Buckle up, folks! And help me welcome self-proclaimed smart…guy Steven Mayfield to the guest author interview hot seat! Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Steven Mayfield is the award-winning author of Howling at the Moon, Treasure of the Blue Whale, and the upcoming Delphic Oracle, U.S.A. He lives and writes in Oregon.
Author Social Links: Facebook * Twitter
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Steven: I was working on two short stories and realized that the protagonists lived in the same town. I then searched my “Ideas” file and found several other characters in search of a home. The result was Delphic Oracle, U.S.A., a small town in Nebraska that is home to some oddballs.
Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?
Steven: I finally, at long last, stopped going off on tangents with minor characters.
Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?
Steven: There are two timelines, separated by nearly ninety years. Keeping the reader in two moments was a challenge that I addressed by allowing a first-person narrator to tell the story from both his own observations and experiences and those gleaned from his great-grandmother’s memories.
Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know?
Steven: Probably July and Maggie, the star-crossed lovers of the 1920s time setting. I knew who they were from the start and neither changed much.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Steven: I researched the oracles of Delphi and Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. I read a lot of Shakespeare, searching for quotes, and used A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a basis for the last chapter of the book.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Steven: Umptygazillion. The original draft was 185,000 words. With the help of novelist and editor, Mary Rakow and my Regal House editor, Jaynie Royal, it was trimmed down to a tidy 89,000. There was a lot of fat on the bone. Did I mention tangents and minor characters? You get the idea.
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?
Steven: I began the book in 2008, but because the structure (two timelines) was so challenging I frequently had to set it aside and published two other books before finally completing an acceptable draft in 2020. That is not typical for me. Treasure of the Blue Whale (Regal House 2020) and “The Penny Mansions” (Regal House 2023) both took about a year. I have another book, tentatively entitled “Sixty Seconds,” which is half done four months into the project.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Steven: I try to write every day, even if it’s just a few words. I begin by revising what I wrote the day before, which often results in significant expansion. Then, I write new words for the next day.
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Steven: This is a better question for my editor, although in first drafts, I invariably overuse “that.” When I go to a second draft, I first do a “Find” for “that” and delete about 80% of them.
Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Steven: I’m too old to have role models. As a young man in medicine, I had some wonderful mentors, Ed Bell and Ed Clark at the University of Iowa among them. One man stands out: William Oh, my Neonatology fellowship director at Brown. I’ve dedicated “The Penny Mansions” to him. Among writers, I’ve been influenced by Mark Twain, O. Henry, Charles Dickens, Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, John Cheever, Muriel Spark, Agatha Christie, John Irving, and Jean Shepherd. My work is about 10% an effort to be them and 90% smartass.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Steven: I have a study where my guitar and piano are nearby.
Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?
Steven: I did have day job. I was a neonatologist for twenty-five years and enjoyed it, although the sleep deprivation caught up with me, forcing an early retirement.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Steven: Accepting what I am: a yarn-spinner.
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Steven: I don’t have a favorite. I like to read different things, which I is why I enjoy the Regal House catalog. There’s so much diversity in content and style among their authors; e.g. I just finished In Search of the Magic Theater by Karla Huebner, which is about two young women on parallel courses that eventually converge. Before that, I read Barbara Quick’s What Disappears, which is about ballet and fashion in Russia and Paris of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and Michael Bourne’s Blithedale Canyon where a recovering addict can’t seem to go straight. Right now, I’m on Phillip Hurst’s Regent’s of Paris. Like me, Phillip writes about small towns and is a bit of a smartass. I feel right at home.
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?
Steven: Being traditionally published has been gratifying. It’s nice to know that someone other than one’s friends and family has found value in my work. Because, let’s face it, your friends will never tell you that your butt looks big in EVERYTHING! Editors are less bashful, making me a shameless supplicant for their approval.
It is 1925 when a love affair between enchantress Maggie Westinghouse and con man July Pennybaker upends the small town of Miagrammesto Station, tumbles it about, and sets it back down as Delphic Oracle, Nebraska. Will their love fulfill its destiny? The narrator of this wry, entertaining novel, Father Peter Goodfellow, weaves back and forth in time to answer that question. Along the way, he introduces the Goodfellows, the Penrods, and the Thorntons—families whose members include a perpetual runaway, a man with religion but no faith, a man with faith but no religion, a boy known as Samson the Methodist, a know-it-all librarian who seems to actually know everything, a quartet of confused midsummer lovers, and a skeleton unearthed in a vacant lot. Funny, poignant, and occasionally tragic, their histories are part of how a place at the confluence of the Platte, Loup, and Missouri River Valleys became home to the long-lost Oracle of Delphi.
Buy Links: Regal House Publishing * Annie Bloom’s Books * Barnes & Noble
Sounds like a rollicking read, Steven! Thanks for sharing it with us.
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
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