Updated: Feb 3
Welcome to the first post in my Author Spotlight series! Every month, I am going to showcase an indie author and interview them to find out more about their writing life.
This month, the author in the spotlight is Mary Ann Tippett! I have worked with Mary Ann on two of her novels, and she is one of the most lovely authors. Her stories are uplifting and full of lovable characters. The two of us bond over food and how much we both love baking!
Bio: Mary Ann Tippett is a writer who moved from Indiana to Ottawa, thereby rendering her law degree useless. She worked ten years pursuing fraudsters, listening to complaints and mastering the art of unspecialized legal specialties before settling into twenty years of chasing after children, ignoring their complaints and mastering the art of nudging them toward adulthood with minimal scarring. Presently unencumbered by a useful degree and helpless offspring, she devotes her energy toward corralling the stories in her head into readable novels. Tippett has published four novels, including Pairs With Pinot, a romantic comedy shortlisted for the International 3-Day Novel award. Her works in progress include Murder at the Penny Lane Book Club, Sarah’s Secret (What Really Happened on the Ghost Ship), and How To Write a Novel in Three Days.
Q: What made you want to be a writer?
A: Writing is something I have always enjoyed, whether interpreting the world through poetry or processing it through journaling. It was only a matter of time before I set my sights on novel writing, which feels like landing in Kansas after running around Oz most of my life.
Q: How do you choose your characters' names?
A: The boring answer is they just come to me eventually and without ceremony. But recently, while sending a friend “healing vibes,” my text mysteriously autocorrected to “Helsingborg.” Now I need to find a story for Mr. Helsingborg’s character.
Q: Have any of your characters surprised you? If so, how?
A: Almost always. Once the characters feel at home in my stories, they often make up their own rules. For example, I knew who the murderer would be in Murder at Penny Lane Book Club. But two thirds of my way into writing it, a different character stepped into the role. One of the best parts of writing is when characters take on lives of their own and start bossing me around.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g., lighting a candle before you write, meditating before you write, going for a walk to get ideas, etc.)
A: I write most of my novels in three days. To do this, I have to be in the zone. And the only way to accomplish that is to ensure I have no distractions or responsibilities during those three days. I prep meals, create a vague outline, and give family and friends strict instructions to leave me alone. Other than eating, sleeping, and occasionally pacing, it’s just me and my laptop alone in my office for three days.
Q: How much research do you do, and how long do you spend on research for one book?
A: Research time varies from a few days to years. My first book I needed to know about the migratory practices of squirrels, which didn’t take long. For my murder mystery, I needed to create a map of the location it was set in, which took weeks. For my historical fiction novel, I’ve spent years looking up birth and death records, learning what ships were like in the 1800s, and exploring what was in the news during that era.
Q: Do you have any specific authors or books that you've learned from on your writing journey?
A: Probably the most helpful book on writing for me was Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. But I learn the most by reading books and taking note of what makes the books I like to read interesting.
Q: How did publishing your first novel change your writing process?
A: Before I wrote Clara & Pig, I spent years starting novels and never finishing them. After that, I realized the best way to write a first draft novel is through the three-day process I will be describing in How To Write A Novel In Three Days.
Q: What's your number one tip for tackling imposter syndrome?
A: Sometimes I fixate on the fact I don’t have a degree in English Literature, Journalism, or Creative Writing. Then I remind myself I’ve been short-listed for an award, so my writing can’t be that bad. But my number one tip would be: you are the only one who can give the story in your head a life.
Q: What's your go-to snack and/or drink while writing?
A: My primary concern while writing is to focus and avoid the energy crashes that accompany sugary snacks while I write. So I have a three-day menu that has proven to keep me focused and energized. Key components include a sugar-and-grain-free banana bread recipe, veggie bean chilli, and a high-fat-low-sugar chocolate peanut butter bar.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: Officially, I’m editing the first drafts of Sarah’s Secret and How To Write A Novel In Three Days. Unofficially, I’m working on the art of editing a novel while procrastinating on editing a novel.
If you'd like to follow Mary Ann on her writing journey or find out more about her books (or buy them!), this is where you can find her: