Mary Montague Sikes is a multi-talented woman: writer, artist, and photographer. She shares with us a variety of information about how she keeps her fingers in all the creative pies of her life.
Let’s talk about your book covers, specifically, the ones you created. How’d that happen?
My publisher and I were talking about cover possibilities for my first novel, Hearts Across Forever, and I realized I had a painting that was a perfect representation of the waterfall in my story. We sent a photograph of it to the cover artist, and she used it. My pastel of Rose Hall Great House—the setting for much of the story—is reproduced on the back cover. Back cover art has become especially important to me. For Eagle Rising, we have a photograph of me with a dramatic eagle sculpture my husband and I discovered on a return trip to Sedona, AZ right before the book was published. The cover art for Eagle Rising is an acrylic painting I did of one of the Sedona Red Rock formations. The cover for Secrets by the Sea is a photograph of a sea shore I took on one of our trips to a tropical island. The warm orange color falling over the seaside depicts the setting on the island of Antigua. It is the setting that beguiled the heroine’s grandfather and prevented him from returning to his home in Virginia.
How long have you been writing? As far as I can tell, you’ve published non-fiction, mystery, and romance. What do you like to write best—and why?
I’ve been writing forever. One of my first writing efforts was a poem about George Washington I wrote as a third-grader and recited during an assembly for my entire elementary school. I like writing in several genres for different reasons. I love to do non-fiction newspaper interviews. It’s interesting and fun to meet new people, plus I enjoy taking the photographs to go along with the articles. Mystery-writing is fulfilling because of all the twists and turns an author can add to the story. I enjoy putting the mystery in an exotic setting, like Trinidad, Antigua, Sedona, and Jamaica. My publisher has created the Passenger to Paradise series for my books, all of which have exotic settings. Writing romance is nice because the author and the reader can always expect a happy ending. And in today’s world, what can be nicer than a happy ending? My books combine mystery and romance.
I’ve visited the link on your website to your Art Gallery and am amazed at the variety of your artwork: Giclees, photography, paintings (oil, acrylic, pastels…). I’m sure the creative process for those works shares some similarities with writing—and presents you with many differences. Yes? No? Why?
Everything creative requires imagination. Whether you are writing a story or painting a work of art, you must first see in your mind those things you wish to create. That works for both art and writing. I love the quote from Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I have that quote posted in the art classroom where I teach more than 360 elementary school children each week. Imagination is everything to the creative person.
How do you manage your time? Do you have set days or times for writing versus painting or snapping photos? Do you need to make appointments with yourself in order to remember everything?
My time is centered around the two full days each week that I teach art in the local elementary school. I play tennis two days a week and take step aerobics classes three days. My creative times are fitted into the schedule of these sports activities. I believe that good health is the most important thing in life. If you don’t have good health, you will not have the energy to be creative. I’m not as organized as I’d like to be, but I do usually manage to work everything in. For example, this week I’m going to an opening reception at the art gallery that represents my work. The gallery owner wants his artists to be there to mingle with clients. I’m also doing a demonstration at this same gallery the next day and am displaying my art in a local artist event during the same time. When I have something special like these events, I need to ration my time more closely. I also find I sometimes need to work on into the night to keep up with deadlines when I have them.
What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.
Secrets by the Sea began with my ponderings: What if a man deserted his family for the attraction of the island of Antigua? What if his granddaughter had a secret correspondence with him through the years? What if he were searching for a rare gold coin? What if he were murdered and his granddaughter went to the island to find out who did it? Secrets by the Sea is the book that grew from my imagination as my husband wandered along the beaches at English Harbor and visited the Museum of History in the little town of St. John. It features mystery, romance, and even a ghost. You can buy Secrets by the Sea from Amazon.com or order directly from me at firstname.lastname@example.org for an autographed copy that I would love to personalize. All three of my books are also available as Kindle books.
What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?
I’m working on completing my mystery/suspense novel, Night Watch, which is due out December 1st. Set in Trinidad, this book includes some of the adventures (embellished) we had on that island a few years ago. The book also features a little paranormal which I always like to include as well as a romance.
Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?
Never give up. Keep on writing. The more you write, the more you will improve. Keep good notes of interesting things you do and people you encounter. They may become part of your next novel.
Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.
I had a book signing and an exhibition of art work from my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember, at the Griffin in Fredericksburg during the month of October. People in the Petersburg, VA area can visit Petersburg Regional Art Center, Friday, November 13th, 6 to 9 p.m. where I will be in my studio/gallery with my art and some of my books. My art is on display at Prince George Gallery in Williamsburg, VA.
Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.
The support of my husband makes all my creative endeavors possible. He serves as my business manager, chauffeur, and much more in transporting art and setting up signings and other events. We both love to travel to new and exotic settings for art now, photography, and future book settings. He arranges those trips.
What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):
Thanks, Linda, for having me as a guest on Author Exchange Blog.