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Interview with Mary-Lou Stephens, author of How To Stay Married

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Mary-Lou StephensMary-Lou Stephens studied acting and played in bands before she got a proper job -in radio. She writes whenever she’s not behind the microphone or heading off to a meditation retreat.

Mary-Lou has garnered rave reviews for her memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation, the true story of how she changed her life, saved her job and found a husband, all with the help of meditation. She lives in Australia with that very same husband, their dog and a hive of killer native bees.

How To Stay Married is the sequel to Sex, Drugs and Meditation and is the truth behind the happy ending.

Mary-Lou is a blogger for The Huffington Post, a columnist for Holistic Bliss and a regular at writing festivals and events.

Visit Mary-Lou’s website at http://maryloustephens.com.au

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MissyMaryLou

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maryloustephenswrites

About the Book

How to Stay MarriedTitle: How to Stay Married
Author: Mary-Lou Stephens
Publisher: Nelson Bay
Pages: 203
Genre: Self-Help/Relationships/Love and Romance
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

Do you dream of finding the right person to spend your life with? Are you in a strong relationship already and want to keep it that way? Or perhaps your marriage is a little tarnished and you hope to make it shine again?

You’ve come to the right place. While How to Stay Married isn’t your regular ‘how-to’ book, it is about creating the kind of relationship you want.

This is the story of a marriage; a journey from fear, resentment and financial devastation, to a place of love, joy and trust.

Mary-Lou Stephen’s first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation chronicled how meditation changed her life, saved her job and helped her find a husband. How To Stay Married, is the truth behind the happy ending.

How to Stay Married takes us around the world; from the glitter and glare of Las Vegas to the sub-zero temperatures of the French Alps and the tropical heat of Thailand, all with cabin luggage only.

The discoveries Mary-Lou makes regarding herself and her marriage are a modern day parable about learning to travel light in life, love and relationships.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Mary-Lou. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

My first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation was published last year by Pan Macmillan. It tells the story of how meditation changed my life, saved my job and helped me find a husband. My next book How To Stay Married is the truth about the happy ending. It’s the story of a marriage; a journey from fear, resentment and financial devastation, to a place of love, joy and trust.

I’m going the hybrid route by self publishing How To Stay Married.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

Many of the major publishers in Australia have open submission processes. After many years, multiple drafts and much feedback I submitted Sex, Drugs and Meditation. I was thrilled when Pan Macmillan asked to see the entire manuscript. From there it was a case of waiting and hoping. What I found interesting in this process was that it didn’t matter that my publisher loved the book, it didn’t even matter that her boss love it, they had to get the proposal through sales and marketing. Once the sales team said yes then I was offered a contract. And that was a very happy day.

When Pan Macmillan decided not to publish the sequel, How To Stay Married, I was disappointed. I love this book. A lot of heart and hard work has gone into it. So I thought I’d jump into the waters of self publishing.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I signed the contract in July and Sex, Drugs and Meditation was released the following April. There were negotiations about the title and the cover and even though I was told it was one of the most complete manuscripts they’d ever seen, there were a few rounds of editing.

With self publishing my second book I thought the process would be a lot faster however I was surprised by how long it took. Lots of back and forth with my cover designer. Two rounds of edits and proof editing. The formatting took some time as well. But the end result is worth it.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

To tell you the truth I was terrified. Sex, Drugs and Meditation has been described as a very brave book and that’s true. I’m a radio presenter and I was afraid that the revelations about my pst in the book might get me fired. There was a real danger that I could lose my job, my friends and my family because of the book. That was something I decided to risk when I signed the contract.

So it was a double edged sword, part of me was excited and thrilled, the other part was filled with dread.

In the end though everything was fine. I still have my job, my friends love me more than ever and almost all of my family are still talking to me.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I got the band back together! Sex, Drugs and Meditation is a play on sex, drugs and rock’n’roll because I used to play in bands (and take drugs). My band hadn’t played together for 18 years! After two rehearsals it was as if we’d never been apart. Magic. We did a one-off gig for my book launch in a bookshop – the owners had never seen anything like it. They told me it was their best launch ever.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I’m more realistic. I think every first-time published author thinks they’ll set the world on fire with their book. I wish I had but I haven’t. Yet. I know that I need to keep growing my catalogue and releasing books. I have two non-fiction books out in the world and my next book will be a novel. I’ve done many writing workshops in the past and next year I’m going to a novel writing masterclass to help my writing get to the next level.

I’ve written a novel before but it turns out it was a practice book, it may never see the light of day. I learnt a lot from writing that novel and having a manuscript assessment done. That was my initiation into the real world of writing. I worked with a mentor through four drafts and learnt more each time.

I have a literary agent and one of the first things she said to me when she took me on was that she didn’t tolerate divas. She wanted hard workers on her books. I’m friends now with many of her clients and that’s what they do. They write and keep writing. Their books are published and they keep writing. They get big advances and they keep writing.

So that’s what I plan to do. Keep writing. I have no stars in my eyes anymore. My role now is give my all to my characters, give them big lives, big troubles and big loves. To fall in love with them myself and to keep writing.

How To Stay Married Teaser

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I’ve been amazed by how friendly, generous and supportive so many authors are. I’ve been part of a writing group for many years now but I never expected that level of support from other published authors. Many of us realise how hard it is to be seen in amongst all the other books on the market and so we’re happy to support each other knowing we’ll be supported in turn. This generosity of spirit is a constant blessing. It shows a genuine love of books and writing.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

See above. Also, I won’t deny it, it is a thrill to see your book in books stores, to see it on display in airports, to get reviews and to be interviewed, to feel like a star just for a bit. And to be able to call myself a writer. There’s the proof; a book you can hold, a book other people have read, a thing of beauty and hard graft.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Don’t be afraid and yet be very afraid. Scare yourself with the fierceness of your writing, terrify yourself with how much you care about your characters, take yourself and your writing to the edge and jump off. You can do anything and go anywhere, why not soar? And take care of yourself, nurture your self and your writing space – you’ll be spending a lot of time there and you’ll need energy to keep writing. Love yourself, love your characters, love other writers. Be generous and be kind.

Keep writing. One of my new friends wrote ten books before she was published. Now she has a multiple book deal and has sold rights around the world. Write a lot of drafts, have beta readers and edit, edit, edit. Polish your work until it shines so brightly it’s irresistible. All the best. Let me know when you’re published and I will help spread the word. What goes around, comes around.

xx

Mary-Lou

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