Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Marsha Cornelius author of H10N1,The Ups and Downs of Being Dead and Losing it All. At first, she dabbled in freelancing for magazines, and wrote a couple articles for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Topside Loafing. She moved on to fiction, trying to write screenplays, before finally finding her niche in novels. Her first novel, H10N1, is a post-apocalyptic thriller about a flu pandemic that has already wiped out most of the world’s population. Coming up? A fifty-seven year-old man dying of cancer chooses cryonic preservation over death.
Hi Marsha, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
- Tell me a little about yourself and your background?
I grew up in a small town in Northern Indiana, where wintertime meant ice skating and sledding, and summers were spent in the woods behind our house. There weren’t many female role models when I was young, but my friends and I still loved to pretend we were heroes, running down the hill to the meadow, our capes flowing behind us.
If you have read any of the Harry Potter books, then you may have some idea what I was like in school. Just like Hermione, I was an obnoxious girl in braids and glasses, waving my arm in the air, wanting to be the first to answer the teacher’s question. By high school, I had lost the dorky hair and glasses, and had even learned to curb my enthusiasm.
My college years were spent discovering who I was, living independently, making new friends, and smoking marijuana. Oh, and I did manage to get a journalism degree from Indiana University. After my graduation, I packed my car with as much as I could and drove to Atlanta to start my new life. I’ve been here ever since.
- What was your life like before becoming an author?
While I was in college, I worked for both campus and city newspapers, but I wasn’t honing my editorial skills for a future Pulitzer Prize. I worked in the advertising, and production departments. So once I got to Atlanta, my first job was with an advertising agency. It would be a long time before the bug to write got me.
- When did you decide to become a writer?
I was a stay-at-home mom with two small children when I finally decided to experiment with writing. First it was articles for newspapers, then short stories for magazines. When you have babies, you can’t stick with anything long than about 1500 words.
- Which comes first? The character’s story or the idea for the novel?
For me, the idea always comes first. In fact, my first novel, H10N1, was based on a short story I wrote. And even during the outline and first draft, I’m just getting to know my characters. Once I go back in with that first edit, I really get to know all of my characters’ little quirks and weaknesses.
- Why do you write? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard conversations in my head. It probably started as excuses I rehearsed for why I couldn’t stay in my seat and be quiet during class. As I got older, I loved observing people and places, and elaborating on what I saw.
As far as advice to aspiring writers? It’s more of a request.
Please, please, please go to your book shelf. Pick out your favorite authors, or your favorite books and turn to the acknowledgments. I want you to read where the author thanks his/her editor for their invaluable assistance.
Now if those authors are using professional editors, what makes you think you don’t need one?
If you are an indie author, you will have to pay for this service. If you aren’t willing to make this kind of investment to hone your skills, then don’t attempt to publish your work.
There is nothing more demoralizing than publishing a book before it is ready, then seeing all the one and two-star reviews on Amazon for the whole world to see. (Including your mother).
- So, what have you written? Where people can buy or see them?
H10N1 – is a post- apocalyptic thriller about two people who survive a deadly flu pandemic, and must find a safe place to live.
The Ups and Downs of Being Dead – Speculative fiction about a man who choses cryonics over dying of cancer.
Losing It All – Drama/romance. A homeless man helps a woman and her two small children get off the streets.
You can see all my books on Amazon:
1. http://amzn.to/SLhv6O (US)
2. http://ow.ly/k96eE (UK)
- Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
My husband and I both read a lot. For a while we were into Lee Childs (Jack Reacher books), but we’ve read them all now. I particularly like thrillers, adventures, mysteries. And I like some romance if it isn’t syrupy-sweet and unbelievable. I have a hard time identifying with gorgeous, perfect women who fall in love with rich, perfect men.
- Where is your favorite place to read and write?
I write in my sunroom, where I have lots of windows, and I can look out at the woods beyond. (Oh, and it’s very convenient to the kitchen if I need some candy, or chips, or some other snack.)
- How do you market your book/s?
Marketing is the hardest part of being an author. Even with traditional publishers, I understand most newbies are on their own to create a fan base and garner a buzz about your book. I spend time on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, getting in touch with readers.
I contact book clubs to visit or Skype.
I sometimes offer my books at reduced rates on Amazon, and advertise about it on book websites.
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
This past spring I decided to take up vegetable gardening. What I actually did was feed lots of deer and rabbits, slugs and caterpillars. But I’ve learned from my mistakes. Hubby and I are expanding the garden area, and I’m taking up target practice this winter. (Just kidding.)
We got enough green beans and eggplant that I could freeze some, so I’m willing to share the wealth with my forest buddies. (Well, maybe not those gross, green caterpillars that ate all the leaves off my pepper plants.)
- How can readers discover more about you and your work?
It was a great privilege for me to get to interview Marsha Cornelius, who has inspired me in many different ways. Thank you Marsha!!! Good Luck with everything!