There is nothing like a good book to bring to the beach with you! This week Jersey Shore Scene is re-introducing our readers to our first 12 featured local writers. Please consider purchasing their books to support our local talent.
Please meet Mary Lou Irace:
Question 1- When and how did you start writing?
I never had aspirations to become a writer. I hold an undergraduate degree in sociology and a master’s degree in education and spent my career as a college administrator. Six years ago when my youngest daughter was getting ready to head off to college, I had an idea for a novel. I sat down with a pad of paper and sketched out a rough outline to guide me. Once I put pen to paper, the story emerged and the words flowed like a fast-moving river. I didn’t tell any of my family members that I was considering writing a book. Once it was finished, I asked my husband to read the first draft. When he couldn’t put it down, I knew I had created an engaging story.
Originally, I attempted to publish my first novel through traditional channels. But the process of securing a literary agent was extremely time-consuming and could have taken years to get my book in front of readers. An author friend suggested I self-publish and introduced me to his editor who helped me hone my manuscript into a polished book.
After I published Out Of My Dreams, I began a second novel with a completely different story. However, readers loved the original saga of Tara and Evan so much, they requested a sequel. Since I had a continuation of their journey ready to go, I wrote The Magic Of Us in six months. This past July, I published my third novel, Pumps and Circumstances. Currently, I am working on my fourth book and I am so excited to bring this next story to life.
Question 2- What do you like to write about most?
I write about women: the joys, sorrows, triumphs and tragedies they face in their journey through life. The novels I have published are categorized under the genre of contemporary fiction. My books feature female protagonists who are strong but often flawed, seeking a resolution to the issues many of us face in everyday situations.
The themes in my book touch on love, loss, grief, female friendship, the importance of family and relationships, and balancing career and home life. Although I adore my main characters, I love crafting secondary characters who are relatable, funny, supportive, and sometimes infuriating. All of them help to move the story forward and I’m reluctant to part ways with them at the conclusion of the book.
Question 3- What do you find to be the easiest and hardest thing about writing?
The easiest part of writing is coming up with an idea for the story. I always have the beginning and ending in my head, along with a surprise twist! After three books, I’ve discovered once the characters come to life, they write the middle part and I eagerly allow them to take over the action. Often I have assumed the plotline would go in one direction, only to be lulled into a false sense of security and it goes down a road I never could have imagined.
The hardest part of writing is sitting down to actually write! Procrastination is an author’s greatest challenge. Writers often joke that they will do anything and everything to avoid the actual process of putting the words on paper or typing them on a keyboard. If writing is not your full-time job, making time for it in a busy schedule can be a daunting task. My writing process is to set a daily word count goal— usually 1,000 words—and if it exceeds that amount, great. Once I actually start writing, the creative flow of words and ideas kicks in and I always seem to meet my allotted goal.
Question 4- What writers do you most admire and why?
I can’t say I have a favorite writer because each time I read a new book, I am in awe of how difficult it is to craft a story with a cast of characters that draw the reader into a new world. I admire authors who produce the books they want to create and don’t write just for the market or current trends. This is why I am an indie author and tend to read more independently published books. The stories are original and don’t follow established writing rules or standard conventions.
Question 5- How do you get your ideas for stories and what’s in the future for you in writing?
My ideas for stories come from observing daily life. I could be on a walk or making dinner and a plotline suddenly emerges. I have always been fascinated by the human condition. I enjoy watching and talking to people individually and in groups. I believe that a writer of fiction should possess three qualities that are necessary for crafting a great story. The first is having the ability to observe people in various situations, noticing nuances, quirks, and habits that make them unique. Secondly, writing fiction requires imagination. Creating characters, plot, setting, and themes that connect are critical to the success of a novel. The third quality that a writer needs is empathy. If you can’t understand others and be able to walk in their shoes—feel their emotions—how can you create characters that readers will relate to?
In the future, I plan to keep writing novels. Perhaps I may venture into another genre. Stay tuned!
Closing – Can you share a memorable experience you’ve had purely because you are a writer?
Aside from the many reviews, texts, emails, and messages I receive from readers, my favorite author moment came a couple of years ago while attending a party. My husband and I were seated in the restaurant and a friend came to our table in order to introduce me to someone who wanted to meet me. The woman was holding a copy of Out Of My Dreams, which she brought to the party because she loved the book and was told I would be attending. She wanted me to sign her book and we sat and talked about the novel. She asked so many questions and wanted to know how I came up with such a meaningful story. My book had made a difference in her life because it centered on issues that had touched her personally. As she stood to leave, she told me to never stop writing.
I decided to take her advice.
To order a copy of one of Mary Lou’s books, click here: https://mlirace.wixsite.com/author/about