Sunday, January 2, 2022

Interview With Mary Isaacs

Today, we're doing something a little different, we sat down with our guest author Mary M. Isaacs, whose short stories have graced the pages of this blog since about June of 2020. Many of you have read and shown interest in her stories, so this is a little bit about the author. 

Mary, thank you for sitting down for this interview. First off, where do you hale from originally? 

  "I was born, and have lived most of my life, in California; San Diego first, then greater L.A., and now, just north of San Francisco. I doubt that I will finish out my life in California, though, as it is no longer the place I once knew. By a long shot..."

How about a little bit about yourself?

I am presently a teacher of very young children, but my undergraduate degree was in drama and I have a Master of Divinity degree. I am also on the internet daily, due to being deeply concerned about what is happening in our nation and the world today. A few of my stories have been influenced by world events.

 How old were you when you first start cultivating your gift of writing? Were you a child prodigy?

"Child prodigy"! LOL! I do have a box full of my writings from grade school onwards--poems and unfinished fantasy stories mostly- -but I did not continue with any creative writing after high school, really. It has only been the last four of five years that I have returned to writing, focusing on the short story format. 

Describe for us your inspiration process, if you can? 

  All my stories begin their existence as notes or thoughts on scraps of paper, which are then transferred to lined yellow pads (which I buy in bulk!) I write in segments: beginnings, endings, high points, in no particular order, which somehow grow together into a coherent whole. 

 Does a story idea ever kind of "creep up" on you? Strike you like a "bolt from the blue"? 

  The "inspiration process" is not a consistent one for me; it is quite varied. Sometimes a memory from my life surfaces, and it feels like an opening for a story. Sometimes I'm struck by a thought or an image. Two stories grew out of favorite songs. One grew out of an incident in the life of a young man- -the son of friends--who died much too young. Several of the stories are Scripture- or faith-based, or have their unseen foundations in faith, which might be a better way of putting it. Occasionally, it feels like the stories "write themselves", and I am just the hand holding the pen. 

 Tell us a little about the process. Most of the writers I know, write in creative bursts and then return later to the writing to make the words or stories flow more freely. So after you've written and self edited your work, what comes next? 

  I have five "critical readers"--including you-- whose input is beyond price. I send them completed drafts or even just the beginnings of stories. They see things that I miss, point out inconsistencies, or reflect back with questions asking why? or how? Their responses help me take a step away from my writings and see them as others see them. After mulling over their input, I continue with writing and rewriting until I am satisfied with what is there. Sometimes it takes a long time to finish a story, because the right word is eluding me, or I have repeated a word or a phrase in too close proximity (that really bothers me). And sometimes a story just sits there, for weeks or months---or even longer---until it finishes itself. 

I see. How many collections of short stories do you have published?

I currently have four collections of short stories, self-published and available on Amazon. (I have one or two more collections ready to put into published format, but life has been very busy lately! Writing is not my primary occupation, so it has to fit around my other major life responsibilities of teaching and church.) 

 There usually seems to be a theme in your collections, how would you describe each volume? 

  The first collection, 'Christ Child's Lullaby', is a holiday book, covering Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas Eve, and St. Stephen's Day. The second collection, 'Holy Innocence', is a gathering of unconnected stories which reflect December 28, the Christian commemoration of Holy Innocents' Day, aka, The Massacre of the Innocents. Four of the five stories in the book are vignettes of how children's lives have been negatively impacted by the neglect or cruelty of the adults around them. The fifth story is an autobiographical pro life story. 'Hidden in Plain Sight' highlights three holidays/holy days: St. Nicholas' Day, New Year's Eve, and Good Friday. The title story in 'The White Bird' is a fairy tale, entirely inspired by an intriguing drawing, and is accompanied by two shorter faith-based stories. The fifth collection will be lighthearted in content---sort of an "and now for something completely different" kind of feel.

Is there any recommended age for your books? 

  All the stories are meant for older teenagers and adults. 

 You mentioned that your very affordable and thought provoking books are available on Amazon. By some major coincidence, an intense season of gift giving is upon us! Though Christmas Day has passed, some still celebrate the birth of Jesus on January 6th: Epiphany. I know that I personally recommend your books as thoughtful gifts, for people who may be otherwise hard to shop for. Do you have any favorites, or with recurring stories, any volume you recommend reading first? 

I think that 'Christ Child's Lullaby', my first collection, is a good place to start. Also, the title story of that collection has a sequel, in 'Hidden in Plain Sight', so it might be good to read the first story first!

First things first? What a concept. Let me write that down! 

Thank you, Mary, for your time. I know with the new year coming up, you have quite a lot on your plate, along with some personal things we won't get into here. Have a Blessed New Year!

For readers interested in getting or giving Mary's books as presents, please take note of the four ads placed along the blog's sidebar. Clicking on anyone of them takes you directly to the site at Amazon, where you can give thoughtful gifts to some of your favorite people, without ever leaving your comfy chair. We'll be leaving the ads up though Epiphany, January sixth.

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