Today it is my great pleasure to welcome author Mary Margret Daughtridge to my blog. So sit back, relax and enjoy my conversation with Mary Margret.
Mary Margret Daughtridge Interview, Author of SEALed with a Ring
My Book Addiction and More; March 12, 2010
WendyK: Let’s start with your newest release, SEALed with a Ring. In your own words can you tell us about it, who are the characters, what is their conflict or what must they face?
Mary Margret Daughtridge: Davy’s wants are simple. A Navy SEAL recovering from head wounds, he just needs to get his life back, and he’ll be fine. First though, he needs to be sure his younger siblings will be taken care of, when he returns to duty.
JJ’s whole existence is tied up in the business she’s been raised from birth to take over. She needs to get a life period. She’s already scheduled to the max, so when her grandfather changes the rules and says she must be married to inherit, JJ goes looking for a husband who will stay out of her way. Davy will do that. Sort of. They strike up a marriage deal, but soon find out they’ve gotten a lot more than they bargained for.
WK: Where did you get the idea for this story?
MMD: I love marriage of convenience plots. Love ’em. But making M of C work in a contemporary isn’t easy. I mentioned my desire to make my next book an M of C to a group of friends who call ourselves the Rowdy Ladies. In thirty minutes they helped me build the basic scaffolding. Each contributed pieces of her expertise to make the story work.
WK: How do you pick the names for your characters for this story as well as others?
MMD: Names are important. In the Bible when a character has had a change in consciousness, frequently his or her name changes. Saul becomes Paul; Sarai becomes Sarah. I spend a lot of time choosing names, and still they sometimes change as I write the story.
Believe it or not, the character must also agree to a certain name. My heroine of SEALed with a Ring was named by approved Southern formula: a feminine first name and a family surname (a mother or grandmother’s maiden name) for a middle name. A girl might then be called by her middle name or in grand Southern tradition, a double name. My heroine’s name is Jane Jessup Carruthers.
She hated to be called “Jane Jessup.” I tried to lighten it up with “Jessie” but she would have none of it. JJ. That was her name. Only her grandfather was allowed—in private—to call her “Jane Jessup.” Only her very best friend was allowed to shorten JJ to Jay.
JJ knows her mind. She also refused to call the hero “Davy.” She didn’t think it fit him. To her he was “David.”
MMD: I think of the stories as linked, rather than being serial. If you’ve read the earlier books you’ll meet some of the same characters. SEALed with a Ring begins at the wedding of Davy’s CO (who had his own book in SEALed with a Kiss) and you’ll also see Do-Lord and Emmie (from SEALed with a Promise) but each book can stand on its own.
WK: Why did you pick SEALS over any other special ops group?
MMD:For the first book, the choice was pure happenstance. My books are pure romance, not romantic suspense or action/adventure. I only needed a military hero to be constrained by his job in specific ways. I probably could have made it work for any special operator. After I researched SEALs in order to write the first book, I realized how extraordinary these men are, and how their character is molded by being SEALs. I knew they represented a treasure trove, which could be mined repeatedly for character-driven plots.
WK: How do you choose the settings for your stories?
MMD: I like stories with a strong sense of locale. I was born and raised in Eastern North Carolina, and that’s where I set my books. It’s different there. You don’t go anywhere without having to cross a river, a wide river. The further you go, the more rivers you cross. Whether you’re drawn to the black water of a Spanish moss festooned swamp, the warm shallows of the one of the Sounds (there are five), or the pristine beaches on the barrier islands, there’s something for anyone who loves a water environment—what better natural habitat for a SEAL? 🙂
WK: How do you go about researching for your stories, are there any sources that you use for everything?
MMD: I’m a bit of a research-junkie. Sometimes I waste time at it because it’s just so darn interesting. I have a library of forty or fifty books about SEALs that I turn to frequently. As often as possible, I also like to find a primary source as well. A Navy doctor and a retired Navy nurse gave me invaluable background about Davy’s wounds and helped me work out a time line. I couldn’t have written about a car dealership without the help of a friend who owns one.
WK: What is your favorite reading material for pleasure?
MMD: I write romance because it’s what I love to read. I also have immense curiosity, so at any moment who knows what else I’ll have open? I just finished a book on how to build a homemade wind turbine for generating electricity (which convinced me I probably couldn’t.)
WK: What to date has been the happiest day of your life? What has been the most embarrassing?
MMD: I don’t know. I haven’t dwelt on either one. Like most people, I’ve found that life’s simplest pleasures are the most worth pursuing, and that whether the day is “good” or “bad,” what matters is the quality of the love that I experience.
WK: Can you tell us about your current work in progress and what’s next to hit the shelves?
MMD: Right now, I’m working on a story about a SEAL who finds a stowaway (a baby girl in a cardboard box) aboard a CIA plane. He’s determined to protect her, but doing so will force him to choose between his civic duties, his SEALs duties, and his duty to his own conscience.
WK: What one thing at the check-out counter do you look at but hope no one notices you are looking?
MMD: LOL. Probably the candy.
WK: What “bad” for you food is hardest for you to say no to?
MMD: I have food sensitivities. Unfortunately, there are a lot of foods that are “bad” for me, though they wouldn’t be for other people. The ones I’ll eat when they’re in season, even though I know I’ll pay, are strawberries.
WK: What healthy food do you love best?
MMD: Chocolate. Isn’t it wonderful that chocolate turns out to have health benefits?
WK: What is your favorite recipe? Can you share it with us?
MMD: One of my favorite winter dishes is baked apples and parsnips. My niece first turned me on to this combination. Here’s my take on it:
- One or two Pink Lady apples,
- One or two parsnips, about 12 inches total.
- 6 Tbsp sugar (to taste)
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp ginger—I like to use the grated fresh ginger in a jar, but dried, powdered will work.
- Pinch salt.
- Core and chop apples into ½ inch chunks. (If using organic apples, no need to peel. The skin of a Pink Lady won’t turn tough with baking. If using another cooking apple like Granny Smith, it’s best to peel.)
- Cut parsnips into ½ inch wedges by slicing on the diagonal.
- Spread apples and parsnips together in an 8” baking dish.
- Sprinkle with sugar, ginger, and salt. Dot with butter.
- Bake at 350 F. for about an hour.
- Serves four generously, complements any roast meat, and since the recipe isn’t temperature sensitive, can go in the oven along with the meat. I usually make enough to have leftovers. Zap in the microwave for a comforting snack.
WK: If you could meet one person, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
MMD: You know who popped into my mind? Superman. I admire him for his life of service, and I also have huge compassion for him. Can you imagine how lonely he must be—to be the only one of his kind on the entire planet? I’d like to ask how he copes with it. I’d also want to know his honest opinion of humankind. He’s as close to an objective observer as we are likely to find. One of these days, I’d like to write him a love story that has a happy ending.
WK: How do you handle rejections and the negative people who try to bring your joy to a halt?
MMD: I was fortunate to learn early in life that what a person thinks of me, whether they think I’m wonderful or awful, has more to do with them than it does with me. It freed me from all need to try to control people’s perceptions or make them like me.
That doesn’t mean I have a tough skin. I don’t. And it doesn’t mean I don’t care what people think of me. I do. What is means is: I don’t let people who weren’t going to like me or my books anyway, break my heart.
Writers often speak of the rejections they receive. I’ll be the first to say I’ve been lucky; I have received very few. It wasn’t all luck though. I did everything in my power to bring my work to a professional level before I began submitting, and I did my research so that I sent out queries only to those I thought might be looking for a voice like mine. Like, I didn’t submit to Scientific American—you know?
I don’t read negative reviews of my books—not that I have anything against them. Reviewers have a right to their opinion. However, if my book wasn’t to their taste, I don’t need to know. My books give some people an hour or two of enjoyment, and frankly those are the people I’m writing for.
As for the downer people, I try my best to stay the hell away from them. You asked earlier about “good for you” and “bad for you” foods. Well, like foods, there are people who are nutritious and people who are not. The rules for including them in your life, and the consequences to your health, are pretty much the same.
WK: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know or remember about you, your work, or what you’d hope they’d get from reading your stories?
MMD: My desire is to be one of the nutritious people, and it’s the reason I write romance, rather than another genre. My stories are entertainment, and if I give someone an hour or two of pleasure I’m happy. But I’m also aware that some of my readers have chosen my book to help them make it through the night.
Escapist fiction though it is, the deep message of all romance novels is that by having courage, facing rather than running from adversity, and choosing love even when it requires sacrifice, people triumph and ultimately become more than they thought they were. It is fundamentally a healthy, life-affirming message. When times are hard, that message helps.
Thanks for asking me to join you today. I enjoyed your fun and thought-provoking questions. Now I have a question for your readers. I combined two of my favorite romance plots for SEALed with a Ring—Marriage of Convenience and Wounded Hero. They do it for me every time. What are your favorite plots?
She’s got it all…except the one thing she needs most
Smart, successful businesswoman JJ Caruthers has a year to land a husband or lose the empire she’s worked so hard to build. With time running out, romance is not an option, and a military husband who is always on the road begins to look like the perfect solution…
He’s a wounded hero with an agenda of his own
Even with the scars of battle, Navy SEAL medic Davy Graziano is gorgeous enough to land any woman he wants, and he’s never wanted to be tied down. Now Davy has ulterior motives for accepting JJ’s outrageous proposal of marriage, but he only has so long to figure out what JJ doesn’t want him to know…
Mary Margret Daughtridge has been a grade school teacher, speech therapist, family educator, biofeedback therapist, and Transpersonal Hypnotherapist. She is a member of Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Romancing the Military Soul, and is a sought-after judge in writing contests. She resides in Greensboro, North Carolina. For more information, please visit http://marymargretdaughtridge.com/.
Thanks to the wonderful Danielle at Sourcebooks I’m thrilled and honored to offer 2 copies of SEALED WITH A RING to my readers. If you’d like to win of the 2 copies please answer Mary Margret Daughtridge’s question in the above post. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only and will run from today, March 12th until March 14th 2010. Good luck to everyone!