Golden Heart Spotlight – Mary Oldham!

Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to my fellow Rose City Romance Writer, Mary Oldham. I always knew Mary was special, but after reading her bio, now I know why. She’s a Beaver!!!

(Ahem…for those of you who didn’t go to school in Oregon…Oregon State University = the Beavers. I’ll shut up now and let Mary have the floor…)

A fourth generation Oregonian, Mary grew up in Eugene, but has made her home in Portland for the last nineteen years.  In 1991, she earned a Bachelor of Science from Oregon State University, majoring in Business with a Marketing Concentration and has a minor in Fashion, Apparel and Merchandising.  

From the early age of five, she remembers making up very elaborate stories in her head.  It wasn’t until she was a bit older that she realized they might actually have validity!  She likes to write stories about women she can relate to, smart, business savvy heroines who find themselves torn between traditional roles and their own wishes and desires.  

Since she began writing again in January 2008, she’s finaled in eight contests and won two of them.  She’s completed five manuscripts, four of which are a series about a hotel baron and his family.  Currently, she’s reworking a suspense romance entitled The Voice of Reason. 

Mary’s recent contest wins & finals include:

1st Place, 2010 Utah RWA Great Beginnings Contest, Mystery Suspense Category – The Voice of Reason
1st Place, 2009 San Diego RWA, Spring Into Romance Contest, Contemporary Series –  The Hotel Baron’s Mistress

 To learn more about Mary, visit her website

Mary’s 2010 Golden Heart manuscript is Laura Takes a Lover, which finaled in Contemporary Series Romance

After failed fertility treatments lead to a bitter divorce, high school math teacher Laura Daniels escapes to her best friend’s beachside estate, Tranquility, to heal her wounds.  To her surprise she finds a kindred spirit in the other summer guest, gorgeous widower Adam Black.
Their shared loss quickly leads to undeniable passion.  But after three months of stolen moments and awakening sensuality, Adam leaves, abruptly ending the affair. Heartbroken, Laura returns to teaching and discovers she is pregnant.  Desperately in love with Adam, Laura vows to find him and tell him about his child.  Only one little problem stands in her way; she doesn’t know where to look.  In her quest to find Adam, she discovers he is an international hotelier who travels the world.  Meanwhile, Laura’s ex-husband will stop at nothing to win her heart and claim the child as his own.

And now, a little bit about Mary…

1.  How long have you been writing?
I started writing in the winter of 2000, but after some initial agent rejection, I put the manuscript on the shelf and abandoned the idea that I could write.  Then in January of 2008, I was a year away from my fortieth birthday and thought, “Are you just going to sit there or are you going to get back to it?”  I wrote nine short stories over the next two months and have been converting them into manuscripts.  I now have five of the nine completed.

 2.  Did you always want to be a writer or is this something you fell into later in life?
It started when a friend suggested I “journal” my feelings about my very short, very bad marriage.  A funny thing happened, I ended up writing a manuscript about a woman who kills her abusive ex-husband, gets away with it, and goes on to find true love.  Little did I know that I’d written the first draft of my manuscript, The Voice of Reason or that I’d uncovered a passion I didn’t know I had!

3.  What do you do in your “other life”? 
My career has always been in marketing and media.  For the last ten years, I’ve been a major accounts media consultant for The Oregonian newspaper, which means I sell advertising for print, online and niche.  I think the sales persona I’ve honed over the years has thickened my skin for the ups and downs of writing!  

When my clients find out what I do in my “writing life”, you can watch their expressions change.  Sometimes they avoid eye contact or they ask to read something!  It’s a lot of fun!

I’m very close to my family, who live in Eugene.  I spend a lot of time with them at the Oregon Coast where we have a place in Yachats.  The beach is very inspirational for me.

I love to travel and have been fortunate to see a lot of beautiful places.  When I started thinking about how I wanted my website to look, I kept thinking about this Villa located on Lake Como in Italy that was one of the most romantic places I’d ever been.  Little did I know that the afternoon I spent at Villa Balbianello would one day be the inspiration for my website.  Come for a visit!

4.  Who are your favorite authors?
I have to say Linda Howard inspired me more than any other author.  She taught me that authors could be naughty and nice!  When I met her last year in Washington DC, I was totally starstruck and could barely speak.  When I found out my manuscript, The Hotel Baron’s Mistress, finaled in the 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence, I cried.

5.  Do you have an agent?
Not yet, but I’m seeking representation.

6.  Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully published and happy with the work I’m producing.  I wouldn’t mind having my own happy ending with a real hero!

And now, in Mary’s words…

The Sweet Seduction of Writing

People ask, “Where do you get the ideas?” 

“My characters speak to me,” I say with a straight face.  “It’s magic.”

But finding the magic is an altogether different thing…

I start with a single idea and a blank page.  I turn on Diana Krall or a little Chris Botti.  The idea becomes a scene in my mind.  I dress my hero and heroine, these unknown mannequins and wait for more to come.  They take on personalities, likes and dislikes.  They tell me their motives and hide a few plot bending whoppers for later discovery.  Soon, they confide their fears, desires and the past traumas they’ve survived.  The more arrogant of heroes might even criticize the name I’ve given him!

I write a chunk of their story, wondering how it will end.  I write a few sweet scenes that fill my precious weekend, only to highlight and delete the hours upon hours of work late on Sunday night.  I pump up the music, a little U2 or Lady Gaga perhaps to cleanse my cerebral palette.  This continues for weeks, until I fantasize about burning the story in my fireplace. 

I love the story.

I hate the story.

It’s the best thing I’ve ever written. 

My own mother wouldn’t like it.

It embarrasses even me.

I take a break for a few days.  I see my friends and go out to dinner. We go to a movie and I criticize the weak, insipid plot on the drive home, jealous that some author sold their manuscript and they made a movie out of it. 

I visit my family at the beach, but the laptop is in the trunk of my car and something about the ocean waves crashing on the rocks fuels my desire to write again.

Back at my day job, one of my coworkers says something that I could use in a future novel…so I write it in the little black book I always carry in my purse.  “Did you hear about my new client, his name is Richard Schnipper…goes by Dick…”

I drive to a sales call and my characters start speaking to me again.  I tell them to be quiet because I must work the day job for another few hours.  I focus on readership, modular ad sizes and deadlines.  That night, when I get home, my hero and heroine give me the silent treatment.  I retaliate by watching The Bachelorette on television.

Later, dejected, I go to bed with a new Architectural Digest and I see my hero’s bachelor pad on page seventeen.  Over the next few hours, the hero and heroine keep waking me with ideas as to the scenes that could unfold in his chic little den of seduction. 

I get in the shower the next morning, a scene writing in my pounding head and my smug, silver tongued hero whispers in my ear, “I wouldn’t have seduced the heroine after I’d taken a jog, I’d have showered first…” 

How do you fondle your muse?

24 comments to “Golden Heart Spotlight – Mary Oldham!”

  1. Christine Trent
    June 10th, 2010 at 7:48 am · Link

    Mary, my hearty congrats on your Golden Heart nomination! Just think, two years ago you were thinking about finishing a manuscript, now you’re a finalist in a national contest. What an accomplishment.

    I laughed out loud when you talked about the ways you approach your manuscript (“It’s great” “It’s awful” “I love it” “I hate it”). I go through the exact same thing with every manuscript. I guess maybe all writers do…

  2. Jessa Slade
    June 10th, 2010 at 9:27 am · Link

    Congrats on the GH! You’re going to Orlando, right? So we can cheer and say we knew her when?

    I fondle my muse with a tire iron.

  3. Kendra
    June 10th, 2010 at 10:00 am · Link

    Hi Mary. It’s nice to get you know more about you! And I’ll forgive you for being a Beaver…I get along just fine with Elisabeth even though she has that shortcoming. 😈 I’ll see you in Orlando.

  4. Cat Schield
    June 10th, 2010 at 10:16 am · Link

    Hey Mary, congrats on your final. You’ve been having wonderful luck in contests lately, I hope it leads to great things.

    I fondle my muse by tying her to a chair until she promises to behave. But she’s a slippery little thing and often runs off to frolic elsewhere.

  5. Elisabeth Naughton
    June 10th, 2010 at 11:07 am · Link

    Mary, I LOVE this:

    I love the story.

    I hate the story.

    It’s the best thing I’ve ever written.

    My own mother wouldn’t like it.

    It embarrasses even me.

    You described me in a nutshell. I fondle my muse in the same way. Or, er…it fondles me. I’m not sure which. Regardless, I have about three different books being fondled right now and it’s getting rather crowded in my brain.

    Kudos to your hero for pointing out he’d take a shower before the climactic seduction.

    And don’t listen to Kendra…she LOVES that I’m a Beaver fan. She’s just jealous we get to wear orange and she’s stuck with John Deere colors. :mrgreen:

  6. Terry McLaughlin
    June 10th, 2010 at 11:11 am · Link

    Mary, I’m going to ignore the Beaver bit and focus instead on all your successes–WOOO-HOOO and CONGRATULATIONS!!!

    My muse lives in the shower tile grout (gives me an excuse not to scrub and mess with the mojo).

  7. Mary Oldham
    June 10th, 2010 at 11:50 am · Link

    Thank you everyone! I love reading your comments about your personal muses! We all are the same tortured souls!


    As for the Beaver bit, I’m second generation OSU grad!

    Hugs at all of you!


  8. B. A. Binns
    June 10th, 2010 at 12:33 pm · Link

    I love the story.
    I hate the story.
    It’s the best thing I’ve ever written.
    My own mother wouldn’t like it.
    It embarrasses even me.

    God, that sounds just like my process. Except for the “mother ” apart.

    It was really good reading this, and good luck at the Golden Heart.

  9. Keely Thrall
    June 10th, 2010 at 1:40 pm · Link

    My HS mascot was the River Rat, so I can hang with Beavers…

    I hear ya about heroes being a wee bit imperious. My Joe smacked me in the head and said Pay Attention!! I did and brought me to the Unsinkable world of the Golden Hearts.

    Gongrats on finalling, Mary, and way to go on keeping the momentum going from story to story. Our muse can fondle us all me like – and vice versa, but if it doesn’t result in words on the page, it’s more like a one-night stand than a lasting love affair!!

  10. Shea Berkley
    June 10th, 2010 at 4:10 pm · Link

    One of my favorite quotes is by Agatha Christie. She said, “I assumed the burden of the profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”

    She sums up my experience pretty well. We wrestle our muse because we must, but sometimes we trudge on without her because to do otherwise is to abandon the craft.

    Congratulations of finaling in the Golden Heart, Mary!

  11. Gillian Layne
    June 10th, 2010 at 5:48 pm · Link

    Excellent interview, Mary!

    My muse likes to hang out when I’m dreaming or driving the car…but in front of the computer, she’s loooong gone. I try very hard to remember my dreams. 🙂

  12. Mary Oldham
    June 10th, 2010 at 7:24 pm · Link

    Dear Ladies,

    You all are so inspirational! What I love about writing is the wonderful camaraderie. It still surprises me that just two years ago I didn’t know any other writers and now I have many author friends.

    Thank you all so much for stopping by, sharing your thoughts and saying hello!

    Hope to see you in Orlando!

    😀 M

  13. Keli Gwyn
    June 10th, 2010 at 9:14 pm · Link

    Congratulations on your many contest successes, including that Golden Heart final!!

    I’m sooo glad you returned to your creative writing. Clearly, it was your time. I’m impressed with your finals and wins, but what’s even more amazing is that you’ve written five stories since 2008–while working full-time. When a savvy editor snatches you up, s/he’s going to plenty of stories to choose from. Here’s to selling them all.

  14. Elisa Beatty
    June 10th, 2010 at 9:39 pm · Link

    Congrats again, Mary, on the Golden Heart, and those other finals and wins!

    The story behind The Voice of Reason totally cracks me up!

    Endless good luck to you!

  15. Mary Oldham
    June 11th, 2010 at 10:38 am · Link

    Keli, Thank you! I must admit, of the five manuscripts, I’m probably only really happy with three of them! I’m always torn between reworking a story or moving on the next!

    Elisa, I admit…writing The Voice of Reason was VERY therapeutic! My parents still have a hard time reading past the first chapter. I guess I nailed my character a little too well…

    Keely…A River Rat would always be welcomed by A Beaver!

    😆 Mary

  16. Sharon Lynn Fisher
    June 12th, 2010 at 3:16 pm · Link

    I once had a secondary character confront me with, “Don’t you dare kill me off. I’M the hero, not that other meat-head.” He was right. I had to start over.

    I started writing seriously again exactly the same time — early 2008 (two months before 40 landed on me like a ton of bricks).

    Loved reading about your process! Muses. Can’t live with ’em, can’t push ’em in front of a bus.

    See you in Orlando, Mary!

  17. Lizbeth Selvig
    June 12th, 2010 at 10:48 pm · Link

    Hi Mary,
    As usual I’m late to the ball — but I loved your interview and blog. First of all, I’m neither Beaver nor River Rat — but I am a Gopher –and, tada, a Golden Gopher at that. At least we have similar teeth.

    Like the others who commented, I have a love it, hate it, burn it, read it aloud from the rooftops, I’m quitting writing forever relationship with all my manuscripts. And my muse and I have a sort of nine-year-olds’ love/hate relationship. We fight a lot but we love each other. She’s also good friends with my inner editor–and three is always a crowd.

    Congratulations on your Golden Heart. I can’t wait to meet you in Orlando!

  18. Mary Oldham
    June 13th, 2010 at 10:15 am · Link


    I think it is so strange and magical when our characters know so much more than we do. When I was writing LAURA, Adam and Laura, my hero and heroine, woke me on so many nights to criticize the scene I’d written about them before going to bed…

    And why is it that the best dialogue comes at 3:00 a.m.?


    A Golden Gopher is always welcome in the den! Thank you for stopping by!

    Looking forward to meeting you both in Orlando!


  19. Abigail Sharpe
    June 14th, 2010 at 4:19 pm · Link

    Mary, you’re so funny. I love the internal conversations.

    …is it weird to say I don’t think I have a muse? I write because I have to. My characters talk to me, but … I dunno. I’m museless.

  20. G. Jillian Stone
    June 14th, 2010 at 6:36 pm · Link

    How do you fondle your muse?

    I can’t tell you how much I love that line. I will use it form now until forever and will always give you credit for it, Mary Oldham!

    I have a very special muse, his name is Kairos, after the ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment) and often think about how to reward him for being a very, very good muse. 😉

  21. Mary Oldham
    June 14th, 2010 at 7:22 pm · Link


    You make me smile!

    I’m sure I borrowed the “fondling muse” from somewhere…but I don’t want to spoil your impression of me…so it will remain…a SECRET!

    Abigail, you have a muse, he just doesn’t want you to know his name yet. One day you’ll be shopping…like at Safeway and you’ll get the sudden image of a gorgeous man and he’ll say, “Hi, I’m Zeke. I’m hot and I’m your muse.”

    Jill…I’m liking your Kairos. He probably hangs out with my Zeke.

    🙂 M

  22. Abigail Sharpe
    June 15th, 2010 at 4:02 pm · Link

    You know what, Mary? That make me feel a whole lot better. I mean, I get inspired by certain things, but could never put a person on it. And what does it say about me that I have a vivid picture of my evil internal editor? *laugh*

  23. Mary Oldham
    June 16th, 2010 at 9:33 pm · Link


    However it works for you…it is your MAGIC! Writers get this, other people don’t. We live in our heads much of the time creating really wonderful worlds that we try to explain in written form. I think it is sad that other people don’t get to actually see what you or I see…

    (Cue the Willy Wonka Pure Imagination music…)

    I know…I know…deep thoughts for a smut writer,

    🙂 M

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