Since I just finished Mariah Stewart's novel, Mercy Street, it was the perfect time to ask for an interview. According to Stewart's website, "Mariah Stewart is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nineteen novels and three novellas and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal. She is a RITA finalist in romantic suspense and the recipient of the Award of Excellence for contemporary romance, a RIO Award for excellence in women's fiction, and a Reviewers Choice Award from Romantic Times Magazine. A three-time winner of the Golden Leaf Award presented by the New Jersey Romance Writers, Stewart was recently awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award, which placed her in their Hall of Fame along with former recipients Nora Roberts and Mary Jo Putney."
Lesa - Mariah, I can tell from your website that you are very busy. Thank you for taking time to answer questions for my blog. For those readers unfamiliar with you and your books, would you tell us a little about yourself?
Mariah - I'm a one-time teacher and a former insurance company VP. I live in Chester county, Pa - married, two daughters (the oldest will be a bride in August, so we all get to play dress-up!), and two dogs. I suppose it's actually four dogs since the girls moved back home temporarily after college and brought their pups with them, so to our two golden retrievers, for the time being, we're sharing a puggle and a Jack Russell terrier. I grew up in central New Jersey, attended Manor Junior College and Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey). I was very fortunate to have sold my first book - and I've had the same agent and editor for every book I've written!
Lesa - What led you to writing?
Mariah - I was read to a great deal as a young child, not only by my mother, but by my grandmother, who came to this country from Scotland when she was in her teens. She met and married my grandfather, and had seven children in a relatively short period of time. She'd had very little education as a child, and little time to catch up when she started having children. I think she took advantage of the opportunity to improve her reading skills by reading aloud whenever she could.
I've been writing stories since I was about seven years old. I was always disappointed when I finished a book because it was over, so I started writing continuations of the books I read so they wouldn't end until I wanted them to. I must have written three or four more chapters for every Nancy Drew book I read! I guess it all comes down to having a love of stories.
Lesa - Would you give us a summary of the book, Mercy Street?
Mariah - Mercy Street really has three stories woven together - there's the loss of Robert Magellan's wife and only child, there's the story of the missing teenagers who are suspected of robbing and murdering two of their friends, and there's the story about the sniper.
Lesa - When I read Mercy Street, I felt as if the story could go on. I see that it's the first in a projected series. Would you tell us about your plans for the Mercy Street Foundation Series?
Mariah - The Mercy Street Foundation grew out of my fascination with the Vidocq Society, which, simply stated, is a group of volunteers from all areas of law enforcement who pool their expertise to help solve cold cases (homicides or unexplained deaths). The Society is located in Philadelphia and meets once a month to discuss cases brought to them for review and discussion (one case per meeting). If the law enforcement agency is agreeable, members may offer their services to assist in solving the crime (that's the short version - for the whole story, go to www.vidocq.org). I'd first heard of the Society back in the late 1990's when they became involved with the unsolved mystery of the Boy in the Box - a young boy between the ages of four and six whose body was found in a box in a then-rural section of Philadelphia. As a young child, I'd had relatives who lived in the area where the child was discovered, and I remembered hearing them talking about the crime. So years later, when I read about the Vidocq Society getting involved with the long-cold investigation, it brought the story back for me. It seemed the organization kept showing up on my radar, and since it seemed like a natural vehicle for fiction, my imagination kept toying with the idea of an organization that undertook investigations that for whatever reason, traditional law enforcement could not (due to time constraints, lack of personnel or funds, etc.), and the Mercy Street Foundation was born.
Lesa - Mallory Russo from Mercy Street shows a great deal of promise as a detective if you were going to write straightforward crime fiction. Are we going to see her again?
Mariah - Yes. Mallory will be the lead investigator for the Foundation, so she'll be calling a lot of shots. Robert's going to give her a lot of leeway when it comes to hiring she he has no law enforcement experience, so you'll see new characters coming on board with each new book.
Lesa - Mariah, you're the bestselling author of nineteen novels, and an award-winner. Which one of your novels would you recommend to someone who has never read your books? Why would you pick that one?
Mariah - Great question! I guess Dead Wrong - it's the first book in the first suspense trilogy I wrote, and it's as good a place to start as any (and I'm now up to twenty-four novels! Time flies when you're having fun!).
Lesa - Your next Mercy Street Foundation book, Forgotten, comes out in August. What are you working on now?
Mariah - Lesa, Forgotten will be the fourteenth book in my long-running FBI series of novels. The second Mercy Street Foundation book will be Goodbye Again, in the spring of 2009 - I'm currently working on it.
Lesa - What do you enjoy most about your writing life, Mariah?
Mariah - Everything! Since at heart, I'm pretty much a loner, I love working at home, by myself, in whatever I feel like waring on any given day. I love fitting together the pieces of the story and I love doing the research and getting to know my characters. I love hearing from readers - some of them have become friends over the years. I really can't think of anything I don't love about writing - I think it's the best job in the world, and I honestly cannot think of anything I'd rather do.
Lesa - Mariah, I have one last question I always ask. I'm a public librarian. Do you have any special memories or comments about libraries?
Mariah - Do I! If not for Mrs. Hoyt at the Highstown (NJ) Public Library, I don't know if I'd be a writer today. When I was seven, I was very ill and spent thirteen weeks - the entire summer - inside, most of that time in bed. There was very little I could do, except read. So every other day, my mother would trudge the three blocks to the library and come back with a pile of books for me. I ended up reading the entire list of children's books several times over, and Mrs. Hoyt would very often send home books that she knew were well above my level so that I'd have to challenge myself. As so often happens, reading those stories fueled my imagination, and led to me writing my own. To this day, I'm still an avid reader.
Thank you so much, Mariah, for taking time for an interview. And, good luck with Mercy Street.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.