Friday, February 17, 2017

Aspiring local writers meet with Maine writers group By Walter Lunt

So, you say you’d like to write a book. The statistics aren’t especially in favor for those aspiring to tell their story. One study reveals that 81 percent of the general population claims to want to write a book; 50 percent of those will create an unfinished product.  Fewer will complete a book, and fewer still will actually publish.

(L-R) Authors, Michelle Libby, Wanda Ann Thomas, Maggie Robinson
Three members of Maine Romance Writers met this week with a group of residents from Windham and Raymond, to share their views and experiences in the writing and publishing process. Author Maggie Robinson said she decided to put her English degree to work during her retirement as a high school librarian in 2010. She has since written several successful romance novels; her newest titled, “Just One Taste-A Romance Anthology”, was named Amazon’s Best Book of the Month (romance category) for January, 2017.

Robinson is often asked how she gets ideas for her stories. “I have no clue. I try to pay attention to things around me”, she said. A few years ago, she launched a series of books based on a historic “love ad” reprinted on-line from a 19th century newspaper. It stated, “Wanted:  A well-formed woman who is not afraid of work.”

Robinson acknowledged that romantic fiction is sometimes dismissed as fluff - but added, “There is nothing wrong with escapist fiction (especially) in these divided times. People like stories that make them happy.” Robinson’s books have been translated into nine languages.

The authors were quick to point out that romantic novels enjoy the largest market share of readers.
Wanda Thomas, a dental hygienist, says her best time to write is early morning before starting her work day.

“People like our ‘happily ever after’ stories”, she said.  Her novels, “The Herod Chronicles”, are set in the ancient world.

“Publishers discouraged romantic fiction about real life characters,” she said, “but the more I learned about (Herod), the more I was convinced that he was made for fiction.”

Thomas, who says it takes her about one year to complete a book, prefers self-publishing because she maintains control of the entire process, from word processing to the final product. 

Her latest work takes place in the old west and tells the tale of a hardened gunslinger and a female bounty hunter - turned kindergarten teacher. “Gunslingers Don’t Die”, is book two in the “Brides of Sweet Creek Ranch” series.

“Most sales today are through e-books,” she said, “accounting for 99 percent of books sold,” due mostly to price.

Robinson held up her most recent book, saying, “This goes for $15. Even I wouldn’t spend $15 for my book. It (sells) for $2.99 as an Amazon e-book.” All agreed that digital books, “have a longer shelf life”, and are likely to be available much longer than the hardcover variety.

Michelle Libby, who retired recently as editor of The Windham Eagle, to write full time, has published nine romantic novels and proudly announced that she is under contract for another. She explained to the gathering that romance writers share and support each other, encouraging aspiring writers to do the same. According to Thomas, “Romance writers are not in competition. We build each other up.”

Libby, a board member of Maine Romantic Writers, explained that it’s hard for her to create unless she’s typing.  For me, writing is, “thinking through my fingers.” And, she revealed, “I can’t write anything until I have firmly established characters.”

Thomas and Robinson work differently. Thomas explained that she can’t go forward without a solid plot. Robinson says she’s, “All over the place – sometimes I change direction right in the middle (of a story). My publishers are used to it.”

What about those steamy passages? Libby and Robinson confirmed that was one aspect of their writing that made their children uneasy. Robinson’s adult daughter, who attended the session, agreed and the topic led to humorous exchanges. Amorous content sometimes leads to the use of pen names. “We have grandchildren,” said Robinson. Thomas says she avoids overt sex scenes in her books, describing her romantic passages as, “sweet.”

Meg Kassel of Raymond, who attended the meeting, said the presenters are wonderful writers and enjoyed the informal give and take, as well as the advice and light hearted humor shared. Kassel said she has written several novels for young adults and will soon be celebrating the publication of her first book to a national audience. “Black Bird of the Gallows”, described as a “dark paranormal” will be available in the fall.

“Whenever there are romantic writers around, it’s always a party,” Libby said.

To learn more about Maine Romantic Writers and one of the newest publications, “Welcome to Serenity Harbor”, set in Maine, featuring the work of Michelle Libby and Maggie Robinson, log on to: and:

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