Thursday, November 14, 2013

GIVEAWAY! and Interview with M.L. Doyle, author of "THE PEACEKEEPER'S PHOTOGRAPH"

Welcome again to the BB Writers Retreat series!

In honor of Veterans Day week and all men and women in combat boots, I'd like to introduce my guest, published author M. L. Doyle. After the interview, Mary is giving away a signed copy of her book, so be sure to enter to win by commenting below!              

"writing about women in combat boots"
M.L. Doyle, author of
Second in the Master Sergeant Lauren Harper Mystery Series
Lia Mack: Thank you so much for being part of the BB Writers Retreat series, Mary.

Can you start us off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

M.L. Doyle: I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota. My parents both had military backgrounds. My mother served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II and my Dad was part of General Patton’s all black tank battalions. He landed on Utah Beach the day after D-Day and spent the rest of the war fighting across Europe. My parents met later, when my Dad moved his whole family north from Mississippi in what we now call The Great Black Migration and made a home in Minnesota. My parents were either crazy or very much in love when they married. Interracial marriages in the late 50’s were a very radical idea at the time.

One day, my younger brother started talking about joining the military. He made it sound like Army basic training was really difficult. When I challenged him on the idea, he dared me to join. I had to take the dare. I joined the Army Reserve and spent the next decade and a half serving in uniform on weekends and during the summer while working in a civilian career. My unit was deployed to Bosnia for the peacekeeping mission there. When we returned to the states, I decided to try to find a job working for the Army overseas and I did. I moved to Germany where I worked as a video producer and broadcaster for eight years. I returned to the states to work at Fort Meade, Maryland in the public affairs office. Later I went back overseas to Korea to work for the American Forces Network in Seoul and now I’m back at Fort Meade.

Lia Mack:  Thank you so much for your service to our country.

Can you tell us a little about your mystery series? 

M.L. Doyle: Sure! The Master Sergeant Harper mysteries are about an African American career soldier. In the first book, she returns from a mission outside the base to find her soldier murdered. She becomes the main suspect in the murder and has to race to clear her name. Harper is beautiful and brave and smart but she has her flaws. She’s carried a torch for her married boss for years, she has a terrible temper that often gets her into trouble and she often overlooks things that later come to bite her. In the course of the first book, she meets Sergeant Major Harry Fogg, a British special operations soldier and is immediately charmed. Their relationship develops throughout the three books. Everyone loves Harry. He’s an appealing character who always seems to know the right things to say.

Each of the books take place in a location that I try to make almost its own character in the story. The first book is Bosnia, the second a remote mountain village in Honduras. In the third book, they are on a vast training area in Germany.

Lia Mack:  As a military brat who's father left home for TDY often, those locations sound quite familiar.

Can you tell us what you've been up to lately?

M.L. Doyle: In July of this year, I indie published books one and two of the Master Sergeant Lauren Harper mystery series. The Peacekeeper’s Photograph, takes place during the Bosnia peacekeeping mission. The second book, The Sapper’s Plot, takes place during a humanitarian mission in a remote village of Honduras. I hope to have the third book in the series out by sometime in early 2014.

I’ve also released a series of adult romance novellas under the pen name Louise Kokesh.  TheLimited Partnerships series is about a woman who owns and operates a male escort service. Each novella features one of her employees. Limited Partnerships Part I – Charlie, was released in September in ebook format. Part II – Luke was published in October and Part III – Wolf will release November 1. The final Part IV – Derek will be released in December. At that time, I will make an Omnibus available with all four novellas in ebook and paperback format.

Finally, also in late November, I will be releasing another co-authored memoir, A Promise Fulfilled, the story of a Wife and Mother, Soldier and General Officer. A Promise Fulfilled is the story of Brig. Gen. (retired) Julia Jeter Cleckley and her journey from a small town girl to the first African-American female general officer at the Army National Guard Bureau. It’s an uplifting story of triumph over great tragedy and I’m excited about the completion of this project after years of working on it with General Cleckley. 

Of course, my first book, a co-authored memoir, was published in 2010 and is still available. I’m Still Standing;From Captured Soldier to Free Citizen, My Journey Home, (Touchstone, 2010) chronicles the story of Shoshana Johnson, a member of the 507th Maintenance Company which was ambushed during the early days of the Iraq war. Shoshana was captured and held as a POW with six other soldiers for 23 days before they were rescued by Marines.

It’s been a busy year!

Lia Mack: I'll say!

Now, ultimate question...Why do you write?

M.L. Doyle: No, the question is, how can I NOT write? I’d always sort of tried to cobble stories together. In college I took some creative writing classes and that’s when I first started to seriously take on the literary short story. Boy, was I crappy at that! I wrote a feature length screenplay and thought I wanted to stick to that format for a while. Then, years later, after I returned to the states from Germany, I took a mystery writing class at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland. The class was supposed to result in a mystery short story. The short story I wrote in that class eventually turned into The Peacekeeper’s Photograph and I haven’t looked back since.  

Lia Mack: What made you decide to write as a career?

M.L. Doyle: Again, I’m not sure it was a conscious decision. I’ve simply always enjoyed crafting stories. In college, I remember having such a feeling of satisfaction when writing research assignments and putting that research together into a coherent paper. My mother used to read my work and she wasn’t much of a fan of my storytelling ability. She told me to stick to non-fiction! It was quite a blow to my ego since she always had her nose in a book but, like much of the advice she gave me, for good or bad, I ignored it and continued to write fiction when I could. I will always be saddened by the knowledge that she died before I published my first book.

Still, I can’t write for a living at this point. I still have a full time job and can only write in the evenings and weekends. Someday, I hope to retire and just dedicate myself to writing.

Lia Mack: Can you describe a bit how your venture into writing looked like?

M.L. Doyle: I had what I thought was a good finished draft of Peacekeepers so I spent a weekend sending out query letters in search of an agent. I sent out twenty. About half of the queries I sent went out via email on a Sunday. The rest of the queries I sent out in packages through snail mail on that Monday. Monday afternoon, I received email from Liz Trupin-Pulli asking for the first 50 pages of the book. Two weeks later she asked for the entire manuscript. About a month after that, I signed with her.

Liz has been fantastic. She shopped Peacekeeper’s all over New York. I must have received thirty rejections—all very encouraging, all saying they liked the book...but... One day, Liz was having lunch with an editor. The editor complained that she had this memoir she needed written, that they’d had two different authors take a crack at it, but neither of them got the voice right. When Liz heard it was a memoir about an African American female soldier, she suggested me for the job. I was living in Korea at the time. I sent them some sample pages and they hired me. That’s how I began work on Shoshana’s book. When the book was nominated for an NAACP image award, it felt like validation.
Lia Mack: How do you feel you've grown as a writer?

M.L. Doyle: I have much more confidence as a writer now. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I’m not afraid to ask for and listen to critiques but I am more comfortable in picking and choosing which advice to follow and which ideas don’t fit my voice. I know that having a writing group, having beta readers, getting feedback is all very important to my work. I also know that I enjoy flitting about from one genre to another. I’m not sure I will work on memoir writing anymore, but I love writing mystery, romance and blending the two. I’m also drawn to the dystopian stories and know that I’ll eventually have to write a project like that. I guess the way I’ve grown the most is that I no longer fear calling myself an author, a writer. I’m a writer. That’s just what I do

Lia Mack: What are you working on now?

M.L. Doyle: Right now, I’m working on book three in the mystery series while trying to get General Cleckley’s book published. Early this year, after more rejections, I decided to indie publish. The whole process is a huge learning curve. The work is very exciting but exhausting. Between the fulltime job and trying to get all the ducks in a row to publish a book, it’s difficult to find time to write. That said, I am so happy that I decided to go indie. The community of writers who are taking this route have been so supportive and encouraging that I’m simply very proud to be among them.

Lia Mack: What does your typical writing day look like?

M.L. Doyle: I try to get some writing done each evening, but that’s hard to do. Most of my writing gets done on weekends and there isn’t any set or typical day. My schedule for work has been crazy this summer so it’s been really hard to juggle everything but I try. I have to. When I do get into the flow, I’ll finally look up and it’s been hours at the keyboard. I love when that happens.

Lia Mack: Do you read a lot while you write?

M.L. Doyle: Absolutely. I LOVE to read. I’ll read anything from science fiction, to romance, to hard boiled mysteries to steampunk and more. I have the “one-click” option on my Amazon account and there’s rarely a week when I haven’t bought at least one book, maybe downloaded a couple of free ones. I’m forever shocked at how much talent is out there, how many damn good writers there are and I love to read them.

Lia Mack: Awesome, I love your exuberance!

Can you share a photo of what your writing space looks like?

M.L. Doyle: UGH, it’s a mess. It’s always a mess. I keep saying I’m going to get organized and paint but that would mean MORE time away from the keyboard.  I will share a picture of my constant writing companion. It took a while to train him to go to his bed but it was the only compromise I could come up with to keep him from draping himself across my arms. I adopted Sojue while I lived in Korea—he’s named after a Korean drink that’s kind of like Tequila.  

Lia Mack:  Nice :)

What are your thoughts on the necessity of writers building a platform? Any advice? 

M.L. Doyle: People always talk about the platform and I think concentrating on a platform is good for some writers. If you really enjoy blogging, writing advice type books, speaking at writer forums, you will at least draw in writers who may then promote your work. I’m not sure how these “platforms” really promote work to readers.

For others I think we simply don’t like to go around marketing ourselves. I have an author Facebook page, but unless you’re Hugh Howie, Diana Galbadon or DJ Molles, I’ve found that it’s usually only other authors that go around liking and friending those pages.

I’m convinced that the best way to really market your books is to write lots of good books. The more you publish, the more you give people the opportunity to read your work, the more opportunity you have to build your audience. In my opinion, people who have one book shouldn’t spend too much time or energy marketing that book. They should concentrate on writing their second and third book which in the end will earn them more readers. But that’s just my opinion. In the last six months I’ve published a bunch of stuff. The readership is growing slowly but surely. My hope is that by this time next year, the audience will be there and I might actually start making some money selling books. But, making money or not, I’ll keep writing. It’s what I do.

Lia Mack: Lastly, If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself if you could speak to the aspiring writer you once were?

M.L. Doyle: I wish that I would have indie published last year or the year before. I had been toying with the idea but I let fear keep me back. My advice to myself would be to ignore the fear. I had been published by a big NY publishing house for the memoir and I really wanted that for my fiction. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I would be a very tiny fish in a ginormous pond. Shoshana’s book, while well received, was quickly ignored by Simon and Schuster. It had about a six month life span. I wanted more than that for my fiction and I never would have had the kind of control I have now with a big publisher. I’m so glad I went the indie route. I just wish I had done it sooner.

Lia Mack: Thank you so much for being our guest author today. Where can BB readers go online to find you and your work?

M.L. Doyle: You can find all of my books on, B&N online and all other online retailers. I was at the Twin Cities Book Festival this year and I had a great time, so I’ll probably do another book festival or two soon.  You can check my website for appearances and the latest news at