Mary Schoenecker began her writing career as a free-lance journalist in New York and then Florida. Once she became interested in writing historical novels (after her youngest son completed a genealogical search of his ancestors), Mary attended writing conferences and joined a critique group to learn and improve her craft.
Family Inspired Writing by Mary Schoenecker, Guest Blogger
My first successful novel published by Five Star in 2006 was Four Summers Waiting, a Civil War epic. Authentic family letters and diary excerpts chronicled the struggles and hopes of my children’s ancestors during this terrible time in our nation’s history. Although I fictionalized their lives, all family characters and most events were true.
The plot and setting for subsequent books were also inspired by family. The seed for the contemporary series I wrote next was a lithograph circa 1845 that I viewed in a mill town in coastal Maine. It was of a woman tending a spinning frame in a cotton mill. In my mind’s eye the woman metamorphosed into my grandmother who actually came to a mill town with her family in 1890 to look for work. The lithograph inspired me to write a series using characters with a mix of my heritage in a real mill town that is steeped in ethnicity and tradition. Finding Fiona, published by Five Star in 2008 became the first book of Maine Shore Chronicles. It was followed by Moonglade, published in 2010. All three of my books in time were given second editions in Large Print by Thorndike Press.
Many series readers wonder if they will be confused by characters and plot if they do not start with the first book of a series. A colleague gave me this tip to help answer the question: ‘Add a family tree to the front of your book’. I have added one to my work in progress prefaced by the following paragraph:
“For readers unfamiliar with the Fontaine and Chamberlain families, or for followers of the Chronicles series who need reacquainting with the characters, the two families in this tree become a cast of unforgettable characters, links of a chain forged from strong ethnicities and strengthened with enduring love. Many would consider them one extended family.”
My new book, Promise Keeper, Book Three of the series, contains a smidgen of mysticism from my family background. My maternal great grandmother was a healer and seer. Those skills are inherited by a continuing character in the series, Tantè Margaret. My current work in progress brings us full circle with family inspired characters. Tantè will at last star in a book of her own. Hopefully my WIP will complete the Chronicles series as Book Four, and by that time anyone choosing to read it will want to find and read the first three books!
Mary, thanks so much for introducing us to your novels and telling us how the story ideas originated.