It is my pleasure today to have the fabulous M. S. Spencer.
Although M.S. Spencer has traveled and lived in Chicago, Boston, Europe, South and Central America and the Middle East, the last 30 years have been spent in the Washington area as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter and editor.
She worked for the U.S. Senate, for the Department of the Interior, and in several library systems, both public and academic. She has two wonderful children, and a cat. Possibly a mouse. She has published three contemporary romance novels, Lost in His Arms and Lost and Found, both bestsellers at (www.redrosepublishing.com/books ). Her third, Losers Keepers, released in 2010 by Secret Cravings Publishing (www.secretcravingspublishing.com), will be joined November 9 by her fourth, Triptych, a tale of love, jealousy and intrigue set high above the cliffs of the mighty Potomac River.
What prompted you to write that first book? Did you always want to be an author?
I have been writing since I could first hold a pencil (incorrectly as it turns out, which is why I have a callus on my middle finger). I wrote poems, lots of poems, short stories, and essays. I have kept a journal since I hit puberty (of course then it was a diary, and had one of those little padlocks on it). I wrote my first full-length novel, a murder mystery, after the kids were born. That served as glorified drawer lint for years. Then about four years ago I was laid up for six months. One night I had a truly vivid romantic dream (and no, it wasn’t the drugs). I held on to it when I woke up and managed to produce my first real book, Lost in His Arms, published in 2009. Easy as pulling teeth.
How do you decide which book to write?
I’m not sure what the question is. If you mean, how do I decide on a story, I usually pick a setting first. My latest work-in-progress is set in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. The building is a former munitions factory turned art center, housing a warren of studios, ranging from photography to sculpture, that sits on the waterfront in Alexandria. Since I happen to work there and know its nooks and crannies it seemed the perfect site for a double murder (ALL the characters are fictional—of course).
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest release?
Secret Cravings, my fabulous publisher, published my third romantic suspense, Losers Keepers, and will release Triptych November 9. It’s set in my home region of metropolitan Washington DC. Here’s the story:
Miranda Cabot lost all interest in love after her husband Edward crashed into the Potomac River rocks called the Three Sisters. Her sister Honor likewise prefers her tower and her writing. Not so the third sister Sybil, who longs for romance with a dashing Frenchman. She advertises for said hero on Craig’s List and is rewarded with the Chevalier du Bon Arnaque, who comes to Washington from Strasbourg on unidentified business.
Miranda and Honor believe the Chevalier is a crook and ask their neighbors Dieter Heiliger and his grandson Corey, to act as chaperones. With three beautiful, strong-willed women in a house filled with three handsome, virile men, the inevitable result is an intricate web of jealousy, sex, and intrigue. Who will end up with whom, and will the Three Sisters take another life as the legend calls for?
Triptych, by M. S. Spencer
Published November 9 by Secret Cravings
eBook, 65,000 words, M/F, 3 flames
Many of your books contain mysteries. What draws you to writes mysteries?
I do love puzzles and mysteries, but it’s a real challenge to write one that works. My main focus is on the romance, but things keep happening to my heroine, from which she, or better yet, her hero, must extricate her.
Do you plot your stories out or do you just start writing?
I usually have a general idea of the story in my head (beginning and ending). I’ll write an outline, sketching out the characters, then start writing. The next time I refer to the outline is when I’ve finished the first draft, just for a good laugh, since nothing ever remotely resembles my initial sketch.
This is a hard question! I guess the humor came from the juxtaposition of three sisters of three different ages. When they discuss how to find a hero, Honor, the eldest sister, thinks in terms of sandwich boards on street corners; Miranda, the heroine, in terms of Personals in the newspaper; and Sybil, a child of the present, goes straight to Craig’s List.
Which of your characters is most like you and which is least like you?
I was going to say they’re NOTHING like me—all of them being beautiful, independent, tough, intelligent and lucky. But on the other hand, there must be something of me in there…perhaps lucky? One trait we do have in common is a pleasure in solitude.
If I had to pick the least like me, it would be Rose Culloden, the heroine of Lost & Found. She’s alternately loyal and indecisive, but she must endure some terrifying moments before she learns to apply her emotions in the right place at the right time.
Can you describe your office or where you normally write?
In my study on the second floor of my house a window looks out on a park, a belt of trees, and beyond it, a river. (Beyond that is the big city, but we in my little cul-de-sac pretend it’s not there.) The strip of land yields an abundance of wildlife to watch—foxes, ospreys, deer, possums, even a bald eagle. Since the park is popular with dog walkers I’m treated to a parade of breeds every day. What a joy it is to watch as a dog is unleashed and races across the grass with wild abandon!
Which came first, the plot or the characters?
As I say, I have a general idea of the story line, but then the characters begin to form and the plot takes on a life of its own. I generally let it lead. As for Triptych, the first characters were the Three Sisters—not people at all, but rock formations in the middle of the Potomac River. It flowed naturally that I add three human counterparts. And they of course had to have lovers, and…
I get blocked all the time—the sticking point is usually a word or phrase however, rather than a scene. Does anyone out there recognize this behavior? I stare at the screen; I stare outside; I get up and brush my teeth; I sit down and stare at the screen; I put a load of laundry in; I stare outside; I give up and lie down. Just as I’m getting comfortable the ceiling brings inspiration and I jump up and fix the problem.
What is the wackiest thing that’s ever happened to you since you started writing?
Probably hearing my boss—a big burly fellow—say he’d read my book. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I finally gurgled, “And I’m not fired?”
Did you do any research for your book and, if so, did you find any interesting information that you had to include in the story?
Oh, lots of research. Facts, locations, all must be carefully checked for accuracy. In my latest, Triptych, I found my heroine heading to Strasbourg (it’s a long story). I had passed through the town when I was twelve and remembered little. Thank God for the Internet! Now I know enough about the city to make it a top priority to visit. I also know how to get there from Paris via fast train.
Where can readers find out more about you?
Contacts: Website: http://www.meredithellsworth.com
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/M.S.SpencerAuthor