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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Author Interview: Maggie Toussaint

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to welcome Maggie Toussaint. Maggie is a fairly recent transplant to coastal Georgia after a busy life in Frederick, Maryland. She’s a scientist by training, but says “a romanticist at heart.” Her scientific training stands her in good stead, however, as she studies how things work “whether it’s complex machinery, a Sudoku puzzle, or the male femaile subtext of a conversation,” she told me.

She didn’t leave her busy life behind when she moved away from the busy city, however. This creates something of a challenge for her when it comes to her writing. She shared with me, “I used to be a scientist, then I ‘retired’ to write books. Once we moved south, the local weekly paper was short-handed. I volunteered to help temporarily until they got a real reporter in there. Two years later, I’m still working for the paper on a freelance basis. Every week I have deadlines I have to meet, places I have to go, people I have to interview.

“You can see how this unpredictable workload could play hell with your muse.

“The scientist in me analyzed the problem. I’m freshest in the morning, so I need morning time for my book writing. Afternoons are for the newspaper. Sometimes I have to switch it up and do interviews in the morning and there are always doctor appointments and hair cuts to work around. If I’m not careful, I don’t get much writing time.

“Plus, now that I’m published, I need time to promote my books.

“Bottom-line: I am a very busy person. I practically have to schedule dinner with my husband! The newspaper gives me a creative outlet, immediate feedback on my writing, plus I am providing a community service. Only after my first book came out did I see that my newspaper writing had helped build a reader base.

“So, it’s worth it to me to keep my day job. Which means I have to be relentless about protecting my writing time.”

She doesn’t limit her writing to just one genre, however. She writes romantic suspense for The Wild Rose Press, sweet romance for Freya’s Bower, and cozy mystery for Five Star. And, with all she does, she must be a past master at multi-tasking.

“[Multi-tasking] is a dirty word to me,” she said. “I didn’t realize I’d been multi-tasking for years until they came up with a name for it.” She shared that in the field of science, many procedures are time-consuming and, with her job, she had to get used to doing multiple procedures at once. “I’d be centrifuging test tubes, drying glassware in the oven, using a rotary extractor to pull solvents off a sample, keeping up with all the paperwork – whew! It was a relief to go home at the end of a day,” she said.

And then, she had children (she has two). She told me that when she added them to the marriage and career mixture, “I had to [multi-task] at home to survive. Laundry – several loads a day; meals – short order cook, with at least 4 to 6 meals prepared daily; House cleaning & yard work – catch as catch can; running the kids all over the country – daily; well, the to-do list just went on and on.

“My brain rebelled. Or maybe I had hardening of the brain. I don’t know. I became less successful at balancing lots of things at once. Wet laundry would sit in the washer for a few days. The empty light of the car’s gas tank became my constant companion. But the kicker was the day I forgot to pick my kids up from school. It was the most embarrassing and humiliating moment of my life. Traumatized both kids too, or at least that’s what they tell me!”

She realized at that point, something had to change. She started multi-tasking less and having her kids do more. She told me, “Heck, my daughters both swear that I had them doing their own laundry as soon as they could see over the washing machine. Anyway, once everyone became aware that ‘Mom’ had finite limits, life became less stressful for me.”

She still gets drawn into projects to the extent she loses focus on what’s going on around her, but this can be an asset for a writer. “I guess you could say I’ve adapted to my limitations,” she said. “In any event, I no longer stress over multi-tasking. I do what I can and the rest can wait until tomorrow.”

I asked Maggie to tell us a bit about her newest book, No Second Chance.

Hope Farrier is the heroine of No Second Chance. She rescues horses, and she wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s also abysmal at finances. Her horse rescue charity is on the brink of bankruptcy. If she loses her farm, Hope will lose the only real home she and her sister have ever known.

Devlin Temple, my hero, needs help winning the CEO job he covets. He’s pitted against his sneaky cousin who he believes is sabotaging the family firm to hurt Devlin. Though he’s much sought after by the ladies for his good looks and big bank account, Devlin is actually a shrewd accountant.

Devlin’s mother, Lillian, is the bridge between these two disparate worlds. She volunteers at Hope’s farm and she knows how much Devlin wants the CEO job she’s held most of her life. She’s also in the final stages of cancer. She binds the two of them together in a vesting trust so that Hope and Devlin must help each other.

Hope must overcome her trailer park origins and dazzle the Board for Devlin’s sake. Devlin must battle his allergies to pull Hope’s farm into the black. But with each passing day, trouble mounts for Hope’s farm and for Devlin’s company, until Devlin and Hope are fighting for their lives and their love.

Proceeds from this story will benefit a real life horse rescue charity, Day’s End Farm. Visit them at www.defhr.org.


I was interested to find out how Maggie went from being a scientist to a second career as a romance writer.

I’m a reader, a bookworm actually. In my heyday I could easily read a book a day, and I wore out my library cards. Now that I’m a writer, I read fewer new books because I don’t have as much free time.

Stories have always transcended the page for me. When I open a book, I step into that world. I embrace the action, the adventure, the romance. I’m compelled to keep turning the pages until I get to the end of a book.

I fell off a ski slope in 1991 and indulged my voracious reading appetite for a few months. Some of the books I read were excellent, some were annoyingly bad. I knew I could do it better. Which got me to thinking, if I loved reading books so much, what would it be like to write one? So I started writing. No training whatsoever, just all heart.

My first three novels were flat out awful, but I was blissfully unaware of how bad they were. Then I joined RWA and met other writers and became exposed to craft elements. A big eye-opener for me.

Learning how to write saved my dream and earned me a rewarding second career.”

Maggie has obviously learned a lot during her writing career, so I asked her for some words of advice for new writers. She started off by saying that, believe it or not, when you get a rejection letter or agonzize over an agent/editor meeting, it really isn’t the worse time of your life. Instead, you should see them as character building events, because you are entering “what is ultimately a very difficult, subjective industry. You have to be able to take negative comments about your work because they don’t stop once you get published.” She also reminds the new author, “Back in the beginning you are writing for yourself. Those stories are the most pure, the most you. Enjoy that very special time.” She goes on to say, “It may seem like it takes forever to “break in” but you can do it, if you want it enough. By that I mean you have to be able to take apart your stories and put them back together, in your voice, but with the constraints of the market and publishable writing. Once you have mastered the various craft elements, this becomes easier. But this is not an easy thing to do. Like I said, you have to want it bad.

“If you’re not brilliantly gifted, I strongly urge you to find a mentor. A published author helped me, and I’m doing the same with other new writers. Network with other writers and seek out those that have similar goals. You’ll need that fellowship, believe me.”

Now, for some little known facts about Maggie—

Like many of us, she doesn’t particularly like her own pictures. She told me, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to look like, but my picture isn’t it. I’ve just always assumed I’m an old soul, someone who’s been recycled through the cosmos, but with amnesia. I don’t have any thoughts about if I should look better or worse, it’s just that I look so unfamiliar. You’d think after 52 years I’d be comfortable with my appearance, but I still don’t know what I’m supposed to look like. I had the long straight hair of the 70s. The poufy, permed, big hair of the 80’s. The fashionable bob of the 90s. And the wind tousled razer cut of the 00’s. Is it any wonder I’m confused?”

Her big excursion into the world of crank phone calls hit its zenith when she was in elementary school. “Back in the dark ages, when dinosaurs ruled the land,” she said, “my best friend and I would pretend to be other girls in our elementary school class and set up dates with the guys. I don’t know whatever came of it, I mean, we didn’t get in trouble or anything. That would get kids in so much trouble today! The reality is that I’m from a very small town. There were only 50 kids in my grade for the entire county, so the likelihood that people didn’t recognize our voices was about zero. But what a vicarious thrill. My friend would be the voice. I was the dialer. We’d hold the phone between us, and it was all we could do to keep from bursting out laughing when anybody answered. Lord, the things kids get up to!”

One of the fun questions I like asking is “have you ever eaten a crayon?” Maggie told me, “I’ve never actually eaten a crayon, but one girl in my Sunday School class used to do it all the time. I ran into her at a community function the other day and I hadn’t seen her in 40 years. The first thing I did was to look for bits of colored wax in her teeth. I was disappointed to learn that she’d given up this entertaining habit, or at least she’d cleaned up her teeth for the event.”

Maggie loves hearing from her readers. She said, “It is so rewarding to hear that someone enjoyed one of my books. People write to me frequently and I use my fan mail to tide me over when my energy flags.” She added, “Two women in my hometown tracked me down to ask about my hero Jake Sutherland in my first book, House of Lies. They said they knew I couldn’t have made up a guy like that. They wanted to know who he was so that they could marry him. Wow, I was overwhelmed to say the least. Jake is my fantasy man. They can’t have him! And yet, he’d caught them just as surely as he’d caught me.” You can contact her at maggie@maggietoussaint.com.

Visit Maggie at www.maggietoussaint.com for her latest release information. And, while you are there, check out her book trailer for No Second Chance. Click on the words “book trailer” on the home page and see the beautiful horses galloping through the clouds. 

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