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Marsha, who are you as a person, versus an author?
I am a hermit. I love solitude. I'm quite uncomfortable in crowds because I'm usually alone and don't have someone to hang out with. However, I'm also a ham, and have enjoyed being in musical productions through the years. I was raised in a musical family, and studied in college for a career in opera. That plan took a sidetrack, though, and never came into being. Instead, I've taught in many venues and many subjects.
What genre(s) do you write in?
I started writing commercially for LDS newspapers, so feature and news articles were my thing for several years. I've won national prizes for poetry, and published columns in several periodicals. I've also written chapters for non-fiction books on writing and publishing. My fiction works are historicals, though, set in the 19th Century West. All of my books include romantic elements. There may come a time when I'll write a mystery.
Do you seek to educate or entertain?
There's always an increment of education in my books, but mostly I write to entertain, to take people away like Calgon (old TV ad for a relaxing bath product) and give them hope.
Where do you write your best stuff, and when?
Because I'm now single, I have the luxury of writing in seclusion. That wasn't the case when I had kids at home and a husband, so I guess I can write in many circumstances. My best time is afternoon and evening, into the night. I'm not a morning person. Although I've tried to get myself on a schedule, life keeps happening, and I have many obligations, so I write in spurts when I have time available.
Why do you write?
According to my older sister, I wrote from the time I could hold a pencil. I believe her. There's never been a time that I didn't have some kind of story to tell. However, it wasn't until the 1980s that I seriously considered sending work out to publishers. I'd been reading certain books and told myself I could write as well as any of their authors. I dusted off my “Great American Novel,” realized it was only a summary, then studied creative fiction writing with several teachers and through reading many instruction books.
My characters are real people to me, and I've driven them up some high, rough trees and put crocodiles at the bases, with sharp, snapping teeth. I have to get my people out of danger and give them satisfying conclusions.
I had an epiphany several years ago when I realized that I write to let people know there is always hope, and to show them through the experiences of fictional characters that they can get through hard times, even really, really terrible times, and find happiness at the end of it all.
Vanilla or chocolate?
Vanilla, because it can be embellished in so many delicious ways, but it's also awesome just the way it comes.
Laptop, PC, Mac, longhand, other? Why?
I use a desktop PC for much of my writing, but I also use a laptop, a netbook, and an AlphaSmart 3000, depending on where I am and what my circumstances are. I don't write longhand anymore due to hand cramping. Besides, I think faster than I handwrite. Why PC? I couldn't afford a Mac when I was buying my first computer. Additionally, back then, Macs were principally used for typesetting and graphics, not for word processing. The first WP program I ever used was WordStar.
What is your current book?
My latest novel is Trail of Storms, the third in a series of novels about the Owen family and their neighbors from Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, but the work stands alone if readers haven't sampled the first two books.
The aftermath of the Civil War creates cruel circumstances for the Bingham family. A brutal attack on Jessie's sister, Hannah Fletcher, drives the extended family to flee to the West. They are soon joined by Heppie Bingham's beau George and his brother, Ned, who bring news that the Binghams are being pursued by cronies of Hannah's attacker. Even after they fight off that onslaught, poverty, bad weather, and Hannah's frightful secret plague their journey. Nursing her battered heart when she hears James Owen took a wife, Jessie accepts Ned's offer of marriage. But a stop on the trail holds surprises that launch Jessie into a bewildering tangle of values, emotions, and high adventure.
One of the hallmarks of my fiction is fast-paced adventure peopled with believable characters. Readers tell me when they're forced to put a book down they worry about my characters until they can read about them again. If I can take people out of their own worrisome lives enough to be concerned about fictional folks and see them through to a satisfying ending, then I've done the job of relieving some of their day-to-day stress. Isn't that what books are for?
One piece of advice/wisdom for the world?
Have faith in a brighter tomorrow.
Dogs or cats?
Right now, neither, although I'm battling with mice. I've had both dogs and cats, and they've been enjoyable, but now is not the right time for pets.
What do you want to be remembered for, or as?
I'd like to be remembered personally as a kind and caring individual, and as a writer for being able to sweep a reader away into a good story they couldn't bear to put down.