Thursday, February 23, 2012

Family Inspired Writing by Mary Schoenecker, Guest Blogger

Mary Schoenecker began her writing career as a free-lance journalist in New York and then Florida. Once she became interested in writing historical novels (after her youngest son completed a genealogical search of his ancestors), Mary attended writing conferences and joined a critique group to learn and improve her craft.


Family Inspired Writing by Mary Schoenecker, Guest Blogger

My first successful novel published by Five Star in 2006 was Four Summers Waiting, a Civil War epic. Authentic family letters and diary excerpts chronicled the struggles and hopes of my children’s ancestors during this terrible time in our nation’s history. Although I fictionalized their lives, all family characters and most events were true.

The plot and setting for subsequent books were also inspired by family. The seed for the contemporary series I wrote next was a lithograph circa 1845 that I viewed in a mill town in coastal Maine. It was of a woman tending a spinning frame in a cotton mill. In my mind’s eye the woman metamorphosed into my grandmother who actually came to a mill town with her family in 1890 to look for work. The lithograph inspired me to write a series using characters with a mix of my heritage in a real mill town that is steeped in ethnicity and tradition. Finding Fiona, published by Five Star in 2008 became the first book of Maine Shore Chronicles. It was followed by Moonglade, published in 2010. All three of my books in time were given second editions in Large Print by Thorndike Press.

Many series readers wonder if they will be confused by characters and plot if they do not start with the first book of a series. A colleague gave me this tip to help answer the question: ‘Add a family tree to the front of your book’. I have added one to my work in progress prefaced by the following paragraph:

"For readers unfamiliar with the Fontaine and Chamberlain families, or for followers of the Chronicles series who need reacquainting with the characters, the two families in this tree become a cast of unforgettable characters, links of a chain forged from strong ethnicities and strengthened with enduring love. Many would consider them one extended family."

My new book, Promise Keeper, Book Three of the series, contains a smidgen of mysticism from my family background. My maternal great grandmother was a healer and seer. Those skills are inherited by a continuing character in the series, Tantè Margaret. My current work in progress brings us full circle with family inspired characters. Tantè will at last star in a book of her own. Hopefully my WIP will complete the Chronicles series as Book Four, and by that time anyone choosing to read it will want to find and read the first three books!


Mary, thanks so much for introducing us to your novels and telling us how the story ideas originated.

To learn more about Mary and her books, visit her website Greetings from the Gulf. She can also be found on Facebook.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Mary.

Mary - How interesting that you've woven together your own family history and your creativity. I like historical novels, so your historical approach sounds really appealing, too. I think most writers are inspired by what happens in their own lives and by their families and in your case, it's blossomed into something great. I wish you much success.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, I wish my family was that interesting!

Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

Margot and Alex,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My obvious interest in history found its way into all of my novels, historical or contemporary.Credit for lots of help with craft goes to writers like yourselves who helped me in the early days.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Mary, it definitely helps to have a lot of interesting ancestors, doesn't it? Thanks so much for being here today.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Interesting characters bring history alive, and it sounds like you have a lot of them in your family background. I look forward to reading your books.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Great idea to do a family tree, that way readers can trace the family history through the different novels.

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

What unique stories! They all sound great.

Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

Susan, The Civil war surgeon on the Paternal side of my children's ancestors started me off with Historicals, and the great grandmother on my own maternal side inspired the contemporary, so yes interesting ancestors provided interesting characters!

Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

The family tree really helps , especially when two families are involved as they are in my Maine Shore Chronicles series.

Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

I hope you will get to read the series, but if you are a fan of historicals, FOUR SUMMERS WAITING is available on Kindle at a very low price.

Alyssa said...

Our family is so proud of your ability to weave our history and the exciting and meaningful plots within your novels, Grandma Mary. We are so proud of you and our family's stories. Of course, Tante is my favorite character and I eagerly await book four!


Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

It is so heartwarming when family praise and appreciate one's work. Merci beau coup, my dear Alyssa.
Grandma Mary