Kindle Author Interview: Mary Anna Evans

Mary Anna Evans, author of Wounded Earth, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Wounded Earth?

MARY ANNA EVANS: First of all, Wounded Earth is a thriller that takes the reader to the edge of nuclear disaster, showing just how it might happen. With the ongoing crisis in Japan, that aspect of the book is especially timely. But Wounded Earth also explores some themes that will always be of-the-moment. The protagonist, Larabeth McLeod, is forced to ask herself what she would do to save her daughter, and her answer is the same one mothers have given for all of time: "Anything. I'd do anything."

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

MARY ANNA EVANS: This book revolves around Larabeth and her adversary, Babykiller.  Babykiller came first. I knew I wanted to write a thriller that centered on environmental themes, so I needed a villain who had a reason to lash out at the environment and the people who work to defend it...or, at least, in his twisted mind he thinks he has a good reason for all the mayhem he causes. Babykiller is a Vietnam veteran who believes his terminal cancer was caused by Agent Orange exposure, and he wants to strike back at the government who saves snail darters, yet poured poison on young soldiers. He also wants someone to witness his revenge, and he needs a worthy adversary. Larabeth's character grew from that need. She is a smart and strong woman who has built a successful career on environmental cleanup technology, and she has her own scars from Vietnam. I think the two tough-minded characters play well off each other.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

MARY ANNA EVANS: Someone with the imagination and sense of fun to follow me into Larabeth's world. We'll have fun there, I promise...

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer? 

MARY ANNA EVANS: I've always written, but I studied something totally different in school—engineering physics and chemical engineering. Still, while I was in graduate school, I audited a fiction writing class, and I pursued my dream of writing all through my twenties, even when I was writing my thesis and teaching community college and raising children. During the years when I had two babies in diapers, it would take me months to write a short story.  Sometimes, all I could manage was a haiku, but I kept trying. I collected a lot of rejection slips in those years. Then I learned that I would be spending my third pregnancy on bedrest, and I knew that I'd never be able to say I didn't have time to write a full-length novel. That book was Wounded Earth. It got me a hotshot Manhattan agent, interest from an influential editor, and nibbles from Hollywood, but it didn't sell. I wrote another book, a mystery called Artifacts, which sold to Poisoned Pen Press, won a national award, and kicked off a series of mysteries about archaeologist Faye Longchamp that's going strong after six books. Unfortunately, Poisoned Pen Press only does mysteries, so it wasn't the right home for Wounded Earth, but it bothered me that Larabeth's story was sitting in my desk drawer. The independent publishing revolution has given me a chance to get that story out into the world.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process? 

MARY ANNA EVANS: When I start a book, I spend about a month reading everything I can get my hands on that will provide background for its setting and plot. I call this phase of the process "reading for a living." My subconscious uses that time to develop the story, and I know when it's time to start writing, because my subconscious comes out to play. I start hearing conversations between my characters (yes, I do know they're not real), and interesting plot twist come into my mind from nowhere. At this point, I write a fairly detailed outline. It serves as a sort of security blanket, because it's easier for me to be creative if I'm not afraid of running out of story to tell. When the outline is done, I run it past my agent and editor. If they both like it, I start writing, which I generally do between 8 am and 3 pm on weekdays, because that's when my daughter is in school.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

MARY ANNA EVANS: William Faulkner and Harper Lee.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

MARY ANNA EVANS: To Kill a Mockingbird.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work? 

MARY ANNA EVANS: Oh, goodness, what haven't I done?  Artifacts came out in 2003. I've done book signings in 25 states and counting. I've done radio in markets as far-flung as Alabama Public Radio and Oregon Public Radio and New York City. I've landed magazine features and newspaper reviews and television interviews. I've built my own website (and I was so glad last year when I finally handed the site over to a professional to design and maintain) and I've sought internet exposure.  I learned all this by doing, and it's becoming increasingly clear to me that the old way of promoting through the traditional media is being overtaken by internet promotion. I'm working hard to surf that ever-growing wave.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle? 

MARY ANNA EVANS: It's easy, it's cheap, and it gives the author full control of everything—pricing, promotion, editing, physical design...everything. It's a heady feeling to be in charge of your career.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

MARY ANNA EVANS: Get a professional editor to make sure that your book is ready for publication. While the editor is working, spend that time to familiarize yourself with the world of electronic publishing. Fortune favors those who are prepared. I wish you all good fortune, and I wish you the best.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.


Mary Anna Evans has degrees in physics and engineering, but her heart is in the past. Her series character, Faye Longchamp, lives the exciting life of an archaeologist, and Mary Anna envies her a little. Her novels have received recognitions including a spot on Voice of Young America's (VOYA) list of "Adult Mysteries with Young Adult Appeal." They have been on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's (IMBA) bestseller list and have been designated Notable Books by Booksense and Indiebound. Mary Anna has won the Florida Historical Society's Patrick D. Smith Florida Literature Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and a Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal. Her books have been nominated for ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year and for the SIBA Book Award. Faye Longchamp's growing list of adventures include Artifacts, Relics, Effigies, Findings, Floodgates and, new in October 2010, Strangers. They are available in hardcover, trade paper, ebook, large-print, and audio editions. For the incurably curious, Mary Anna's first published work, her master's thesis, was entitled WA Modeling Study of the NH3-NO-O2 Reaction Under the Operating Conditions of a Fluidized Bed Combustor. Like her mysteries, it was a factual page-turner but, no, it's not available online. She turned from engineering to fiction after the birth of her third child, shifting her focus from managing hazardous wastes to preparing balanced meals. She has yet to acquire the knack of laundry management. She lives in Florida with her daughter, her cat, and a 7-and-a-half-foot monster of a piano.

Visit her website, read her blog, find her on facebook, and follow her on twitter.

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