Tales To Count On
Brief synopsis of your book:
Curl up and enter the eclectic world of S. R. Mallery, where sad meets bizarre and deception meets humor; where history meets revenge and magic meets gothic. Whether it’s 500 words or 5,000, these TALES TO COUNT ON, which include a battered women’s shelter, childhood memories, Venetian love, magic photographs, PTSD fallout, sisters’ tricks, WWII spies, the French Revolution, evil vaudevillians, and celebrity woes, will remind you that in the end, nothing is ever what it seems.
S.R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life. First, a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy. Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.
Current book or project you’re working on:
The Dolan Girls: The Dolan Girls by S. R. Mallery has it all. Set in Nebraska during the 1800s, whorehouse madams, ladies of the night, a schoolmarm, a Pinkerton detective, a Shakespeare-quoting old coot, brutal outlaws, and a horse-wrangler fill out the cast of characters. Add to the mix are colourful descriptions of an 1856 Land Rush, Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, Annie Oakley, bank/train robberies, small town local politics, and last but not least, romance. It’s not only a taste of America’s past, it’s also about people overcoming insurmountable odds.
What moment or event sparked the inspiration for your short stories?
No one moment, really. These stories were written here and there, as I tried to experiment with words and get something published, and before I attempted to write my first novel, Unexpected Gifts.
Please share three interesting facts you learned while writing your book.
1) Flash fiction, which I started writing in order to get into magazines more easily, turned out to be an extremely enjoyable process for me.
2) I realized how much being exposed to O. Henry, De Maupassant, Roald Dahl, The TV series Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchcock Hour growing up influenced me in my tendency to add twist endings.
3) This being my first self-published work, I have been learning about Amazon publishing, keywords, and algorithms. Who knew?
Was there a “twist” in any story that surprised you while writing this book?
LOL. Since many of the stories were designed with twists, nothing surprised me!!
What is your favourite part of writing a book of short stories?
I love going from one subject to another; how each story can be a full entity in and of itself. As a matter of fact, when I was a professional quilter and teacher, I would always encourage my students to start with pillows, then ease into making a full quilt.
On the flip side, what is the most difficult part of putting a book of short stories together?
With my other collection of shorts, Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, there was a definite connection between the stories of sewing and/or crafts, no matter what the various plots were or time periods. In compiling Tales to Count On, I wondered with each of the stories being so eclectic, how I could create any connecting thread between them all. Then it hit me. How about featuring the Word Count of each story? After all, in flash fiction, a story has to be under 1,000 words and my French Revolution story, “Him,” had to be greatly expanded in order to enter it into a contest. So voilà! Each story’s word count became my connection!
What inspires you most when writing in different time periods?
I love reading about all the little oddball things that happen in history that the average person might not know about. In doing my research, I could be going along, learning about that particular time period when suddenly, I come across some fact that sparks a “What if that happened?” I live for those moments!
Your latest book sounds like it has a lot to offer a reader, which story is your favourite and why?
I have several favorites, actually. The first one, “Good Advice,” because of my having volunteered in a battered women’s shelter long ago, where I learned how vital those havens were for terrified women, trapped in horrific relationships. “A Photographic Memory,” and “Yutzler’s,” both based on my own childhood memories, gave me such pleasure to relive them as I wrote.
What genre and age group does your book fall into?
The stories in this book are so eclectic, there is not just one genre involved. History, romance, gothic, mystery––it’s all there!
What is the first book you remember reading that affected how you thought or possibly changed how you felt about something?
Oh, boy. That’s a hard one...Maybe “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn”. I loved how the main character, Francie, was so introspective in the midst of such poverty and life struggles. Her wanting to be a writer when she grew up tugged at me somehow.
Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?
1) Harper Lee, for her lyrical way of showing rather than telling.
2) O. Henry, for his wonderful twist endings.
3) William Styron, for his beautiful style.
Which of your books taught you the most as a writer and a person?
Interesting question! Probably my Unexpected Gifts. The back and forth of a modern day heroine and her ancestors’ past not only really helped me grow as a writer, it also made me appreciate what people in different settings have experienced.
You have such a diverse background. You’ve enjoyed several different and interesting professions. How have your many talents enriched your writing?
I used to bemoan the fact that I didn’t start writing at an early age like so many other authors, but I’ve come to realize that maybe having various professions might have rounded out my sensibilities. As a singer, I learned about emotion and how ‘coloring’ the voice is an important part of a song’s interpretation. As a calligrapher, I developed a delicate touch, and as an adult ESL teacher, I’ve been exposed to many people and their different cultures.
After your first book came out what was it that made you know, there were more stories you needed to tell?
Coming to this writing ‘life’ fairly recently, I could feel all my pent-up ideas that were unconscious before, had actually been percolating inside of me all my life, just waiting to be released! After Unexpected Gifts came out, I accepted the fact that the entire writing process—first drafts, second drafts, third drafts, etc., all of which calmed me down enormously, was here to stay...
How many books have you written?
Three, and I am working on my forth, with a sequel to that in mind.
Is there anything special you do that helps you write with a sense of nostalgia when writing historical fiction?
Music and photographs. Big time. For Unexpected Gifts, I listened to music from each of the time periods presented. Boy, that 60’s music was a blast to relive!! For my upcoming western, The Dolan Girls, I’ve been enjoying western movie themes, such as “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Big Country”.
What are three challenges you’ve faced since becoming an author?
1) Social media promotion and marketing.
2) Social media promotion and marketing.
3) Social media promotion and marketing.
Do you take part in your book cover design?
Yes, I used a very talented cover designer named Travis Miles. He asked me to come up with concept ideas. One of them was of an open door; I also sent him a brief synopsis of the different stories and he took it from there.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned, either in the self-publishing or traditional publisher, route?
The traditional route was, for me, a godsend at first. I was so new, so raw as an author, I needed total guidance. However, the more savvy I became, the more I realized the beauty and the perks of self-publication.
What one thing would you tell all new writers to think about before their book is released?
Target marketing. Being cross-genre myself, I’m still learning about how to make my eclectic books available to eclectic audiences. You can waste a lot of time just promoting to the ‘wrong’ readers.
Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
In Tales To Count On, just the biographical stories. In my Unexpected Gifts, my main character, Sonia, has OCD. I have some of that myself!
Which book to movie conversion is your favourite?
No hesitation there—“To Kill A Mockingbird”.
Do movies ever inspire your writing?
ALL THE TIME!!! I watch a lot of movies—as I walk on the treadmill, cycle, or on the couch, and I am always getting ideas for motivation, plot, and character development by viewing them!
Do you study science, the planets, history, or anything special to help you with your writing?
I study all facets of history—clothing, atmosphere, lingo, whatever. All so important in helping readers get fully immersed in a time period, I feel.
Do you think authors should write and read one genre or explore many options?
As with any creative endeavour, I think it is very important to expand and grow. I’ve been reading books totally outside of my genre and they have taught me a very valuable lesson: if the characters are appealing, it doesn’t matter the genre.
Drink – chardonnay and champagne
Food – As long as it includes vegetables, all types of food—except sushi
Vacation – Monterey, CA, northwest Connecticut, Martha’s Vineyard, Tuscany, the British Isles, etc., etc.
TV show – various series, particularly the historical fiction ones and crime dramas.
Movie – “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “The Miracle Worker,” “Love Actually,” “Elizabeth,” “Shakespeare In Love,” “Rear Window”. I could go on and on
Animal – Sorry, dog-lovers, I’m a feline kind of gal...
Sport – tennis
Book – To Kill a Mockingbird, I Capture the Castle, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, etc etc., plus many new ones I’ve been reading, too numerous to mention
Comedy – I can go anywhere from “The Court Jester,” to “Pineapple Express,” to “Shirley Valentine”...plus the older sitcoms: All In the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Show of Shows, The Tim Allen Tool Time show (BOY, does this date ME!!)
Struggle – I admire people who come to the U. S. who, in spite of their fears, missing their loved ones, and trying to learn English, are full of good humour and grace under fire. I also admire people with disabilities, who struggle to just ‘maintain’ every day of their lives.
How can people connect with you?
Pinterest: (I have some good history boards that are getting a lot of attention—history, vintage clothing, older films)
Where can readers find your book?
Check out S.R. Mallery's other books: