Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
My name is MJ Fleming, I have three young children and live in central Massachusetts with my husband and our Siberian Husky. I recently published my first fiction/suspense/thriller, My Only Sunshine. MOS is the first book in the Sunshine Series. It is available on Amazon as an ebook, paperback and audio book. Merphy Napier, is the voice of the audio book. She did an amazing job, its like experiencing what I wrote in a whole new way. In my previous life, I used to be the Director of Events at a local university.
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
So much of what I write is based on just general knowledge that I have. I always love throwing in random facts to my characters dialogue that I’ve picked up over the years. This particular book is actually based loosely on a dream that I had where I was being chased by someone but the man chasing me was dressed as an old woman. No one in my dream believed me because they didn’t see the old woman as a threat.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I think if you can take the time to step back from your daily tasks you can find creativity in anything that you do. For me at least it’s about getting out of the weeds of my everyday life and stopping to appreciate the nuances of the bigger picture. The crisp morning air, the current screaming of my five year old. There’s always something there that you can use.
How do you deal with creative block?
Creative block at least for me is more about fear than it is not being able to think of anything creative. I’m afraid to either take that next step with the character or I’m afraid in general to start writing a specific section. I have in the past tried to plot and plan my way when I’m feeling like I just don’t know where to go. I would say more times than not, the plotting process is another way for me to procrastinate. I’ve found when I’m truly blocked I like to get in some serious word sprints. Two hours at the computer, doing nothing but writing, I like to try and get 3,000 words done in those two hours. Sometimes I’m surprised at the direction the characters take, even as I’m writing it and I’ve found if I don’t focus too much on that but just write I discover new paths to go down.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
I think there are two biggest mistakes you can make in a book. The first being that you have to have movement. Every scene needs to push something forward. You can’t just have scenes that don’t serve a purpose otherwise its boring. The second is that you have to stay true to the characters. I love a good twist, I truly do, but if your big reveal is the character that was part of the chorus the entire time with nothing but nice things to say your readers are going to get whiplash trying to figure out how they got there from here.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I like a title that has something to do with the books underlining theme. Covers, you gotta go with what moves you. Whether you are independently published or you get a publishing deal, I would work into your contract that you have at least some input on the cover. Unless your book is a picture book, the cover is the only visual your story has, so its important that you have input in its creation.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Ahh negative reviews. That’s a tough one. I’m a very sensitive person, even though I try not to be and I can take a lot of things personally. The best thing I ever read though was to treat reviews as what they are. The review belongs to the person reviewing the book, it does not belong to you. Once you have put your story out into the world it is no longer yours. I also think you have to read and process the negative reviews because there are always nuggets of truth in there. One of the more constant comments in my readers reviews for my current book is that the ending seems rushed. They are right, the ending was originally significantly longer. The problem was and my editor pointed it out to me that the story slowed down, it was getting boring. So, in response to that I sped it up and cut out some of the relationship building that occurred over the course of what was originally month. In the book as it is published now, everything that happened in four weeks, now happens in one. That was a judgement call, if I had left it would people say that the ending got boring? Maybe. Negative reviews are important as they can point out to us things that the readers see. I will say though sometimes people just write mean things and if you see it going in that direction, just stop reading it, if it isn’t going to help you become a better writer than move on, no one needs that kind of negativity in their lives. Anyone that has taken the time to write anything and puts it out into the world for public consumption should get a minimum of 2 stars, just for having the guts to do it.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best thing was having the satisfaction of being able to cross this item off my bucket list. The worst thing was when I wrote the first draft, I thought it would be no big deal to go back through the document and add in things like periods and quotation marks. I was wrong, so very very wrong. The most surprising thing was that people actually enjoyed the story. I still till this day struggle to reconcile the fact that I wrote something that people enjoy reading.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I haven’t had readers for very long, so I will say I don’t aim to serve either. My goal is to complete the characters stories in a way that would make me feel that they would be safe and happy with the rest of their lives. I don’t think a story can truly be over ever, because none of our stories are ever over even after we die. I’d like to have some closure though, so be able to see them in a rocking chair on a porch holding the hand of a person they love.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
So much, you have to feel, to allow yourself to feel, to imagine what it would be like to feel. There’s no other way I don’t think to be creative than to do that. I wrote a scene today for the second book and in it the characters were very sad and both were crying which then dissolved into a hysterical fit of laughter and my eyes welled up with tears as I wrote the sad part and I smiled through the fit of laughter. You have to feel it with them otherwise how will anyone else feel what they are going through.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Hmmm, I like to say that you need to think about the worst thing that could happen to your character and then try to make it worse. I think that could hold true for the best thing that could happen to the character or the scariest thing. Whatever your end goal is think about the character and then think about how you could take that goal to the next level.
What are your plans for future books?
I am currently writing the second book in the Sunshine Series. I’m still in the nice and easy beginning stage where I know everything that’s going to happen. We are quickly dissolving into the part of my writing process that includes writing myself down rabbit holes and seeing if I come out anywhere good.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.
Every year on my birthday I try to eat something I’ve never eaten before. I love Indian food, it is truly the most amazing thing on the planet. I don’t believe in regrets, there are no decisions in my life that I consider bad ones. They are all just my path to where I am now. You can each a cheeseburger with peanut butter spread on top, sounds gross but it is delicious.
Please feel free to check out my website and follow me on social media. Book 2 will be coming out in the spring of 2020.