Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies The Osgoode Trilogy set in the corridors of power in the world of the law, and The Trilogy of Remembrance set midst the glitter and shadows of the art world.
Mary Martin: Yes, but I had to do a lot of other things first, such as practice law and raise three children, before I felt that way. It’s a sense of this is what I’m supposed to do and that is very satisfying and—fun. I think such a feeling gives you the longer view of the writing life in that you are able to reach out to someone you’ve never met and touch them. As a writer, I live for that.
Faroqui: When did you first know you were a writer? How did you know?
Martin: I think, somewhere in myself, I always knew I wanted to write. In fact, in my early twenties, I did try — briefly. But I quickly learned that I had to earn money to support myself. I decided to become a lawyer because I felt that I was assured of being able to support myself fairly well in that profession. After being called to the Bar, I married, raised three children and practised law for thirty years.
Strangely enough, I began writing at what was likely the busiest time of my life. The children and the law practice demanded a great deal; however, I began my first novel by stealing time late at night or early in the morning. The progress was excruciatingly slow. On one occasion, I had to set the whole project aside for at least a year because of other demands. But when I returned to it, I found that it was still alive. The spirit behind its creation was still there. I think I likely began writing as a form of self-defense. That is, there may be numerous demands on me, but this writing is my own territory, where I can really be myself.
But I think I was first led into the world of writing as a child. It grew from a love of reading stories. I was fascinated that you could enter another world through a book. You could leave your present time and place and enter into an entirely different world created by someone else. For me, that was almost magical.
Faroqui: Tell us what kinds of novels you have written.
Martin: My second trilogy of novels [The Trilogy of Remembrance] is about an artist, Alexander Wainwright, Britain’s finest landscape painter. The genesis of this trilogy occurred many years ago, before the publication in 2005 of my first novel, Conduct in Question, the first in The Osgoode Trilogy.
A writer friend/mentor of mine challenged me to write something other than a mystery novel. And so, I tried to write a romance, with little success. I had a man and woman meet while travelling on [believe it or not] the Orient Express to Venice. After thirty pages, I was getting bored. I knew enough to say that if the writer is bored, heaven help the reader!
At that moment in time, I envisioned a mysterious character who pretty much appeared in the room in my imagination. At once, I knew he was the protagonist for the book. It took a long time to get to know him, but after innumerable character sketches and other jottings, he became Alexander Wainwright, Britain's finest landscape artist. He would be the main character around which the next trilogy would be built. So, I suppose it was Alexander, himself, who inspired the trilogy. Once I got to know him a little bit, I found he had a great deal to say.
My experience has been that the characters an author creates are a part or aspect of oneself. Consequently, the growth of Alexander — a person who believes that there is much more to this world than meets the eye — probably is my inquiring, prodding, reflective self. I present him with many questions to which I personally want to find answers.
The next novel in this trilogy—The Fate of Pryde—will published this fall on Amazon’s CreateSpace. Again, Alexander is the protagonist and I’ve presented him with a new character from whom he has much to learn, Jonathan Pryde. Pryde is an extremely wealthy patron of the arts who wants to commission Alex to create a vision in stained glass for his residence in Vence in the south of France. Alexander hesitates. After all he is a painter, not a glass cutter. But Alex is drawn into Jonathan’s strange and murky world. At the foot of the garden of Pryde’s chateau-like home, stands a bunker protecting his secrets. In this novel, the question posed to Alex is—How can the very best and the very worst of humankind reside in one’s man breast?
And so, I love to present my protagonist with all sorts of problems to reflect upon. I have a few ideas for the next novel, but the trick, as always is to create a driving plot to find all the questions and— a few answers.
Faroqui: What kinds of books do you like to read and why? Are these the same kinds of books that you like to write?
Martin: When I’m writing [which is much of the time these days] I tend not to read fiction. Reading another writer’s novel seems to throw me off my own stride and so, I tend to read non-fiction, such as travel, philosophy, books about various religions and comparative mythology, essays etc; a pretty mixed bag.
Faroqui: How do you find ideas for your books? How do you find inspiration, fill your creative well, so to speak.
Martin: Sometimes, I feel myself running dry and that’s when I take a break from writing. Frequently, I turn to photography. It’s interesting to think about how the two activities relate. I’m definitely a very visual person and that plays a big part in my creating settings. I think the ideas find me rather than my finding them. Alexander seems to be ready with more questions and stories.
Faroqui: How do your books evolve? Do you get a creative burst which eventually matures into a novel? Do you pick a theme and lay a foundation? How do you approach the creative process?
Martin: I think each novel evolves in its own way. A lot like raising children—each one is quite different. It seems I do a lot of work “in the back of my mind” and so, when it’s ready, I sit down and get started. The growth of The Drawing Lesson was quite unusual. In fact it started out as a novella or even three novels and so the structure of a full novel was not really in place at the outset. Parts or scenes of the novel kept “floating up” to me and I would write them down without really knowing why. And so, I made a rule for myself—not to throw anything out until much later. It was like walking on a beach and coming across different shells and having to decide whether to pick one up and carry it home or not. Not until the end of the process did I cut out or change significant portions of the manuscript.
So, sometimes it starts out as an idea or a kind of character or a bunch of questions. I think I’m a pretty “organic” writer in the sense that I like the natural flow of the story to take over and guide me where it wants. I’m a great student of Carl Jung and consequently really believe in the power of the subconscious, which I think is a lot smarter and more creative than I am.
Faroqui: What inspired you to write The Trilogy of Remembrance?
Martin: As I mentioned before, I think Alexander Wainwright inspired me—that part of me which always asks questions.
Faroqui: Did you spend much time considering who you were writing for, or do you write for yourself?
Martin: I think I write primarily for me and my characters. Once you try to fit into some preconceived mold so that you can market your book to a particular group, you lose some of your creative “juices”. Unfortunately, there is a lot of formulaic writing out there and it’s not likely to be the best quality.
Faroqui: If you were to characterize your writing style how would you describe yourself?
Martin: That’s a hard one! Writers are always told they must find their own voice—your own way of saying things. I think it’s hard to find your voice, but when you do, I think you know it because it just sounds like you and it sounds like your characters. I strive for a smooth, economical and polished sound. Whether I hit it or not remains for the reader to decide.
Faroqui: Some people believe that in order to be truly creative a person has to be tormented, or have deep inner turmoil? What do you think of that notion?
Martin: No! At least I certainly hope not. Much is made of battles with inner demons. But it’s interesting you should ask. In fact, Alexander Wainwright does have a battle like that in The Drawing Lesson. Suddenly, this artist, known for his beautiful landscapes bathed in an ethereal light, starts painting trolls—ugly humanoid creatures—along the riverbank of his most recent painting. Of course this heralds a breaking up of his art so that he can advance creatively. I guess I’ve inflicted that on Alex so that I don’t personally have to deal with it. But seriously, I don’t think you have to suffer in order to create. I guess you do go down into the subconscious where wonderfully creative stuff resides, but so does a lot of stuff of nightmares.
Faroqui: What experience in life has been the most helpful in preparing you as a writer and who has been the biggest influence on your writing career and why?
Martin: My law practice itself was a huge inspiration for writing. After all, people would come to my office or sometimes I would make a house call. They would tell me the stories of their lives and, most of them paid me! Later, I came to regard my law practice as my window on the world and my research into humanity, which is my real subject matter. Many fascinating characters with their plotlines willingly came to my office. After years of this, I felt as if there were a burbling stew of stories within me — and so I began to write.
Actually, my law partner, a wonderful gentleman of the “old school” was the inspiration for my first protagonist, Harry Jenkins, lawyer in The Osgoode Trilogy, which was comprised of Conduct in Question, Final Paradox and A Trial of One—all legal suspense.
Faroqui: What do you hope readers will come away with when they read one of your books? Do you send messages through your work, hoping to inspire perhaps?
Martin: I hope the reader will enjoy looking beneath the surface of life for various layers of meaning and have found moments of quiet reflection. But, I also hope the reader has also been fabulously entertained with a great story and fascinating characters. In the weeks and months to come, he or she will think back to something in The Drawing Lesson or The Fate of Pryde and say— This person I've just met in real life reminds me of a character in that novel like Rinaldo or Daphne or Jonathan Pryde.
Faroqui: Do you have any advice to offer others, the would-be-writers out there?
Martin: The path for writers can be long and lonely but also very rewarding—not necessarily financially, but in terms of what really matters—personal growth. Keep working at your craft and your life. The publishing industry is undergoing massive changes and nobody really knows what the next stage will look like. Above all, don’t let anyone kill your creative spirit with rejection. Often, those who send rejection letters are simply looking for the next “sure thing” and cannot financially afford to take any sort of chance. Remember those agents only get paid if they pick a “winner” they can sell and they don’t want to waste time on anything else. Don’t take it as a personal rejection of your work or your talent. Once you have completed and published your work, you may think the hard work is done. I think, today, the greater challenge lies in promotion.
Faroqui: Do you have anything you would like to share with your readers, thoughts, thanks, or news about upcoming books?
Martin: I am always grateful to the readers, especially those who take the trouble to write. The second novel in The Trilogy of Remembrance—The Fate Of Pryde—will be on CreateSpace in the fall. Look for it there or on Smashwords.com. You can get any of the novels in The Osgoode Trilogy at any online bookstore and same for The Drawing Lesson.
Faroqui: Do you have an author’s website where fans can follow your work?
Martin: The Trilogy of Remembrance At this site you should check out the book trailer for The Drawing Lesson, which really captures the mystery and the narrative energy of the story.
The Osgoode Trilogy