Mary’s mystery series, The Master Sergeant Harper Mysteries, features Master Sergeant Lauren Harper, a dedicated soldier who travels the world on Army business only to learn that the threats to someone in uniform aren’t limited to war. She didn’t train for the dangers she faces but that can’t stop her. If she doesn’t face them, who will?
The first book, THE PEACEKEEPER’S PHOTOGRAPH, takes place in a small Army outpost during the Bosnian Peacekeeping mission. PEACEKEEPER’S PHOTOGRAPH, which is scheduled for publication in August of 2013, was the winner of the Carey McCray Memorial Literary Award for best novel from the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop. THE SAPPER’S PLOT, the second book in the series will also be published in 2013.
Mary began her publishing career as the co-author of the book, I’M STILL STANDING: FROM CAPTIVE U.S. SOLDIER TO FREE CITIZEN – MY JOURNEY HOME (Touchstone, 2010), which chronicles the story of Shoshana Johnson, a member of the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured during an ambush and held prisoner in the early days of the Iraq War. The book was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the literary category for best Auto/biography in 2010.
Mary also co-authored SOLDIER, GENERAL, MOTHER, SELF (Water Street Press, 2013), the story of how a small town, African-American girl became the first nationally nominated African-American female General Officer in the Army National Guard. BG (ret.) Julia Cleckley’s story is one of tragedy and triumph that will inspire and encourage.
Mary’s adult romance series published under the name Louise Kokesh, called GENUINE DATE, is also scheduled for publication in 2013.
Mary has a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Broadcast Communications from Metropolitan State University and a Master of Arts from the University of Oklahoma in International Relations.
Master Sergeant Lauren Harper is part of the NATO mission in Bosnia, a mission meant to be about keeping the peace. Warring factions have devastated the country leaving ruined cities and ruined lives after years of war. While a coalition of armies from around the globe step in to broker peace, the world watches.
But when Harper makes a gruesome discovery, she has a new mission. Saving herself.
Harper, a career soldier, is innocent of the crime she’s accused of, but she’s guilty of a lot of other things, like inappropriate feelings for her commanding officer, Colonel Neil McCallen and failing to train a soldier who needed her help. Worse, she didn’t see the evidence sitting right in front of her face. To get herself out of the crosshairs, Harper has to employ all of her wits and the help of an unexpected friend from across the pond, Sergeant Major Harry Fogg.
Her mistakes land Harper in the worst trouble she’s ever faced. She is forced to choose. If she saves herself, others will die. If she stays, she faces a life of degradation and slavery.
UBAWA: When did you first decide you wanted to become an author?
Mary: I'm not sure that becoming a writer is something you decide to do. I believe it's something that you cultivate over years of crafting words on paper. I first began to take writing seriously while in college. I wrote a few short stories and the process stuck in my head. Since then, I often find myself coming up with plots, characters, and scenes that demand to be developed. If I didn’t put them to paper I would have to consciously ignore them calling to me.
So I don’t believe I ever decided to be a writer. I could, however, deny myself that calling, but why would I want to do that?
UBAWA: How did you decide on the idea for your 1st book? 2nd book? 3rd book, etc?
Mary: I was in the Army Reserve for almost 20 years. I went all over the world while in uniform. That kind of travel brings you face to face with so many things and so many experiences; I always knew that one day I would write about them. Master Sergeant Harper was naturally born from those travels. She will go to far corners of the world and get into all kinds of mischief. While the character is not autobiographical, many of her adventures are naturally based on places and things I experienced along the way.
While The Peacekeeper’s Photograph is the first book I wrote, it is not the first one I published. My agent, while shopping the book around, learned that an editor was looking for someone to write Shoshana Johnson’s story. Johnson was a member of the 507th Maintenance Company, a unit that was ambushed in the early days of the Iraq war. Johnson and four other members of her unit were captured and held prisoner for twenty three days. I was privileged to help her bring her story to print and the resulting work was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2010.
After that, I was asked to write BG(ret.) Julia Cleckley’s story. Her book will be published in August of 2013.
While I have enjoyed working with women to tell their stories, fiction is my true passion and I hope to concentrate on that genre now.
UBAWA: How long did it take you to complete your first book? What was the process like?
Mary: The Peacekeeper's Photograph took me about six months to write. I was living in Annapolis, Maryland at the time, in an apartment that had a great view of the bay. Once the idea for the story hit me, I spent almost every evening sitting on my balcony with my laptop spewing out words. I had the first draft done in about three months. The rewrites continued for years until this year. I know this story is finally ready for people to read it. I'm very proud of it.
UBAWA: What’s so rewarding about writing books and being an author?
Mary: I don't know that being an author is rewarding. I don't know that telling stories is rewarding either. The work really isn't about reward. I just like to tell stories and I hope that through them people will learn something. I would love for people to read my books and learn that women in the military are something other than what they may assume them to be. If I could change or alter someone's perspective, that would be rewarding.
UBAWA: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up?
Mary: Absolutely not. I have always participated in writing groups. I am in a writing group now made up of five other writers. We all encourage each other, review each other’s work, and provide feedback. I would never let any of them quit and I know that they would never allow me to give up either. Besides, it's too much fun.
UBAWA: There’s more to being an author than writing a book. How do you manage to handle the business side of things?
Mary: I'm learning about this every day, especially now since I decided to self publish. I'm just starting though. Check back with me in six months. I can tell you that I have a lot less time to actually write! I hope that will change in about six months when I get these books published.
UBAWA: Do you have an editor or do you edit your own books?
Mary: Oh no, I am the worst editor ever! In fact, there are probably tons of mistakes in these responses I'm typing here. Anyone who relies on themselves to edit is asking for trouble. Paying someone to line edit my pages is the best investment I could make and I will never skip that step in the process.
UBAWA: Who does the cover art for your book(s)?
Mary: I'm almost afraid to say. Right now, she has reasonably prices and professional and I'd hate to have her be inundated with other people's work! She's great actually and has been very helpful. She works under the business name of Earthly Charms at www.earthlycharms.com. Her name is Su. We're just beginning to work together on a whole series of covers so I'll be keeping her busy for a while.
UBAWA: Do you ever encounter writer’s block? How do you get past it?
Mary: I run into plot problems...difficulty figuring out what happens next, but not real writer’s block. If I had the time, I could write so much more than I do. As it is, I still have to work for a living.
UBAWA: How often do you write?
Mary: I try to write something every day. I may not write a part of my books. It might be a blog post or something else, but I do try to write every day. I found that when I did NaNoWriMo and had to hit that 1500 word count every day, it wasn't that difficult. I enjoy spewing out a bunch of words. Some are good, some aren't but getting the words to the page is the most important thing. I think that some people are intimidated by a blank page. I try to see it as an opportunity.
UBAWA: Tell us about your last book signing.
Mary: HA! I've never had one. Check back with me in September!
UBAWA: Beside social media, what other methods are you using to get the word out about your book(s)?
Mary: I will do a press release, attend some writing conferences. I hope that people who read and enjoyed Shoshana's book will want to pick up my fiction. I encourage as many people as possible to leave reviews at Amazon and Goodreads.
UBAWA: As a Woman of Color, what inspires you the most?
Mary: Shoshana Johnson inspires me for her bravery and endurance. Julia Cleckley inspires me for her ability to work through trauma and still succeed. My two sisters inspire me for raising beautiful families and being loving mothers. And Michelle Obama inspires me for having those rockin' arms! I wish I could wear a tank top like that woman.
UBAWA: Who is your biggest influence?
Mary: When it comes to writing, definitely my mother. She loved books. People often talk about the first book they ever read. I don't remember what book it was because I've read thousands and it's all because of my mom. She always had her nose in a book and I picked up that habit from her. I feel sad for people who don't read. I really do. They have no idea what they are missing and have no concept of how their world could expand if they would only pick up a book.
UBAWA: Have you ever done something in the past you regret? How did you get through it?
Mary: Jeeze, of course. Who lives without regret?
UBAWA: How do you get through the tough times in life when life throws what it throws at you?
Mary: The sun comes up each day and sets each day and life just marches on. There is no such thing as quitting, is there? What? You're going to say stop the bus, I want to get off?
UBAWA: What is one goal you want to accomplish for yourself in 2013?
Mary: Publish, publish, publish. One month ago, I finally decided to split with my agent and self publish. We had a publisher interested in my mystery series but after several months, I became disillusioned with them and decided that I'd worked too hard and too long on my stories to leave them in someone else's hands, so I'm self publishing. My goal is to get as many of them published as possible this year. It's time for Master Sergeant Harper to meet the world and for the world to meet her.
UBAWA: What do you have planned next?
Mary: After I publish the Harper mysteries, I will work on finishing the third book. While writing that, I will publish the adult erotica that I've written. It's a whole new genre for me but one that was waiting to happen I guess. After that, there are a ton of stories still rolling around in my head. I'll need to get to them at some point.
UBAWA: How can readers and others in the literary community reach you?
Mary: You can follow my blog at www.mldoyleauthor.com or find my author Facebook page at mldoyleauthor. The Peacekeeper's Photograph is scheduled for publication in August of 2013.