Mary Helen “Mara” Smith and Shuford “Ford” Smith – Endangered

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

In our first adventure into self-publishing, we released two books simultaneously. Endangered is a suspense novel. Winning Wines: Medal Winners for $12 or Less is a compendium of wines that have medaled in more than one major wine competition.

Tell us something about yourself.

As a couple, we write together. It all started when we retired early – at ages 39 and 43. At first, we freelanced newspaper and magazine articles. Then, when we traveled full-time across the North American continent, we kept a daily journal. We were approached by an agent to compile two camping guides for the U.S. After that, we were asked by a fellow writer to pen a retirement book that she was unable to fit into her schedule….

After traveling for ten years, we settled in Tryon, North Carolina to focus on our writing. Now, we’ve written nine books (two camping guides, two retirement resources, one national award-winning children’s book, one photobook – we also photograph together – two editions of our wine compendium, and one novel).

What inspired you to write this book?

The novel, Endangered, was kindled by taking part in a volunteer research project on loggerhead turtles. We spent a week on a Georgia sea island, patrolling the beach at night during the turtles’ nesting season. We fell in love with the sea island ecology and culture. Afterward, we really got into researching the area, the turtles, the Gullah….

Winning Wines grew out of our passion for good wines – at affordable prices. Knowledgeable about computers, data, and statistics, Ford would download the results of the major wine competitions then compile the information into a list we could take to the grocery and wine shop. Voila, our wine list was born. After sharing it with friends and family for several years, one acquaintance suggested we publish it. So, we did.

How did you choose the title?

Both titles suggested themselves. The suspense novel, Endangered, is about an endangered woman, an endangered island, an endangered culture, an endangered species. Winning Wines: Medal Winners for $12 or Less lists award-winning wines that cost $12 or less.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

Mark Coker at Smashwords has made self-publishing easy – even running it through “the meat grinders” for all the various e-book formats. CreateSpace and Amazon offer the tools to create a bound book and a Kindle edition.

How do you write together?

In fiction, we develop themes that hold our passions. We come up with concepts and we create characters to move the story forward. We plot the entire book, working to maintain suspense. Once we’ve developed the ideas for each chapter, we divide up the chapters. Usually, one writes odd-numbered chapters; the other writes even-numbered chapters. Of course, one has to wait for the previous chapter to be completed. During that time, the other edits and expands. By the time, the novel is complete, our voices are one.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

We’re learning how to market our books as fast as we can. We announced the books with national and local press releases. We held booksignings in each city that made sense – where we live now, where we lived when we worked on the book, and where the book was set. We’ve created a website for each book. We’ve produced one YouTube video – reading the Gullah story that appears in Endangered and combining it with some of our photography. We’ve contacted unbiased (not for pay) reading services for reviews. Readers have posted Amazon reviews. We post newsworthy events about either book on Facebook and KindleBoards. We’re trying Google AdWords. Through HARO, we send out appropriate information to reporters.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

We’d love to have a large budget for marketing!

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yes, it’s loosely based on some of our adventures as we traveled North America for ten years. We’ve identified “power places ” that have messages for modern society.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Be fearless. Make contact with other writers, agents, editors, etc. Consider self-publishing. Promote your work!

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?