Friday, February 7, 2014

My Oregon Writer Friend, Marjorie Thelen

Everyone in my circle of writer friends approaches their work differently. I'm a sucker for insider info about writers' attitudes and practices, and this year, I want to share a few of their stories on my blog. This thread is as much for me as anyone. I need encouragement, and knowing about their writing lives helps me to stay the course.

I asked my friend Marjorie Thelen to go first. We latched onto each other a few years ago after meeting at a writers conference, because sometimes you just click with a person. She lives many miles away from me in ranch country near Burns, Ore. We email regularly, sometimes talk by Facetime, and try to keep up with each other's projects. I admire her seriousness and also her motivation. She's published five titles, some mystery, some cozy romance and one space opera! But I'll let her tell more.
Marjorie Thelen
Marjorie Thelen, Writer
Q: You've been writing fiction for more than 10 years. What on earth possessed you?

A desire to follow my creativity. Most of my career I worked in business in marketing and finance and had to follow the rules. Writing let me out of the box. I saw an artistic career in my retirement, something to keep me engaged.

Q: What was your reaction when you wrote THE END on your first novel? Terror? Elation? Relief?

Excitement. It was a romance novel set in Galveston, Texas in the 1840s, a novel that will remain forever buried in my file cabinet. But it was only my first draft. I was na├»ve. I didn’t understand about the endless re-writes.

Q: How do you manage your writing life? In other words, describe your process, from inspiration to book published. This obviously will take you more than 140 characters.

I am notorious for writing on a schedule with a goal. I write mornings, five days a week, and my present word goal has advanced to at least a thousand words a day. I don’t know how else to write a long work of fiction. I get an idea, maybe from a place I visited since I like to write mysteries and set them in exotic places, or from something I read or someone said. Like my next book will be based on a watercolor of a cowboy my friend Dona Townsend painted, entitled “My Heroes Have Always Been.” Then I plug along on my daily word count till I have the first draft. I don’t outline, I just write the story chronologically as it comes. I don’t edit much with the first draft, only reviewing and revising the previous day’s work before beginning on today’s. Inevitably about half way through a book, the little voice inside says, “No one is ever going to read this sh*t.” I get over it and tell myself, “Just write something, no matter how bad. Just write something.” Somehow in the end it comes together and doesn’t read as bad as I thought it would. Then I re-write until I have what I want. Then I give it to one or two readers who understand my work to see what they think. I try to write one new book a year. Since I have a backlog I also edit and publish at least one book a year. In the last two years I published two books a year.

Q: The top three reasons why you keep writing:

It entertains me, it entertains me, it entertains me. When it doesn’t anymore, I will give it up.

Q: The top three challenges of being a writer:

1. The lack of understanding on the part of the general public of how hard it is to write a novel or write, period. Everyone (I kid you not) seems to want to write a novel but only one percent ever do. At least, that’s what Jane Kirkpatrick told me.

2. Having to market one’s work after going to all the trouble to write and publish it. One never earns back all the time and effort it takes to write, publish and market a book. Unless you hit the big time.

3. Stamina: writing requires stamina, perseverance, and focus and sometimes it is hard to hang in there. Having an IPA with a writer buddy helps.
Q: Where do you seek inspiration to keep at it?

Myself, mainly. One has to develop a belief in oneself as a writer to keep going. I must admit I have been known to flounder. Then, too, I try to keep in touch with other writers through conferences and meet weekly with a local writer group, who cheer me on. A writer needs that sometimes. Jennifer Fulford is a pretty good cheerleader, too.

Q: What would you like to see change in the publishing industry?

Not so much emphasis of literary fiction in awards and contests. Literary fiction doesn’t usually sell a lot of books. More acceptance and recognition of indie publishers and reviews of their work without having to pay for it. Literary snobbery annoys me.

Q: Tell us about the project you're most proud of. 

The Forty Column Castle, my mystery set in Cyprus, is my favorite book. I’m not sure I ever think about pride when it comes to my work, but this book always puts a smile on my face. I like all my books, even though I’ve heard literary types say they are never satisfied with their work. I am.

Q: Name three writers, all living, who you wouldn't mind being stuck on an elevator with? We'll arrange for a conference later.

Jennifer Fulford who would be very funny about the whole experience and would figure out how to get us out. Jayne Ann Krentz, who writes romance and lives in Seattle, and who seems like a pretty savvy and successful writer. I want to know what she thinks about the industry today. Brian Greene, theoretical physicist, who writes cool books like Fabric of the Cosmos. I want him to explain in detail why we can’t go faster than the speed of light. Stuck in an elevator might be the time. Actually, I’d prefer the opportunity to sit one-on-one with any of them, have a beverage and talk over the writing life.

Find Marjorie's work on her website and on Amazon. Thanks, Marjorie. I owe you several IPAs.


  1. "Everyone (I kid you not) seems to want to write a novel but only one percent ever do."

    I'm gonna have to shout AMEN to this AND hope it's true…I can't imagine MORE books being published.
    Who's going to read them all? (I can't keep up with all the books I've missed already!)

    1. Something like 50K are published through traditional channels every year, if I've got my number right. No way to keep up, but you try harder than most.

  2. Thank you, Jennifer. And let's not forget Jennifer's first BIG novel will be out in April!

    1. I took the advice on your website and am using the Amazon Cloud Reader to download electronic books. Guess which book I'm reading first?!


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