Maria Thompson Corley's book, Letting Go is on my "to-read" list (*book review coming soon!). I recently enjoyed an interview with Maria and share it with you below- enjoy!
Tell us a little about yourself...
I'm a Juilliard-trained pianist (DMA) and divorced mother of two teens. Kiana, the eldest, is a sophomore in college studying Music Business Technology because I couldn't talk her out of being a musician. She does't want to follow my footsteps, however; she sings, plays guitar, and used to insist she hated classical music (she says she's grown up since then). She's a gem, and we're very close. My son, Malcolm, is on the autism spectrum. He sings, plays drum set well enough to accompany my church choir (I'm a music director), takes tap class, does zumba, and is a brilliantly talented visual artist. He's a gem, and we're very close.
I'm a professional voice actor, and here are all of my gigs: Unisys, SunTrust, University of Pennsylvania, Iron Mountain. Few in number, but kind of impressive. To me, anyway.
I'm also an arranger and composer. A handful of my very few arrangements and compositions have been recorded, and one of my choral works is published by a major publisher, who rejected all of the others.
I have no free time, but I do love movies. Also sports, but the only thing I truly keep track of these days is tennis (though I will watch the Super Bowl). I like to dance, whether at the kitchen sink as I do dishes or in my car (at stop lights). I enjoy far more kinds of music than most sane people. Then again, my tastes in a lot of things are rather eclectic. Except books, strangely enough.
Mainly, I'm constantly trying to figure out what God wants me to do next. Then I remind myself that I'm not supposed to figure it out—I'm supposed to stay open to the still, small voice. So I bounce back and forth between a sort of mindful (in the Buddhist sense) connection and the sure sense that I'm screwing everything up.
Ah, whatever. I try my best. That's all I can do.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I've written poems and even novels from the time I was very young, but didn't think of myself as a writer until about maybe 5 years ago, despite already being an ongoing contributor to Broad Street Review.
Can you share your journey to becoming a published author?
On a whim, I wrote a romance novel 20 years ago that was published by Kensington. I literally thought, “I can write as well as some of the people out there.” I didn't think of myself as a writer, just someone taking a shot in the dark. I got an agent, but I was more focused on being a pianist, so when my follow up was rejected (because of a gay character who was in a relationship), I chose to stop trying to write genre. Full disclosure—I wasn't trying to write genre in the first place, and I don't think my book followed all of the “rules.” Anyway, little did I know how hard it is to have an agent and get published! I found that out when I decided, years later, to try to break back in to the industry.
What do you find to be the biggest challenge, as an author?
The marketing part! And the never knowing if it's finished. I'm very self-critical, and could probably read my writing 200 times and still find things to change.
What do you find most rewarding, as an author?
Breathing life into imaginary people, through whom I can explore scenarios I'll never experience in reality. I feel for these people very deeply, even though I sometimes put them through hell.
Share with us a daily habit of yours, that helps you reach your goals.
Taking time to read Scripture and inspirational literature on my exercise bike in the morning is important, both for the aerobic benefit and because I start my crazy day considering someone else's wisdom. Even if I don't agree with all of it.
What is one piece of advice you would share with an aspiring author?
Read, read some more, write, write some more, and then revise, and revise some more. Then get other people to read you and be prepared to incorporate some of their suggestions—and ignore others. Without getting upset, of course. The reading part should be analytical, at least some of the time; not just reacting, but figuring out why you like or dislike what you're reading. I listened to two of The Great Courses on writing and found them very helpful, and have read Stephen King, Ann Lamott and others on the subject.
Finish these sentences:
I am most grateful for...my family. Cliche, but true. And my health, and the gift of music, and my friends, and the many ways God gives me what I need when I need it, even though I whine sometimes.
If I could give my 18 year-old self one piece of advice it would be...men are really not that important. They just aren't. Actually, nobody's opinion is really that important. Let your freak flag fly!
My favorite thing about being a writer is...sentences! Words! Ideas! Self-expression!
My least favorite thing about being a writer is...when I can't come up with the words and sentences to express my ideas. Or when I can't even come up with the ideas.
My goals for the future are...to have a comfortable income being an artist. I'd also love to see my novel made into a movie, something several people have mentioned.
I love living a creative life because...I have a flexible schedule, and my life is never boring. Mainly, though, what a gift writing and make music!
The last book I read was...Queen Sugar.
My favorite book, ever, is...yikes. Dunno.
Outside of writing, my favorite hobby is...watching movies. I also like to cook.
The most important thing to do if you want to achieve your goals is...learn to be very, very good at what you're doing. This is an ongoing thing, because you'll never arrive at perfection, but be the very best you can be, at that moment. Never lose the humility needed to strive to improve. Then, research how other people have gotten there, and go after it relentlessly. You will still need some luck, because there are a lot of other people just as good, or better, but if you don't try, you'll always regret it.
I should add that I go after it, but I'm not sure I'm as relentless as some. Then again, I am spreading myself extremely thin, which is probably a good excuse. I hope so, since I just gave advice I'm not quite taking.
Do you have any New Years Resolutions for 2017?
I don't make them. I just try to course correct as I go along. I do want to submit more poems and shorter pieces for publication. I read somewhere that we should try to collect 100 rejections, which of course means submitting at least 100 times. I don't think I have enough hours in the day to pull this off, but I plan to try.
Tell us about your books (genre, where we can find them, etc.)
So far, my books have been either romance or women's fiction. They can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, or Createspace. That said, I hope to be picked up by a major publisher. Why not?
Where can readers find you (i.e. website, social media, etc.)?
Anything else you'd like to add...
I'm pretty sure you already know more than you'd hoped to find out! I should mention, however, that while I am a committed Christian, I try to write about reality, as I have experienced it, which means that there is cursing and sex in my books. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I am a huge fan of Prince, and his death...well, let's not speak of it.
Ritz writes the following genres:
Romance / Thrillers
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