My name is Mary Schmidt, and I write under the pen names S. Jackson and A. Raymond. A. Raymond is a pen name for my husband, who has a lot of input into our books. I am a retired registered nurse, a member of the Catholic Church, and I have taught Catechism. I have worked in various capacities for The American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, Cub and Boy Scouts, (son, Noah, is an Eagle Scout), and sponsored trips for high school music children. I love all forms of art but mostly I focus on the visual arts; as amateur photography, traditional, and graphic art as my health allows. I have an online art gallery, and I am currently finishing up a screenplay from my first memoir (there will be a sequel someday). More recently, we both love to devote precious time with our first grandson, Austin.
Beverley: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Mary: I have written bits and pieces since grade school. I hung up my registered nurse hat in January of 2013, and I found myself with time on my hands. My youngest son, Sam, had a cancer battle and passed at age five in 1990. Since I had journal notes that detailed this part of my life, and my boy’s lives, I decided to put my journals into electronic form for my living son, Gene. A multi award-winning memoir came from that, When Angels Fly , written using pen names of S. Jackson & A. Raymond, and changing of all names and places. That was a huge project and is an epic length book, on sale right now for $0.99. Then I thought ‘now what to do next’ and illustrated children’s books came to mind. From that another multi award-winning book, The Big Cheese Festival , a book about bullies was written and a book dealing with good touch/bad touch, Suzy Has A Secret , was written. From that point, we went to books involving squirrels and a small dog. We have wild squirrels come into our backyard, and my husband started to leave them walnuts and bell seeds. One squirrel, Stubby – aptly named as he had just a stub of a tail and he became brave when the nuts were all taken. Stubby took to standing up on his hind legs on a ledge outside a picture window. He let us know he wanted more nuts! The squirrels are still wild, as we would never dream of taming one, but they did become fodder for an illustrated children’s book series, Shadow and Friends, and each book is fine as a stand-a-lone. Shadow was chosen as our daughter has a small dog so we decided that dog and the squirrels would have many adventures .
Beverley: What is your typical work schedule when you’re writing?
Mary: Once I’ve had my first cup of coffee, I turn on my computer, check my email and respond accordingly. I then spend about one to two hours on social media, mainly Twitter and Facebook, and work on my author brand, tweet book sales and new releases, and I reply to all my messages. Then I settle in to my work in progress. I designed my own cover yesterday, and now I’m touching up each paragraph for each page of the fully illustrated book. I will start individual page graphics and design today and these take some time as I want the illustrations to be the best they can be, so I allow time for that to happen. I’m editing a book for a relatively new author with great potential so I can go back and forth as needed when I need to take a break or do something different. I love being able to teach this new author what I have learned in during my writing career thus far. I check my email again around noon and respond back to questions on my blog. If I just finished a book, I will post my review and all four- and five- star reviews are also posted on my blog. Early afternoon is time for my husband and me. We connect and relax before he heads for work and I show him my latest illustrations for his approval or necessary changes. I respond back to emails and such after he leaves and then I make some dinner, usually fresh fruit and veggies, and I read or watch a show. Evenings are reserved for my downtime and to relax with a book or a show or both. That is a typical day. Atypical days happen often so I go with the flow of what needs to be done first. Some days I don’t write or illustrate at all, but I read every day.
Beverley: What is your quirky thing you do?
Mary: I think I’m simply quirky all around. The biggest one is that I won’t even turn my computer on before I have one cup of coffee and breakfast as I function much better in this manner or it could be the fact that when I’m driving ideas come to me and I can’t write them down.
Beverley: What do you look ahead to when you’re not writing?
Mary : I’m always looking ahead, every day and throughout the day. I have self-imposed deadlines since I publish my own books through M. Schmidt Productions (except for two books) which is part of my brand. However, the only books published through M. Schmidt Productions are mine and that is how it will stay. I have zero interest in publishing others works. I do offer eBook cover design and promo graphics to the writing community. I’m always working in out of state trips for doctors and new adventures, family time get-togethers and holiday planning. As for future books, I have a nice list of book ideas that I keep adding to – most will never be written by me during my lifetime.
Beverley: Can you explain yourself in one sentence?
Mary: I’m a registered nurse, reader, writer, play-write, traditional artist, digital artist, blogger, photographer, traveler, wife, mother, grandmother, and daughter.
Beverley: What period of life fascinates you most to write about?
Mary: My memoirs are contemporary and my imaginative children’s adventure books are current so that is basically what I do. I’ve yet to try my hand in writing during a different time period but I do love to read a good Victorian romance. I’m from and in the USA but I can picture myself in London as a debutante with a family house in Mayfair or in Ireland along the coast. Does it seem strange to prefer reading fascinating historical romance books but not write in that era?
Beverley: What are some of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
Mary: You can pour your soul and heart into a memoir, such as my first one, When Angels Fly , and not everyone will like it. First book, first time authors find things out fast after publication. Not every reader will like you or your book. Just move on and try to develop a thick skin. For the children’s books, reading to a class and obtaining feedback from the kids is a boost. I know what they like and what they don’t like. That is a huge plus when writing and illustrating future books for kids.
Beverley: Which literary work is your favorite?
Mary: I truly don’t have a favorite literary work. Is this a legal question to ask an author? LOL I honestly don’t have one favorite piece unless the Bible counts. I love my Bible. I love many great historical romance authors and books as well as some contemporary works. I grew up with mysteries and suspense books and all the fairy tale books. It is easier for me to answer what I don’t like which is erotica and satanic. I see that I am rambling here so back to the question my favorite book is my Bible.
Beverley: What do you think is the hardest part of your writing process?
Mary: Editing is by far the hardest part for me. That isn’t a problem for my children’s literature, but it is for two-hour short reads and full-length books. Especially my first book, a memoir, and a hard book to write, as I lived each day of that nightmare, and I will never have ‘fresh eyes’ for edits regarding When Angels Fly . I lived and relive this memoir daily and the story behind it is such that it is all consuming – a living nightmare so to say. It is also my best selling, multi-award winning, real life, soul baring story and it’s not like a travel memoir or those types of memoirs. Mine is gut-wrenching, honest, and true – except for names, locations and such to prevent libel. I simply can’t edit this book. Recently, I read a wonderful novel from another author. She has tremendous potential and I let her know that. I also told her she needed a good editor. Money is tight for her just like it is for me, and so I’m editing her books for her . This is easy for me. I make sure her tense is the same, she ends no sentence with a preposition, great flow, grammar and punctuation basics, and I catch glitches here and there; I do this for free as she shows tremendous potential. I also explain to her why such and such is changed, or what she left out, other words to use in place of ‘said’ and things like that and she is happy to be learning. She is grateful and her writing has improved. All I asked her for in return is take her new knowledge and help another author in the future – a paying it forward kind of deal.
Beverley: What are your methods to emotionally connect with your characters?
Mary: I don’t think this question applies to me since I don’t write novels. I imagine the author needs to be able to put themselves into a character for that character to evolve and flow emotionally and all. This doesn’t apply to my picture books for kids. As for my memoir, and my new release, Sammy: Hero at Age Five, I still live those emotions day in and day out.
Beverley: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Mary: That is an easy question. My memoir necessitated the use of a pseudonym, so I chose S. Jackson and A. Raymond. Those two names represent my husband and myself. I wrote my memoir alone, though. For the other books, I write the paragraph for each page and I design all the illustrations. My husband helps creatively with what we want to teach kids in each book and how to make the story pop out and grab kid’s attentions. Most recently, my new release, Sammy: Hero at Age Five is authored by me as M. Schmidt and my son as Gene D. Donley since nothing libelous was written in this short but powerful story.
Beverley: How many unpublished and partially completed books do you have?
Mary: I have five works in progress and one I am doing illustrations for now. It will publish this month, May 2019. I have a third addition of my memoir coming out this month as well.
Beve rley: If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Mary: If I couldn’t write, and since I’m disabled, I would focus myself on oil painting, photography and digital art.
Beverley: How do you flesh out your characters? By just writing them or do you outline who they are and what they want?
Mary: Shadow is one character, and we have named many backyard wild squirrels as each one is unique in their own way. Stubby due to his tail, Little Whitey as he is the baby squirrel of Big Whitey, who loves Foxy, a mama squirrel. We have Cutter, he has a cut in one ear, and Nibbler, who has one cut and two holes in one ear, the list goes on. Our characters literally come to us, to the patio for walnuts. Therefore, we have all the characters we need for this series.
Bev erley: Do you outline your plots?
Mary: Yes. Each story gets a basic outline using the focus we choose. For instance, we wanted the squirrels and Shadow to have a European adventure, so the outline listed the places to visit and how they would get there. That was a fun one to write. We like to have kids laugh and be amused, while teaching them important things such as safety, travel safety, what to do when lost, and the like.
Beverley: What makes your stories unique? In other words, why should a reader choose your book over the thousands of others?
Mary: “When Angels Fly ” has impacted people worldwide. The book has three parts, and it needed three parts. Hope, love, and inspiration comes forth from the darkness of abuse as a child, a bad marriage and the devastation of cancer and child loss. I’ve been able to help other parents with child loss, being an advocate for their child in the hospital, picking their battles with hospital staff so to prevent alienating staff, and more.
The “Shadow and Friends ” series uses many of the same characters, and new ones added in during specific visits and adventures. One example is they spend Christmas in New York . Full title is “Shadow and Friends Spend Christmas in New York ” – Central Park actually. They meet up with Stubby’s twin, Shorty, who is married to a grey squirrel and kids learn the different squirrels in the area of each story. In this one, Stubby is the nutcracker king. Gingerbread men and decorations are abundant, and they have a Christmas Squirrel Parade through Central Park, they take carriage rides in the park, Foxy goes shopping at Saks, they have a grand time.
Beverley: Tell us about your other services—digital artist etc.
Mary: I love art. I love art in all forms since being a child. I would draw my own paper dolls, and anything that came to mind. I also love to paint in oil as oil paint is more forgiving than other media, and I’ve being doing digital media works since around 1996. I make my own illustrations, designs for book posters, and my own covers. I offer to make book posters as single and 3-D, animated and eBook covers on my blog at https://whenangelsfly.net and examples are provided. Thank you for asking.
Beverley: What about book promotion? What works best for you?
Mary: With my health, I can’t do it all. I have a team of two PA’s who handle the Facebook side of promos, and some Instagram. They are good at what they do and reasonable in price. I do my own Twitter, and some Instagram. I send out a monthly newsletter to those who have signed up, and they receive a free eBook when each new book is live. We are satisfied with the results.
Authors starting out must do this on their own. I suggest they start a foundation on at least Facebook and Twitter promoting their soon to be released book. They should also have a blog or website.
Beverley: What do you do towards branding yourself—making your name recognizable to readers?
Mary: I’m known worldwide due to the books that have won many awards, and the events attended to receive medals hung around our necks. Once you have a quality book, enter book competitions. The medals and badges will help you and your brand.
Beverley: Do you have any last words?
Mary: Glad you asked this! A new release just came out the end of March! $1.99 and written by M. Schmidt and Gene D. Donley.
AMAZON UK LINK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07PP95MSZ
Blurb for Sammy Hero at Age Five.
“Kids can get hungry sometimes while on chemo,” says five-year-old Sammy, having a good day despite the malignant tumor invading his brain. Based on true events from the 1980s, Sammy’s story is imagined by his mother and brother as if the young boy might tell it himself. The result is gripping. Told in two parts, Sammy’s account first invites us into the everyday middle-American lives of a mom and her two boys. Sammy is a sweet, good-hearted kid, even as he faces the most difficult challenges in Part 2: “Cancer Arrived.” Here Sammy talks us through hospital trips and procedures, the hardest parts as well as moments of simple joy. It is not always possible to survive such a grim diagnosis, so Sammy and his family must embrace the smaller victories from one day to the next. Finally, our young hero is given one last opportunity to find his own unique path toward triumph. Listen closely as Sammy tells us all what matters most.
Mary’s Social Links:
Art Gallery: https://www.deviantart.com/mschmidtproductions?rnrd=207526
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/S.-Jackson/e/B013NRRKR2
You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC549RC6yxc3Xm_wzVH-_GMg
Pinterest: https://www. pinterest.com/marylschmidt/