Mary Frame: Author of 15 contemporary fiction novels (and counting!) with catchy titles such as Nerdelicious, Fake it to the Limit, and the new Between a Fox and a Hard Place!
Right off the bat, I can tell you that Mary Frame is totally the rom-com best friend we’d all want in our life story! She is witty, self-deprecating, and quick with insightful advice. I didn’t know her prior to this interview—an interview that was conducted solely by email nonetheless—but after the process, I feel like I’m about to close my laptop, grab my purse, and meet her at the local coffee shop to discuss something fun over chocolate croissants and café au laits.
Mary Frame has authored 15 books, has more in the works, and manages to work a full-time government job while raising two kids! Despite her hectic schedule, she continues to crank out romantic, colorful stories with relatable characters that we all want as our neighbors and friends! Titles include Nerdilicious, Imperfect Chemistry, and Between a Fox and a Hard Place, to name a few. The covers are very rom-com-approved, with feminine fonts, bright colors, and character images that tease a charming meet-cute ahead!
Here is the interview, which all writers, but particularly new and unpublished writers will find extremely helpful in overcoming procrastination, fear, and the plague of caring too much what other people think. I hope you’ll find this conversation as delightful as I did!
*You’ll notice a lot of bold type! That’s because Mary genuinely has so many quotable responses!
L.A. Can you introduce yourself to my subscribers? I’m sure they’d like to know where you’re from, how long you’ve been writing, and what you enjoy doing in your free time!
M.F. Hey, thanks so much for having me, LeeAnn! My name is Mary, I’m a writer, I enjoy long walks on the beach, and I give the creepiest hugs in the world.
Seriously, though, I live in Reno, Nevada with my husband, two children, and a border collie named Stella. I started writing my first novel when I was 28. My books are funny, quirky, steamy, and full of misfit characters! Most of my free time is dedicated to family. We enjoy camping (or glamping as I like to call it, with our fifth wheel), hiking, going to the movies, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.
L.A. Did you have a career before writing? If so, what was it, and at what point did you transition over to writing full-time?
M.F. I have a career now! I am currently employed with the government, but I hope to retire within the next 10 years—or sooner, if only Shonda Rhimes would return my calls…
L.A. How many books have you published so far? Also, how old were you when you wrote the first book?
M.F. I just released my 15th novel on June 3rd, 2022. The first book I completed, I was 29 when I got to “the end”, but I did not publish my first book until I was 33.
L.A. Have you ever written a manuscript that didn’t translate into a finished novel?
M.F. OMG this question made me laugh because I have so many! I have approximately 15 or so finished, half-finished, started-and-then-went-sideways manuscripts that will never ever see the light of day. It took me about five to six years of writing every day to produce and FINISH something that was good enough to publish. There’s a common saying amongst writers that it takes a million words to be proficient. I felt every one of those million words!
L.A. Can you talk a little about your writing process? (Do you write at the same time each day? Where do you do your writing? How long does it take you to complete a book?)
M.F. Because I have a day job and other obligations, I write whenever and wherever I can. I have to be creative, persistent, and productive. I write in the mornings before work, during my lunch break, sometimes after work. If I have to go to the DMV or anywhere I will have to wait any amount of time, I bring my laptop with me. I’ve written in my car, during football and orchestra practices, you name it! On average, I am able to write and publish two books per year. My books aren’t too long, they tend to be around 60,000 words.
L.A. Do you write with music, or do you need it quiet while you work?
“Because I have a day job and other obligations, I write whenever and wherever I can.”~Mary Frame
M.F. Every now and then, I will write with classical music playing on my headphones, just for background noise. However, I always use music for inspiration when I’m thinking about characters and plot, or general story feelings and themes. Almost all of my books have a playlist.
L.A. Do you outline your stories before you begin writing them?
M.F. Absolutely. Referring back to question number 4, the truth is that a great majority of those trunked manuscripts are unfinished. I spent so much time writing and never getting to “the end” that when I finally began publishing, I vowed that I would never go back to that dark and scary place again! For me and the way my brain works, I need to have a road map. I need to know the ending, and have at least a vague idea of where I’m going along the way so that I can finish the work. If I don’t know, I will go on too many tangents, write myself into corners, spend my nights crying and howling at the moon, you know, as we do. So before I start writing my rough draft, I have a separate file for an “outline” of sorts, that is really a messy file with all my notes and random thoughts. Before I start really writing the book, I need to know what the main character(s) want, what they need, and why it’s important. I also hammer down my major plot points.
L.A. Do you have a test reader(s) such as a spouse or friend that reads your work along the way? Or do you write the whole thing and then show it around? Details here would be awesome!
M.F. For my first six books or so, I did have writer friends/beta readers that would read the drafts before I sent it to my editor. They would only get the manuscript after I had polished to the best of my ability, though. Now, I don’t use beta readers, only professional editors.
In general, no one sees my rough drafts except for me because let me tell you, they are ROUGH. But I’ve learned this is part of my process and how I work best… basically, by allowing myself to write super crappy first drafts with clunky phrasing and a lot of “fix laters”. It might be weird, but it’s like my brain can’t handle ALL OF THE THINGS you have to think about when you’re drafting a novel, so I have to break it down and just focus on plot and character, initially, and worry about everything else during the editing process (when the real magic happens!).
Once I have those major elements in place, and my draft is done but dirty, then I comb through and add description, emotion, reactions, etc. I will of course do some of those things when I’m drafting, if the words come to me in the moment, but if they don’t or if I can’t think of the perfect way to describe something, I make a note to myself and come back to it later so I can keep moving forward.
L.A. Can you discuss the pros and cons of self-publishing, as well as your experience with the process? (Do you think you’ll ever go the traditional publishing route with an upcoming book?)
M.F. The major pro to self-publishing, in my personal opinion, is control. I get to control my release dates, my covers, my blurbs, my pricing, etc. I hire editors and cover designers, but I work with them and make the final decisions on everything. If one of my books isn’t selling, I can change something and try different things. I have sold rights for audio to a publisher/distributor, but in hind sight I don’t think I will do that again, and will likely self-pub audio as well once the rights get reverted back to me.
The cons, I think, for most people in regards to self-publishing is the stigma associated with it (like you’re not good enough if you’re indie, and having to market yourself, or do all the heavy-lifting yourself. It can be a lot, and if you aren’t tech savvy or you don’t like researching the steps you need to take to get up and running, it can be a very intimidating process.
L.A. Your Amazon author page says that you have a full-time job and a family, in addition to writing several novels! Can you talk about how you juggle everything?
“I need to know the ending, and have at least a vague idea of where I’m going along the way so that I can finish the work. If I don’t know, I will go on too many tangents, write myself into corners, spend my nights crying and howling at the moon…”~Mary Frame
M.F. I have to guard my free-time like it’s the Hope Diamond! I mentioned previously how I find moments to write whenever and wherever I can, but outlining also helps with productivity because when I do have the time, I have a plan and I know where I’m going, so I’m able to get more done without spinning my wheels. I also make sure to take care of myself, keep my mind sharp by getting enough sleep, eat as healthy as possible (for the most part—sometimes you just need a big donut), and exercise when I can. I tend to book my editor in advance, as well. Having a hard deadline helps to keep me motivated to finish.
L.A. How do you handle negative reviews and general criticism of your writing?
M.F. This used to be a LOT harder when I first started out, but I’ve been lucky enough to get mostly positive reviews on my books, so I consider that winning. It’s hard to remember, when you’re reading something negative about something you’ve created, that your work isn’t going to be for everyone, and that’s okay. When I’m feeling down and out about a harsh review, I will go look at the poor reviews for books that I absolutely loved, and it helps me remember that art is subjective. How others perceive what you do is based on their own experiences (which you can’t control) and their own personal tastes (which you can’t predict). Your job as a writer is to produce the best work you can, and hope that the right people find it.
L.A. What is it like connecting with your readers and hearing how your stories have impacted their lives in a positive way?
M.F. It’s incredible. It’s hard to describe. It makes my heart so full, but I also feel inadequate when I try to respond without sounding trite or self-congratulatory. At the end of the day, that’s why I write—to connect and make other people happy.
L.A. What advice would you give to someone who has writing ability, but is stuck in fear and can’t go the distance with a full-length manuscript? (Helpful for this question: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received or read?)
M.F. Advice that has stuck with me the most: you can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page. If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. (Butt in chair, words on page, no excuses).
Don’t let fear of writing badly hold you back. If I hadn’t written and thrown away all of those terrible manuscripts in my early writing days (years!), I wouldn’t be where I am today.
L.A. What are you currently working on? (Anything you want to promote from upcoming talks to a book you want to get more eyes on)
M.F. I am currently drafting book two in my newest small town family romance series: The Fox and the Rebound! The first book, Between a Fox and a Hard Place came out earlier this month. I’m at the part where I’m sure all my words are absolutely terrible, but I’ve learned this is just part of my process.
L.A. What books/tools did you use to learn the science of story development? (This could be books, YouTube videos, courses, etc. that helped you with character development, story arc, and so forth)
M.F. I checked out literally EVERY book my library has on how to write novels. I’m not even kidding. They had the Elements of Fiction Writing Series (Plot, Scene and Structure, Characters and Viewpoint, etc.). I read all of them, some of them more than once. I’ve read a lot of James Scott Bell, I’ve read Writing Fiction for Dummies, articles on the internet, YouTube videos, anything I can get my sweaty hands on. I’ve also gone to some writing conferences and workshops. The learning is never over. I still read books on craft whenever I can. I’ve also found that self-help books are helpful at crafting character arcs (I recommend Daring Greatly by Brene Brown). One of the beautiful things about writing is that you can always hone your craft and there’s always more to learn. Much like life!
A huge thank you to Mary Frame: Glamper, working mom, everyday hero! It was a pleasure hearing from you about all things writing! We can’t wait to see what other stories are waiting to be unearthed from your creative mind!