Mary Kubica is more than just a New York Times bestselling author—she's an inspiration, a blow-your-mind writer, and a genuinely kind-hearted woman through and through. And it is an honor to have interviewed her. If you haven't read The Good Girl yet, oh goodness, y'all. Grab it, and then after you've read it and your mind has imploded, leave a comment so we can geek out together.
In the meantime, her third novel, Don't You Cry, releases in just one week. Preorder it today! Because I already did, and you know I'm going to be waiting on the front porch when that Amazon package comes in.
1. How many times did you pitch The Good Girl to agents before it was accepted? Did you ever feel like giving up?
Though I didn’t keep track, I could have easily pitched The Good Girl a hundred times or more to agents, and all but one offered to represent it. The rest were rejections. Even the one offer of representation came two years after I began the querying process, in a time when I’d completely given up hope. It can be a slow and demoralizing process, and the clearest memories I have of it are hurrying to get the mail before my husband did so I could recycle those rejection letters before he had a chance to see them, and deleting them from my email so there was no record of their existence. It’s not for the faint of heart, but don’t give up. When you find an agent who is as passionate about your work as you are, it’s well worth the effort!
2. You were offered a two-book deal with HarperCollins. At the time, you had only written one book. Were you stressed out trying to come up with another storyline or did you already have one planned for Pretty Baby?
I was completely stressed out, something which was further exasperated when my first proposal for my second novel was—with good reason—turned down by my editor. I worried I wouldn’t be able to write a second novel, especially not one as compelling as The Good Girl had been. I struggled to come up with a storyline, and feared I would never make my deadline in time.
But it was also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to launch a career as an author, and so, for as terrified as I was, I was also ecstatic. I had the best time writing Pretty Baby, and for me it truly affirmed that I could write books.
3. Your third novel, Don’t You Cry, comes out May 17 this year. What have you learned since writing and publishing your first novel? What’s different this time?
Every novel provides its own unique challenges and opportunities to develop ourselves as authors. Now that I have the chance to work with a brilliant editor, she’s been able to help me see my strengths and weaknesses as a writer and she pushes me to dig deeper than I ever think I can go. But this certainly doesn’t mean novel writing gets easier in time; it just means that I’m more aware of my Achilles’ heels and can hopefully stop the problems before they come. As for publishing, a few years ago my knowledge into that world was nonexistent; I’ve learned so much in the last couple of years.
With Don’t You Cry launching in May, everything is the same and yet so much is different. I have a better idea what to expect, though I’m still nervous and excited at the very same time. There are so many unknowns in this industry, and in the footsteps of all The Good Girl’s success, my subsequent novels have big shoes to fill. I hope that they’re up to the task!
4. Do you have a word count goal you try to stick to each day? How do you keep yourself motivated to reach deadlines—especially when writer’s block rears its ugly head?
I have a general weekly or monthly word count goal in mind. Some days for me the writing feels fluid and comes more easily, and some days it’s an uphill climb. It feels futile to stare at a blank computer screen when I am stricken with writer’s block, and so I tend to set the writing aside for the time and go on about my day. I find it’s easier to work through difficult plot points when I’m exercising or cleaning house, and then I’ll come back to the writing when I have a better sense of where I want to go with my words.
5. What are the top three author tools you have to have when writing (websites, books, apps, music playlist, etc.)?
I have to have a thesaurus and a dictionary nearby and Google handy to search whatever tidbits of information I need, but other than those and a cup of coffee—and, quite often, a cat or two on my lap—there isn’t anything else I need.
6. You’re known for writing in several points of view, which is a daunting task for most writers—yet you achieve it flawlessly. Do you have any tips for writers attempting several points of view?
Thank you so much for this. One of my favorite things to do as an author is build characters from scratch and see the way they develop throughout the novel. Character voice can be tricky, especially in a novel with multiple narrators where each one must be unique. I need to know my characters intimately and to have this innate sense of what they would do or say in a certain situation. This takes time to achieve. When I begin a novel it sometimes feels contrived to me, like a conversation between strangers, but as time goes on and I dig deeper into these characters’ personalities, motivations, and lives, I get a better sense of who they are and can bring that to the page.
7. Do you think you’ll stay in the suspense genre or would you like to branch out?
I plan to stay with suspense! I adore the genre and can’t imagine writing anything else.
8. Marketing is sometimes a scary word for authors—do you have any marketing advice for those who are novices?
I’m grateful to have a hardworking and diligent marketing team by my side doing the legwork and making sure my books get into the hands of readers, but some of the best advice I can give a writer is to get on social media and converse with readers, booksellers, librarians, and book lovers in general. I’ve had the best time connecting with readers online via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—whatever you feel most comfortable with—and it’s these personal connections that make the author more to readers than just a name on a book.
9. How did the plot to Don’t You Cry come about? What inspired it?
As with most of my books, I start with a problem. In the case of Don’t You Cry, it’s the simultaneous disappearance of a young woman in Chicago, with the mysterious appearance of a woman about seventy miles outside of Chicago. When I began the novel, I didn’t know yet who the characters would be or how the story would unfold, but I was immediately intrigued by the concept and excited to see how it played out on the page.
10. What is the best piece of advice you can give to someone who’s pitching to agents and publishing houses?
Don’t give up! As I said earlier, it took many years and hundreds of query letters before I found my agent. Had I given up sooner, this never would have happened. You only need to find one person to love your work, so keep searching until you find the one who does.
11. What is the best thing about being a published author? Any cons?
I can’t complain about anything. I have less free time in my life, and yet I’m living my dream. There is nothing better than visiting readers or walking into a bookstore and seeing my novels on a shelf. It’s completely wonderful and surreal.
12. Since becoming a New York Times bestselling author, have you met any authors or celebrities you’ve been dying to meet?
The author I’ve been most excited to meet was Alice Hoffman in 2015 at the Tucson Festival of Books. I’ve loved her work for as long as I can remember, so this was a tremendous thrill for me.
13. Why did you choose to pitch to agents rather than self-publish?
I didn’t know enough about self-publishing at the time to pursue that route, and I also didn’t know if my work was good enough to be published at all. I needed affirmation from someone in the publishing world before I could feel fully confident sharing my work with readers.
14. Is there any talk of a film production for any of your novels?
The Good Girl has been optioned by Anonymous Content. I’m so looking forward to seeing Mia and Colin on screen!
15. What can you tell us about your fourth book? Any hints?
My fourth book is nearing completion, and I’m so looking forward to sharing it with you. Though it’s yet untitled, this one starts out when a young father is killed in a car accident with his four-year-old daughter completely unharmed in the backseat. The crash is ruled an accident until the coming days when the little girl begins having nightmares about another car pushing she and her father from the road, and the little girl’s mother launches an investigation to find her husband’s killer. This one hits shelves in the spring or summer of 2017. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Good Girl and Pretty Baby. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature, and lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children, where she enjoys photography, gardening, and caring for the animals at a local shelter. Her first novel The Good Girl received a Strand Critics Nomination for Best First Novel and was a nominee in the Goodreads Choice Awards in Debut Goodreads Author and in Mystery & Thriller for 2014. She is currently working on her next novel.
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An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. Her blog posts have been featured on popular websites like The Book Designer and Positive Writer. She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist and her novel-in-progress, The Suicide Tree. She lives in Oklahoma with her two dogs, Chanel and Wednesday.