Monday, February 6, 2012

On Writing Author Interview: Jerilyn Marler

To avoid pre-conceived notions which can sometimes be connected with certain genres, the number of books published and/or an author's appearance, none of that information will be revealed until the bottom of the interview.   So pour a cup of coffee, have a seat, and check out this interview - see how much, or how little, you have in common with this published author.

What is your favorite part of being a writer?
The coffee breaks! I’m joking, of course, but I do think that the breaks (for coffee, or to do laundry, or to take a walk) help me find clarity because I stop throwing words at the screen and let them bounce around in my brain to make unexpected connections. I’m always looking for clarity. Finding clarity is what I love most about the process of writing. Whether I’m writing a blog, a book, or a speech, I start out convinced that I have nothing of value to share. During the writing process vague ideas and fleeting feelings take shape, gain substance. There’s usually a point at which I think, “Oh! That’s it!” And then I go get some coffee.

What is your least favorite part?
I intensely dislike the sense of dread that sometimes accompanies a looming deadline. What if the bouncing ideas never connect? What if I really don’t have anything of value to say? What if I run out of coffee?

Name one obstacle you’ve had to overcome.
When I started writing and editing professionally in 1979, I learned from stellar mentors and was given extraordinary opportunities to stretch and grow. With every employment transition I was swamped by insecurity because I don’t have a college degree. As my experience grew, the need for a degree became less of an issue. Now 30+ years later, it’s a non-issue. Especially in the early years, it took a lot of courage to apply for a job that listed a degree as a requirement and argue that my experience should be accepted in lieu of a degree. I see more willingness among employers now to substitute experience for a degree. They should.

Is there a specific part of your writing you’re working on to improve?
I tend to be highly analytical. I’m trying to loosen up and tap into creativity more often and more easily. I recently discovered that walking a labyrinth helps me let go of the analytical (after I count all the steps to the middle one time!) and open up to the creative. It soothes me physically and stimulates my thoughts.

What part of your writing makes you particularly proud?
I glow with happiness when I hear that my writing has provided comfort and inspiration. That is precisely my motivation, so to know that I’ve achieved it is the greatest reward.

What does your favorite main character have in common with you?
We’ve experienced deep, prolonged grief and come through it with resilience and joy intact.

Do you do a lot of research for your projects or do you only write about what you already know?
A blend.

How do you use the internet for your writing?
I stay in touch with the subject matter by participating in related forums and social networks. I research resources to share with my readers. I share my work through my website and blog. I do Google searches for the nearest Starbucks.

If you’ve won any awards for your writing, what impact do you think that has had? 
I’ve recently begun applying for book awards and am awaiting results. There’s a flurry of hope and excitement while I get a submission package ready, then I let it go. An award would be lovely, no question. I’m not holding my breath. I see the amazing work by other authors in my genre.

What one marketing tool have you had good success with?
Targeted Facebook ads have been effective for me.

What good writing habits have you developed that you think would be helpful to someone starting out?
I’ve been asked this question multiple times over the years. My response is: experiment to find what works for you and then stick with it! I can’t devote X hours every morning to writing, as some (many?) authors do. My brain doesn’t work that way. I can’t set up my laptop at a Starbucks and write for a couple hours as some people can, there are too many distractions. (I can sit and drink coffee for a couple hours, but that doesn’t get words on the page.) I really do believe that how we write is highly individual. I’m haphazard about when I write, but once I start, I’m laser focused and absorbed. It might be for half an hour. It might be for six hours.

Do you have any bad writing habits that you’d advise writers to avoid?
All those coffee breaks…. And my husband worries that when I’m in the writing zone and haven’t moved for six hours that I’m risking my health. Personally I think he’s just ready for us to go get some dinner.

Do you have any strange writing habits?
Wish I could say that I always chew on a pencil or insist on listening to Ricky Nelson music or write only when wearing my lucky sweatshirt. But alas, I haven’t any interesting quirks.

When you’re not writing, do you read, and if so, what?
I read voraciously. I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately delving into human psychology. (I recommend: Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior; A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future; Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard; The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.) I also love mysteries, the more romantic the better. I reread authors I think of as classic (Mary Stewart, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers) and enjoy discovering new ones (Nancy Martin).

What are you trying to accomplish with/through your writing?
My passion is to provide comfort and inspiration to my readers who, bless them, often need it desperately.

What words of wisdom do you have for young writers?
There is no substitute for doing. Read books that inspire you. Listen to experts. Don’t let anything get in the way of actually writing. You will not know your author voice until you explore and discover what rings true. You will not write well until you practice. A lot. A WHOLE lot. There’s no shortcut. No magic formula. Open your heart and mind and let it flow. I love this quote from Sharon O’Brien: “Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning. I wanted to know what I was going to say.”

What advice do you have for someone looking to get published?
Once the book is published, you have a new, consuming role: marketing. Even if you are successful in securing a traditional publisher, you will have to be heavily engaged in marketing your work. The odds are against us. US publishers churn out almost 300,000 books a year. Want readers to find your work? You must go find your readers and then get their attention. Accept that fact. Take seminars about how to market today using social media. I highly recommend this book: Publishing and Marketing Realities for the Emerging Author. Read it and then get busy.

Any thoughts on what this author writes?  How many books published?  Here's a little more information about the author...
How many published books are to your credit?  5

Do you have an agent?  Nope.

Are you self-published?  Yes.

How many different companies have you published with?  2

How long have you been writing?   Since 1979.

Do you write full-time? If not, what is your other job? And how do you balance work/writing?
I am a full time writer/editor but I spend at least half of my time marketing because that’s what authors have to do in today’s market. My writing/editing includes authoring my own material and writing/editing contracts with clients.

So, any thoughts?  Here's the full scoop:

In author, editor and publisher Jerilyn Marler’s words:  After 30 years as a technical writer and editor, I switched gears completely in 2010 and am now focused on supporting young military children and their parents. I published my first children’s storybook, Lily Hates Goodbyes, in early 2011 and recently published Helping Your Young Child Cope with a Parent’s Deployment as a Kindle ebook. My 4-year-old granddaughter’s distress over her daddy’s deployment inspired the storybook. My childhood experience of boarding school in India with long separations from my parents heightened my empathy for Lily’s pain. The book helped her so much that I published it for all children who have to say goodbye for about a billion days. I launched my own publishing company, Quincy Companion Books, in August. QCB is an imprint of Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing.

Jerilyn’s titles include:  Lily Hates Goodbyes, children’s storybook for ages 2-7. 2011;  Helping Your Young Child Cope with a Parent’s Deployment, handbook (in ebook format) for military parents. 2011;  Power Shortcuts: WordPerfect 5.1; Power Shortcuts: WordPerfect for Windows. Technical books with learning disk. 1992; and Unlocking WordPerfect 6.0: Mastering Styles, Merges, Macros and Tables. Technical book with learning disk. 1993.

All of Jerilyn’s books are available through

What are you working on now?
I’m just finishing the text of Lily Hates Moving and am preparing to turn it over to my illustrator. I’m also working on another ebook, this one for military couples with suggestions for keeping their relationship healthy during deployment separations.

Anything else about being a writer that you’d like to share?
I’ve been fortunate to make a living as a writer and editor. I thoroughly enjoyed the technical world, but it wasn’t my passion. I’d always wanted, in a vague sort of way, to do something for children. It was life-changing to have that vague desire meld with my writing to result in a book that comforted my granddaughter and that other children love. One mom wrote recently that her daughter carries the book with her everywhere because she never knows when she’s going to be sad about her daddy being gone. That is supreme joy for me—the greatest satisfaction. Go after your passion; it’s worth fighting for. And when you find it, give it everything you’ve got.

Where can people learn more about you?
My professional website:
Lily Hates Goodbyes website:

Is there anything else you'd like to know about this author, or any questions you'd like added to future interviews?  Let us know...drop us a comment below.

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