Mary Balogh grew up in Wales and, after graduating from university, moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, on a two-year contract to teach high school English. She stayed to marry and raise a family. She was first published in 1985 and quit her teaching job three years later to write full time. A Precious Jewel, first published in 1993, has recently been republished by Bantam Dell as part of a commitment to make her backlist available to her current readership. Read more, including an excerpt from A Precious Jewel, at www.marybalogh.com.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Mary. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
A: I am multi-published, with over 70 novels and over 30 novellas published.
Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
A: A Masked Deception, 1985
Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
A: There were no rejections.
Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
A: NAL. The book was Signet Regency. A number of publishers had a Regency romance line at the time. I chose NAL Signets because I thought that on the whole their books were the best.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
A: Quite euphoric. I was at home alone when the “call” came and for some reason I can no longer remember could not call either my husband or my children with the news. I called my mother in Wales. I had not told her, or anyone else for that matter except my husband, that I had written a book, so the news of the acceptance came as quite a surprise to her!
Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?
A: I didn’t, apart from telling everyone I knew. That was not very many. There was no internet in those days.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
A: No. I did everything wrong, but it worked for me. I knew nothing about how to get published. When I had finished my manuscript, I bundled it up with a very short letter and sent it off to an address in Canada that I found inside the cover of a Signet Regency romance. It turned out to be a distribution center. But someone there read the manuscript, liked it, and sent it on to New York. Two weeks later I was offered a two-book contract. If I had gone about things the correct way, the manuscript might still be sitting on a slush pile somewhere!
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
A: Numerous times. I still write basically the same type of books, but I hope and believe they have improved over time. I believe they are stronger on action and dialogue, a little less given to lengthy interior monologue.
Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
A: I suppose I might have tried to get out of the small Regency sub-genre and into the mainstream historical genre faster. I might have reached a larger audience and climbed the bestseller charts far sooner if I had. On the other hand, the almost forty books I wrote for the sub-genre still exist and are being republished, as A Precious Jewel is now. And so far the repubs have been well received by my newer readers.
Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
A: The new Huxtable quintet (First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seduction, At Last Comes Love, Seducing an Angel) has been very successful so far. The first four books came out in the spring of 2009 and spent a combined total of thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestselling list. At Last Comes Love debuted at #2 on the mass market fiction list. Book 5, A Secret Affair, will be out in hardcover at the end of June, 2010.
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
A: I was a high school English teacher for twenty years before I quit to write full time. It was a career I loved.
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
A: I gave up teaching to write, though I did both for five years. I had always wanted to write, though, from childhood on. When I thought I could risk giving up teaching to devote myself full-time to writing, I didn’t hesitate, though I suppose I did quail for a while at the risk I was taking.
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
A: Alive, I hope. Still writing, I hope.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
A: Write! That might seem rather silly advice on the face of it. I am always amazed, however, when in company with groups of writers, to discover how many will find any excuse imaginable to stop themselves from actually sitting down and writing—the need to get their lives organized, do some research, read some how-to books, attend more conferences, consult their critique group, etc. The only way to learn to write is to write. The only way to finish a book is to start it and keep going with it. The only way to get published is to write a book that may be publishable.