28 June 2013 - S. R. MALLERY - Guest Author


- Guest Author -

G'day guys,

Today I welcome an author with many skills - S. R. Mallery, from Los Angeles, USA. Her current book is currently out in paperback and definitely in Kindle, Apple and Nook, as well as on Barnes & Noble. 

Welcome, S. R. ...

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.

            Being an eclectic person, I have been involved in a handful of careers: singing, composing, production art, calligraphy, quilting, and ESL teaching.  I have also been surrounded by writers my entire life––my father, my mother, my grandfather, my great-uncle, various aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., etc.  Needless to say, I always thought I wouldn’t touch that profession with a ten-foot pole.  Yet every time I saw a movie or read a book about a writer, I was curiously drawn to those characters in some inexplicable way.  Still, it wasn’t until I was a fully matured mother/wife that I tried my hand at writing a short story about the Triangle Shirtwaist factory of 1911. I was hooked. Big time.

      That one story morphed into ten other ones.  Those morphed into a collection called Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads (due out late 2013/early 2014).  In 2008 I decided to write some flash fiction to see if I could get into any literary magazines. The result was 11 shorts published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.  Before that, articles were published in Traditional Quiltworks by Chitra Publications and Quilt World by House of White Birches, when I was a professional quilt artist.

       I started my debut novel, Unexpected Gifts, about five years ago and am now having that and my collection of short stories published by Mockingbird Lane Press (http://www.mockingbirdlanepress.com/).

When and how did you become a writer?

             As I mentioned before, I didn’t become a writer early like a lot of authors.  At the time ‘It Happened’, I do remember hoping two very significant people in my life would become professional writers––basically, so I could stand back and live vicariously through them.  But neither one of them complied so before I knew it, I sat myself down one day and took a stab at it.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

            I enjoy the ability to get lost in a separate world and to say to myself that it’s okay to read a book for research or enjoyment in the middle of the day because this is a part of my profession.  I also enjoy the editing process a lot. It’s my way of getting a second, third, fourth, or even fifth chance to make it better.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

            Waiting for that special click in my head when I know it’s an Ah-Ha moment, and when that doesn’t come readily, being tempted to eat out of frustration or futz with something that doesn’t need futzing.  Also, getting too swept up in the social media game and ignoring my writing and my historical research.

What were you in a past life, before you became a writer?


            A singer, composer, production artist, calligrapher, quilt artist, and ESL/Reading teacher.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

            Writing a long novel that spans decades and keeps dovetailing the time periods with a modern day character.  There was a lot of coordination there!  (See book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8boWh1y5MtM)

What are you working on at the moment?

            A Civil War mystery.

What inspires you?

             Music.  Movies.  Good authors.

What genre do you write?

            Basically historical fiction, although my novel, Unexpected Gifts, intermingles with the late 1990’s as well.

As for my collection of short stories, a lot of them are historical, several more modern times.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

            Well, basically follow your gut and read other writers.  When I first started writing, I didn’t want to read a lot of other writers, worrying that they would influence me too much.  What a mistake!  When I started my second go-around with the short stories, I was reading a lot more and it did help me enormously. Suddenly, words and phrases were popping into my head at a much faster/easier rate.

Do you suffer from writer’s block?

            Not usually.  Maybe the way I express things, but never about plots or characters.  Perhaps growing up with a father who was a television writer starting in the Golden Age of Television, we were always talking about plots and characters.

Do you have a preferred writing schedule?

            I notice I tend to be more alert in the early morning, but sometimes I do write at night.  Basically, whenever I can fit it in.

 Do you have a favorite writing place?

            I alternate between using the computer and hand editing.  So, when I’m at the computer, I’m in our office.  When I’m hand editing, I’m sitting at my desk in my quilt studio, surrounded by a few of my quilts and crafts and accompanied by one cat sprawled out next to me on the desk, purring and batting at my pencil, another one sound asleep at my feet.

What is your greatest joy in writing?

            Being able to envision a scene or character and express it.  Also doing historical research gives me so much pleasure.

Who is your favourite author and why?

            Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird fame.  I love her lyrical simplicity, her pathos towards her characters, and the fact that she often shows the reader the characters’ emotions by their actions and dialogues, not heavy exposition.

What’s the greatest compliment you ever received from a reader?

            An agent once told me she thought my short stories were absolutely mesmerizing and were some of the best fiction she had read in a long time.

 What was the worst comment from a reader?

            Before I edited my novel down to half size, one of my readers read the original version (650 pages!!) and said it could have been great, but parts were extraneous and she didn’t feel the flow she had felt with my short stories.

Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives.  Are you?

            Yes.  Although I write about different time periods, I include things that I myself have experienced in my life.  For example, in my novel, Unexpected Gifts, there are a couple of scenes in the 1960’s and 1950’s that actually happened to me.

Other than writing, what else do you love?

            Teaching ESL to adults.  I love their enthusiasm, their grace under fire, and their perseverance in an American society that is sometimes dismissive towards them.

Did you have your book/books professionally edited before publication?

            Yes.  Since they are being published through a small press (Mockingbird Lane Press), it was fully edited.

Describe your perfect day.


            Sleeping past 5 a.m., having a big cup of coffee with my husband and/or daughter, settling down in front of the computer to start writing/editing, walking on the treadmill to a movie/British TV series, taking a shower and coming up with more plots and character development, petting the cats in-between these activities, going out into the garden and watering my plants, coming back to writing, sitting down on the couch and doing research reading, preparing dinner for my family, watching a little TV with them, going to bed early and reading on my Kindle.  Peaceful.  No stress.

 If you were stuck on a desert island with one person, who would it be?  Why?

            Definitely, my husband.  Being a mechanical designer and an incredibly intelligent person, I know he could problem solve our situation––what foods to cook, how to desalinate the water so we wouldn’t die, calm me down when it appeared that nobody was going to come pick us up, all of this on top of lots of stimulating talk and gentle reassurances.

 What would you say if you had the chance to speak to world leaders?

            Try to show them firsthand the plight of those less fortunate.  I think many leaders are so detached from the reality of the majority of their population, they can’t emotionally feel people’s pain.

What are your plans for the future?

            I plan on continuing writing and exploring the world of writers and promotion.

What five books would you take to heaven?

            To Kill a Mockingbird, any good encyclopedia, The Complete Mark Twain, The New Yorker Complete book of cartoons, a compilation of Mad Magazine.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

            I suppose in little bits and pieces.  Not entirely, no.

Does the publishing industry frustrate you?

            Yes, definitely.  There was a time that even indie writers such as myself would get a lot more help from their publishers than they do now.  They could sit back and let events be planned, i.e., book signings, promotional travel, etc etc. Having to learn the whole social media (even with the bigger publishing houses) has put a lot more responsibility on the writer.

 Did you ever think of quitting?

            Yes.  Just before I went back to school to become an ESL teacher, I felt so insecure about my style, I put my stories away ‘forever’.  Then, after I became a teacher, I was asked by a friend to read one of them out loud.  She was so impressed, she urged me to go back and edit them and not give up.  I am eternally grateful to her for that.

What was your favorite manuscript to write?  Why?

            Actually, since I’ve only written two books, I would have to say each one was my ‘favorite’ at the time.

How would you define ‘success’ as a writer?

            Getting great reviews, doing well from book sales, and feeling good about your writing.

What should readers walk away from your books knowing?  How should they feel?

            I hope they will walk away thinking about my characters and about various time periods in the United States. I also hope they feel like they have just read a very good, involving book.

 How much thought goes into designing a book cover?

              A lot.  My novel was completely designed by the cover person at Mockingbird Lane Press, Jamie Johnson.  She read my book, talked briefly about any ideas I had and went from there.  Whatever I didn’t like, she would try to accommodate me.  It was a back and forth process and didn’t happen immediately.

            My collection of short stories cover was originally my design, with a lot of old photos, which she ‘re-patched’ (see http://www.srmallery.com/#!__sewing-can-be-dangerous) and added a title/author font.

What’s your ultimate dream?

            To be recognized as a respected, serious author and to be read by a wide, appreciative audience.

Writing is one thing.  What about marketing you, your books and your brand?  Any thoughts?

            I have been thinking about this.  I would like to reach out to as many readers as possible, of course.  But realistically, I think my books would appeal the most to readers who 1) like history, 2) baby-boomers, 3) book clubs, and 4) anyone interested in learning a little something about times different than the one they are currently in.

Anything else you’d like to add?

            Just a thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your site!

Twitter: SarahMallery1

Facebook: S.R. Mallery (Sarah Mallery)

Amazon page for Unexpected Gifts: 


Clancy's comment:  Thanks, S. R. It's taken a while to interview you but we finally made it. Love the book cover. The best of luck.

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