MEET M.J. SCHILLER~A LADY IN RED

     Hi, everyone!  This is M.J. Schiller, author of Taken by Storm, coming October fifteenth from Crimson Romance!  M.J. is the name I write under and my given name; but most call me Mary.  My mom, and a few others, call me Mary Jean.  But I’ve always seen myself as more of an M.J.  Sexy, don’t ya think?  I guess I imagine Peter Parker (otherwise known as Spiderman) and his girlfriend, M.J.  Besides, I always thought it was kind of cool when people went by their initials.  It’s like a nickname, and only popular people have nicknames, right?  Okay, a little pathetic, but I’m seeing this post as type of confessional, so hold on to your seat!

I am happily married to my college sweetheart, going on twenty-four years now.  We have a seventeen-year-old, Maggie, and three fifteen-year-olds, Mitch, Ryan, and Hannah, and yes, they are triplets!  And they all have their learning permits!  I’ve been their sole driving instructor thus far, but luckily they seem to be naturals.  Not that we haven’t had our share of hairy moments, but that’s to be expected. (My particular favorite is the wrong way down a one-way street.  Always gets the ol’ heart pumping!)

We live deep in the heartland, in Bloomington, IL and I am a lunch lady.  Great job!  You get your summers off and time to take a nap every day before the kids get home from school.  If I were to give you one physical characteristic to describe myself the one that springs to mind immediately is my abnormally short arms (don’t send me any T-Rex jokes, I’ve heard them all!)  My friends take great delight in this deformity and have been known to do imitations of me, waxing a car, playing volleyball, etc.  They think it’s hilarious.  I don’t let it bother me too much and have been known to shout out, when I’m in need of a little extra reach, “A little sympathy for the arm-length challenged?”

What’s my secret passion?  I used to think of writing as that, but now that’s pretty much out in the open.  Karaoke?  I love to karaoke and tend to stick to the rock music genre.  In fact, at least half of my books have rock star characters.  Karaoke is somewhat of a public passion, but I sing under assumed names, Gigi, Bambi, Fifi (I guess I like names that end in “I”), I even signed up under Snowflake around Christmas time.

I guess the one thing about myself that I’d never change is my off-beat sense of humor and positive attitude towards life.  Positive attitude can see you through a lot.

If I didn’t live in the flatlands of Central Illinois, where would I live?  Anywhere else!  No, just kidding.  Illinois is not that bad.  I’d choose the stereotypical gorgeous places, Hawaii, Ireland.  I think Ireland would be especially conducive to writing.

Do I write about where I live or where I’d like to live?  Well, I’ve written twelve different books and some take place in St. Louis, where I grew up, some take place in Ireland, New York, outer space, even.  I guess I go where the story takes me.

What’s the first creative writing I remember doing outside a class?  In second grade Mary Ellen Murphy and I wrote a spectacular book called, wait for it… “The Black Cat.”  It was an edge-of-your-seat thriller about a black cat that would appear at the same time the main character disappeared.  Oooh, mysterious!  It was written on blue hotel stationary, hole-punched, and bound with white yarn, as all of the best books are.

Why do I write romance novels?  I think it has to do with that whole positive attitude thing.  They all have happy endings.  I feel ripped off if I don’t get my happy ending!  I remember seeing a particular movie, some of you may have seen it, where the guy and the gal finally get all of their problems worked out and he walks into the Twin Towers and the desk calendar reads 9/11.  After two hours of trials and tribulations and our couple gets together only to have him blown up in the last seconds of the film.  I’m sorry people, but that’s bologna!  I walked out of that theater telling people, “Don’t see it!  It’s awful!”  And don’t get me started on Nicholas Sparks.  I love him, but I hate him!

What else do I write? Mostly romance, but a few romantic suspense novels, a sci-fi romance, and a couple of children’s books.  Someday I hope to write my memoir, too.  I’m going to title it: The Relgious Experience of a Mother of Four, subtitled:  How Triplets and a Two-Year-Old Brought Me to my Knees!

What one thing from Taken by Storm did I take from personal experience? Well, I’ve never been to the desert, so I guess it’s not that.  I think it would be the way Bashea and her brothers and sisters tease each other and repeat family stories.  That reminds me of my family whenever we get together.

What did I cut from my book that felt like severing a body part? I really didn’t cut anything, but there was this one scene.  I thought my hero, Tahj, was being playful, the editor thought he was being a jerk.  I had my writing group read it and while some agreed with me, there were enough that agreed with the editor that I ended up tweaking that scene.

Do I identify closely with one particular character? How? I have one book, I can’t share the title because I’m seeking permission to use a famous purse manufacturer’s name in the title.  I’ll just tell you that it’s called, “To Hell in a Blank Bag.”  It’s about four Midwest lunch ladies and their road trip to Colorado and what they learned along the way about life and love.  It’s semi-autobiographical (very semi) and I guess I sort of identify with Dani, one of the heroines.

The best part about my writing life is: CONTROL! I can make my characters do whatever I want.  (Keep in mind, I have four teenagers.  No one does what I want around here).

The worst part about my writing life is: having to “sell” myself, and by this I mean marketing.  I’ve never been a pushy person, or one to toot my own horn, so this simply isn’t my favorite part.

Give a hint about what the next book’s like:  Oooh!  My next book, coming sometime in January 2013, is titled, Trapped Under Ice.  It’s about a rock star that grew up in an abusive home and a, you got it, Midwest lunch lady.  Isn’t that a great pair?  Can you say “fantasy fulfillment?”

     Well, it’s been fun sharing today.  Thank you, Ladies in Red, for having me here.  It’s been a pleasure getting to know you all through this forum and I can’t wait to hear more from my soul mates in writing.

Find me at: www.mjschiller.com

http://www.marysmerrymusings.wordpress.com

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16 Comments

  1. Glad to see such positivity! 😉 My grandmother was Illinois…spent many a time driving through that state. And my hat is off to you with triplets..wow! May the words continue to flow!

  2. Thank you, M.V.! I had a lot of fun answering the questions. And I apologize for your drive through our lovely state. It’s not exactly what most would call scenic. Flat, and treeless, for the most part. Still, each area has its own unique beauty, doesn’t it? I took a quick peek at your website but hope to check it out more later and maybe talk to you there. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I love Illinois scenery. The farmland is amazing no matter what season. The miles-wide lines of deep green soybean plants and lighter green tall (not this year, though!) corn. Who needs 50 shades of gray? Illinois looks like a patchwork quilt of shades of green.

    I love this, “M.J. Schiller…mother of triplets (and your lovely older daugther), romance writer, lunch lady.” You rock!

    …and I absolutely loved Taken by Storm and am honored that you allowed me yet another preview of a Schiller novel.

    -R.T. Wolfe
    http://www.rtwolfe.com

    • Thanks, R.T.! I’m so glad that I’ve had you to lean on throughout all this. Can’t wait until “Black Creak Burning” is a reality. Not too much longer!

  4. Hi M.J. love the blog, it’s so you! I love reading your fiction. You have such wonderful characters. I can’t wait for that non-fictional memoir about the triplets and the two year old! Thanks for teaching and guiding me through this path of authorhood. You’ve been a wonderful friend and colleague! Love ya!

    • Eryn, it has truly been my pleasure. You bring a spark of pure joy into everything you do and have been a blessing in my life. I can’t wait until “Beneath the Wall” comes out. For those of you who don’t know Eryn her romance, set, in part, during the Vietnam War, is due out Sept. 1st. The story begins in present times and has a lot of twists and turns that make things even more interesting. I’ve been lucky to read some of the pages and am familiar with the entire plot so I’m on pins and needles until I get my copy and can read the rest. Thanks, Eryn, for taking the time to stop by.

  5. So nice getting to know you, M.J. I went to graduate school in St. Louis and lived in Webster Groves, so it’s great to meet another Missourian. Love your positive attitude. Sounds like it’s already taken you far, and I wish you all the best with your new release.

    • Thank you, Susan! I am from Kirkwood so I guess I will just have to overlook the fact that you lived in Webster Groves. Just kidding! My sister even lived in Webster for a time, much to my chagrin.

      Just to explain, Kirkwood High School and Webster Groves High School, both suburbs of St. Louis, have the distinction of having the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River. Every Turkey Day the two teams fight it out on the gridiron for bragging rights and possession of the Frisco Bell. The animosity between the two cities is so ingrained that, the first day of track practice, the Kirkwood coach is said to take his team on a run to the boundary between Kirkwood and their rival and have the team spit on the Webster side!

      However, Susan and I, as fellow Ladies in Red, are going to rise above the fray (we just might not talk to each other around Thanksgiving). All joking aside, Susan, it is good to have something else in common with you and I wish you the best of luck in all your writing endeavors. Thanks for taking the time to read my post and comment on it.

  6. MJ, loved your post! Thanks so much for sharing so many delicious details about your life and best of luck on the release of your debut novel!

    • Thank you so much, Laurie and good luck with your latest, “Keeper by Surprise.” I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to stop by and comment!

  7. great intro MJ. Loved reading about the details of your life and am in awe of you having all those children. I had one and thought that was hard!.

    • Thank you for the kind words. It’s interesting being in the position I’m in, because I often have people tell me they “admire” me, (even my stepmom!) for having four kids. It’s really nothing to admire; I struggle with parenting like everyone else. I’ve come to the conclusion that whether you have one or thirty-two, it’s never easy. With mine being so close in age, they could entertain each other, where you had to be the sole entertainment for your young one. Everyone who tries to be the best parent they can be should be admired, in my opinion. Thank you, Rowena, for stopping by to read today and taking the time to comment. (My daughter, who also writes, has a character in her book named Rowena Harding. Her Rowena is a real spit-fire. I’ve never seen that name anywhere outside of her book, but it is pretty!)

  8. M.J. you have your hands full! Triplets wow. I have 3 grown up kids and they were two handfuls. No wonder you need a nap.
    It’s so nice to get to know another Lady in Red. Looking forward to Taken By Storm’s release!

    • Thanks, Sharon! And yes, I am a HUGE believer in the nap. I almost feel as much of a psychological need for it as physical. It separates my work part of the day from the rest of it. My kitty curls up with me, and I’ve been known to say out loud, in a room by myself, “I LOVE you bed!” Thanks for stopping by and offering your support. It means a lot to me!

  9. Thanks for sharing about yourself and your life with us. My hat is off to you to be able to write twelve books while raising four children. You should write a book on time management!

    • Carol you are so sweet, but I guarantee that if any of my friends are reading this, they are laughing right now. My self-diagnosed attention deficit disorder makes me distracted by just about anything. My biggest pitfalls are Facebook and checking my email. Because, you know, something earth-shatteringly vital may be in there that wasn’t in there five minutes ago. And I may need to take care of it RIGHT NOW! (Come to think of it, it may be my self-diagnosed obsessive/compulsive disorder that is to blame for that.)

      I LOVE to write. In fact, I’d rather write than do just about anything. So actually, those twelve books are more a measurment of my selfishness, I’m afraid. I do try to keep from totally ignoring the needs of my family, and my other responsibilities, but I probably ride the line at times.

      Thank you so much for taking interest in my life and spending your time reading about it. I wish you the best of luck with “Stubborn Hearts” and all of your writing endeavors.


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