Interview: Marie Lavender Talks with Eat Sleep Writer's Julie Cooper Brown

*This interview originally posted here.

Author:  Marie Lavender            
Book Title:  Upon Your Return

Country of origin:  USA
Genre:  Romance
Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands.  At the tender age of nine, she began writing stories. Her imagination fueled a lot of her early child's play. Even growing up, she entered writing contests and received a certificate for achieving the second round in one. She majored in Creative Writing in college because that was all she ever wanted - to be a writer. While there, she published two works in a university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online student journal. After graduating from college, she sought out her dream to publish a book. Since then, Marie has published seventeen books. Marie Lavender's real love is writing romances, but she has also written mysteries, literary fiction and dabbled a little in paranormal stories. Most of her works have a romantic element involved in them.

Hi, Marie!  Thank you for joining us!  Tell us a little about yourself.

I studied Creative Writing in college.  Since then, I have published seventeen books in the genres of literary fiction and romance.  My main focus is romance.  I have written historical romance, contemporary romance, paranormal romance and romantic suspense.  

How long have you been writing? Are any of your characters based on people in your life or possibly even yourself?

I have been writing since I was nine years old. I don’t intentionally write about the people in my life, but it’s possible they have been loosely based on them.  I know that my friends and family have noticed a lot of me in my characters, though.

What are the titles of your previous works ?

Here is a list of my books and pen names:

As Marie Lavender: Upon Your Return
As Erica Sutherhome: Hard to Get; Memories; A Hint of Scandal; Without You; Strange Heat; Terror in the Night; Haunted; Pursuit; Perfect Game; A Touch of Dawn; Ransom; Leather and Lace
As Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life
As Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Ramblings; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things

What is the highest praise you have received for a book?

I always feel really good when the reader seems to understand the character really well.  I know I have done my job.  I had one reviewer who claimed to be cynical about certain types of historical romance and yet she likened me to greats like Sabrina Jeffries when she read Upon Your Return.  That is high praise.  To even be considered of that caliber of author is certainly a boost to my self-esteem.

What you are working on now?

I am polishing the manuscript for Upon Your Honor, the sequel to Upon Your Return.  I also plan to release an anthology very soon.  I just received a contract for a paranormal romance so that should be out sometime in 2014.  I have a lot of projects on the backburner as well so I am not exactly pining for new material.

Who is your favorite character and why?

Fara Bellamont, the main character of Upon Your Return, will always hold a special place in my heart.  Not only is she the first historical character I wrote, she makes a point to go against the dictates of society in most things.  I can respect that.  There’s a bit of a rebel in me too.  

How do you want the reader to feel when they have finished reading your book?

All romance novels are supposed to have an HEA, or happy ending.  I think I strive to not only create that in my romances, but to try to answer all of the questions the reader might still have.  I don’t intend to give a cliffhanger at all.  The idea for the sequels came later on.  Mostly, what I want is for the reader to feel a sense of satisfaction when they close the book.  I always like that feeling when I finish reading one.

How does your family feel about your work?

They seem pretty supportive.  My mother is trying to purchase all of my published books, and my sister has read some of them.  My father and brother don’t read fiction at all so I can’t expect that of them.  LOL.  But, I think they are glad that I was able to see my dreams come to fruition.

Are there other members of your family involved in your writing process, such as proofread for you or other things?

In the past, when I was taking writing classes, my sister volunteered to help proofread my work so she was kind of a beta reader.  When I started self-publishing, that became a solitary venture.  But recently, when I was working on the sequel to Upon Your Return, she offered to help me again.  I think she just wanted to help, and she has helped me catch some things here and there. I also sent it to quite a few beta readers and critique partners.

What is your definition of SUCCESS in writing?

Well, being published definitely helps.  I think writing is about goals that you set for yourself.  Maybe the goal is to get a few pages written per day or so many chapters per month.  Maybe the goal is to just finish the book.  I think you try to do anything you can to meet those goals because nowadays, the only person that suffers is you.  No one is tying your hands or forcing you to do it so you have to find the strength in yourself to keep doing it.  But, there’s no point in doing something you’re not passionate about either.  If it was about money or fame, I would have walked away a long time ago.  I write because I can’t imagine doing anything else.  I write because the characters talk to me and the scenes come into my head, and I have no choice but to get them down before I forget.  To me, success is being satisfied with where you are.  Do I have more goals for myself?  Of course.  I’m nowhere near done.  I think success means something different to everyone.  For myself, it means getting to a place where I can do the thing I love comfortably, to immerse myself in that fictional world and come up occasionally to talk to a reader or a fellow writer.

How did you approach finally getting published?

I’m a stubborn person sometimes.  You could say I took things into my own hands.  Starting in 2010, I began self-publishing books.  It became very enjoyable for me.  It was fun to build a book, to make the manuscript everything it could be, then focus on proofreading and cover art.  I started out publishing my literary fiction and poetry.  In 2012, I realized I had all of these unfinished stories sitting around, stories that were always meant to be longer.  So, I focused on one and published that as well.   

From then on, it became an obsession.  Before I knew it, I had a ton of books published.  In the midst of all that, I had been working on Upon Your Return since 2002 and by 2011, it was ready for submission.  I knew more than anything that I had to try to publish it traditionally first.  So, I started sending it to literary agents.  I had many rejections.  Eventually, I had so many that I decided to explore my options.  I tried sending directly to publishers.  In August of 2012, I received a contract for Upon Your Return with Solstice Publishing.  It was published in February.  I now have two book contracts with Solstice, and I hope to have another next year with the sequel.  It has been an interesting ride.  I haven’t given up on self-publishing either.  In November, I published Leather and Lace, a romantic suspense.  It just earned its first review this week.

What avenues do you take to promote your book?

Mostly, I use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ to promote my books.  I also have a few book cover ads here and there.  All my book covers are displayed on Eat Sleep Write!

Answer this…   “I’ve always wanted to _________.”

Live in a castle.

Describe what the perfect day would be like for you.
The perfect day would be a day I spend with my fiancé.  I can imagine a private beach, lots of sun and just relaxation.  Maybe we would take a walk down the beach or look for seashells, maybe do some sightseeing locally.  When I am not immersed in my writing or working at my side job, I just want to be with the man I love. 

Do you have any plans for the future that you would care to share with us? 

Among everything else, I am doing a romantic suspense collaboration with another writer called Certain Death.  It is about a high level scientist who stumbles across a terrorist plot at the company she works for.  Fleeing from danger, she must rely on an enemy for protection.  As this project is still in the works, I’m not quite sure when we’ll be done, but we’ve made quite a bit of progress.