Sunday, June 26, 2011

Please welcome Mary Schoenecker

Could you tell us about PROMISE KEEPER, the characters and the plot line?

PROMISE KEEPER is the third book in my contemporary Maine Shore Chronicles series. A vibrant sense of place continues as the setting of mill towns and seaside villages of coastal Maine. Steeped in tradition and filled with ethnic characters, the series are suspenseful tales which straddle the genres of cozy mystery and sweet romance. At the beginning of Promise Keeper the theft of a valuable painting leaves Art Gallery Director, Paul Fontaine a gunshot victim, forcing him to recuperate at his father’s seaside home. Paul’s father, Jacques Fontaine faces serious health problems and family friend, Tantè Margaret comes to keep house for father and son while Jacques’s new wife is away. Add to the scene Paul’s torment over a relationship with Suzanne, the art collector who loaned the missing painting to the gallery and mystery mixes with romance. The characters drawn from two families, the Chamberlains and Fontaines, carry through each installment of the series mixing mysticism and faith with surprising results in each book. In Book One, Finding Fiona a time travel element gives a turn of the century twist, for Paul’s sister, Maddy Fontaine adding a history-mystery mix to that plot. Book Two, Moonglade continues where Finding Fiona left off, adding murder and mayhem to romance for Tante Margaret’s adopted daughter, Claire Chamberlain.

What inspired the novel? What was the seed for the story?

To tell you what inspired Promise Keeper and the first books in the series I must go back to the beginning of a search for my grandmother’s roots which took me from the Gaspè Peninsula in Canada to Biddeford Maine. My grandmother came to that mill town with her family in 1880. The seed for a story came from a mural on a Chamber of Commerce wall in Biddeford depicting a nineteenth century woman tending a spinning frame in the local cotton mill. When I finally found the actual lithograph of the original drawing, circa 1845, and received permission to use it in a book, two years of research and writing had taken place.

How did you write it? Over a long period, or did you have the story in mind?

The writing of all three books took close to five years. I planned a trilogy that would have the same characters and setting, but would introduce new people and places in each book. My French Canadian family background certainly influenced the character traits and dialog unique to an area of Maine which has a large French Canadian population. Adding a setting of Florida’s West Coast to Promise Keeper was definitely a personal choice that began at the start of the novel in 2009.

Tell us about your writing background. How did you start writing novels? What was your journey to publication?

Getting published is one part luck, one part talent and one part persistence. You have to have all three and I certainly had the last one. I had a strong work ethic and even though I had taken early retirement from a teaching profession, I was convinced you should never put a date on your dreams. My writing fiction began with a middle grade novel, The Red Cockade. It won prizes and was chosen by a small publisher as the history component of an NEH grant proposal, but the grant was not received. Another publisher kept the manuscript for over a year; their editor encouraging me, but ultimately that editor moved to a different firm and then came my first rejection. I put the book on a shelf but I didn’t lose hope. I switched gears to writing adult fiction. I got much needed help from writer’s organizations, critique partners, workshops and conferences. Four Summers Waiting was my first successful historical novel. One of my sons had completed a genealogical search for his ancestors which provided inspiration for me to write a story fictionalizing the lives of those ancestors. A treasure trove of luck was finding authentic family letters and diaries which provided a cultural framework for my novel. Several letters and diary excerpts were used in the story line. It took five years of research and writing before I received a contract from Five Star/Gale publishing in 2005. That contract came just shy of my 75th birthday. The first edition of Four Summers Waiting published in 2006 was followed by a Large Print edition in 2007.

What are you working on now?

My readers have often suggested that a constant character in my series, Tantè Margaret, deserves a story of her own. Tantè is an important secondary character in each book of the series, but she finally will be the protagonist in an untitled book I have just begun.

Where can readers find your books?

My books are found in Libraries throughout the nation; something I’m very proud of because from the beginning I have acknowledged libraries and librarians for their tremendous help and support of my writing endeavors. Both books, Finding Fiona and Moonglade of the Maine Shore Chronicles series were given second editions in Large Print by Thorndike Press in 2008 and 2010. They are available on and Barnes & Noble com. and can be ordered by any Book Store. Four Summers Waiting rights reverted to me and now is available as an ebook on Kindle. The third book in the contemporary series, PROMISE KEEPER will be released in October of 2011. Its beautiful cover can be seen on my website and I look forward to receiving an Advanced Reading Copy before June.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Mary and Rebbie,

Excellent interview! I love learning more about your novels, Mary. I look forward to reading the new book when it comes out.

Alice Duncan said...

Hi, Mary! Great interview.

Sharon Ervin said...

Looking forward to PROMISE KEEPERS, as I love your writing style. Thanks for keeping your fans abreast of what's coming.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Mary: Glad Rebbie invited you to join us. Promise Keepers sounds like a Keeper, and of course a little Florida in it doesn't hurt :-)
Looking forward to reading it.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Very nice interview and absolutely lovely blog site!

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your comments and dropping by the blog! It was a pleasure interviewing Mary, and I'm glad you all agree with me that her books sound fascinating! Happy 4th of July weekend, everyone!