I recently read and reviewed The Blue Bath by Mary Waters-Sayer, you can see my review here. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview Mary and get a little background info/behind the scenes look at the book and her writing process, plus a few other odds and ends. If you have not yet read The Blue Bath, I would definitely recommend it. Quoting from my recently posted review “I found this story captivating, I couldn’t put it down. I was trying to read it during every second of free time I had. Vivid imagery brings the story alive for the reader, the words are strung together in an almost lyrical prose that surrounds the reader with beauty.” Definitely check this one out!
So onto Mary. Here is her About the Author from her website:
Mary is originally from New York. She has a B.A. in Literature and Rhetoric from Binghamton University and later studied writing at Stanford University’s Continuing Education program.
As expected of all good English majors, she began her career in publishing before moving to San Francisco where she worked in investor and public relations. She spent twelve years as an expatriate in London, working in investor and corporate communications and traveling extensively.
She currently lives outside of Boston with her family. The Blue Bath is her first novel.
Below is the interview I had with Mary. My questions are in bold and her answers follow.
- What is your favorite vacation spot?
Paris is tough to beat.
- Do you have any pets?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to hike. There is something about being in nature and in motion that helps me think more clearly. And, of course, I love to read.
- When did you realize you wanted to be an author and did you have another profession before this?
I have always loved books and I harbored the secret desire to write one since I was very young. I was in PR and investor relations for years and writing was at the core of my career, although it was decidedly of the non-fiction variety.
- Do you have any special rituals that you find yourself following when you’re writing? OR Take us through your typical work day.
I like silence when I write. I wish I could listen to music, but it distracts me, especially anything with lyrics. And chocolate is definitely my reward of choice.
- What (if any) research did you have to do for this novel? What was your favorite piece of research you did for this novel?
I did quite a bit of research on painting, which I really enjoyed. I am a huge art fan and it was fascinating to look beyond the finished product and explore the process. As someone with absolutely no talent for drawing or painting, it was great fun to create paintings out of words. All of the paintings in The Blue Bath are completely real to me. I can see each of them all in great detail.
- How long did it take you to write this novel, from when you first put pen to paper to when it was published?
That is a difficult question to answer as the book started so slowly. I would say maybe six years from the first time I put pen to paper – four years to write and then another two to edit, find an agent, find a publisher, and make it to publication.
- Are you working on any future books now?
I am working on two novels at the moment, each very different from each other. At some point I will have to choose to focus on one, but for the moment it is great fun toggle between the two.
- Are there any books or authors that have really influenced you and made you want to write? What about those authors inspired or influenced you?
I admire so many writers – anyone who can create something beautiful where there was nothing. It’s astounding, really. When I was young, I loved books that were adventures, books that took me to other places. I think that is still true today, but my definition of adventure has changed. I am inspired by so many writers. Marilynne Robinson is a writer of sublime beauty and stunning talent. Elizabeth Strout is devastating and true. Ann Patchett combines magnetic characters and utterly engaging plots. Donna Tartt is astonishing, as is George Saunders and Truman Capote. I still remember the first time I read John Updike, he was such a revelation.
- Have you read anything lately that you loved?
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
- Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read, read, read. And write what you want to read. You are your first reader and you have to love it.
- Do you usually work off of an outline while writing or do you tend to just start writing and see where the story takes you?
For this book, I started off writing individual scenes and then I pieced them together into the bigger picture – like a puzzle. There was definitely a degree of outlining, but it didn’t happen until after I had written a fair bit of the book.
- What do you do to cure writer’s block? Do you have issues with this often or hardly at all?
One of the wonderful things about writing a novel is that it is so large that there is always something else to work on. If one scene is giving me trouble, I simply move to another part of the story that needs work. I found the process of fixing something else always seems to help unblock whatever might have been blocked.
- Is there a certain message that you hope readers are taking away with them after reading your recent release, The Blue Bath?
Books are so individual, it is difficult to be prescriptive about what readers might take away from them. Perhaps simply the importance of recognizing beauty in our everyday lives.
I just wanted to say thank you to Mary for being featured on my blog. It was a pleasure reading your book and interviewing you!