing and all the other wonderful things to do here.

Out of all your books, do you have a favorite one? If not, then which one is closest to your heart?

Even if I did, I wouldn't tell. I like readers to choose their own favorites—I don't want to influence them. Each of my eight novels has an entirely different setting and characters—all fun and romantic and suspenseful. I invite you to try them all out.

What character out of all your books is the closest to your personality?

They all have a piece of me.  However,  I would prefer that readers get into the story without constantly comparing the heroine to some introverted fossil who sits around in her bunny slippers all day tap-tapping on her laptop.

If you could throw a party with any five people (living or dead) who would you pick and why?

My mother used to have back-to-back dinner parties so she'd only have to polish the silver once. If I could do that, I'd have a serious group the first night, to discuss weighty issues like food and puns. I would invite Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Johnson, Winston Churchill, Arthur Brooks the economist (because he's amazingly succinct), and Richard Burton (an explorer who spoke 25 languages and translated the most erotic works of the Middle East). The second night I'd lighten up and talk about politics and religion with Douglas Adams, Calvin Trillin, Dorothy Parker, Christopher Buckley, and Terry Pratchett. (You notice I don't include any romance writers (unless you count Dorothy Parker)—that's because (1) they're off in their own little world and (2) I've got enough of that in my day job.)

When you're not writing, what do you like to do to just kick back and have fun?

I love to go birding and kayaking. I love to swim and travel. Oh, and I'm a news junkie—CSpan is my constant companion.

What is the strangest source of writing inspiration you’ve ever had?

 Towers seem to figure in many of my settings—dead bodies appear in them in the Mason's Mark and Artful Dodging (in which Milo Everhart, artist, meets her match in lawyer Tristram Brodie on the battleground of the old munitions factory turned art center called the Torpedo Factory). Set in Washington DC above the rocky islets known as the Three Sisters, Triptych weaves three stories in and out of legend, modern romance and past intrigue.  Honor, the eldest sister in Triptych, writes dark romances in the tower of their huge, creaky Queen Anne house.  In Losers Keepers, set on the Atlantic barrier island of Chincoteague,
Dagne Lonegan’s advice column alarmingly mirrors her life when a murder is committed her first week on Chincoteague, while two lovers vie for her affections. In one scene, Dagne nearly tumbles to her death inside the Chincoteague lighthouse.  I know what you're thinking—no, I'm not afraid of heights...

If there was a soundtrack to your latest novel, what genre/songs would be included?

Well, I love opera and country music, but I'm not sure either would work for the Mason's Mark. Maybe your readers would have some ideas.
I'll give a copy of the Mason's Mark to the reader who has the most interesting suggestions.

To help them out, here's the blurb: 

In both the best and worst first day at work ever,  docent Claire Wilding meets the man of her dreams, but her carefully rehearsed guided tour of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial falls apart when she discovers a dead body. Together with Detective Ernest Angle, she's drawn into a dark world of black ops and Italian renegade masons, of secret cabals and hidden treasure. Also cloaked in mystery is her new love Gideon Bliss.  A George Washington expert, he haunts the Memorial, his manner evasive. What is his secret? Claire fears she'll fall in love with him only to learn he's a thief or even a murderer.

Juggling eccentric mothers and an increasingly smitten Ernest, our heroine must find answers in a complex web of intrigue, including which black ops agent to trust, whether our first president strayed, and if she and Gideon will ever be together.

About the Author

Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five continents, the last 30 years have been spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director and parent. She has two fabulous grown children, and currently divides her time between the Gulf coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.




Anonymous said...

Great interview, and I loved your answers. Whirlwind Romance sounds a terrific story - can't wait till you've finished it! Good luck with all your projects!

M. S. Spencer said...

Thanks so much for having me here today--I hope your readers enjoy the interview and come up with some geat music for me! M. S.

Sandy said...

You've had an exciting life, M.S., and your taste in music is crazy. lol I, also, like Opera and country and nearly everything in between.

It was great to learn more about you, M.S.

Melissa Keir said...

I love the two WIP you wrote about. They sound like fun. I'm jealous of all your travels. :)

M. S. Spencer said...

Thanks everyone--working hard!House is a mess, bills unpaid, but gosh darn it I ALMOST have the 2nd draft done. Almost. M. S.