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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
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
where our guidelines for writers are posted. And also my author website
© Copyright 2006, Susan Denney
Susan Denney is a freelance writer living in Pennsylvania. She has published childrens 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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