Mary-author-photo-webAs the fourth of five children, I was, perhaps as a result of a well-developed survival instinct, highly observant of speech and mannerisms that indicated unspoken tensions. These tensions were often the result of events held secret and prompted me to find ways to have them revealed.

For example, whenever I thought about Peter, Amelia’s husband, I was plagued with questions about him. He was so much in the background, ever present, but without presence. It took endless hours of listening and probing to find out the little I know about him and his role in the death of Amelia’s child. It took years to put together the fact of Amelia having syphilis to his job on the railroad.

My curiosity also fed what I love to call the “drama of my imagination” and I began to write stories at a young age. After graduating from George Washington University, I moved — as so many aspiring writers do — to New York City. It was only after I began working for Esquire Magazine and later Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, that I began to understand I could use my imagination and write in ways that would support me. I wrote everything from cover copy for mass market paperbacks, to business proposals and even copy for coat advertisements all the while editing manuscripts and helping authors develop plots lines and characters. It was like being a jack-of-all-trades in the world of words.

I left New York to write a book on the Australian film industry. While no one published the book, my time there persuaded me to move to Sydney, where I worked as an editor/communications consultant, studied Australian Literature at the University of Sydney, and married an Aussie who I still consider a close friend despite our divorce. When we moved back to the US to raise our three children, I continued writing for business schools and for magazines. I also started writing novels and then ultimately, Small Moments.

I’ve now been a professional writer for some four decades. Throughout that time, it has always been my memories of speech and mannerisms that have — I hope — given my characters the credibility needed for readers to be able to relate. In Small Moments the characters are real and the stories are true. And it is good to have those moments preserved.

I recently moved back to Tennessee and look forward to years of hearing the Southern “drawl,” watching mannerisms of warmth and discovering the untold stories beneath the occasional odd phrase or tilt of the head.