Posts Tagged ‘Mary Montague Sikes’

Here’s Mary, tour guide extraordinaire.

Today we’ve put the Magic Dog on a leash and walked down the street to the Corner Cafe, where we’ve caught up with Mary Montague Sikes, a woman who knows exactly what a vacation should involve–an exotic location, a mysterious, studly stranger, a beautiful woman (who is “us,” of course), a spice of danger, and romance. How do we know this? Her popular Passenger to Paradise series proves it. She’s been writing books that offer her readers a taste of the perfect summer vacation for 10 years now.

Bodie: Hi, Mary, thanks for meeting us. We’re all curious, though–why here?  What is The Corner Cafe, and what’s so special about it?

Mary: Almost every small town has a gathering place—a diner, a cozy family-run restaurant. That’s what the Corner Café is for me. This quaint little restaurant has been in business for many years and is now a community landmark.

Bodie: But The Corner Cafe  is also a charming collection of short stories produced by Dani Greer, mastermind and blog book tour maestro, and you have a short story in it, right?

Mary: Right–“A Face at the Window.”

Bodie P: “A Face at the Window” starts out like many of your travel books–a young woman finds herself in dire need of a vacation, so she packs a bag and heads out. But that’s where the similarities end. Your central character, Arianna, has tragically lost a child, and in seeking to escape the anniversary of her loss she winds up in Milwaukee, possibly one of the least “exotic” cities in America. And there’s not a whiff of beefcake in sight. What prompted this story?

Mary: Last summer we spent several days in Milwaukee where I visited the beautiful art museum located on Lake Michigan. One of the exhibits that most impressed me was the bronze sculpture with a countless number of the same male figure, mouth open in a cry. That exhibit left a lasting memory for me. The story itself was prompted by something that happened years ago when our middle daughter was four years old. We were crossing a street to one of the Smithsonian Museums when she suddenly disappeared. I still remember my terrible panic which, of course, she never understood. What if I had never found her?

Bodie: Remember that movie, Tootsie? There’s a scene where Jeff (played by Bill Murray) says, “I don’t want people to say, ‘I saw your play. I liked it.’ I want them to say, ‘I saw your play. What happened?’ “A Face at the Window” is like that. I read your story.  And after I read the closing words I found myself wondering, What happened next? I don’t want to give away the end of the story for those who haven’t read it yet, but is there anything you can share without doing that? If you see Arianna and her daughter in another ten years, where are they? What are they doing?

Mary: That’s a very good question. In this age of the Internet, people do reconnect. Children find parents they never knew. Sometimes reconnecting can destroy a family. I know of one such case. I can see this story as the beginning of a novel. I’m going to think about it.

Bodie: In Arianna, you’ve written a character who badly needs the sort of escape your “Passenger to Paradise” series offers. Since we’re just heading into summer, can you recommend a few summer reading destinations you think we’d particularly enjoy?

Mary: I love the Caribbean where St. Martin is one of my favorite destinations. Although I haven’t written about it yet, I have a story set there waiting for me to tell. My book Secrets by the Sea  is set on another favorite Caribbean Island, Antigua. A sequel, Jungle Jeopardy,  is more of an adventure and is set in Central America. Jamaica is my favorite destination of all—we’ve been there more than a dozen times. My very first novel Hearts Across Forever  is set there. If you enjoy reincarnation stories, you’ll want to read this one.

Bodie: Thanks, Mary, and thanks for introducing us to The Corner Cafe. (All right, all right–full disclosure prompts me to admit that I already know about it, and this is part of a little thing we like to call a “blog book tour,” where a bunch of us bloggers get together and decide we’re going to blog about one thing–in this case, a book for which many of us contributed a short story or two–and we’re going to do it in succession. And so the party rolls across the internet, going from blog to blog, spreading the glad news that The Corner Café is open for business. Tomorrow The Corner Café book tour visits Heidi Thomas‘ very fine blog. Stop in and say hi. If you’d like to download The Corner Cafe for yourself, you can do it here for the very fine price of 99¢. Or, if you’re really thrifty, wait for a free download weekend–I believe we have one coming up soon (like in a couple of days).

Mary: Thank you so much for having me as your guest, Bodie. Now I want to hit the road for one of those beautiful destinations where a fragrant summer breeze dances through my hair.

And thank you, Gentle Readers, for joining us on this stop of The Corner Café’s blog book tour. Here’s the tour itinerary. Please join us for tomorrow’s scheduled event!

June 8 Heidi Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com
June 11 Marian Allen http://www.marianallen.com/
June 12 W.S Gager http://wsgager.blogspot.com
June 13 Chris Verstraete http://candidcanine.blogspot.com
June 14 Helen Ginger http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com
June 15 Kathy Wheeler
June 18 Morgan Mandel Double M http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
June 19 Pat Bean http://patbean.wordpress.com
June 20 Shonell Bacon http://chicklitgurrl.blogspot.com
June 21 Alberta Ross http://albertaross.wordpress.com
June 22 Karen Casey Fitzjerrell http://karencaseyfitzjerrell.blogspot.com
June 25 Pat Stoltey http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com
June 26 SB Lerner http://www.susanblerner.com
June 27 Maryann Miller http://its-not-all-gravy.blogspot.com/
June 28 Mary Montague Sikes http://marymontaguesikes.blogspot.com
June 29 Stephen Tremp http://breakthroughblogs.blogspot.com

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Mary Montague Sikes’ Passenger to Paradise series harks back to a tradition of travel and adventure that has largely disappeared for many of us. How she manages to combine her loves for travel, for art, and for writing into books proves that the spiriti of adventure isn’t dead. How does she do it? The Magic Dog caught up with her and got her to answer a few questions. If you have more of your own feel free to write them in the comments section below.

Magic Dog: Your blog bio notes that you’ve built a writing career by combining your love for travel and art with writing. Lily in Night Watch is also seeking to build a career that combines the three. Her new career is photojournalism. I hadn’t really thought about that as art, but photography is definitely an art form. Is that just coincidence?

Mary: I feel more comfortable using a career that I know. Since for many years I’ve been a journalist and have illustrated my writing with my photographs, I feel comfortable having Lily work as I would. However, what she is doing—building a career in magazine travel writing—is far more glamorous than the city newspaper work I did as a correspondent for many years. To what degree is her character autobiographical? Probably a little bit. Most authors probably put a little of themselves in the main character. Is Lily you? Much braver and more glamorous. Perhaps she’s more like I would like to be. I am tall and always make my heroines tall!

Magic Dog: Have you been to Trinidad?

Mary: Yes.

Magic Dog: Is there a real-world equivalent for Sundowner Sands?

Mary: Yes.

Magic Dog: How about the other locations in your novels?

Mary: Each of the major places—the caves (Gasparee Caves), Asa Wright Nature Preserve, the Chaconia Inn in Port of Spain, but not the inn in the Grenadines. That inn is based on a small hotel we visited on one of those islands but with many changes.

Magic Dog: Do each of them represent one of your own personal “Stops Along the Way?”

Mary: They do, but with great embellishments. The small island scene near the resort takes place in a completely fictitious location. Isn’t it wonderful to use keyboard magic to create just the right setting? I love having that majestic ability, don’t you?

Magic Dog: Night Watch has elements of suspense, of romance, of adventure, and even a whiff of the paranormal. How do you categorize your books when people ask?

Mary: That’s a tough question. I used to call my books paranormal because most of them have at least one paranormal element. My first novel, Hearts Across Forever, is a reincarnation story. I’ve always loved stories about reincarnation, but when I termed that book as paranormal people thought I meant it had werewolves and shape shifters in it. My books are not at all like that. If I term them romance, a lot of people seem to get turned off. Now I’ve started calling them mystery/romance or mystery/suspense. Because of the dark hero and the sprawling old house in Secrets by the Sea, I consider that book Gothic. Dangerous Hearts, my newest book (actually a novella) is Gothic. I think Night Watch is a mystery with some romance. There’s a paranormal element in Night Watch but some people may want to overlook that. What do you think?

Magic Dog: I liked it. I found myself puzzling over what had led to the twinning of Lily and Katherine’s souls.

Magic Dog: One of the things I like best about Night Watch is the clarity of the plotting. Even though there are–and should be–questions about why things are happening, there is seldom any question about what is happening, and to whom. Can you talk a little bit about your writing process, and how your plots develop?

Mary: I start out with an idea and then things just start to happen. I definitely don’t do much outlining. The characters take over and sometimes the book has its own twists and turns!

Magic Dog: Do you plan, write, plan, edit, or are you more of a write, organize, write, edit gal?

Mary: Organize is not a word in my vocabulary. I wish it were because I suspect my life and writing would be much easier. I need a deadline. Then, I’ll get busy and produce what I need to do. As I work, I do like to go back and edit the pages I wrote earlier. I think that’s a good way to start the day—read over and edit what you wrote the day before.

Magic Dog: You’re an artist. How much do you involve yourself in your book and book cover designs?

Mary: The cover of Hearts Across Forever is one of my paintings. So is the cover of Eagle Rising. The cover of Secrets by the Sea is one of my photographs. However, Night Watch has none of my work on the cover, and I love it. While my publisher, Oak Tree, has used my art (also for the covers of some of her other books) she has a very good book cover designer who puts it all together. For my Red Rose Publishing e-book, Dangerous Hearts, I worked with the cover artist, saying what was needed for the cover. The first cover had a knife on it that I didn’t want. She replaced it with the image of a couple. I like that cover a lot because it portrays the Gothic feel of the book.

I’ll do whatever is necessary to help create a nice looking book that I hope will attract buyers. If the publisher wants my help, I’m glad to offer it. I’m also happy to have my art on some of the covers.

Magic Dog: Are there other Passenger to Paradise books in the offing?

Mary: Jungle Beat, the book I’m working on one now is set in Antigua and Costa Rica. It has the characters from Secrets by the Sea. Another book, Night in Paradise, is set in Nassau and on Paradise Island.

Magic Dog: Care to talk about them a little?

Mary: Both books have bits of adventures that actually occurred but with lots of added embellishments to bring in excitement and adventure.

Night Watch is available in both paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon. If you’d like to follow Mary on her Grand Tour, visit her blog here, or catch up with her tomorrow here.

Thank you so much for having me as your guest, Bodie. It’s interesting to think more about the writing process. That’s something I tend to overlook as I’m working. Maybe I need to stay in the moment and enjoy what I’m doing for the sake of doing it!

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