A Life In Writing

24 May

The marker says, “Gold found here July 4, 1862.

I searched one of author Angela Hunt’s blog sites and found this quote: “The things that enter her life sooner or later find their way into her books, hence a life in pages.” Of course, I immediately thought about what I’ve put into my manuscripts. How what I’ve experienced has made what I write.

My father always said to invest in real estate. In the summer of ’96 my husband and I looked across the state of Oregon for affordable river front property and bought some acreage in northeast Oregon between Baker City and Sumpter. We spent every chance we could four wheeling amongst the junipers, pines, firs and rocky crags of the area. My husband’s interest was in panning for gold, while I was enamored with the decaying buildings, the caves, or equipment left behind in the mining districts and still visible today.  Fine, I had my location. Since I have some experience with writing, the hero in my first published book became a writer with a fan base similar to author Dean Koontz. All famous mystery author Stanton Black wanted was to leave the flashbulbs of Hollywood behind. Hiding out in the wilds of northeast Oregon seemed like the perfect way to get over the attempt on his life while researching his work. His latest novel would draw on the history of his ancestors and the lore of gold country.

I am a licensed speech language pathology assistant so the heroine in Maya’s Gold became a teacher. Now, all my hero needed was a suitable tour guide. Special education teacher Maya Valentine was no tour guide. After the death of her parents, Maya has come home to Salisbury Junction for the summer only to have an ailing friend (a historian) talk her into escorting Stanton around the area. As a pattern of crime around her and the newfound gold on her property leads to a real-life mystery. I also threw in a crazy Viet Nam veteran, which I may or may not have known in real life. 😉

For A Place to Land: Some years back I lived next to two Russian families and I learned something about coming to America and the cultures that many brought with them. So when Uli’s (my heroine) impoverished family left Russia for America, she was only ten years old. From that point on, she’s been determined to make the American dream hers. When Headline Magazine offers the perfect story with which to launch her new writing career (okay, so I can’t let writing go), Uli travels across Oregon to find out exactly how wolf and cowboy mix. I imagined what it would be like to find a successful young rancher with acres upon acres of land set against the Eagle Cap Mountains of NE Oregon. Jackson Holt, my hero, owns one of the largest ranches in eastern Oregon and like most ranchers, is none too happy with wolves crossing over the Idaho border near his livestock. The last thing he needs is a semi-environmentalist, journalist wannabe dogging his footsteps. I also gave Jackson a well-behaved German Shepherd (I had two at the time, but maybe not well-behaved). I added a villain, but not a crazy one this time.

For Wanting Moore: I now own two lots on Main Street in the ghost town of Bourne. It is an old gold mining town in Northeast Oregon. It is a place you can sit and listen to the creek and think about what must have gone on there from 1862 through the early 1900s. Thus came the idea for my third book, a novella. The second step in putting this story together came from two Asperger’s syndrome students that I’d taught. Both had an interest in the Civil War and as the story was coming together in my mind, I asked them questions.

My father had five brothers and one sister. Some families cherish their only girl and treat her like a princess (like my aunt) and other families have a kick-butt kind of girl that tries to keep up or outdo her brothers. My heroine, Isabella Moore, is mostly the latter and a fun character to write. Independent beyond what’s good for her, she leaves her brothers and parents in Prairie City in search of her true calling. Traveling to Haines, Oregon, by way of the historic Bourne-Haines Stage Road, she runs across the type of people from whom she’d been sheltered, leading to an accident. The hero, blacksmith Gabriel Stone saw enough of death during the Civil War to last him a lifetime. Isabella is in need of his care-but caring for her may bring back unwanted memories of his former life as a doctor. And dare he entrust his heart to a woman filled with ideas of gold mining and adventure?

It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story. Are you that type of writer, too?


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15 responses to “A Life In Writing

  1. Liz Fredericks

    May 24, 2012 at 5:11 AM

    Mary, this is an intriguing view into your writing process. Plus, you’ve impressive approaches to describing your characters – this was a mini-lesson for me in writing synopsis (as I struggle). Thanks you for sharing these insights. What are you working on now?

    • maryvine

      May 24, 2012 at 8:54 PM

      I’m very glad it made you think about your writing!! I am working on a book with a small town mayor (heroine) and the hero is a brand new attorney struggling with what he really wants to do with his life, while looking for Spanish treasure in the same area I just blogged about. I met a guy who was really doing this a couple of summers ago and he introduced me to the signs and symbols and a digging site known only to him.

  2. ramblingsfromtheleft

    May 24, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    Wonderful tour of the landscape in your mind and your land. The short desc. of each book gives just the right tease to intrigue. Well done. Loved the characters and setting. My stories and the place I called home are the setting for my books. I call myself fOIS In The City … NYC that is … and I use her boroughs and her myriad of culture to develop the people who roam the pages of my stories as I once roamed the avenues and streets. Thanks, Mary 🙂

    • maryvine

      May 24, 2012 at 8:57 PM

      I am impressed with what you are doing/writing about. Small town seems so much less complicated than the big city, but then those who love NY really love NY.

      • ramblingsfromtheleft

        May 24, 2012 at 9:21 PM

        Mary, I think the small town is much the same … more compressed … yet all the same elements are there 🙂

  3. Janis McCurry

    May 24, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    My first book featured a heroine that had my experiences. Since then, my love of animals comes through every now and again in other works. My last book was about what I wish could be true. My current WIP, well, yeah, what I wish would happen. Maybe I’m always going to write about that which is out of reach in my ordinary life?

    • maryvine

      May 24, 2012 at 9:04 PM

      Hmm, very interesting. My first, and a portion of another manuscript, was about that which is out of reach in my ordinary life, but not since. But, to a degree, isn’t the romance we have in our books out of reach anyway?

  4. Meredith Allen Conner

    May 24, 2012 at 7:27 AM

    I love to pull bits and pieces of places and my experiences into my writing. And then change it up a bit to make it unique to my story. Thanks Mary.

  5. Clarissa Southwick

    May 24, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    What a timely post, Mary! Just yesterday my mother was asking if I could find her some more books by “that Mary Vine.” She’s read all of these, but I’m sure she’d love to hear how they came about. What are you publishing next?

    • maryvine

      May 24, 2012 at 9:11 PM

      Thanks for telling me about your mom liking my books-and wanting more! I hope to have my current wip done by the end of the year. It’s a contemporary set in the same area (of course), yet the one I have in mind for after this one may not be.Oh, and by the way, I don’t ever know if my publisher/editor will like what I send her or not. She’s liked three so far, but refused another (one I’d written early on).

  6. stephanieberget

    May 24, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    I agree with Clarissa. When are you coming out with your next? I love the area you use for the settings in these books. How lucky to have property there. Thanks for the insight into your writing style.

  7. maryvine

    May 24, 2012 at 9:12 PM

    Thanks for the kind words, Steph! I should be done with my current wip by the end of the year and then I will submit it and see if my publisher/editor likes it.

  8. Peggy Staggs

    May 25, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    I always pull from life with characters and setting. Of course I add a little to them.

  9. Mary Vine

    May 28, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    Thanks, Peggy, for commenting.


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