GG: Most readers know that you are a very popular romance novelist. Is Summer in Paris the first YA novel that you have written?
MB: It is my first honest-to-goodness YA. Some of my other novels have a youthful tone to them, but are not genuine YA category. Summer in Paris is targeted directly to a YA audience, although I think adults are going to enjoy it also.
GG: Do your writing plans include future YA novels?
MB: I hope so! I love writing for this age group. I feel drawn to youth and want to provide reading material that will do more than just entertain them. I want to give them something to think about and maybe even inspire and uplift them.
GG: It seems to me that the dialogue and thought processes of teenagers would be a particular stretch. It appeared to me that you got both spot on! What is the most difficult challenge you face writing for Y.A.?
MB: I have teenagers at home so I am very keyed into issues and concerns kids are facing today. I also see the influences around them that are pulling these kids so many directions. I biggest challenge/goal is to write stories that will resonate with them and connect with them emotionally. Teens are a tough audience but fiercely loyal.
GG: Which genre of fiction do you most enjoy writing and why?
MB: My writing reflects my mood and what’s going on in my life. I wrote a children’s series which I absolutely loved and had so much fun with, but on the other hand I really like getting into issues for women and digging deep for emotion. Romantic suspense is my favorite genre, but seriously I feel like I reinvent myself with each book.
GG: Do you have any other books coming out in the near future?
MB: I’m so excited that the second book in my Butterfly Box series is finally coming out in July. It has been a long wait and I’m working hard on the third and final book in that series. After that I will launch in the sequel to Summer in Paris.
GG: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
MB: Typing “THE END.” J Seriously, I enjoy pretty much everything. I love research. I can get carried away doing research so I have to be careful. I really love it when I’m writing and I find myself in a completely different spot than I thought I was going. That’s when I know the characters have become real and have taken ownership of the story.
GG: Would you call your novels character driven or plot driven?
MB: Mostly character driven, but most of the time both. Stories usually happen as a result of some type of inspiration or trigger from an idea I get about a character, or from a specific setting I happen to find fascinating or fall in love with. But it’s the characters that really give me the passion for my stories.
GG Did you know the end from the beginning of Summer In Paris?
MB: I did, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there. I had to revamp my outline quite a few times, but I ultimately knew where I wanted things to end up. I work better that way. It’s like going on a road trip and having a destination in mind. Without a destination who knows where you’re going to end up!
GG: What is your favorite character that you have ever written? Why?
MB: In my book Without a Flaw I wrote about a woman named Isabelle who was in an abusive marriage finally found the courage to leave her situation and get her life back. I cared so much about her and loved the growth she went through in the novel. I wanted to see her succeed and find joy and happiness. She was awesome!
GG: Do your ideas come to you in the night? In the shower? While chauffeuring your children? What is your most important “composting time?”
MB: That’s a fascinating but very descriptive way to describe the process of mulling over an idea. I have paper and pencil in every nook and cranny of my life because I have to write ideas down when they come or I’ll forget them. Because, ideas come at every possible moment, usually when I’m doing some brainless activity and my mind wanders. I’ve always been a daydreamer and that seems to still be my most creative time.
GG: I know you have tremendously talented children and are extremely involved in their lives. Have you thought about that future (which comes all too fast!) when you are an empty nester? Are your writing goals different for that time of your life?
MB: I still have seven years until my youngest graduates from high school, so I haven’t really even looked that far down the road (probably denial). When I am in that phase of life though, I hope to be with you, GG, traipsing around Europe and doing research. That would be amazing!
GG: Most writers are very hard on themselves about their writing ability. You have achieved great success in your career. But, knowing you as I do, I know that, like most writers, are dissatisfied with some aspect of your work. How would you most like to develop yourself as a writer? Do you have any plans to make this happen.?
MB: I am ashamed to admit that I am terrible with grammar. I could kick myself a million times over for not paying better attention in English classes in high school (although I got great grades – go figure). I know my editor would appreciate me submitting cleaner manuscripts but right now I don’t have plans to take classes to improve this. I’m too busy writing, to learn how to write. Makes no sense to me either.
GG: We have a challenge as LDS writers to “bring people to the light.” How do you feel we can do this most effectively?
MB: I feel this obligation very strongly. Very strongly! I don’t take this lightly either. No matter which market I publish for, no matter which genre, I will always, always, make sure that my stories are consistent with the gospel and appropriate for anyone to read, especially my children and grandchildren. I don’t believe I was given this opportunity to have a voice in the LDS community, the inspirational market, by chance. Our stories can inspire without being preachy. There has to be fundamental truths involved in our characters lives and the plots. It’s the fiber of who I am and what I write, the two are intertwined.
GG: Most people don’t realize that writers serve an “apprenticeship” where they are practicing and learning to write, just like musicians and dancers learn their crafts by practicing and learning specific skills.. How long was your apprenticeship before you were published? How did you go about the task of learning to write?
MB: It took me forever. I wrote for ten years before getting published. I took advantage of community education creative writing classes, went to workshops and writer’s conferences, and joined a multitude of critique groups (I have the scars to prove it). For a while I was an evaluator for Covenant Communications and really got a feel for the LDS market. Learning to write was a long process and it was only because of persistence that I got published. I am not the most gifted and talented writer, but I am very hardworking! I don’t regret any of that time because I learned so much on that journey to getting published.
GG: What advice do you have for aspiring writers who are now serving their apprenticeship (and doubtless experiencing rejections)?
MB: I kept every rejection letter I ever received and I think I have around sixty-seven of them. I believed that one day I would look back and see all the effort I put into my goal of getting published and knew I would feel a great sense of accomplishment. It was so worth it! My advice would be to believe in yourself and never give up. If you want it badly enough it will happen, but you have to keep working and improving your craft and putting your work out there.