Okay, folks, I’m going to make a small confession: my next guest author is in Skye, Scotland and I wish I could be there, too! What a beautiful place and so inspiring! Let’s meet Mary Karlik who writes as Mary J. Wilson and find out more about her inspiration and her writing process.
Mary Karlik combines her Texas roots with her Scottish heritage to write happily-ever-after from Texas to Scotland.
Honoring her Scottish roots, Mary is writing her new series under her mother’s maiden name, Wilson. This Sweet Contemporary Romance series is set in the Celtic music world of Scotland.
You can find her Texas roots in her indie published, Contemporary Young Adult romance Hickville series. She brings her two worlds closer together than ever in her latest novel—Hickville Crossroads—when a young, up-and-coming Scottish teen heartthrob goes undercover in a Texas high school to research his latest role.
She is traditionally published in Young Adult Fantasy with her Fairy Trafficking series set in the magical world of Scotland. The audio version of Magic Heist, the second in the series, was nominated in 2019 for the One Voice Award for “Best Fiction Novel UK Voices Only.”
Mary is currently studying Scottish Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, Scotland. She also earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, has a B.S. degree from Texas A&M University, is a certified, professional ski instructor, and a Registered Nurse.
Mary is an active member of Contemporary Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, Young Adult Romance Writers of America and Dallas Area Romance Authors.
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Mary: Jenny got a raw deal in the last book and I wanted to give her a happy ending. I’m moving into the adult world of Romance and since my new contemporary series is set in Scotland, I thought it was the perfect way to wrap the Hickville High series as I segue into the new world of contemporary Scotland.
Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?
Mary: I am always working to improve my writing. But the skill I worked on the most was making sure my Scottish characters sounded Scottish. I don’t use “dinna” and “canna” that many authors use. I spend a lot of time in Scotland, I’m working on a degree in Scottish Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, and while I do hear those words, it’s not the standard. To make my characters sound authentic, I tried to capture the cadence of the speech. I also used common phrases that are different from the US. For example, Scotts will say half six rather than six thirty, or at the weekend rather than this weekend.
Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?
Mary: Yes! The ending is always my biggest struggle. I wanted to have a big black moment resolution, but it was kind of over the top. I added the epilogue to tone it down a bit. I’m still not sure I got the resolution quite right.
Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?
Mary: I knew Jenny from the previous book, so she was the easiest. But I also found Frasier easy. I knew I liked him the minute he appeared on the page. It was almost like he was there in my imagination waiting for his chance to appear.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Mary: I am very lucky because one of my closest friends husband is a movie producer. They were great at answering questions about behind the scenes movie stuff as well as legal issues with child actors. It was really her husband who gave me the idea. He mentioned that when they were shooting Spiderman, they put Tom Holland in an American high school. As far as the Scottish location goes, one of my closest friends is from Alford near Aberdeen. It was only natural that I use that small village as Frasier’s home town.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Mary: Is one million a valid answer? I am a hard core pantser which really means I write a really bad first draft and then revise, revise, revise, and then revise. I have no idea how many times because I’m not that organized.
Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?
Mary: HAHA! I have no idea. Maybe 4 months. I should know these things. I write fast first drafts and then everything slows. I think 4-6 months is usually the time it takes me. Again, I should know this.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Mary: I have a play list. I always write with music. I am very distractable and the playlist helps me focus. I also write the same time every day and I keep track of how many words I’ve written. I set goals for myself based on the previous day’s word count. I usually try to beat the day before, even if it’s by one word. Sometimes, I really have trouble focusing so I have to set a timer for like 10 minutes. If I can write for 10 minutes without getting out of my chair to see if my sock drawer needs straightening, I can take a 5 minute break. Usually, I end up getting into the groove before the 10 minutes are up. If I’m really struggling, I will ask a friend to sprint with me. I’m really competitive so always manage to write during a sprint. The most important ritual I have is “BUT IN THE CHAIR. FINGERS ON THE KEYBOARD.” I write Monday–Friday and sometimes on the weekend. It’s my job and I treat it like one.
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Mary: Atmosphere, stomach clinches, and loads of others.
Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Mary: My close writing friends like Pricilla Oliveras and Madeline Martin. It’s been fun to watch their journey. Not only do they work hard to write great books, but they are generous, joyful people. That’s what I want to emulate. And then there are role models I don’t know but love their work like Emily Henry and Jenny Colgan. I am currently obsessed with Emily Henry. Her descriptions are so unique and fun it’s hard to describe. Jenny Colgan is a fun read. I enjoy her Little Book Shop Series, but I love the Muir series. She is a master at creating a world you want to visit.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Mary: I write and revise in my office at my desk. I’ve tried writing outside but it’s too distracting for me. My eyes are so tired after 8–10 hours in front of a screen, I listen to audibles more than I read. I listen while I’m doing chores or driving anywhere. I also listen while I’m running or walking unless I’m having trouble with a plot, then I listen to my playlist.
Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?
Mary: I am very, very fortunate that I do not have a day job. I did for many years. I worked as both a nursing instructor and as a hospital administrator. Those jobs were great, but my passion has always been writing.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Mary: Writing the book that is currently with my agent. It is the first book in my new series and I love it more than any book I’ve written. I think it’s the best I’ve ever written. But the best before that is Hickville Crossroads.
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Mary: Romance! Romance! Romance! I love a happy ending.
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Mary: Hmm. To be honest it’s writing the best I can. But not because I’m all woo woo it’s about being the artist. It’s because if I write the very, very best I can, I have a better chance of people reading my books. At the end of the day, I want to write books that take people on a journey, books that make them feel excitement, sorrow (sorry but I have to have a black moment), relief, joy, and happiness. If I can make someone smile at the end of the book and at the same time anxious to read the next one, that is success. Should I mention my secret, bigger-than-life dream? I want people to feel the joy and passion I have for the music and traditions in the Scottish Gaelic culture. Eeek Spoiler.
Frasier Anderson is one of the hottest teenage actors in the UK, but he’s virtually unknown in the US. Now he’s landed the leading role in a big-budget Hollywood film that could make him an international star.
So how do you prepare a Scot for a role as a Texas high school student? Embed him in a Texas high school. He only has to follow three rules:
No drama. No girls. And no telling who he really is.
Jenna Wiley is smart, funny, and has a few no-drama, no-dating rules of her own. Her friendship with new kid Ethan Smith is perfect and might even lead to something more. Except for a few things that don’t add up. Like his mom being afraid to have company. Or their house, which looks more staged than lived in. Or his sister, whom nobody talks about.
It all comes to a boil when Frasier’s biggest secrets hit the tabloids and the paparazzi swarm Hillside with Jenna in their sights.
Thanks for stopping by, Mary! I think your new book sound intriguing, mainly because I’m into Scotland and music, too.
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
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