I have interviewed only a few authors who write in different genres. Lynn Miclea comes to mind. Most of us stick to one or two genres. I don’t stray far from thriller-crime-detective. Joseph Carrabis is a science fiction guy, as is Tina O’Hailey, who blends science fiction/fantasy with mystery. Both of these fine authors I have interviewed.
I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Mary Ann Noe, a fellow Black Rose Writing author. Mary Ann writes across multiple genres, and as she said in her interview, because she reads across multiple genres. I think what struck a chord with me is that she is a fellow educator, and is from Wisconsin- my home state (I am now living in Virginia). Both of us taught psychology, but Mary Ann mostly taught English.
I think you’ll find the interview interesting. And if you picture her smiling and laughing through the interview, you would be correct.
What was it that made you decide you had a story to tell and to become an author?
I started a novel when I was 8 or 9, but it only got to the third or fourth “Bong!” in the first line—as in the clock striking midnight—and then I quit out of boredom. There goes the Pulitzer for literature. I taught high school English around 24 years, and psychology for some of that too, so I was, and still am, steeped in words and language. Love it!
As an author or writer, what sets you apart from others?
I write in a variety of styles: poetry, non-fiction, flash fiction, novels. I don’t stick to one genre either, writing historical fiction, women’s fiction, middle grade and young adult fiction, fantasy, memoir.
What genre do you write, and why?
I like to wander all over the map, as far as genres go. I’ve taught, and I like to read, many genres, and that influences me.
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be, and why?
Anything Shakespeare. We share a birthday, although he’s older than I am. I also love Mutts comic strips, because they really point out the love and compassion between the dog and cat; those are two well-developed characters. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible is a stunning study in character development and contrasts. Each character is so clearly drawn and different that it proved an excellent lesson in rounding out characters.
What authors do you read regularly? Why?
Philip Kerr’s books set in World War II Germany, with a quietly anti-Nazi police officer. Scandinavian noir mysteries, as that’s a genre I like. Jodi Picoult, because I know what I’m getting, as well as seeing how she can take an issue and flesh it out in fiction. And too many others to mention!
If you were to have dinner with 5 individuals living or dead, who would they be and why?
Shakespeare, of course, because he created characters that last through the ages. Bishop Desmond Tutu, because of his humor and his determination. Pope Francis, because of his compassion and ability to slowly make changes for the better. My great-grandfather, who fought with Sherman throughout the Civil War, because he left so many unanswered questions about his life. My American grandparents, because they were dead before I was born, but both had interesting lives.
What is your writing routine? When you write, are you a planner/outliner or are you a “pantser”?
I write when the fire strikes. Which means I don’t have a set routine. I belong to a writing workshop, and that keeps me on track. I also work on Facetime with a fellow writer who lives in California (I’m in Wisconsin), so he holds my feet to the fire every other week as we exchange up to 10 pages. As for planning, I’ve done that when I need a firm timeline, but I’ve also let a story unfold as I’m writing. Either way, the characters often “speak” to me, helping me in one direction or another.
When writing, how much do you read? Do you read in or out of your genre?
I always read. I inhale books of all kinds, not always, or even often sometimes, in the genre in which I’m writing.
Is there something you set out to do, but somehow, it didn’t work out for you? (In terms of writing, or something else you felt was important to you at the time?)
Never finished that Bulwer-Lytton story. I shifted to a lot of poetry, starting in high school. Shifted later in my teaching career to fiction, beginning with short stories.
What tips would you give to new or even experienced writers?
Write. It doesn’t matter if it sounds like crap. And don’t stop to second-guess; just keep writing. You can always go back and edit later. Read. Writers get lots of silent advice from books they read. Join a group. They’ll keep you writing, and sometimes even ask the questions you need to hear.
How do you handle a negative critique?
If there’s a good reason the critique is indeed negative, then I take time to consider making changes. But ultimately, the writing is mine, and I have to go with what my gut tells me. Unless, of course, the critique shows I didn’t make something clear, or my grammar is wrong.
How important are the elements of character, setting, and atmosphere to a story, and why?
For me, characters seem to take center stage. I love to watch how people develop, why they make the decisions they do, and so forth. Setting grounds my characters, for sure, and because I write poetry, people tell me my descriptions really pull them into the story and make them feel they are part of the action.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters you create? How/Why?
I think every writer puts a piece of themselves in some of their characters, whether or not they are aware of it. I like to think my “villains” aren’t part of me, however!
Is there an unforgettable or memorable character that will not leave your head, either of your own creation or from a book you’ve read?
At least for a while, I hang onto a character I am writing about. I particularly like Fleance, a minor character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, whom I made into a main character in a rewrite. I also really like Betty, the main character in A Handful of Pearls, which comes out in September 2022 from Black Rose Writing. Many characters from Shakespeare’s play stick with me too.
Tell us about your most recent book.
To Know Her, published July 2022. I was teaching high school, and told my students I was tired of books with dysfunctional teens and/or families, because I knew most were not. I told them I wanted to write about a normal teen who faced challenges, of course, and didn’t always make the best decision, but was not dysfunctional. The biggest football player in class stood up and cheered. I knew I was on the right track.
How did you come up with the title?
The main character is in a coma because of a car accident, and her parents find out some surprising things about her, as well as having to decide whether to remove life support. The question became, “Do you have to know someone totally to love them?”
From your book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?
Yikes! I like a lot of them! Juliana, the main character, as the reader gets to know her through back stories. Her best friend, Katy, is a firebrand, and was lots of fun to write. Her parents: Will, who didn’t think Juliana would recover, and Susan, who was adamant about not withdrawing life support. Two opposite viewpoints, which created some good conflict. Michael, Juliana’s boyfriend, couldn’t face her possible death; I had a student very much like him. Dan, a friend who struggled with suicidal tendencies, that Juliana could help. From that book, I don’t have a least favorite, although some of my readers did!
And there you have Mary Ann Noe. I think you’ll find her writing interesting with a dry wit. She has compelling characters and fleshes them out in a way that comes across as “real.” For a reader/writer like me, that is essential. Check out her work!
Social Media Contact Information:
www.maryannnoe.com – contact information is available on my webpage, which keeps everything more secure.
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/to-know-her-mary-ann-noe/1138864147?ean=9781684337149
And available through any independent bookstore.