I’ve known Mary Vettel for something-something years. She was one of the first people I met on Query Tracker and remains one of my dearest scribble siblings. We’ve traded ink and scribe-tears. Mary is a gifted writer with a middle-grade book that the world needs to read among a host of other stories. Today Mary talks shop with me about her experiences as an indie-author and the eternal, (infernal?) paper chase for traditional publication.
First, the obligatory: tell us about yourself?
Native New Yorker, Anglophile, major Beatles fan, mother to two lovely daughters, mother-in-law to wonderful fella who’s more like a son than in-law, and doting grandmother to a 5-year-old.
What does it mean to be a writer?
Writing means I get to escape into whatever world I am moved to create and inhabit with whomever I please. I get to stare off into space and the family knows I’m writing, not stroking out.
What’s a genre you enjoy reading?
I like reading mysteries, from Sherlock Holmes to cozies like Miss Marple.
Who is an author you’d rather not read?
James Patterson doesn’t seem to care that his formula is showing. I could be totally wrong on this, but that’s how it strikes me.
Is there one thing you judge a story—yours and others—by?
Dialogue. If it doesn’t ring true, I could hurl the book across the room.
What would you tell 20-year-old you?
Take as many writing classes as possible. Learn your craft now. I cringe to confess I was still head-hopping until a few years ago until my friend Will Tinkham told me to knock it off.
What was the last good story you read/saw/heard?
“Episodes.” A UK series with Tamsin Grieg, Stephen Mangan, and Matt LeBlanc. Well written, well acted. Believable. Their chemistry was excellent.
How do you deal with the roadblocks of writing?
Please forgive the cliché, but, more coffee, more chocolate. As for writing, or not having the time to write, I dictate notes to my phone whilst driving, (hands-free of course) and jot things down on whatever’s handy.
Presuming that you are afflicted with myriad story ideas, how do you decide on which to follow?
The one that’s the squeaky wheel and keeps raising its hand from the back of the room going, “Ooh! Ooh! Pick me! Pick me!”
What was your biggest challenge as an indie-author?
If you mean self-publishing, it’s the whole ball of wax. And what exactly does that mean? Why would you have a ball of wax? What’s its purpose? From creating a cover and making it look like a ‘real’ book, but not having the time or inkling how to market it or get people to buy it/read it, it is ALL hard.
What has been your biggest challenge as a traditional author?
Still not having cracked the secret code to writing a decent, i.e., agent-grabbing query, synopsis, blurb, despite the numerous articles I’ve read and templates I’ve filled in/out. Hence, I remain unagented at this very late stage of the game but hold out hope that with this latest, just-completed novel, they’ll be clamoring to sign me.
Finally, are you a dessert person and if so, what? If not WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? And, um, can I have yours?
Yes, I am a dessert person. And key lime pie is my choice. I even forgo a traditional birthday cake and opt for the KLP. Yum. Sorry, you may not have mine, but I will put aside a wedge for you.
Mary Vettel is the author of Death at the Drive-In, novel, as well as countless as-yet unreleased works of brilliance. You can find her book here: https://smile.amazon.com/Death-at-Drive-Mary-Vettel/dp/1514366878/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=mary+vettel&qid=1626229684&sr=8-1
The photo at the top is Mary’s fur babies and is used with her kind permission. The captions (a.k.a. feeble attempts at humor are all mine). This piece has been edited for content and clarity.