Every so often in this crazy blogger world, things go askew. Release dates change, real life issues come up; whatever the reason may be, a reschedule leaves an author guest spot empty on my calendar. At which point, I go on the hunt for someone to fill that vacancy–or, in this case, I whine about it to Rhys Ford and she pulls my backside out of the fire.
Now, to hear Mercy tell it, Rhys didn’t give her much choice about doing this interview. I think the word bullied may have come up, but don’t quote me on it. :-D Rhys calls it maneuvering… potato, po-tah-to… However it went down, I’m lucky enough to be bringing you Rhys Ford’s interview with Mercy Celeste. Go ahead and enjoy every last thing about this, from the interview to the exclusive excerpt from Light from the Dark.
Q: What inspired you to write your first book?
A: Extreme boredom. I’d always wanted to write but never could pin down the actually how or where or whatever of actually sitting and putting ideas on paper. The when happened when I had three small children, one in Kindergarten and two in diapers. I’d read everything in my personal library, half of my husband’s personal library, and had systematically gone through everything of interest in the small local city library branch. We didn’t have cable. We had three or four tv stations and Barney or Blue’s Clues were the programming of choice at the time.
I was bored out of my freaking mind. Husband worked 70 hours a week. I was alone with three little kids and tearing my hair out.
The first book I wrote was about a woman with a whole bunch of kids whose husband ran a pizza place and was killed in a robbery. (I take the 5th on any resemblance to real life) She was a trained chef who was hired to be the live in cook and house keeper for a country music superstar named Gavin, by the man’s wife. The wife who was killed in a car accident not long after, leaving the long suffering heroine to deal with her kids, his kids, and a drunk country star on the verge of career suicide and well possible real life suicide.
I wrote it long hand (because this was 1997 and computers were incredibly expensive and I didn’t know what to do with one anyway) on five legal tablets and two spiral bound note books in pencil. I typed it on a typewriter and the only copy of that book is buried in a Rubbermaid storage bin, never to see the light of day.
I’m not going to say it’s bad. I’m not going to pull it out and look at it again…because yeah, it’s bad. But I did it. I wrote a story from beginning to end. I was proud of me. I think two people have ever read it. And that’s two too many.
A: I blame C. Thomas Howell. And Patrick Swayze.And Tiger Beat magazine.And SE Hinton. And a 9th grade teacher who still passed out those Scholastic book order forms.
I bought The Outsiders with the movie tie in cover. Devoured it while skipping Algebra. And decided, this, I want to do this. The author was only a couple years older than I was then when she wrote the book. I had all these stories in my head. I could do this. I could. It took me thirteen more years to get to that point up there in the first question.
Q: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
A: Writing! Staying sane! Not killing people!
Q: How do you feel the genre has changed, if it has, from when you first started writing until now? What is different or better?
A: Romance in general? Or MM romance in particular?
Tough question. I think the romance I read and loved and wished to emulate in the 90s, when I wrote the first book, is largely unchanged. Many of the authors are the same. The tropes are the same. I stopped reading certain genres as I started reading the same book over and over again. From paranormal, to historical, to contemporary, back and forth. Sometimes I felt like I’d put it on pause and could start back in the middle and not miss a thing. I can pick up a book written this year and except for technology and pop culture, it’s the same exact stories. Nothing new.
In MM, and I admit I’m not widely read in the genre, I found a few authors who put out consistent enough work to keep my interest but varied enough that I don’t feel like I’m reading the same books over and over. But MM is still very new and it sometimes is really great, sometimes not so much. I’ve been in the community long enough now to notice that it’s not really the tropes that change in MM, but the authors. I think this is more that authors move on or give up and new authors step in to fill the void. I also think this has more to do with the lack of NY big pub involvement. We have no superstars who get preferential treatment. We’re all equal. And honestly, I like that. I like that if I don’t like big name author X or Y then there’s mid-list author P or Q or new author L or J….keeps things fresh. Keeps the tropes fresh.Keeps us growing and not stagnating at status quo.
A: I’m not sure I have a favorite author. Or really even a favorite book. I have authors that I love. But I can’t really pick one absolute favorite. Depends on what I’m in the mood for. Childhood books would rank higher than adult books. Probably because I had so very few books. So beginning of time all-time read to death favorite book ***** The Old Black Witch by Harry and Wende Devlin. It was about a mother and son who bought an old house to turn into a bed and breakfast, but there was already a resident.
I loved the art and the ending. I still have my hand-me-down from my cousin’s copy, it’s been taped back together and is missing the last few pages. I’ve been on the lookout for a complete copy for years, but ebay prices are ridiculous, so I’m guessing it was a lot of people’s favorite. I think I had that thing memorized by age four.
Q: Do you have a specific writing style? What do you like / dislike about how you write?
A: Hell, I don’t know. Do I? I don’t really understand “style”. I’ve never studied creative writing or anything beyond basic high school English classes. Of which I did not fail…I know, I was surprised as well. I’m a seat of my pants sling words on a page from beginning to end sort it all out in the rewrite type writer. I know that I tend to write in the three act style that’s fairly common in romance. But really…I think someone might want to tell me what my style is, because effe if I know.
What do I like or dislike about how I write? Besides the whole writing part? Well that not knowing how it’s going to turn out in the end thing is pretty annoying. I don’t plot. I don’t have an overall plot for any story. I have a basic idea of what I want to do. I can start the story with suggestions, but as my characters become more real, they tend to decide where we’re going. I’ve had books that veered off onto tangents I didn’t see coming and couldn’t control. I fought the story and nothing. I let the story lead and I ended up with something I’m not sure anyone ever expected. I think that right there is why so many people try to imitate me but can’t quite get it. I’ve said it so many times. I’m not a writer. I’m a storyteller. Well, really I’m just the bitch that takes dictation and has to keep up or the characters get pissy and stop talking to me.
Why no I am not insane.
No one has ever proved that…beyond a shadow of a doubt.
A: Dragon Song by Anne McCaffrey
The whole Harper Hall trilogy but really, the first book was probably the first book to really strike a chord with me as a teen trapped in an abusive home. Much like Menolly, I struggled with a demanding, controlling parent. Ironically, it was that parent who gave me the book.
Q: What is your favourite book that you’ve written and why?
A: Oh, so you want me to play favorites with my babies? I see how it is. This is the part where I upset everyone because I didn’t pick their favorite book.
Okay so top three favorites (and an honorable mention):
Wicked Game: Because I wrote the book for NaNo and had no clue what I was doing. I created a very strong female who gave the guy a serious run for his money. I didn’t eat or sleep or bathe for a month. Okay I did, but I don’t remember it. It was book bookbook must write book for thirty days. And I did it. But I will never do NaNo again. Because I really don’t want to tap dance over that edge.
Let it Go: The challenge was to write a cowboy book without writing a cowboy book. I guess growing up in the middle of Florida cow country I was always sort of offended that people think cowboys are only out west. We raised cattle. Had horses.Wore the hats and the spurs. Not much need for chaps in Florida but I’ve seen them. I wanted to write a different take on the rodeo cowboy trope. I didn’t know I’d end up using Eli and Creed to deal with my own abuse issues. I think of all of my characters I identify most with Eli. There’s more of me in him than any of the others.
Shift in Time: My fun shifter everything but the kitchen sink paranormal. I loved writing this story. There’s no real angst. I play with a time in history, rewriting it a bit to fit my needs. Planted in the world I currently live in, and the world I left behind. And did magic, messed with some tropes. I loved that book. And yes for those asking, there will be a sequel. Eventually.
Honorable mention: Beyond Complicated…just so I can have all of my Florida set books in there…so I guess that’s the top four out of sixteen published. How many do I have published? Can’t remember.
Q: What book are you reading now?
A: At the time of this writing: Nothing. I’m working to finish writing a book and I can’t really read while I’m working. I find that I can’t focus on a story when I’m writing. I do have several books lined up to binge read when I’m finished.
Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?
A: Am I the best person to give advice? Considering all of the mistakes and missteps I’ve taken.
I guess, the one thing would be, if you want this, don’t stop. If you’re bad, get better. Learn from your mistakes. You can’t get better if you quit. I have three books in a storage bin that will never see the light of day. I was told I couldn’t or shouldn’t or to stop embarrassing myself.
If this is your dream. Just know it’s a nasty little habit that burns you from the inside out. Just know that you’re never going to get rich. Write what makes you happy. Do your best every time. Don’t quit. Be realistic. Set goals. And for effsake, study the market and protect yourself and your books.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
That I’m amazed that I have readers.Especially readers that have been with me from the first year. All the crazy, most of it came from me, and they’re still with me.
Love you. All of you.
Bless your little hearts for following a mad woman.
Q: What are your current projects? And can you share a little of your current work with us?
A: Current WIP is almost finished. Light from the Dark. It’s not a sequel but maybe a companion piece to In from the Cold, and Crazy from the Heat. Which means law enforcement, suspense, a crazy messed up twisted ending. Rhys Ford inspired it. Sort of.
Light From the Dark Excerpt (Unedited first draft / Chapter One)
Release Date: Feb 17, 2015
The image in the mirror wasn’t familiar. He scraped the razor carefully over the scar that puckered his jawline from just in front of his ear to his neck. Another inch and he’d have been dead. Instead of just flayed open like a fish on Friday.
Micah Beasley, formerly Marshal Micah Beasley swished the blade in the hot water and wiped the rest of the shave cream from his chin. He avoided looking at his reflection as much as possible. He had no choice when it came to shaving. He could grow a beard but the scarred area stayed hairless making him look as if he had a lightning bolt carved into his face. Or he could carefully not open old wounds and hope the mirror steamed up before he fell into that pit of despair that kept pulling at him.
He slicked back his hair and thought about getting a trim. There was no point. Not really. Just something else he didn’t have to do anymore. He didn’t have to do much of anything anymore if he thought about it long enough. Parting company with law enforcement had made him, well, not wealthy, but much better off than before the accident.
He chose to remember that day as an accident. Not as the clusterfuck it had been from the get go. A clusterfuck that had left him fighting for his life while his partner had lost his. No, that day was off limits. He leaned over the sink, eyes closed, breathing deeply to force calm into his mind. Calm. Just calm. Nothing else. Just blue skies with white clouds scudding by. A warm breeze on his face. A soft voice telling him to get his shit together.
Pity party was over. The candles melted to the top of the cake. Time to go back to work. Or go stark raving mad.
He dressed in the navy blue suit so dark it almost looked black, a powder blue oxford shirt with a thin navy tie. He looked company man to a tee. Just what that company might be, Micah didn’t have a clue.
The ride downtown was short. The driver waiting for him at the hotel didn’t speak much. He just drove. Micah looked over the notes he’d been able to jot down after the call came in. The company needed security people. And Micah’s name had come up. Micah had no idea who would have his name but right now work was work. He’d sat on his ass long enough.
The day was cold. Not bitterly cold. He could stand the wind in just his suit jacket. Cold never really bothered him. Much. The driver reminded him of the floor and said he’d be waiting to take him wherever he needed to go from there. He didn’t wish Micah luck or offer any words of advice.
Armed with only a slim portfolio and his winning smile Micah rode the elevator up to the 15th floor and stepped out into the offices of Gideon and Auberon. He wasn’t really sure what Gideon and Auberon did. He’d looked them up on the internet but found very little. Whatever it was they did, it seemed successful.
The receptionist greeted him cheerfully and pointed him in the direction of Mr. Gideon’s personal office. A second receptionist asked him to take a seat and informed him that Mr. Gideon was running a bit late but would be with him as soon as possible.
Micah didn’t like waiting. But he didn’t like being unemployed either. He scanned the offices and wondered exactly what type of security a business on the fifteenth floor would need. Besides a security guard at the elevator he couldn’t think of anything. Unless the company was up to it’s neck in sketchy dealings this wasn’t his idea of work. He’d left uniforms behind years ago. And wasn’t going back now.
The door opened behind the receptionist and a tall man stepped out. Gideon, Micah surmised when he held out his hand and flashed a set of straight white teeth any Politian would be proud of. Probably caps. Micah shook his hand.
“Mr. Beasley, thank you for coming on such short notice.” Gideon pumped his hand a couple more times, his smile growing wider, and more insincere with each pump. “I trust your hotel is to your liking and your trip in was uneventful?”
Micah nodded. He wasn’t one to bite the hand that might be feeding him, before tasting the food. “It was pleasant and the room is comfortable.”
“Good, good,” Gideon ushered him into the office and Micah heard him ask the receptionist to hold his calls. “Have a seat. Or if you’d rather I have a full bar, just help yourself. Or coffee. Dinah could have coffee sent in.”
“I’m fine.” Micah took the club chair Gideon indicated and sat across a glass and chrome coffee table from the man instead of the desk as he’d expected. So this was going to be informal. Nothing big. Micah placed his portfolio on the table and leaned back. He propped his ankle on his knee and waited.
Gideon cleared his throat he seemed oddly uncomfortable. Maybe it was the scar. Maybe it was that Micah just didn’t seem friendly. He wasn’t friendly. He’d never been friendly. He’d never needed to be friendly. He was military and then law enforcement. He was a grunt and field work made for ugly work. He wasn’t up on his ass kissing skills. “I guess you’re wondering how I came by your name?”
“That would be my first question. I’m not exactly easy to find and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t on any security head hunter data base.” Micah tried to smile. The scar pulled tight and he winced instead. Gideon looked away, he seemed…repulsed. Well, join the crowd.
About the Author: Mercy Celeste is the pen name and super hero persona of mild mannered MJ Colbert….which is bull, I’m not mild mannered. I was, in fact, raised in a barn—or several. We even had grain silos. My motto growing up, anything a boy can do, I’m right behind him doing it just as well or better. I’ve broken too many bones to begin to count. Scraped, skinned or scarred pretty much every thing that can be scraped, skinned or scarred. How I’m still walking and talking is a miracle.
Stay current on Mercy Celeste’s news at http://www.mercyceleste.com/. All of Mercy’s books can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and ARe.