STEPH: I don't know much about He Wants Me Dead. Tell me about it.
MARION: He Wants Me Dead tells the story of Joanna Sharpe, an idealistic young teacher, her determined suitor, a class of disturbed students, and a possible killer. Joanna begins her career believing she can move mountains all by herself. But some of her emotionally and mentally challenged students stymie her. So does Rob Thomas, father of one of her students. How should she handle his interest? And what about James, a student who insists his brother is trying to kill him? Is he really in danger? Also, who is trying to kill her or at least frighten her to death? As she tries to equip her students to succeed in the world, she realizes she must let God help, instead of tackling problems alone. And in the climax, when all their lives are at stake, a lot of heroes emerge.
STEPH: How long did it take to write?
MARION: Oh, my. It seemed to take forever. I started it several years ago. Then it bogged down and I began another writing project. When I emailed Gail about it, she was interested. My interest perked up. It's amazing how another writer's excitement intensifies mine. I suppose all writers are like that. Especially if the person who shows an interest is an editor. LOL. Well, I got busy and completed the novel in a matter of months. And Gail accepted it. It will come out in June.
STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research for it?
MARION: I didn't have to do a lot of research. I have substitute-taught in several towns across Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. So my research was mostly taken from notes I'd made and memories I'd accumulated. Not all research comes from books, you know.
STEPH: Where did you get the inspiration for the story?
MARION: I taught in one school that had the resource class on the top floor. The kids complained about being stuck on the third floor. "What'll we do if we ever have to get outta here fast?" some of them said. One said, "I hope we don't never have a fire." Their pessimism caught hold of me, I guess I just had to latch onto their fears and write. There was definitely passion in their concerns. I didn't write the novel while I was working there. I don't think I could have done that.
STEPH: Where is the story set? How important is the setting?
MARION: My story is set in a fictitious town in Texas. The actual town is not important.
STEPH: How long have you been writing?
MARION: I've been writing for years and years. If that makes me sound ancient, well…
STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?
MARION: We bought my husband a Kindle for his birthday this year. He loves it. I'm sure I'd love it, too. But I'm crazy about my Acer Aspire One laptop he bought me for my birthday last year. We often read at the kitchen table -- when we eat breakfast or at the end of the day. You can read ebooks any time, anywhere. It's my favorite way to read. I'm totally spoiled to them.
STEPH: What was the last movie you saw?
MARION: Hmm. We see a lot of movies. Sometimes we space them. You know -- see half of one one evening and save the other half for the next night. Of course, that's because we watch Netflix. We live in a small town and seldom get to a place that has a theater. So Netflix is great! We often watch a movie again. Here are a few we've watched and enjoyed again: The Blind Side, Kramer and Kramer, The Emperor's Club, Second Hand Lions, Mr. Holland's Opus, Facing the Giants…
STEPH: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
MARION: Sometimes I outline and work out the shape of the novel first. Other times, I just start writing. Those are the two extremes. I'm much more likely to hit the middle of the road. Maybe I'll start writing out of my excitement -- my passion -- then I get stuck and I start outlining. In He W ants Me Dead, I tried to get into Joanna's head. I wrote page after page about Joanna. What is her desire? This is the path upon which she has set herself and wants to stay on as conflicts come along that try to push her off that path. The more I know about this thing she wants and why she wants it, the more possibilities for conflict (obstacle, etc). I grab another character and tap into his/her desires. If I know what each one wants, I have a better chance for interaction among them.
STEPH: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
MARION: Write about what you know about. Of course, you can research a subject you don't know much about. But you need to at least feel a sincere interest in the subject. If you hate animals, I think it's safe to say you shouldn't make them an integral part of your novel. But above all, write, write, write.