Mary Brock Jones has written several historical and science fiction novels. Her novel Pay the Piper, the second book in Mary’s Hathe science fiction series was a finalist in the 2016 RUBY’s Romantic Book of the Year awarded by the Romance Writers of Australia.
Mary, welcome, Please tell us a little bit about yourself:
1) What sent you down the path of writing romantic science fiction?
I've always loved science fiction, right from my early teens. I started out with Asimov and Heinlein, but then gravitated towards writers such as Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, Robert Silverberg, Lois McMaster Bujold and Catherine Asaro. Writers of scifi where character was as important as technology. But I am also an avid reader of the romance genre, as well as historicals.
I found that the stories of people, how they live in strange worlds and what matters to them, interest me more than just the science alone. I love gizmos, and creating new ones is part of the best fun of the world building side of scifi, but always it's the people in the story that fascinate me most, finding what is at the heart of my characters. And romance is the most fundamental driver of stories we have. Humans are a social animal, family is important as are the bonds that unite them, and so it seems very natural to me that stories with a romantic element will capture our interest. I know they do me, and romantic science fiction just seems to unite all the strands of storytelling that I enjoy most - world building, adventure, intrigue and suspense, all spun together in a deeply satisfying romantic tale.
"Requirement for anyone wanting to go down the
First is a good, strong story - get it professionally edited, that's absolutely essential.
Next you must have
a professionally designed cover.
An effective cover is the first and best chance to capture your
reader, so it has to be enticing, look good in thumbnail and
immediately tell the reader the genre of the book." - Mary Brock Jones
2) What appeals to you about bringing romance to a genre that has atypically been lacking in romantic elements?
I think romance has always been a part of the science fiction world, but too often it is assumed that women don't like science, have no interest in mathematics, and are solely concerned with the humanities. Whereas 'proper' science fiction only deals with hard scifi stories. This is not true. Women have been writing science fiction and telling stories about science and people for a long time - after all, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is recognised as the first science fiction novel.
But too often publishers, reviewers and the general literary world assume that science fiction is written for and by men only. Well, I love scifi and so do a large number of women out there. I think it's more that scifi with a romantic element is not talked about much, but as a genre, romantic scifi is gaining increasing popularity.
"I think romance has always been a part of the science fiction world, but too often it is assumed that women don't like science, have no interest in mathematics, and are solely concerned with the humanities." - Mary Brock Jones
3) What sort/age-of readers would most enjoy Torn?
I would have to say that Torn is best suited to an adult audience, those who enjoy both adventures and stories that challenge their ideas.
4) Torn involves ecological themes that reflect problems currently faced in the real world. Was there a particular real world crisis/discovery that sparked ideas for your novel?
I've thought for some time that climate change is the most critical issue facing our world at present, but I've also long had a fascination with ecology. I can still remember as a young child being taken for a visit to a local creek, and being totally fascinated by the various bugs and critters our teacher showed us that day. My first degree was in Zoology and I was raised on a farm, so I guess ecology has been a part of my life for a very long time.
An event that did galvanise me though was the GFC, and the worldwide pattern of governments sacrificing the public sector to keep big business happy, culminating in the US congress stopping the pay of ordinary officials for some weeks for pure political gamesmanship. Officials that included the US park rangers we had met a year previously. Men and women deeply committed to preserving the history and environment of the US and always ready to share their knowledge but treated as of no consequence on that occasion by the so-called establishment.
One of the most serious, and I think least recognised, of the effects of that whole financial crisis was the huge brake it put on getting the world to focus its efforts on dealing with climate and other environmental issues. Luckily there is a huge groundswell of people who know that as a planet we cannot put this off. People power will win the day!
5)What was your favourite part in researching for the novel?
I'm not sure if it was my favourite part, but working out the meteorological aspects of the story were certainly the most challenging!
6) What has been the hardest part with promoting your work?
Just getting it out there. Like most writers, I tend to be somewhat introverted, so having to push yourself forward and praise your own work is hugely challenging. Plus I am a decided technical clutz when it comes to IT stuff, and to self-publish you have to learn a whole pile of new computer skills. My poor laptop has been subjected to some truly awful verbal abuse at times.
There are so many books being published at present; finding ways to push your own book above the parapet to be noticed is a definite challenge, and something that you have to keep reminding yourself can only be done one step at a time. You have to somehow keep believing in yourself while you inch those books slowly, so slowly up the pile.
7) Can you please offer any tips to others considering self-publishing especially ones you wished you knew when you started?
Oh my, when I started out I think I made every mistake possible! Beginning with trying to publish two full-sized books simultaneously, one of which had a cliffhanger ending (readers hate that, I have since discovered).
So the very first requirement for anyone wanting to go down the self-publishing is a very good sense of humour (and a big wad of cold hard money to fund it helps too.)
So first you have to have a good, strong story. Then get it professionally edited - that's where the cold hard cash comes in. Proper editing is expensive, but absolutely essential.
Next you must have a professionally designed cover - thank you for my lovely cover, Kura. An effective cover is the first and best chance to capture your reader, so it has to be enticing, look good in thumbnail and immediately tell the reader the genre of the book. That's why the cover of Torn has a spaceship and horses on it. This is science fiction adventure with a big dollop of the romantic - and I hasten to add that, yes, there really is horse-riding in the story, much to my heroine's horror.
Formatting for e-book is not hard, but I would recommend getting it done for you the first time round. Far less stressful. I just about had a nervous break down when I tried it, until V.L.Dreyer came to my rescue and did it for me. I have since learned how to format for e-book, mostly by following the instructions in Mark Coker's "Smashwords Style Guide", but needed to refer back to the original formatting as a template to make sense of it all - not being technically literate at the best of times. It's not hard once you get the hang of it, as long as you set aside a time when you will be free from distractions and can take it methodically step by step.
"There are so many books being published at present; finding ways to push your own book above the parapet to be noticed is a definite challenge, and something that you have to keep reminding yourself can only be done one step at a time." - Mary Brock Jones
The hardest part for me comes next - Marketing! Discoverability is the name of the game in Indie publishing - and for that you need REVIEWS - and yes, the capitals are deliberate. Reviews are that important - most particularly, reviews on Amazon. Further, they must be legitimate ones - Amazon has very strict rules aimed at protecting their customers from fake reviews, so read the guidelines and make sure to follow them. This time, Torn is on netgalley, courtesy of a netgalley coop group ( found through http://www.kboards.com/ ), plus I have sent ARCs [Advance Reader Copies] to a number of review sites and put out a newsletter (another of those new tech things I had to learn about).
Most importantly, before trying to self-publish, learn as much as possible through reading, websites, podcasts etc. The self-publishing community is widespread and very generous. My best source of advice is Joanna Pennat The Creative Penn, who also includes a large number of references in her podcast, website and various books, but join writers organisations, facebook groups, and some of the Indie support groups. Indie publishers are a very supportive community of writers and always willing to pass on what they have learned. There is also a huge amount of advice on the KDP (Amazon), Smashwords and Draft2Digital websites.
8) Torn is the first in your romantic science fiction Arcadian series, are you working on a sequel and what’s it about?
I'm still working on the third in my Hathe series, but after that I will be writing the story of Caleb's brother, Ethan. He is a man who loves the business that his family has created. It's all he has ever wanted, but Caleb's actions in Torn have both put that in jeopardy and forced Ethan to question everything he thought he knew.
And then he is brought up short by a woman on the other side of the business divide. A union organiser who has never known what it is to be rich and comfortable, but one who will not back down to anyone when it comes to protecting those she serves. This book continues the climate change theme, but also brings in the economic divide. Can we judge people only by the size of their bank balance - big or small?
Thank you so much for sharing your advice and experiences with us today, Mary, I wish you every success. Here's where to learn more about Mary and her novels:
|Mary Brock Jones|
- Mary Brock Jone'sAuthor Website
- Mary Brook Jones on Facebook
- And see Mary BrockJones author profile of Goodreads
- Follow Mary Brock Jones tweetson Twitter
- Mary Brock Jones authorpage on Amazon
- Mary Brock Jones on Google+
And if you liked the Torn book cover I designed for Mary Brock Jones and are looking for a custom design for your novel Please click here: Kura CarpenterBook Cover Designer for Hire to find out more.