The Opening Character Moment | #ConvosOnCraft with Mary Calmes

Episode Description

It was super hard not to fangirl over THE Mary Calmes y’all! But we definitely went deep into her backlist, talking about nailing those opening character moments and the things you have to keep in mind when you’re writing and revising them.

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Show Notes / Episode Transcript

Kate Marope (00:00:00):

This is Kate Marope, and you’re listening to Path to Print.

This week, we have our first guest episode on a segment that I like to fondly call Convos on Craft. Convos on Craft episodes are all about peeling back the curtain and getting into the nitty-gritty of how you put together your story from the developmental side of things. Me and my guests will talk about process, book stats, resources, and advice to help you grow into the amazing author I know you already are.

Today, I’m joined by an amazing author. Someone who is an auto-buy and comfort read author for me. Seriously, as soon as I knew this quarter’s topic would be about setups she was the first person I thought of asking to talk about opening your book with iconic character moments.

She believes in romance, happily ever afters, and the faith it takes for her characters to get there. She bleeds coffee, thinks chocolate should be its own food group, and currently lives in Kentucky with a five pound furry ninja that protects her from baby birds, spiders and neighbors’ dogs.

Welcome to the podcast, Mary Calmes.

Read the rest of the transcript

Kate Marope (00:01:13):

So, before we jump right in, I just wanna ask you, or I wanna hear all about your writing process and kind of like talk me through how you go about like approaching writing your book, whether you’re a planner or do you just pants it or what’s your process?

Mary Calmes (00:01:29):

Yes. Unfortunately that’s, that’s me. I’m a pantser. And so, um, everybody’s always like, you know, whenever I, I tell like Macy Blake or Charlie Cochet whenever I say I’m stuck, they’re like, oh, where are you in the, in the plot? Right? Where, where are you in your, in your, you know, schedule? I’m like, no, <laugh>,

Kate Marope (00:01:50):

There is no schedule. <laugh>

Mary Calmes (00:01:51):

No, what? I’m like what? So, no, no, no. The, the, the true trauma for writing with me is figuring out the names of my people. So I have to have the name, right? Because I’m a, I’m a big, um, believer in that you have to have a, uh, a regular name and you have a fancy name. Okay. You can’t have two people named like Keirian and, you know, Blaise, it’s just not gonna work. It’s- it has to be usually in most relationships.

Like my name is Mary. My husband’s name is Juno, like the capital of Alaska, very fancy. Right. And, uh, that’s why we have Jory, which is a little fufu and Sam. Right. And, uh, Logan, which is very, very plain and Jin. So it always has. So, so my process begins with finding these names that are very, um, you know, the normal guy or whatever.

So like the latest book is Shaw James, um, and Shaw is sort of a fancy name and the other and, and the other person’s name is Benji, Benji Grace. So Benji is a name that we’ve all heard. Right. You probably don’t know as many Shaws. Right.

Kate Marope (00:03:05):


Mary Calmes (00:03:06):

So that’s my whole process. Then once I have the, the names, I’m like, okay, now what? <Laugh>.

I mean, I have a general idea clearly of what, what it is like when you’re writing a shifter romance, if you’re writing, you know, like when I, when I wrote, um, when I wrote All Kinds of Tied Down, I had an idea like Miro has the fancy name and Ian has the boring name. Right. And I had a very specific idea that this was a friends-to-lovers book. And so I knew that I wanted it to take a certain amount of time, um, for them to actually, you know, finally see the-t, you know, that they were, they were supposed to be more than friends.

Kate Marope (00:03:49):

Mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Mary Calmes (00:03:50):

Um, but that’s, that’s the extent of Mary’s writing process. <laugh>

Kate Marope (00:03:56):

It’s funny that you mention All Kinds of Tied Down because I think the opening chapter is like one of my favorite of yours. Like seriously, particularly in the audio. It’s amazing. And I love it. And it gives me all kinds of warms and fuzzies. And I like, um, would you mind if I shared like that, like opening bit, like paragraph or so of the audio for listeners?

Mary Calmes (00:04:19):

Okay. No, of course.

Kate Marope (00:04:20):

‘Cause like, I think everybody deserves to experience it. <laugh> because it’s so fantastic. Right?

Tristan James (narrator) (00:04:27):

Chapter one


All our interactions with suspects ended the same way. I would say, hey, let’s wait for backup or a warrant. I’d mention we didn’t have probable cause.

And sometimes I would even go so far as to point out we weren’t armed because it was our damned day off. Not that he ever listened. The chase was always on seconds after I spoke. The fact that he even stopped to listen to me, before acting, stunned most people who knew us.

“Please,” I would beg him just this once. And then I’d get the head tip or the shrug or the grin that crinkled his pale blue eyes in half before he’d explode into action. The velocity of movement, utterly breathtaking. Watching him run was a treat. I just wished I was always following him into the path of whizzing bullets, speeding cars or flying fists.

Since I’d become his partner. The number of scars on my body had doubled. I considered it a win if I got Ian Doyle to put on a Kevlar vest before he kicked down a door or charged head first into the unknown. I saw the looks we got from the other Marshals. When we returned with bloodied suspects, recaptured, felons, or secured witnesses. And over the years, they had changed from respect for Ian to sympathy for me. When I was first partnered with him, some of the other marshals were confused about it. Why was the new guy, me being partnered with the ex special forces soldier, the green beret? How did that make sense? I think they thought I got an unfair advantage and that getting him as a partner was like winning the lottery. I was the newest Marshal low man on the totem pole. So how did I rate Captain America?

What everyone missed was that Ian didn’t come from a police background like most of us. He came from the military and wasn’t versed in proper police procedure or adherence to the letter of the law. As the newest Marshal on the team, I was the one who had the book memorized the best. So the supervisory deputy, my boss, assigned me to him. It actually made sense. Lucky me. Doyle was a nightmare. And while I wasn’t a boy scout, in comparison to my shoot first asked questions later partner, I came off as calm and rational. After the first six months, everyone stopped looking at me with envy and switched to pity. Now going on three years, Marshals in my field office would bring me an ice pack, pass me whatever pharmaceuticals they had in their desks. And even occasionally offer advice. It was always the same.

For Christ’s sakes, Jones. You need to talk to the boss about him. My boss supervisory, deputy Sam Kage recently called me into his office and asked me flat out if there was any truth to the rumors he was hearing. Did I want a change of partner? The blank stare I gave him hopefully conveyed my confusion. So it was no one’s fault, but my own that I was running in the slushy melting snow down the 4700 block of 95th street in Oak lawn at 10 on a cold Tuesday morning in mid-January. Arms pumping Glock 20 in my hand, I saw Ian motion to the left. So I veered off and leaped an overturned garbage can as I headed into an alley, I should have been the one on the street. My partner was better at leaping and running up walls like a ninja, even though I was younger than his 36 by five years, at six two and 185 pounds, he was in much better shape than me. While he was all lean carved muscle with eight pack abs and arms that made women itch to touch.

I was built heavier at five with bulky muscle and wide shoulders. More bull than panther. Ian had a sleek fluid way about him. I was all sharp angles and herky jerky motion. We were as different as we could be. Though people often commented that we had a really similar, irritating way of carrying ourselves when together. An unmistakable strut. But I would’ve known if I was doing that. If I pulled up, when I walked beside my partner. No way I swagger and didn’t notice. The second I emerged from the trash-strewn alley, I was hit by a 250 pound freight train of a man and smashed onto the pavement under him.


Kate Marope (00:09:26):

And my question for, my next question for you was going to be like, how did you choose to start with that particular moment? Right? Like it’s in the middle of a chase scene. So, but then you have a lot of internal narrative around how they got into that situation. And there’s like a lot of context giving that really like should be distracting, but it’s like, we know he’s running as he’s doing it, so you have that momentum and it’s awesome. So like, was that first of all, was that the first opening you had for that book or did that opening come like later on? And then secondly, like how did you land on that moment? And you’re like, yeah, this is the good, this is, these are the goods.

Mary Calmes (00:10:04):

Well, because <cough> the All Kinds of Tied Down books because the Marshal books are action books, right? They’re action, adventure books. Um, I try and I, if you look for through the series so far, I have two more to write. Um, if you look through the series so far, they’re, they all start with an action sequence of some kind. So that, so that you you’re, you know, you’re sort of in the middle of the action, as soon as you open the book. That’s very important to me, so it just starts. I’m not a big, uh, lover of books. I, my, my sister is a, she, she used to devour those James A. Michener books, you know, and, and don’t get me wrong. Michener is, you know, he’s a God, but that whole, you know, where you start with the protozoa and you get to, you know, the people in the book, like what 150, you know, I can’t, so I, I try and start with those action sequences right away, so that, so that the reader is enmeshed, you know, immersed in the world right away.

So, um, and then, you know, because it’s, it’s in first person, you’re not gonna have all of the what’s happening in the scene. You’re gonna have only what’s in Miro’s head. So in Miro’s head, what’s happening at that moment.

You know, in the fourth book where he’s, where he’s running and he’s, he’s focusing on his boss and, you know, keeping up with him and every he’s got that chatter in his ear the whole time, you know, everybody. Are you keeping an eye on him? Do you know where he is? <laugh> Do you know, did you see him? Are you right there? You didn’t lose him?

Kate Marope (00:11:39):

He’s like trying to focus

Mary Calmes (00:11:41):

You know? And he’s like, oh dear God. You know, and he’s running at the same time and, you know, over the car. And of course, Sam does the Dukes of Hazard thing right over the car, you know, and Miro goes around <laugh>

Kate Marope (00:11:52):

<laughs> He’s like I’m not doing that.

Mary Calmes (00:11:53):

Yeah. He’s like, I’m not doing that. I’m not a fricking, you know, Luke duke over here and he’s just running. And so I, I think, I think those pieces are just super important. And I wanted to show that these are, these are active guys. They’re visceral men, you know what I mean? That they have they’re um, you know, it’s like when Miro tackles, um, like you were saying, the guy in the, in the book, you know, and he tackles him, um, that’s very important to show that yes, he’s thoughtful. Yes. He’s kind, he’s also a very, can be a very scary Marshal. Right. You know, it’s not like he doesn’t kick down doors him himself. Um, just because Ian’s usually the first guy through doesn’t mean that Miro cannot offer his own sort of, um, you know, the gravitas of the situation. So that was important to me.

Kate Marope (00:12:46):

Yeah. And I, I love how you actually show that he’s got that awareness of himself. Cause like he describes himself like a bull through a China shop and he’s like, we are both powerful, but like in very different ways. So like, he’s like the one people notice first, and then I’m the one who comes in like the wrecking ball afterwards.

Mary Calmes (00:13:05):

<laugh> yes, yes. You know, and Miro’s like, Hey it’s okay. But if somebody comes at him, you know, he has to be able to put them down himself, you know? Yeah. So

Kate Marope (00:13:18):

That’s amazing. I love that. <laugh> yes. And I like love this foreshadowing. You did like kind of, because you start the book with Miro kind of like showing the reader what Ian is like, and not just from his own perspective, but like the people around him. So Sam, is there kind of like, um, he, is he problematic for you or is everybody just, you know, talking nonsense and everybody else is like, um, dude run away from him, like run quick. Cause he’s gonna get you dead quick. <laugh>

Um, and I think that was like a really sweet way to foreshadow that like Miro’s this very balanced and very empathetic person. So he doesn’t just see one side of the story, like, which is his point of view. He’s always kind of giving that, you know, like thinking things through from other people’s perspectives and then kind of like making an informed choice of like, I’m gonna try to do what’s good for everybody. Right. And I like love that you did that cause like it foreshadows what like his career shift at like in the last book.

Mary Calmes (00:14:14):

At the end. Yes. Yes. It’s, it’s, it’s interesting to me because, um, a lot of people say to me, oh, is, are, is that book in first person? I hear that a lot. Oh, I, I didn’t know that book was in first person. And I think when you, when you say first person to people, they sort of think it’s gonna be all this deep POV, you know, introspection kind of thing. You know what I mean? Where, where you’re not going to get a lot of different, um, you know, points of view and things like that. And so when I do my, my, my first person, I try and make sure that, you know, people always say, oh, I’d love to have a book from Ian’s point of v, point of view. And I try and think, what would that be? You know, <laugh> or, or I, I always want a book from, you know, like Sam’s point of view, what would that be?

That would be a lot of sit, go, you know, quiet <laugh>, you know, stop. I mean, this, this that’s what Sam’s point of view would be. There’d be a lot of arghhhh, you know what I mean? That it would it’s it’s, it won’t be as interactive I think, as people think it would be, you know. And I think the same thing would be Ian. When I first turned that book in my editor at the time she, he said, you know, um, he’s basically monosyllabic. We need to give him a little more <laugh>, but I really wanted to show how closed he was at the beginning. And then, you know, book two, there’s more talking, book three there’s even more talking, you know, but there, there needed to be that sort of buildup, but I, ended up having to, you know, give him some more talking pieces at least earlier. <Laugh>

Kate Marope (00:15:56):

Well, I like to think that Ian does a lot of his talking through his body language and like, in that opening scene, ’cause like Miro was like laid flat out, right after he got tackled and like he’s very casually like nice tackle and that was it. And then that second where, um, like Miro tries to get up and like he realizes that he’s broken some bones and then like his body, like you have his Ian’s body, um, change, like in response to that. Like, so he’s clearly in tune and he’s paying attention even if he’s not talking all the time. So like yeah. Those other things I notice and I really appreciate it because as a reader I was like, oh, he’s so sweet. Like I never thought of him as closed emotionally, but maybe like he’s not as communicative.

Mary Calmes (00:16:41):

Yes, yes, yes, exactly. And see, and it’s, it’s so great because readers like you, I mean, it’s amazing that you, you can picture, you know, and pick up all the nuances. And so people don’t, you know, they, they read quick and they don’t read in depth and that’s okay. Everybody has a different reading style, you know, but you try and write the nuances, you know?

Um, one of my, you know, I, my editor also said in every scene, you should try and see if you can do the five senses. Right. So have you, uh, they, you know, your reader, your, your character has to see it, smell it, you know, taste something or, or, you know, um, touch it so that, so that you can have all those, all those different things per scene so that you make sure all those facets are in there. So work hard to try and try and make that happen. <laugh>.

Kate Marope (00:17:39):

So, um, what resources would you recommend to somebody who’s trying to like nail those opening chapters and kind of figure out, or maybe help them figure out who their characters are and kind of investigate where their story is gonna be?

Mary Calmes (00:17:59):

Oh goodness. Um, I, I have, I have so many books. It’s like, you know, show you the, the wall of books here, you know, the, you know, the Emotional Thesaurus and the, you know, I mean all these, all these great books, but I’ve always found that the best resource for sort of finding your voice is, is reading other people, you know? And, and, and I don’t say that, like not to copy or not to do that, but to you see, like what sort of, what they’re doing and what they’re, you know, um, how they’re framing things and, and, um, I mean, I’m a voracious reader, you know? Um, my friends always say, I don’t know how, how you have time to read and to write. Well, if you don’t read, you can’t write, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s very important because you have to see, um. I’m always, I’m always, um, amazed when I, like I read, um, you know, something from one of the authors I follow and I’m just like, oh, that’s, that’s a beautiful way to, you know, to say that or whatever, you know, and of course we all have our favorite authors, but it’s, I really, I really feel like finding your own voice comes from reading, you know, classics from reading, all the different genres that you enjoy.

Um, I, I specifically do not enjoy writing science fiction. I’ve written one novella period. That’s it I’m done. I don’t, I don’t have the, the scope. It’s not in my wheelhouse to do, you know. Um, high fantasy also, not in my wheelhouse to do I’m, I’m, I’m amazed at the people who can do it. Um, I’m also a little amazed at the people who can read it. You know? I mean, my husband loves high fantasy. Whenever I go to the bookstore to get a book, I’m always like, you know, I’ll come home and I’ll say, this looks good. Plus, there’s a map, right. <laugh> When there’s a map in the front of the book, you know, Ooh, that’s a good fantasy book. Right. Cause they need a map. And so I’ll always show him that he’s like, Ooh, a map, you know? So <laugh> um, but I think I really do.

I think the best resource is to read, just read everybody, read as much as you can because in there then you’ll find out. It’s as important to know what you don’t wanna do is what you do wanna do. And I, and I really do think that that path is, is, is the way to do it. I think because I’m a pantser. Um, I don’t have as many, um, I dunno like, like resource specifically that I can point to, to say that, you know what I mean? Yeah. Um, I’m, I’m sure that I’m sure that, you know, when you, you know, when you have all, all the guests that I’m sure you’ll have on this show will be able to say, well, I use this and this is what I use and that, you know, and I’m sure that’ll, that’ll be very helpful to a lot of, write, writers.

Kate Marope (00:21:07):

Well, no, I have like a lot of author friends. And part of the reason I started this podcast was everybody’s like, oh, everybody’s telling me I should like do the story structure and the three act this, and then there’s this and save the cat. And then, you know, all the things come like thrown at them. And they’re like, I just wanna write a story. And like, I do all of that other stuff, like kind of intuitively.

So I always find it interesting to like, you know, see what kind of author somebody is based on like whether or not they’re like very, like got the formula and if they don’t have their plan all set up before they can’t even start to write, cuz I have friends like that. But also like just the intuitive writers who are just like, okay, this is how it’s gonna go. And then I’m gonna like discover where it takes me. And if we take a turn, we take a turn.

Mary Calmes (00:21:53):

And I agree. I, I got a, I got a really sweet note, sorry, from a, um, um, uh, another author not too long ago. And she said that she wanted to, um, write fan fiction in the, um, in my L’Ange world because she loved the idea of the sanctuary so much and she was gonna write, um, fan fiction. She wasn’t gonna publish it, but she just wanted to know if that was okay. And I said, I really appreciate that you’re talking to me and asking me. What about that did you like so much? And she said, oh, I love the idea of sanctuary for the shifters and all that. And I said, it’s a trope. Do you know that it’s a trope? And she didn’t. She had no idea it was a trope and it was very sweet. And I love the idea that she thought it came specifically from me.

Mary Calmes (00:22:46):

You know, that, that <laugh>, I was the one who, you know, was, was blessed with the idea of the sanctuary. And I said, no, it’s a trope. And I’m always, that part is a part that fascinates me, especially when I talk to newer writers, you know? And I’m like, well, yeah, but it’s a trope. And they’re like, what? Like the teacher trope, the friends to lovers trope, but enemies to lover, these are trope. These are things, you know, and they’re always like, wow.

Kate Marope (00:23:14):


Mary Calmes (00:23:14):

So now, so now she’s like, so I could write my own sanctuary story. I said, absolutely. <echo>

Kate Marope (00:23:22):

<echo> Go for it!

Mary Calmes (00:23:23):

She was like really? And I, you know, it was adorable and she was so sweet and, but it was like the door swung open, you know, because she, she could write her own people. She could have her own reason for these people being together. She could have her own reason, you know, and I loved that. It’s just, but I think that’s a lot of that comes from if you don’t have a background in literature, right. If you haven’t had to read, if you didn’t, you know, whate– either in school or whatever you miss sort of the trope discussion. And I think, um, I think a lot of authors would benefit from, or, you know, newer authors would benefit from a, like just researching what tropes, because they might find some even that they didn’t know of, that they would love to write in.

Kate Marope (00:24:11):


Mary Calmes (00:24:11):

You know, um, it goes to your point, which is, you know, you should write, um, you know, your intuitive writers, um, you know, you write for what you, what you want. Wasn’t it, Maya Angelou. I, I, I wanna say it was Maya Angelou said, you know, if the story isn’t the, you know, I’m misquoting, but if the story isn’t there, you know, that you wanna read, write that story, you know? So I think, I think that’s what I think that’s where everybody should start. <laugh>

Kate Marope (00:24:43):

Yeah. It’s like very interesting that you bring up the point particularly for newer authors, because I always feel like openings are things that get better with time, as you get more acquainted with your author voice.

Mary Calmes (00:24:56):

I agree. <echo>

Kate Marope (00:24:57):

And like a lot of the advice you get, like, don’t start with these kinds of scenes kind of falls to the wayside once you’re an established author, because I think you’re coming from a point of view where you’re like, I know why I’m writing this particular scene and how it makes sense in the greater context of the story. And therefore, it, it doesn’t feel like it’s a cliche at that point, right? Like that opening dream sequence, or like, I don’t know the opening to The Hunger Games where Katniss is like waking up and going to get food, like, you know, the seemingly mundane thing, but it has a purpose in that like kind of circumstance. And I think that’s something that develops with time.

Mary Calmes (00:25:32):

I agree. I mean, there’s, there’s the, you know, the list of do nots, like do not have your character walk into the bathroom, look at themselves and describe themselves. I would concur with that. You know what I mean? There, there, there are specific things.

Um, but it’s like, um, Amy Lane, she teaches like a world building class and the, and one of the things she always says is when your character gets out of bed and kicks something, what do they say? Do they say, oh, by the gods of whatever, then, you know, and they’re angry then, you know, oh, that’s a fantasy. If they kick it and say, God freakin’ damn it, then, you know, okay you’re probably in a contemporary. Right. So, so something as simple as that could set the tone for whatever it is you’re writing, you know? Um, I do like to keep my openings to things that are much more, you know, action based or, um, you know, like with the Torus series, um, I’m doing one opening, uh, in the office, the next one out of the office, the next one in the office, the next one out of the office, you know what I mean?

So that you get, you, you, you, you wanna they’re each they’re each changed up, but the, the point of like being in the office is the camaraderie and the banter and all that stuff. And being out of the office, you’re sort of in the, in the middle of what’s going on, even if you have the flashback to the office, you know, so you still have these people and you know, who’s in the story as they move forward, especially since it’s a series and you’re following each of the men. So yeah. <laugh> so I that’s, that’s how I like to do mine.

Kate Marope (00:27:13):

I love that. So speaking of Torus.

Mary Calmes (00:27:17):

Yeah. <coughs>

Kate Marope (00:27:17):

I think part of the most interesting thing about like, the way you were just describing of like, moving, like having that either flashback or open to the office scene is that I think it kind of grounds the series in a place of familiarity. Right? Like they have that same group of people. Well, I mean, the group changes with time, but like it’s like familiar faces right at the beginning. And normally of course there’s some comment about their boss and like how they all think he’s a little bit crazy. And like they won’t ever say it to his face. <laughs>

Mary Calmes (00:27:45):

Little scary. Those, man is a little bit scary.

Kate Marope (00:27:48):

They’re like, he has a great heart, but he’s little crazy and very scary.

Mary Calmes (00:27:54):

But see that’s the same thing with the Marshals. When I started writing the Marshals and I had Miro and Ian, I was like, wait, now. I had, Sam was gonna be a Marshal and that’s time has passed. So I bet I could make Sam Kage, their boss. Right? And so in that first book and suddenly there’s Sam Kage, you know, I got so many lovely letters from people like, oh my God, it’s Sam, you know? And, and there’s that familiarity exactly what you’re saying.

Everybody knows Sam, they know Sam. And so it, it, it already grounds, you know, and if you’re a new reader, that’s fine. You wanna learn about Sam, you know. But for, for readers who have, you know, been with me, they, they already know the kind of man Sam Kage is, so they know the kind of office he’s running. So, you know, immediately about the people who work for him, because he wouldn’t have people who work for him who didn’t, you know, that’s why in the fourth book, when he had, you know, let, unfortunately let somebody else hire that horrible woman, you know, who took care of custodial WITSEC um, he was so, you know, and he even brought it home.

So that in the newsletter you got what it was like at home <laugh> for his family to have to deal with him, um, through that situation, because it, for him, it’s such a failing and plus it had to do with kids, but you understand that that’s who Sam Kage is. And so again, it gives familiarity to the people who work for him directly. So <murmurs> it’s very important.

Kate Marope (00:29:25):

I love that you mentioned your newsletter because He said, he said is the highlight of my month. Every month on the 15th. I’m like, is it time yet? ‘Cause like time difference, suck. And I’m like, is it time yet? Is it time yet? And then I check my newsletter and it’s I love it. And it’s like, I’m so impressed with like how you keep the timeline continuous because I would completely fail at that, completely <laugh>

Mary Calmes (00:29:48):

Well, plot plot math is, is not my friend. Whenever I had to figure out how old somebody’s parent would be when they were born and you know, it’s, it, it, it gets a little dicey because you know, I, I, I did not do well in math. I almost didn’t graduate from college because of statistics. It took a bad, bad turn and it was either like you could take, you know, uh, whatever it was like geometry or statistics and geometry was really not happening. So it had to be statistics. And I think, I, I think I got like a C minus. She was very kind, just so I could like get outta college, but it was, so me and math is just bad. Whenever, whenever somebody edits me, you know, um, my friend Lisa she’s like, um, Mary <laugh>, uh, I think his mom would’ve been like 12 when she had him. So we really need to fix this timeline. I’m like,

Kate Marope (00:30:42):

So you have your own time keeper there, like being like fix it, fix it. <laugh>

Mary Calmes (00:30:47):

Yeah. OK. And, and it’s funny because people are always like, oh, I don’t think Hannah is as old as you think she is and blah, blah, blah. I’m like, well, keep in mind that Hannah was adopted when she was three. Oh, that’s right. It’s adorable. You know, I’m like, listen, I have it written down specifically. I know exactly how old those kids are.

Kate Marope (00:31:08):

<laugh> that’s exactly what I was gonna next because I was like, not only are you having to keep the story progressing and like, you’re not writing it like continuously as like one book or at least a series right. Where you spend like a lot of time with it. So it’s like these check-ins and you’re popping in and out of the timeline. Right. Um, but also you have the kids growing up and like having to like keep like their developmental markers, like accurate for their age, but also like within their character and like the like Hannah’s faith and like what she’s doing there is just like so lovely to see. And I’m like, but that must be a lot of work to keep track of. And then like I saw like Courtney in like your Facebook group was like, I’m trying to keep up with the list with all like the, the like, um, like Easter eggs that you do across the series. So that like people who are like, oh yeah, I wanna learn about the, that other character that I was really intrigued by and like can pop in.

Mary Calmes (00:32:01):

That they, yeah, it’s always, it’s all always nice when people are like, you know, oh my God is Duncan from Acrobat. Is that, you know, Duncan from Parting Shot? Yes. That would be Duncan from Parting Shot. And, and, and Darius Hawthorne, I mean, that’s Conrad Harris and he was in Parting Shot. I’m like, yes, he was, you know? And so it’s, it’s, it’s fun to have people discover, you know, the, the people. And, and if you, if you look at A Matter of Time, um, everything that I, that I’ve written that is not paranormal, you can trace back there.

Kate Marope (00:32:41):


Mary Calmes (00:32:41):

Um, you know, uh, in Timing Rand’s, uh, Rand’s lawyer is Rick Jenner who is in A Matter of Time. Right. So every, everybody sort of, you can, you can, you can find, you can find the thread, you know, um, Jared’s book, um, will link up Sam and Dante and, you know, and everybody into that one piece so that you’ll see it all fall underneath that same umbrella. And, uh, and once I get, once I get the books I’m working on done, then I can start, you know, <laugh> start on and finish up my Marshal series. Cause I’ve Eli’s book to write and then Callahan and Redeker’s book to write. So it should round it out. <laugh>

Kate Marope (00:33:33):

I’m super excited for those, you have no idea. But so like, we kind of talked about like how, how you keep the familiarity, especially like kind of like, you know, like low key rewarding, your like long term readers with like these appearances from characters that they’ve loved and kind of feeling like they’re revisiting old friends. But with your, um, Torus series, every book takes place in a different setting. Right. Like ’cause they go out into the field and like, is that more fun to like, be able to be like, oh yay, now I get to step out of that world a little bit somewhat related, but like step out of it into like new locations with different vibes and atmospheres?

Mary Calmes (00:34:11):

Yeah. See. And, and yeah. And that is fun. I’m um, I, as a rule I prefer to write as, you know, um, relationships that span books, right. So A Matter of Time, you know, the whole writing a new couple each time to me is okay <laugh> but I prefer to write the same couple, like, you know, with house of Maedoc, I have Jason and Varic and Jason and Varic will go through all through three books. There’s not gonna be a book from somebody else’s POV.

Um, and Jin and Logan, I think, um, Domine’s book was very difficult for me to write the fourth book because it, it was, it, it was very difficult to write and I, and I shouldn’t have done it that way, you know? And so the fifth book is finally back to Jin and Logan.

I prefer to write the long term couples, but it is fun to write, um, every, you know, every now and then couples that go that, you know, the new couple in the new setting, um, with Shaw and Benji’s book, I, I had ’cause all of the fixers up to that point, you know, the three books previous and you, and you historically understand within that series and within their, the timeframes within the story that most of the fixers, they go out <laugh> and they don’t go back <laugh>

Kate Marope (00:35:36):

<echo> They don’t come back, and Shaw hates it.

Mary Calmes (00:35:36):

<echo> They stay and fall in love and that’s, that’s what happens. Um, you know, and that’s why the running joke is, does Jared Colter know he’s running, you know, the love connection over here, you know? Um, and uh, he doesn’t take kindly to that <laugh> but um, that’s why in Shaw and Benji’s book, Shaw comes back. So now, you know, he brings Benji back to Chicago. Um, I think it’s fun, it’s fun to write the new dynamics. I, I have to, I do a lot of research on wherever I’m putting a book. You know, I was lucky in the third one because I’ve know I, I had family that lived in Santa Barbara, so I, you know, so I was lucky there <laugh>, you know, I know, and I, I, I hear them complain about, you know, um, that, you know, you could smell pot all the time. It’s horrible, you know, <laugh> um, so I can add those in the books, those little things, you know, and I got a note from a reader who’s like, yeah, I live there and yeah, it reeks, you know, and I’m like, oh, <laugh> so that’s nice to hear, you know?

Mary Calmes (00:36:46):

Um, so it’s, it’s fun to do all the different places, you know? Um, when I sent Jin to Mongolia, um, you should see the books on Mongolia I still own over here, I have, you know, how to say good morning and you know, Mongolian, I got the book, you know? So, um, there’s a lot of research that goes into that. So that, that part is fun. You know, the tabs on the top of my thing change all the time, you know, <laugh> on top of my computer, but yeah, it is fun to have them have them go to a different place. And so it’s always like the first chapter is wherever they’re going. And then, you know, from chapter two to whatever, uh, they’re in this new place, you know, dealing with whatever it’s. So that, that part is fun.

Kate Marope (00:37:35):

And I love, and I love that. Cause it’s like, you start with the familiarity, then they’re kind of like a little bit of a fish out of water. They’re like, what am I even doing here? Jared is crazy. Do, should I do do like, must I stay? Like, can I come home now I’ve done my job. And he’s like, no, you’re staying there until you stay there forever.

Mary Calmes (00:37:52):

<laugh> you stay? Yeah. That’s that’s Jared’s thing. You stay until it’s better. Right. You can’t come home until you’ve left the situation better than you found it. And so, however long that takes you’re there until that happens. Um, so yeah, that’s his, that’s his syzygy. Right. And to figure out how to say that word <laugh>.

Mary Calmes (00:38:16):

I, I love details ss you can tell from my books. I like to, to say, you know, the wall of tapestries has this on it or, you know, these paintings or these carpeting so that, you know, as a reader, you know, and if you wanna look it up, look it up. But if you don’t, at least you have the details and you can like feel the scope of it. I think that’s so important.

Kate Marope (00:38:39):

Yeah. That ambiance.

Mary Calmes (00:38:40):

I don’t wanna short change the reader. And I know sometimes it’s like too much details. Um, I was doing the, the, the room, um, the, like the ballroom of the, um, in the second House of Maedoc book. And my editor was like, no, I can’t, I can’t <laugh> she’s like, no, no, no, we have to move this story forward no more, you know, champagne goblets, no more. Just get it outta there. And, and I realize sometimes I can wax on a little too long, so I need to be careful, but I still feel like, so that, you know, what it looks like. So, you know, you know, when he’s running downstairs that the walls were not just walls, but they’re so old that they’re like covered in wet moss and stuff. I think that’s important, you know? So

Kate Marope (00:39:31):

I think it also like kind of shows what’s important to the characters. You know like in the L’Ange series. And he’s like, and Linus is like, it’s Rococo <laugh>. And he’s like very fastidious about all the furniture like it’s his own furniture and the entire time he’s like, no, don’t mess with the furniture. Don’t do this. Don’t misname it. And like, everybody’s like, um, sir, please calm down. And he’s like, no, it’s important. The details matter that very much who he is as a character.

Mary Calmes (00:39:58):

See it, it is important, you know, it’s, it’s like, you know, like when, when, uh, you know, they’re standing there, um, you know, in Quade and, and, uh, Arman are standing there, did you know that a banker’s chair, did you know it’s a banker’s chair? I didn’t know it was a banker’s chair. Linus knows and Linus also knows if it’s two centimeters off from where it was supposed to be.

And again, for the reader, um, I, I, I don’t like big, gigantic exposition dumps, you know? So I, I try and make information, you know, and forth so that you have, so that you have two characters talking, if you can. Um, Miro’s backstory in the first book, I originally had it in the, in, I wanna say in the second chapter, and it was just this big boggy, you know, this, this huge amount of information.

Mary Calmes (00:40:57):

And my editor was like, no, that’s the you’re, you’re, you’re keeping the reader from getting to where they wanna go. So if you’re, if you’re blocking the reader from where they wanna go, and that’s how I always think about it. Now, am I keeping you from seeing something that you wanna see where if I have it be in the hospital, when he’s convalescing and telling you about, you know, when the, when the women come in to see him, when he’s talking about, oh, that’s the trigger, you know, when he met them and what happened to him, that’s organically where that should go.

So you have, you have to always think, am I getting in the way of the reader? And that’s, that’s what I always try to do. If, if, if I’m reading this, do I wanna read all this exposition piece that you have in here? I probably don’t. I probably wanna get to where I wanna go. And once I know everybody’s together, then I can, you know, then, then I’m interested in this, then I’m invested in this.

Kate Marope (00:41:55):

Oh, yes. I love the fact that you like rework everything back. Like when you’re like, oh, don’t delete. I always tell my authors, like, don’t delete anything. Everything can be reworked into a better place, like in the story. And kind of like, just shifting things around doesn’t mean, like you have to delete something. And I think when you delete things, you lose the magic there. It’s just like finding the perfect slot where it fits in.

Mary Calmes (00:42:21):

Oh, I, oh, I agree. I, I, I think if you’ve, if you’ve written something, you know, I I’ll do that. Sometimes I’ll wake up the next morning and realize I’ve gone off on a tangent, you know, where wherever this was, it’s now over here. And so clearly that’s not what I wanted, but I can, maybe this piece that you wrote doesn’t even fit in this book, maybe it’s not even for this book. And so it just sort of stays with the title and I put it wherever it’s going to go. And, um, I found that some of those things work in a newsletter, you know, for goodness’ sakes.

Um, you know, uh, it’s, it’s interesting, you know, about the do not delete because a lot of people are like, oh no, you just, you just kill it. And I, and I’ve asked them what, what happened to this part? Oh, it was no good. I deleted it. I’m like, oh, oh, but it was, it was, you know, it was, it was, so it was so good, you know, don’t like, you just said, you shouldn’t delete it. You know? I mean, unless it, unless it’s really horrible, <laugh>, you know, and you went to a really dark place that you didn’t mean to go, but, um, other than that, yeah, you should, you should, you should keep everything thing. Cause you never know if it can be put someplace else or put in a different even book, you know? So I agree with you a hundred percent.

Mary Calmes (00:43:44):

Um, I don’t do, um, external, you know, where the characters are a part really well, I, I, I do better when they’re together and then you can have the banter back and forth, you know? Um, and then you have people, a lot of people complain and they say, there’s too many characters in, in Mary Calmes books. There’s too many people for me to keep track of. There’s too many people.

Um, Tere Michaels has this thing where she says, it’s, uh, your characters are like a, like a house. If, if you think about the, you know, the base of a house, um, do you have enough people to hold it up? If you only have one person you can’t hold up the house. So I always try and think of, you know, where are the rest of these people? Like, she always says, you know, when she, when she’s editing, she says, you know, where are these girls’ friends? <laugh> does this girl have a friend? Does she have a mother? Does she have a father? Where are these people? You know? And so I try and make sure that my characters all have these supporting people in their life. And, uh, sometimes I make them a little too interesting. And then I get asked for a book about them. And I never even thought about that in a billion gajillion years, but <laugh>, that’s OK too. You know?

Um, I like a lot of people because I think in our lives, in our, in with normal people’s lives, even if you’re a hermit like you and me, you still have <laugh>, they’re still friends. There’s still these, this, you know, nurturing support system. Even if you don’t see them all the time, you still talk to people, you know? And I think that that’s important to have in your books as well.

Kate Marope (00:45:28):

That’s like, one of the things I love about me Miro’s relationship with his friend group is that they don’t have to see each other every day. And like the fact that like, you’re like, oh yeah, we called, it’s been a few months since we last talked on the phone, but like, you know, we check in with each other and we keep each other updated. And like, that was like really beautiful because I think a lot of time when people think, oh, support system, it has to be like friends who are like in the same town, go to coffee regularly. And then you get those coffee shop scenes where you’re just like, okay, let’s move on. <laugh>

Um, and I think it’s like a deeper level of friendship almost it’s cause like it’s that adult level friendship where it’s like, we don’t always have time to like stop everything we’re doing and spend time together. But when things matter, like all of them show up and all of them showed out like really angry, like who am I gonna have to get to get a better like room for you in the hospital? Like who where’s your doctor? Because I need to make sure he’s not messing things up and everything. And like they were so involved. So it didn’t even matter that it hadn’t been like it had been a couple of months since he last talked to them.

Mary Calmes (00:46:30):

Oh absolutely. And I, and I, you know, it’s like, and it’s the same with like Sam and Jory, you know? Um, whenever not Sam and Jory, Dane and Jory. So whenever Jory talks to Dane, there’s never this, Hey, how are you or hello. It’s just, they start, you know, Dane, just, you know, Jory picks up the phone, you know, and, and Dane just starts talking to him. So this like this continuous loop, you know, of, of conversation. And I think that’s, and I think that’s how it is.

I, when, when my, my grandmother was alive, whenever she called me, I’d say, you know, yes, dear. And she’d start, you know, it was never, how are you? Hello? Or whatever. She’d just start talking to me, you know, <laugh>, you won’t believe happened yesterday, you know? And it, she would, she would begin. And, um, I think like with my, with my friends, it’s always like, let me tell you, you know, so I, I think, I think I wanted to make sure that that Miro had those kind of, of real friends, you know,

Kate Marope (00:47:33):

The deep everlasting, like long life type. The type that steal your dog <laugh> yeah. Who tried to steal poor Chickie away for me. And like, and Ian is like, so kind of like resigned. He’s like, let them take him for the weekend or something. Right. It’s okay.

Mary Calmes (00:47:48):

Yeah. It it’s it’s it’s, it’s funny. Cuz when I, when I put out the second book, I wanna think maybe it was either the, the second or third book in my, in my Facebook group. Um, uh, my friend Brock made me a, a Nextdoor thing, you know? So it’s it’s so it looked just like an actual Nextdoor, um, you know, communication. It was like, there’s a Wolf in the neighborhood, you know? And then the next lady says, that’s not a Wolf, that’s just Chickie, you know? And the next lady says, well, I don’t want them to eat my corgi, you know? And then the next guy says what the F is a corgi, you know, so its like actual Nextdoor, you know, stuff. And it was just, it was, you know, it was really fun.

And I have some, you know, some shorts in my, in my group, you know, where, um, Miro sent uh, uh, a big, um, package, a care package to, um, you know, to his friend. And she got, you know, she got sparkly pens and she got some food and, and <laugh> so I, I try and keep those, you know, those, those little things going in that, like you said, in that same timeline, you know.

And some people told me, oh, the newsletters, because they’re happening in real time and they’re dealing with COVID I really couldn’t deal with that, so I stopped reading them and that’s okay. I understand that, you know what I mean? Um, but A Matter of Time and the Marshals are set in the real world, so there’s, there, there is the COVID situation that’s going on there. So, um, the, to, you know, with Torus I sort of, if you look at the timeframe where it is, it sort of stopped in February and then, you know, Locryn’s book sort of came around the end of it. But I don’t really mention COVID in, in the Torus series, but I will have to Jared’s book so that we’ll get, you know, because it, because it’s gonna cross with Sam and everybody else it’s real world. So.

Kate Marope (00:49:54):

Like that. I did like, uh, I was gonna ask you, like I noticed the shift in the newsletter from kind of like advice column to like, like monthly check-ins with the characters and yeah. And I was like, oh, I like, why did you do that shift? Was the advice column too– <echo>

Mary Calmes (00:50:10):

<echo> Well I, I tried to do the, I tried to do the question and the answers for a long time. Um, and that was fun to do too. But all the comments, all the comments I got and I, you know, I, every time I put out a newsletter, I get lovely, lovely emails and they are all, oh, I like those, those are fun, but I really prefer the check-ins. I really, I really like the stories. I really wanna know what’s going on with this family. I love this family so much.

And there’s only so many times that that Sam can say the same thing. He’s not going to change, you know, you know. Head on a swivel, you know, <laugh>, uh, you know, the, you know, the things he says, you know, <laugh>, you know, um, inspect what you expect. You know, I mean, these, these gems that come out of his mouth, you know, so, um, he’s just, he’s not, you know, Sam has, Sam has grown as a character. He has changed greatly being a father, you know, being a husband, there’s been a lot of good changes in him, but the core is not changing <laugh>.

Kate Marope (00:51:22):

That’s just like those earlier newsletters, like the column ones. I loved how it was almost like, um, Jory’s there trying to give very diplomatic answers and being like very respectful, like, this is what I would do, but if you wanna do something different that’s OK. Meanwhile, Sam was like, no, just don’t do it. Or like do this instead. <laugh> like, he was very like, he’s, he’s not messing around there. He’s not, you know,

Mary Calmes (00:51:45):

You know, Jory’s like, well, you know, when you’re gonna date, you probably wanna think about how mature your child is. Sam’s like 16 for girls and boys. If you know, <laugh>, if you’re gonna drive, they have to drive with people. You know, there’s, there’s an amount of people that there has to be there, you know, for them to go out on a date, you know, this is so yes. Fixed ideas about things. Extremely fixed ideas about things.

Kate Marope (00:52:11):

I love that. And he doesn’t like, there’s no, any, like, self-consciousness there. He’s just like, this is how its take it or leave it.

Mary Calmes (00:52:19):

I always think, you know, Jory is just gray, right? There’s all this gray. Um, Sam is black and white and that’s just, that’s it you’re either a good or bad wrong or right. And that would drive, you know, I get a lot of lovely letters. Oh I love Sam. I love him so much. You know, not that I’d ever wanna live with him, but he’s lovely. <laugh> Of course you wouldn’t wanna live with Sam Kage. Not crazy. I mean, that’s so much work, you know,

Kate Marope (00:52:52):

But I mean that’s why him and Jory like make a good match because Jory is also a lot of work in his own way. Right. So the two of them kinda like they know like, like who else would like, we can’t be with any other, other person because nobody else would take us. I like Aaron reached that point where he’s like, damn Jory, you were a lot of work. I’m like, OK with Duncan, I’m happy where I’m at now.

Mary Calmes (00:53:16):

That’s why, whenever people, you know, I’ve had comments before and people say, oh, you know, Stefan from Timing is just like Jory. And I’m like, if you think about it, if you put, would Jory put up with, with, you know, with Rand, no. And you have to think would, could Stefan even have dealt with Sam for a hot second? No. So how can you say <laugh> but it’s the same, it’s the same kind of character.

I, I think sometimes when people say the books are all the same, it’s because my voice is the same I’m writing in first person, you know? But if you just, if you, if you, if you really think about it and you, and you try and move characters around, you know, <affirmative>, it doesn’t really work. You know?

Um, I, I love to think about like different characters moving around, you know, it’s my, my favorite exercise in, in college is like, which I put in Acrobat. You know, if you, if you move people, like if you put a Othello in Hamlet, in Hamlet, in Othello fellow, right. <laugh> a fellow would’ve figured out, you know, a fellow would’ve killed, you know, <laugh> Claudius in act one, no tragedy. Everybody think would’ve been fine, you know, and Hamlet, would’ve got down to the nitty gritty and figured out the mystery and figured, and nobody would’ve died either. You know? So it’s like, it’s really fun to think about people in different situations and stuff. So,

Kate Marope (00:54:51):

Yeah. And I always think about story as testing a particular character and their personality and everything that makes them, them across a set of experiences. So not everybody’s gonna react the same way to certain situations or accept certain things being done to them.

So like when he was like, yeah, he, they would’ve killed each other within a week. Like you couldn’t have had a crossover between the two of them because he would’ve been like, you know what, I am going back to my city and you can stay there by yourself. Bye, peace out. And like, I mean, he nearly did leave Rand, right? Like, so, you know, yeah.

Mary Calmes (00:55:26):

There’s no way Stef would’ve been like, you know, no, no <laugh>

Kate Marope (00:55:33):

And like Rand knows it on some level. He’s like, I know I’m so difficult to deal with. It’s like, how can I make sure you don’t leave.

Mary Calmes (00:55:39):

<laugh> that’s right. That’s right. So that part is really, that part is really fun for me. I, I, I, I enjoy, um, putting people together that, you know, you know, could not deal with it, has to only be them, you know? Um, it’s like, I I’ve, I’ve thought about writing like a, you know, a threesome. I’ve thought about writing, um you know, a character who cheats and then who comes back and, you know, who’s forgiven. But it’s just not, it’s just not me. Um, I, I couldn’t, I couldn’t write a ch uh, I couldn’t write a cheater because then that sort of is, is cheating on the whole idea of the love, you know? Um, and that would just be too, I couldn’t, I couldn’t imagine. I mean, especially in the shifter stories, there’s, there’s no possible way <laugh>,

But, um, but even the, you know, the years ago I had an editor, uh, when I wrote Bulletproof, um, she, she said the scene where Sam and Jory were in the, in the bathroom. Um, she’s like, don’t you think he should use Sam should use a condom. And I said, why on earth would Sam use a condom? And we had this whole email exchange and she’s like, well, he’s been away for, I forget, four months or six months. She’s like from Jory. And I think Jory would want him to use what I’m like.

Okay. <laugh> what you’re implying is that Sam Kage would cheat on Jory. This is what you’re implying, and that is not possible because he’s made loyal and that doesn’t happen in, in a Mary world that could never happen. And it’s just not the character I’ve created. And I understand you haven’t, you know, you’re coming in fresh and you didn’t read A Matter of Time. Um, but it’s not possible. And, and I, and I stuck to my guns and my, you know, my head editor, she’s like, no, we’re no condom, you know?

And so it was, but it made me think about, you know, the perception of if you’re apart for a certain amount of time and you’re not married, you know, does that immediate, you know, or they are, they were married at that point, but it’s like, is that the perception? And I was like, no, that can’t happen in a Mary book. You know, <laugh>, that just can’t happen. So,

Kate Marope (00:58:21):

No, I like, yeah, no, that scene and him cheating, would’ve been just like so stressful. Um, it’s just, I think Sam is just too loyal, but also I think a lot of your, your like romantic relationships are based significantly on trust. Right. And I think because they have to trust each other, like I can be as crazy as my crazy gets and I trust that you will still be here at the end of the day. Like that level of trust where you’re just like, I’m gonna show you all my crazy. Um, I think that’s like where the loyalty really is. So yeah, the cheating would definitely kind of breach that trust of if I can’t trust you to, you know, respect my body, then how can I trust you when you say, you’re accepting of my crazy either?

Mary Calmes (00:59:08):

Yeah. It’s all those little things. I, I, when I was, when I was much younger, you know, I remember seeing people, especially in the airport, you know, when you’ve got nothing else to do really, but look at people and you’d see these, these couples and they just, they lean forward and they touch each other or they, you know, put a hand on a, on a leg or, you know, just lean and touch a shoulder. And there’s this, this sort of communion of, you know, we’re together, you belong to me. And so yes, of course I’m gonna, you know, touch you or lean on you or, or, or, you know, pat you to look at something or whatever. And I, and I, I really love those things.

And I, I try to put those, you know, in, in my book, you know, so that like when Miro leans forward and he puts his hand on Ian’s thigh to just keep keep his balance as he’s doing something, I just love those small little moments, you know? And I think that’s why it’s really hard for me to imagine, like a threesomer. And I know that some excellent writers who could do those things, but for me, it’s just that core two people together, you know, that works for me, but <laugh>,

Kate Marope (01:00:24):

It’s beautiful and I love it. It’s so amazing.

But like, I know, like in one of your books, you do talk about cheating and like the ramifications of it on the relationship and kind of the, the, the breach of trust is like, yes, I could take them back, but I would always be wondering, and that’s not like I don’t wanna put myself in that situation. Right?

And I think what was interesting there is that, like, he had made the decision in his head, like it’s never gonna happen, but he had not closed that door in person. And then by the time he realizes he’s like starting to fall for somebody new, right. He’s like, oh, it was never gonna work out. Like this whole, like we’re taking a break thing was just a farce because like my mind in my mind, like that was long over. And I’m almost like giving him false hope by kinda like saying that we’re having.

Mary Calmes (01:01:16):

<echo> See yes, yes!

Mary Calmes (01:01:17):

And I got lot of, and, and, and a lot of people, um, it’s, uh, Floodgates is not a lot of people’s favorite book because of that, you know, there’s, they felt that there was too much screen time for the ex, you know, but my thought in that process was to work through that. You know what I mean, to work through that whole arc of, you know, is, is it, where am I in this process , you know? And like you said, you know, oops, I gotta, I gotta close that door. I better close that door. <laugh> since I’m already, my heart’s already over here, you know? So I think, I thought, I thought that was important.

Sometimes I have to be careful because I, um, and I’ve made mistakes, you know, in books where it’s, it’s gone too long. Um, so I have to be careful of where the working out starts butting up against the romance. You know, you have to be careful because it’s that core a romance, you know? Um, so I, you have to be conscious of that.

Kate Marope (01:02:25):

Yes. I think what made it work for, and for me in Floodgates was the fact that it was also tied to his internal character arc, where he was also not very, like, he had like an idea of himself that was very different from how everybody else perceived him. Right. So he was like, oh my God. I find it really interesting that when people see with him, like him with me, it’s like, I like, his his shininess rubs off on me. And like, I get to be in like that secondary glow. So maybe like part of why he hadn’t quite closed the door on it is like he would be giving that up.

But as the story progresses and he kind of grows into like the way his brothers react to him and they’re like, oh my God, mom loved you the most. And like, all of these, like reaffirming things throughout the series, he starts to like, believe it, like I do deserve better than him. And I, like, I am a bomb person myself. Like I don’t need to like validate myself being with him and then like, yeah.

So I think that’s like, for me, that’s it made sense that he would kind of like, not wanna close the door on it fully because on some level it’s like, he didn’t wanna be alone because like, he didn’t know how to function that way.

Mary Calmes (01:03:34):

Right, right. See. But, you know, you’re very insightful reader. So <laugh>,

Kate Marope (01:03:42):

It’s part of my job, you know, as an editor, but like, I didn’t go to school for it. And like part of the thing it’s I like like process and seeing how things like come together and everything. So like, yeah. I never thought like, oh yeah, the ex, why can’t we get rid of him.

I did think he should have been the one hit with the, bat, like I was like, why are you going after everybody else? But him, like, why don’t you run him over? Um, but that aside, I mean, like that did its job, obviously, if I hated him and I was supposed to hate him. And like, by that time, like, um, they’re having that argument in the kitchen and he’s like, you know, like giving them the hot and cold treat and he is, I’m like, yeah, cancel him, cancel him. <laugh>.

Mary Calmes (01:04:25):

Yeah. But I, I, I loved writing all of the, the family in that book, you know, the, the ex that goes back to that, you know, all the other characters, you know, cuz he’s got the one brother who’s the DEA agent very serious. He’s got the other brother, who’s an actor. Who’s a little flaky. Like, who’s that again? What is that again? <laugh> you know, his brother’s like I told you, we should have brought flashcards, you know? I mean it’s

Kate Marope (01:04:50):

Yeah. And he’s like, why did they ice the bunny?

Mary Calmes (01:04:53):

What happens to the rabbit? They killed the rabbit. Why’d they kill the rabbit, you know? So it goes on that,

Kate Marope (01:05:01):

What did it ever do to him?!

Mary Calmes (01:05:01):

You know, and, and the whole thing with when they, you know, and his brother brought him up coffee and they’re all trading coffee cups in the bedroom. I, I, I enjoy writing those things, you know, it’s, it’s really, it’s, it’s really fun for me. I don’t, when you read things and you’re like, oh, somebody will say, oh, he was just, you know, he was so funny. Um, the character was so funny. I laughed all the time, but then you never see anything in the book that’s really funny or is, you know, and so what you’re getting is this is uh sort, you know, the, what is it? The, the telling and the not the showing, you know? So I, I think it’s important.

I mean, I’m not a, I’m not a, I’m not a comedic writer, you know, I’m not a <laugh>, but I think that when you can have some, you know, funny parts in the, you know, in, in the books, that’s, you know. Like Shaw going out to take care of the paranormal investigator in the la-, you know, in this <laugh> in book four, you know, and you know, in the middle of this, he’s like, you know, I gotta call my boss about this whackadoodle assignment, you know, <laugh>, you know, you know, and then he thinks that they’re, you know, they’re, you’re smoking at the dispensary and, you know, he’s like stoned, paranormal investigators. I need to go home now. <laugh>, you know, um, that that’s fun to write, you know?

Kate Marope (01:06:28):

Yeah. Locryn and his mom the whole time. He’s like, I love you lady, but you’re so weird. <laugh> cause

Mary Calmes (01:06:34):

She’s a space cadet. You know, she is, I mean, she’s a lovely woman, but she’s been married seven times, you know, and nothing wrong with people who get married a lot. But I’m just saying, you know, that <laugh>, she changes them like she changes her clothes. And so, you know, which of course has given him a skewed idea about love and romance, you know? So all those things, you know, your parents do, your friends do and everything else. I think it’s important to see those consequences onto the character, you know? Um, so

Kate Marope (01:07:14):

I love that, but thank you so much for your—

Mary Calmes (01:07:18):

No, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. This was awesome. <laugh>

Kate Marope (01:07:25):

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Books Mentioned in This Episode

About the Guest

Mary Calmes believes in romance, happily ever afters, and the faith it takes for her characters to get there. She bleeds coffee, thinks chocolate should be its own food group, and currently lives in Kentucky with a five-pound furry ninja that protects her from baby birds, spiders and the neighbor’s dogs. To stay up to date on her ponderings and pandemonium (as well as the adventures of the ninja) follow her on Twitter @MaryCalmes, connect with her on Facebook, and subscribe to her Mary’s Mob newsletter.

2 thoughts on “The Opening Character Moment | #ConvosOnCraft with Mary Calmes

  1. Kate Marope

    Thanks for listening (or reading), Gale! It’s such a compliment that it felt like a chat because that is exactly what I was aiming for! Knowing that it was received means a lot.

  2. Gale

    This was a textured and analytical dialogue between very informed and avid readers and literary critics. I learned a lot on what “an opening character moment” is, and what “starting with the action” means. Mary Calmes, thanks for such clear explanations. and Kate, thanks for such deeply analytical questions. Above all, I felt like I was listening to friends having a great chat.

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