Marty Ambrose has been consumed with the world of literature, whether teaching English at Southern New Hampshire University or creating her own fiction, for almost two decades. Her career has spanned both mystery and historical fiction with seven published novels to her credit, receiving starred reviews by Publishers Weekly and becoming a finalist for the Royal Palm Literary Award. Marty’s current work, A Shadowed Fate, is set in nineteenth-century Italy, which has included multiple trips to Florence and Ravenna to research the Romantic poets’ haunts.
When not traveling or writing, she’s hanging out on an island in Southwest Florida with her husband, former news-anchor, Jim McLaughlin and their Labrador puppy, Luna. And being the kind and supportive creative we adore she graciously took a break from her writing to answer a few questions and share more about her author journey.
You’re an author, but is it your day job? I do write full-time, but I also teach English & creative writing at Florida Southwestern State College. Most of my days are filled with a nice combination of teaching and writing; it’s a dream schedule!
Did you always want to be an author? Absolutely, I always wanted to be a writer. I was scribbling little stories and poetry when I was in elementary school and read everything that I could get my hands on at the library. I started out writing the kind of fiction similar to many of the authors I read from the nineteenth century, including Edgar Allen Poe and Agatha Christie. Not surprisingly, I loved his mysteries, and my early stories always had a twist of suspense.
What is your most recent book and what inspired you to write it? My latest release is A Shadowed Fate, published by Severn House in March 2020. It is the second book of a trilogy set around the Byron/Shelley circle in nineteenth-century Italy. I was always fascinated by these brilliant literati and, in particular, when they all convened in Geneva during the “haunted summer” of 1816, and Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. However, I wanted to tell this story from a fresh perspective. I decided to have Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, narrate the novel from later in her life when she had outlived the rest of them by decades and was trying to come to terms with her turbulent relationship with Lord Byron and the mystery of their daughter’s fate. In these novels, I’ve had the chance to combine my obsession with the Romantics and my love of writing mysteries.
How do you hope your book uplifts those who read it? The quality that I hope uplifts readers from Claire Clairmont’s narrative is her enduring ability to survive the difficulties in her life and to forgive those people who mistreated or even betrayed her. She is stubborn, impulsive, and passionate but, also, devoted to the friends and relatives whom she loves. I hope readers connect with her complexity and charismatic personality.
What are you most excited about with this book? I’m most excited that I was able to take my protagonist, Claire Clairmont, on an odyssey through Italy in this book to find out what happened to her daughter, Allegra, when she supposedly died at the Convent of Bagnacavallo at the age of six. It was exciting to write about the places I researched on a trip to Italy in 2018 and make them the backdrop of Claire’s traveling landscape. I found the many locales, including Ravenna, Bagni di Lucca, and Pisa to be magical, and I hope my readers are drawn into the evocative beauty of the settings.
How did writing a book help your career take off? I had written traditional mystery for about ten years, and I wanted to write something different which tapped into my love of the British Romantic poets and history. So, I wrote Claire’s Last Secret,the first book in the trilogy, and my agent sold it to a dream publisher, Severn House. This new series positioned me as a historical mystery author, and I have a whole new readership.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Patience. Patience. Patience. It takes a long time to learn the craft of writing, find an agent, and publish your novel. All of those steps seem to move at a snail’s pace—and you are constantly playing a “hurry-up and wait” game. But I don’t think there are any shortcuts if you want to produce a compelling work of art. You just have to keep working at the process and know that with some talent and a lot of work, you can get published! Also, I always suggest that new writers join profession organizations like Mystery Writers of America or Historical Novel Society to connect with other writers and network with members of the publishing community. I met both my agent and my editor at a conference.
How do you handle setbacks and criticism? Well, if you are going to publish a novel, you have to be prepared to receive criticism from reviewers and readers. Along the way, some of the comments are positive and some are negative, so I always remind myself that there is a subjective element when evaluating a work of art. I had one reviewer comment that A Shadowed Fate had a “travelogue” feel to the narrative; another reviewer loved how “Italy came alive” in the book. What can I say? I certainly liked the latter opinion better, but I realize that there are always going to be conflicting perspectives when evaluating literature. All I can do is write that best book I can.
How do you hold yourself accountable and achieve the goals that you set forth? I generally have a weekly schedule with a seven-day word count production. On Mondays, I attend to marketing/promotion activities but, on the other days, I have set writing times to work on my book. Then, I mark my calendar with “due dates” for chapters. As a working writer, I think it’s important to have a “business mind” in the planning aspect of your creative output. It’s a balance for me.
What do you find most fulfilling in the career that you’ve chosen? The most fulfilling aspect of being a writer for me is being able to create a literary work that is unique; it is totally my book in voice and execution. That’s an extraordinary feeling. After I finish a book, I always take time to appreciate what it took for me to be able to complete my manuscript and, then, I pat myself on the back for following my own creative vision. What could be better than that?
What book uplifts you? When I’m feeling the need to inspire me, I re-read Jean Rhys’ novella, Wide Sargasso Sea to remind myself why I write books. Her work inspired me to pen historical novels with a dual narrative approach—incorporating letters, newspapers, and journals. Rhys is a “writer’s writer” with her lush descriptions and re-telling of a classic character (Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre). I savor her beautiful authorial voice and appreciate her unique storytelling skills. That uplifts me every time.
Anything else you’d like to share with your readers? Just that how privileged I am to have readers who actually seek out my books and enjoy them. Thank you! It is such a special feeling when I hear from a reader, and he or she shares an appreciation of my work—an amazing gift. I can honestly say that I never take my readers for granted, and I work diligently not to disappoint them. It’s a special relationship.
Learn more about Marty Ambrose and her books at www.martyambrose.com.
Image Courtesy of Marty Ambrose