Interview with Mara Powers, author of “Shadows of Atlantis: Awakening”

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?

I really don’t know a lot of authors. I grew up wanting to be a professional partier, so I personally am more of a social butterfly. I have thousands of friends, and that’s not much of an exaggeration 😉 I was a party promoter in Los Angeles for about 8 years, and worked in the tourism and resort management industry before that. However, I have to say that since I started writing, I have become more of a hermit. When I’m writing I require exclusive access to my thoughts, so I can’t spend too much time with people. And if I do, I start to get jealous of the time they’re spending with me.

Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

If you have a great editor or teams of editors, then no. But I am a grammar nazi. By the time I send it on to my editing team, they should have little work to do. I saw an interview with Steven King that said even if you have to make up your own grammar to make the story flow, do it.

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

In a way, this series I’m working on is a dissertation of mine. I have spent over 20 years researching Atlantis from all points of view. I am obsessed with the riddle of ancient civilizations.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

For me, research is everything. It’s part of my regimen. But my research is part of my life path, and I feel like I owe it to myself and the world to always increase my storehouse of knowledge about Atlantis.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

I have always been a writer. When I was a kid I would write little books and staple the paper together. My parents started giving me blank journals when I was in kindergarten. Funny story: I was a nerd in elementary school who was used to being teased every day. Then my 6th grade teacher started assigning us creative writing projects. She read my project to the class, and everyone burst out laughing. They loved it. When they asked who wrote it, and she said me, they were all shocked. But after that, they would beg for her to read my projects. It was the first time in my life I felt accepted.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

I have been writing full time for 6 years. In that time, I have come to understand my writing process quite well. I am very much an intuitive writer. I have a very hard time sticking to schedules and discipline. So I have come to accept that about myself. I write the best in the winter and the summer. Don’t know why. I also find that when the Mercury is in Retrograde, I write like a champion. I also don’t really know why. I’ve been measuring what’s happening in the seasons and the cosmos when I feel the most creative, and that is my pattern. Lately since I’ve started marketing my first book and working on the second, I do business stuff first thing in the day, take a break, then spend the latter half of the day writing, but that has been a very difficult balance to achieve.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I go where it takes me. That really falls into my intuitive personality. Usually I will have an idea where I’m going, then I just write until I get stuck. Then I go out in search of inspiration. I will keep my mind on my characters, and usually the next step just comes to me in a flash of inspiration. I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go, so I can jot down any thoughts my characters have, or little details I come up with.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Writing is the fun part, but the sharing is what’s the most difficult. I have decided to take the self-publishing route, and it’s very challenging to self-promote all the time.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

I get writer’s block sometimes for months. It comes and goes with the seasons.

Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

Most people with writer’s block tend to get very down on themselves and enter into a state of depression. It’s the dark, self-defeating cycle of the artist. I have some great ways that I deal with it. First and foremost, I just accept it. I don’t try and force myself out of it. It’s like when you forget a thought, and the more you think about it, the more frustrated you get. But when you stop thinking about it, it comes back all of a sudden. The mind is a great mystery, and when thoughts go hiding in their little pockets, you have to take it with a grain of salt, and go on and do other things. Also, it’s important to keep a special notebook about what is happening around you when you are inspired. Like, what season is it? Or what is the astrology at the time? I believe humans are in synch with nature, and if you treat the creative process like a growing season, you can tend your garden easier.

It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time, does that remain true for you as well?

I think everyone has had their hearts broken at least once. I feel very deeply, and my heart has broken so many times, that I have high blood pressure now. Haha. But ultimately, yes. It’s been said that the saddest people in the world are the artists, because we can feel the pain in the world at the core of our souls. It is our job to do it. We process the issues of our time, and record it for posterity.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My whole family believes in me more than anyone. They are instrumental in me even being able to do this at all. I have traveled for years living with various family and friends for periods of time. But when I am having my writing seasons, I stay put at either my mom’s or my dad’s. My mom lives on a ranch in Colorado, and my dad lives in the forest of Northern Virginia. Both places are quiet, and I can spend all my time focusing.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer?

I do not keep a day job. I figured out a while ago that if I am to really dedicate myself to launching writing as a career, I would have to get rid of everything else. I decided this was my job, and just built my life around it. I usually make the wrong choices, and do everything the hard way, so there have been many trials and errors that have set me back, but I just keep doing it. The main problem with this strategy is that I am broke all the time, and I live with my parents. I have had all the freedom in the world, except for the restrictions of money.

Do your novels carry a message?

The entire reason I’m doing this is to convey a message. I have researched lost civilizations, but I also study philosophy, theology and metaphysics. (As well as book marketing and the application of writing) I have incorporated all my research into one intense saga. My main theme revolves around exploring why evil exists in humanity. I also use Atlantis as a device to illustrate what is wrong with our culture today. In a way I am like this guy Michael Tellinger. If you don’t know him, Google him. He is a researcher of ancient civilizations as well, and he uses this knowledge as a lesson for what we need to learn as a global culture today. He developed a political system called Ubuntu, which he has launched in South Africa. I would love to find a way to use my knowledge to help thrust humanity into a forward momentum as well. I just haven’t figured out how yet. It’s part of the puzzle I work on daily. I would get involved in Ubuntu, I’m just not a political leader like Tellinger, and I’m also American. Our political system is so complicated, I wouldn’t touch it with a 30 foot pole. I prefer Hollywood as a means to influence the masses.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

I have two characters who are based on me. I don’t like to say who, because I like for people who know me to read the book and take a guess.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

All the situations in my story are based on my experiences. I will add names and phrases and things my characters think and see all from my observations. This is why going out to chase the muse is one of the aspects of my writing process. I watch and listen to everything everywhere I go.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

I would like to think that a book can be judged by its cover. I had a very interesting time finding my cover. I was always looking for one particular artist. I didn’t know who it would be, but I knew how I wanted their style to look. One day a friend of mine posted the work of an artist on Facebook, and I knew that was the style I had been looking for. And better yet, I knew him! I lived in Venice Beach at the time, and frequented a bar called the Venice Ale House. I would see this guy from time to time. He was like a skateboard rat who always wore a ball cap. I ran into him at the Ale House one day, and asked him to do my cover. My cover is very important to me, and he’s even working on a new piece for the second book. His style is the visual basis for my world, and we love collaborating.

Do you make your own vocabulary words in your book or resort to the existing ones?

I do! I have created an entire Atlantean glossary. It’s very fun. I got that from reading various other fantasy and Sci-fi books. Dune is a big one for me. I always loved his invented vocabulary, and wanted to emulate it. I got a bad review once, and the reviewer referenced this, saying I use “incomprehensible prose.” I had to laugh, because I feel like this person wasn’t familiar with the fantasy genre where people have this kind of creative freedom. But if you read my book, keep in mind there’s a glossary in the back if you don’t understand a word.

Does a bad review affect your writing?

Of course! I actually love bad reviews, because they help me make the changes I need. Although once the book is released, it doesn’t really do me any good. I find myself wanting to give a bad review to the bad review. But of course it’s important not to react, and just stuff the thoughts back in that little pocket of my mind that forgets everything.

What do you do in your free time?

Free time? What’s that? I actually don’t remember.

If you were given a teaching opportunity, would you accept it?

I think teaching would be a great honor, and perhaps the next big step after any kind of momentum or mastery takes effect. It’s important to pass on the knowledge one accumulates. So, yes I would accept it.

Which of your books do you see on the silver screen?

I have lived off and on in Los Angeles for ten years. It is my favorite city, and I have many friends in the film business. My book promo video was a collaboration of many of my contacts, and I have been developing a TV series for the past few years along with a very extensive show bible. My intention is to make my Atlantis world accessible for any writer to pick up the story from any point. I love to share, and I look forward to all my work being on every screen possible.

Here’s a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fN2cKadiuI

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Be stubborn. Be patient. Do not give up. Keep learning every day. Don’t be hard on yourself. Go with the flow. Listen, observe, carry a notebook all the time. Accept, release, surrender, take no prisoners. Claim the space where you can be free with your thoughts. And above all, have fun with it.