Monday, February 15, 2010

The Marvelous Marlis Day

I'd like to introduce you to a fantastic woman, a fine mystery writer, and -- I'm happy to say -- a good friend of mine, Marlis Day.

Marlis and I first met back in October, 2000 when we shared a table at a book fair in Peoria, Illinois. I'd driven down from Chicago that morning, and Marlis had come up for the day from southern Indiana. She was a teacher living in a rural area of the state; I was a nurse from a large city. One would have thought that the only thing we had in common was our love of mysteries and our desire to write them.

But as we sat there getting to know each other, we discovered we had a lot more in common than just books. Our roles as wives and mothers were similar despite the distance between us.

We also shared the same Midwestern values when it came to putting family first and self second: both of us had put our writing on hold while doing all the "mom" things that came hand in hand with raising children. I guess you could say we were late bloomers, but we sure were enjoying our new roles as published authors, Marlis with her first book and I with my third.

Now, ten years later, Marlis has two mystery series under her belt, one for adults and one for children. I'm happy to say she's here today to share with you her thoughts on writing.

"Why I Write"

by Marlis Day

If you really want to write, it will gnaw at you until you do it. It’s a calling, a need to express yourself, a deep desire to share your thoughts.

As soon as I developed the skills to write sentences and paragraphs, I began writing letters to friends, relatives, & pen pals. I was in the fourth grade. Later, as my life became more interesting, I entered essay contests at school and wrote articles for the school newspaper. When I began my teaching career in Chicago at the age of twenty, I wrote plays for my students and sent lengthy narratives home to my family. I loved doing it; it fed some deep inner need in me.

During those busy years of being a stay-at-home mom and then a working mom, it was difficult to find time to write. But I thought, and imagined, and recorded life experiences. I was forever plagued with the “what-ifs.” Since I emerged from a family of storytellers, plots formed and developed in my mind – stories begging to be told. I worked and waited. I read good books and noted how authors expressed themselves.

When the kids left home for college and the dust settled, I purchased my first computer and learned word processing. How refreshing to be able to create and delete, to let stories flow from my fingertips. I used my newly-found freedom to write articles and short stories, which I sold to magazines. I wept when I received my first check ($150.) for doing what I loved.

A few years later, I began my first book. I have never been more intense than when I wrote WHY JOHNNY DIED. My mind traveled to the fictional town and dealt daily with the host of characters I had created. What fun to determine the weather, settle scores, and kill off the bad guys at will. When it was published in 1999, I felt a love and pride surpassed only by my wedding day and the birth of my children. I now have four books in print and a fifth one scheduled for release later this year, but none of the others sent my spirit soaring like the first one. Interestingly, it’s still my best-selling book. Why do I write? How can I not?


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