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Interview with Marcia Preston - Editor of Byline Magazine
by Susan Denney

Marcia Preston is well-known to many attendees of writing conferences as the editor of Byline Magazine. Byline is a general interest writers’ magazine which contains informative articles, fiction and prose. The “First $ale” column is particularly inspiring to writers who are looking for their first byline. Byline also sponsors writing contests which encourage good writing. But Marcia is also an award-winning novelist. Her first two novels are mysteries published under the name of M. K. Preston. They feature the dauntless Chantalene Morrell who shakes up the town of Tetumka, Oklahoma. Her second Chantalene mystery, The Song of the Bones, won the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark award in 2004. Her next two novels are published under the name of Marcia Preston and are mainstream fiction.

WFD: After writing two successful mysteries, The Song of the Bones and Perhaps She’ll Die, you changed to mainstream fiction with The Butterfly House and now The Piano Man. Was this a planned progression from genre to mainstream?

Preston: Yes and no. I've been writing mainstream novels from the beginning, even before mysteries. But mainstreams are tremendously difficult to sell, especially as a first book. So I tried mysteries for two reasons. The first was to teach myself to plot. My mainstream stories were character-driven and rather weak on plot, I thought, and mysteries of course must be tightly plotted. The second reason was that it's easier to market a novel in a defined category, like mysteries. I was busily planning the third mystery in my series when my first mainstream novel sold to a different publisher.

WFD: Your latest novel, The Piano Man, required research into real estate and musical careers and the complex issue of organ donation. Did you have personal experiences which led you to bring these three things together?

Preston: No, they all grew from the story idea, and you're right about that book requiring a lot of research. But it was fun -- interviewing people and attending symphony performances, revisiting San Antonio and Santa Fe. I'm not one of those writers who loves to spend hours in a library digging for facts.

WFD: What advice would you give to aspiring novelists?

Preston: Admit to yourself that your writing could always get better. Then keep practicing and studying to make that happen. And never, never give up.

WFD: You wear two big hats as both a successful novelist and the editor of Byline Magazine. How do you find the time to manage these two big undertakings?

Preston: I'm a bit of a workaholic, I guess. I work a lot of evenings and weekends, and I don't watch much TV.

WFD: As editor of Byline Magazine, what kinds of submissions would you like to see from prospective writers?

Preston: We're always looking for well-written feature articles on the art, craft or business side of writing and selling. For some reason we get fewer submissions in that area than any other. The easiest way to break into ByLine, probably, is with a First $ale story. These are 300 words and should capture the excitement of that first sale, including the name of the publication and the amount of the check.

WFD: What can we expect next, a new Chantalene mystery or another mainstream novel?

Preston: I just sent my next mainstream to my editor at Mira, and it should be out next summer (2007). My title is West of the Wall, but they might change that -- they changed the other two! It's about a mother who was separated from her baby by the Berlin Wall, and what she goes through to get him back.

I'd love to do that third book in the mystery series someday, but Mira wants a book every year, and so far, one book per year is all I can manage.

WFD: What else would you like the readers of Writing for DOLLARS! to know?

Preston: I'd like people to know about the ByLine website, www.bylinemag.com, where our guidelines for writers are posted. And also my author website at www.MarciaPreston.com.

© Copyright 2006, Susan Denney

Susan Denney is a freelance writer living in Pennsylvania. She has published childrenÂ’s fiction and nonfiction as well as adult articles on a variety of topics. Check out her website at www.susandenney.com.

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