Maria K. Alexander writes contemporary romance. She has completed her first novel, A Chance for Love, and is presently working on her second. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America®, New Jersey Romance Writers, and RWA® Online.
Maria was born and raised in New Jersey and lives there with her husband and their two active children. Maria earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Information Systems and works full-time in the Information Technology field. She juggles writing around her family life and can be found writing in the early morning (the quietest part of the day) or after both kids are in bed.
When Maria’s not on the softball or baseball fields, she enjoys going to the beach, downhill skiing, and the movies as well as reading. When her busy schedule allows, she has fun baking with her children and cooking for her family. Also at the top of her fun list is shopping, which she’s recently been able to start doing with her not-quite-a-tween daughter. Maria’s passion for reading was passed on to her children, and they all can often be found with their noses in a book or at the library.
Maria has generously agreed to be the first to participate in my new Writer’s Quiz interview format. Since, I’m a teacher’s wife and an avid student of the writing craft, I thought this could be fun. Rest assured, there are no grades involved. Maria is already a winner in my book. 🙂
Multiple Choice Questions
(Please explain your answers.)
1) When did you first experience your love of writing?
a. I came out of the womb with a pen in my hand.
b. I dabbled in high school but didn’t get serious until recently.
c. I read a romance novel, fell in love, and had to write one.
d. None of the above.
B. I wrote poetry in high school, and even had a couple of poems published in our school magazine. I also had started writing a story, but didn’t get very far. As strange as it may seem, I truly believe that my main character from A Chance for Love has the same first name as the woman in my high school story but regardless of all my searching, I’ve been unable to find it.
I started writing a few years ago and have found it a wonderful creative outlet to complement my obsession with reading.
2) How many stories have you completed?
a. I’ve finished my first story but can’t stop editing it.
b. I finished my first story and moved right on to the next one.
c. So many that I’ve lost count.
d. None of the above.
B with a little of A. I finished my first story well over a year ago, and then spent a lot of time editing it based on workshops I had taken and craft books I had read. I started the query process around nine months ago and have also entered several writing contests. Based on that feedback, I’ve been tweaking parts of my story (strengthening the hook and dialogue) and hope to resume the query process over the next couple months.
I started my second story this past December and am more than halfway through. My second story builds on some of the secondary characters introduced in A Chance for Love.
3) What kind of stories do you write?
a. Contemporary romance
b. Historical romance
c. Young adult
d. None of the above
A. Contemporary romance is what I mostly read and am most comfortable writing. My characters are modern people with relatable situations. My heroines are career-oriented women who strive to balance personal/family life with work, something I struggle with achieving each day. My heroes are men with successful careers who aren’t looking for love but are knocked off their feet when they meet the heroines. They respect the women’s modern independence and strong family ties, an element missing from their lives.
(Maximum of four paragraphs per question.)
1) What have been the high points of your writing journey so far?
The most significant high point for me was typing “the end” at the bottom of my first story. I have somewhat of a tendency to not always complete projects, so finishing this was a great accomplishment.
Getting my first reject letter was also pretty significant. For the first time, I actually felt like a writer because I could relate to all writers who’ve gone through the same thing. It also enabled me to get my RWA PRO status, which I’m pretty excited about.
I tend to be an introvert and have to literally force myself to be more out-going. Recently I paired up with a critique partner from my local RWA chapter group. It’s great to meet new people and talk about our mutual experiences, frustrations, and our stories.
Little things like getting my business cards and setting up my website also make me feel like I’m taking small and important steps towards getting published. I know it can be a long process and am willing to be patient until it happens for me.
2) What aspects of writing do you find most challenging? Most rewarding?
The most challenging part of my writing is carving out time to write. My day job is almost an hour away, and my kids are involved with multiple activities that take up time during the week and often weekends. Plus there is the other mom/wife stuff I need to do, and the dreaded exercise.
I try to keep to a schedule of writing in the early morning on days I can work from home and at night after the kids are in bed. But sometimes, by the time I see where I left off and get my thoughts together to resume writing, it’s time for me to go to bed.
The most rewarding part of my writing is making my characters come alive. I plot out scenes in my head while driving to work and pretty much during any “quiet” time. Being able to articulate my thoughts and transfer them from my head to the computer is important. Finishing a scene or realizing something new about my character brings me joy. And while some days I might be challenged to find time to write, the benefits to me personally greatly outweigh the cons.
3) How has your day job in Information Technology served you in your writing endeavors?
I write all the time in my job; emails, job aids, requirements, etc. Sure, it’s not the fun and interesting stuff someone is going to want to read in a romance novel, but just the act of writing means you always need to think. You need to know your audience and tailor your writing to that audience.
I used the backdrop of my field for my main character, Meghan, in A Chance for Love. While she’s not autobiographical, she does have similar thoughts and frustrations of people I’ve known, even myself. It made it easier to establish the inciting incident that starts out the story.
True or False
(Please explain your answer.)
1) I can’t imagine starting a story without plotting it first.
True to an extent. I consider myself a plantster because I start out as a plotter and progress into a pantster. I usually begin with a general paragraph-style brain dump and then use that to build an outline. Then I’ll start to add details up to a point. I usually get impatient when trying to do this, or write too much detail and stop because I want to start the story.
With my current WIP, I’m writing the actual pages and then updating the outline with more detail. It may be sort of backwards, but it’s been working.
2) I get my story ideas from overheard conversations.
False. I haven’t so far. As a kid, I’d always been a dreamer and spent a lot of time reading and wishing for my own happily-ever-after. A Chance for Love evolved from those early day-dreams and took off from there.
3) I must have complete silence when I write.
False. I wish! I write in my Dining Room, not by choice but more out of necessity. So, unless its early morning, and the kids aren’t up, or it’s at night and my husband isn’t on the computer in the adjacent room, I’m often surrounded by noise. When it becomes too distracting, I’ll take the laptop to another room to work. I even bought ear plugs, when I’m desperate for some silence. There are plenty of days that I’ll have written less than a page in the span of two hours due to distractions, but can often write several pages in half that time if I’m left alone.
Fill in the Blank
1) My favorite creativity fuel is: anything salty. Tostitos and Fritos seem to be my favorite lately.
2) I made the hero of my story British because: I have a thing about sexy men with accents.
3) The members of The Maria K. Alexander Fan Club are: my family and friends from work. Other supporters include my critique partner and friends I’ve made from my local RWA Chapter.
Story Problems: Just for Fun
(X is an unknown number. You get extra credit for tackling these. :-))
1) You’re traveling at 30,000 feet to go X miles with $10,000 in gifted funds to your dream vacation destination. Where will you end up, and why?
Hawaii. I’ve never been there and it’s a perfect mix of beach, culture, and beautiful scenery.
2) Your best friend, who knows you very well, calls to invite you to lunch and suggests your favorite X restaurants. Which are they, and which one wins out?
Panera Bread, Chili’s, anything pizza or Italian. Panera Bread would probably win out. I tend to eat light for lunch and I love their sandwiches and their creamy tomato soup.
3) One buff broadcast journalist, two hunky helicopter pilots, and three fit firefighters enter your favorite mall with you, where you were the winner of a $2,500 shopping spree. Each of the six men was provided to tote the bags for you from your favorite X stores. Where are the bags from, and what is in each of them?
Coach – a woman can never have too many purses and I’d love one of these. Lord and Taylor – cute sundress, strappy sandals, coordinating jewelry, Clinique Happy Heart perfume and body lotion. Victoria’s Secret – all the sexy lingerie I can find. Jewelry store – I’d buy a very classic/everyday wear gold necklace, Lindt chocolate – their dark chocolate truffles are to die for. Barnes & Noble – I’d update my Nook WiFi for a Nook color.
Maria’s Question for You
Describe your perfect day.
Where would you go, what would you do, and who would you take?
Maria has generously offered to give away a $15 Barnes & Noble Gift card.
To enter the drawing, leave a comment for Maria by May 2nd and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process.
On May 3rd, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well as in a comment and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address.
Congratulations to Calisa Rhose, winner of the drawing.
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Prizes will be mailed to U.S. or Canadian addresses only.
Learn More About Maria
Visit her website http://mariakalexander.com
Friend her on Facebook ~ Maria K. Alexander