Interview with M. M. Justus

What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have stories to tell that I want other people to have the chance to read, and I was exasperated by rejection letters that read, "I really like this, but I don't think it's commercially viable."

It felt like a door was slamming closed against me over and over, getting between me and potential readers. The only way used to be through that door, and I didn't have enough control over who held the key. Now I have my own key and my own door, and I can open and close it any time I want to.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Characters. I'm interested in people, and why they do what they do, and what happens when they're thrust into difficult situations. One of my favorite authors (Lois McMaster Bujold) says that her favorite plotting question is, "What is the worst thing I can do to this person?" Of course, then you have to figure out why it's the worst thing for that particular person. And then you have to do it.

I also enjoy researching time and place and making both as real as possible, given the sometimes fantastical elements of my stories. I like taking my characters to places and times I would like to visit myself.
Did you always aspire to be a writer? How did your interest in writing originate?
I started keeping a journal when I was in junior high school, and wrote my first piece of fiction along about the same time (I don't know if you're familiar with the term Mary Sue, but what I wrote was an episode of a favorite TV show at the time featuring a character just like me only perfect, and it was awful). I kept a journal and wrote, mostly angsty bad poetry, all through high school and college, then quit writing altogether through my twenties and early thirties. I started writing again in my mid-thirties when my life opened back up again in a lot of ways, and I haven't stopped since.
Where are you from? What are some of your professional experiences?
I'm not really from anywhere, actually. I was born in New Orleans, but left there as a small child. I've lived in eight different states since then (some multiple times). But I've been here near Seattle for almost twenty-one years and have no intention of leaving, so this is home.

I call myself a professional dilettante. Before I went back to college to go to library school when I was thirty, I'd been everything from a hog farm bookkeeper to a music school secretary to a nursery worker (plants, not baby people). After I finished grad school, I worked as a reference librarian -- another professional dilettante occupation if ever there was one, because to be a good librarian you really do have to know just enough about a lot of things to get yourself in trouble. After sixteen years of that, the Great Recession hit and I went back to school yet again to earn a certificate in museum studies. Nowadays I'm a freelance museum curator and exhibit designer when I'm not writing fiction.
What are some of your favorite authors and books?
Two of my favorite authors are Lois McMaster Bujold and Elizabeth Peters, both of whom wrote series books, the Vorkosigan series and the Amelia Peabody series respectively, which are my favorite sort of series, the kind where the main characters grow and change and age over the course of the series, rather than being static as if time never passes. That sort of series is harder to find than you might think, and I'm trying to do my own small part to add to the ones available.
What are your fondest memories of reading?
My earliest memory of reading was sitting in the wing chair with my mother. Judging from where we were living at the time, I was about four. Mother and I were reading P.D. Eastman's Are You My Mother? together. She did a terrific voice for the Snort. My three older sisters' friends all knew me as the little girl with her nose in a book at the dinner table. And on one summer vacation I somehow managed to bring only one book with me, and by the time we reached home again, I had it practically memorized.
Write your favorite quote and explain why you picked it?
This is from Lois McMaster Bujold's book, A Civil Campaign, which might as well be subtitled The Courtship of Miles Vorkosigan. I don't know if it'll mean all that much to people who haven't read all about my favorite fictional hero, but here it is, anyway. Miles and Ekaterin, the woman he loves, are discussing honor, and how she feels like she's lost hers (due to events in the previous book) and doesn't have the right to claim it again.

Ekaterin tells Miles, "I have this Thing about oaths. When you became an Imperial Auditor, you took oath again. Even though you were forsworn once. How could you bear to?"

"Oh," [Miles] said, looking around a little vaguely. "What, when they issued you your honor, didn't they give you the model with the reset button? Mine's right here." He pointed to the general vicinity of his navel.

Like Ekaterin, I burst out laughing when I read this, but it's not just that it's funny. It's that he's so right. As he says elsewhere in the series, the problem with death before dishonor is that it separates people quite neatly, into the dead and the forsworn. People make mistakes. It doesn't mean we're not good people. And that we don't deserve second chances.
Published 2014-11-17.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Reunion
Series: Tales of the Unearthly Northwest. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 60,020. Language: English. Published: December 11, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier
Lost in Time. In 1910 unemployed teacher Claudia has nowhere to go. She decides to bet her life on the rumor of a job in a remote town called Conconully. But when she arrives and is hired, what at first seem like small eccentricities loom ever more inexplicably, mysteries that make no sense. That is, until she meets Conconully’s accidental magician, who wants her to save them. But from what?
New Year's Eve in Conconully
Series: Tales of the Unearthly Northwest. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 18,010. Language: English. Published: January 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Romance » Paranormal
No good deed goes unpunished. In a place outside of time, the magic keeping a ghost town alive is beginning to alter. Bringing in two newcomers has caused a welcome renewal of the town's life. But every action has a reaction, and the consequences are far beyond what Conconully's accidental magician ever expected.
Sojourn
Series: Tales of the Unearthly Northwest. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 59,020. Language: English. Published: November 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Romance » Gothic
(4.00 from 2 reviews)
Time is not what it appears to be State trooper Daniel Reilly never thought he’d wind up in his stepmother’s favorite movie. Chasing a drunk driver through Washington’s desolate Okanogan Highlands is part of his job, but crashing his cruiser and waking up in a ghost town definitely isn’t. And when that ghost town starts to come to life? His version of Brigadoon is not a carefree music
Much Ado in Montana
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 76,270. Language: English. Published: March 21, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Contemporary, Fiction » Romance » General
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
Tara has lived in remote Campbell, Montana, all of her life. She won't leave on a bet. Tim only came home to talk his ailing father into closing the clinic he can no longer manage. He won't stay on a bet. But neither of them anticipated their explosive reunion. Then Tim's father almost ruins their friends' lives, and when Tim bets Tara he can set things straight, he means with her, forever.
Cross-Country: Adventures Alone Across America and Back
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 102,940. Language: English. Published: December 7, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Travel » Essays & Travelogues, Nonfiction » Biography » Autobiographies & Memoirs
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
After many summers in the back seat, four months before 1/1/2000, M.M. Justus followed several literary heroes and drove alone across America for 3 months. She went from the Little Town on the Prairie to Scotty's Castle, and from the Twin Towers to an 'alien' landing site in Wyoming. After over 14,000 miles and one life-changing event, she arrived back home, only to discover home changed, too.
Homesick: A Time in Yellowstone Story
Series: Time in Yellowstone, Book 4. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 25,410. Language: English. Published: September 5, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Paranormal, Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
(5.00 from 1 review)
1945. Ranger Will McManis patrols an empty Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone, V-J day and his mother's death on his mind. His grandson, five-year-old Chuck, will leave soon, too, off to faraway Denver, a brand-new life, leaving a huge hole. Will thinks he knows all kinds of change. But out among the geysers with Chuck, something happens to dwarf it all, and nothing will ever be the same again.
Finding Home
Series: Time in Yellowstone, Book 3. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 88,380. Language: English. Published: September 5, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Paranormal, Fiction » Romance » Time travel
(4.00 from 1 review)
James McManis knows about being left behind. After his wife died, he clung to his son as hard as he could. But the harder he holds on, the more Chuck fights. Until one day the boy slips away and vanishes utterly. When James discovers what really happened it turns his whole world upside down. He needs to find out. But what if the knowledge he gains proves everything he thought real a lie?
True Gold
Series: Time in Yellowstone, Book 2. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 83,750. Language: English. Published: September 7, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Historical, Fiction » Historical » Canada
(4.67 from 3 reviews)
Stowaway. When Karin Myre, a Norwegian seamstress's assistant, catches the excitement of the Klondike Gold Rush, she decides to head north, but how? Impulsively, she sneaks on board one of the ships in Seattle's harbor only to find herself trapped in the hold. But her rescue from the captain and a fate worse than death by a determined young prospector begins her honest search for true gold.
Repeating History
Series: Time in Yellowstone, Book 1. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 117,120. Language: English. Published: July 26, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Time travel
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
What would you do if a geyser catapulted you back in time, into the middle of an Indian war? 20-year-old college dropout Chuck McManis gets to find out. The hard way. By the time he escapes to civilization, 1870s-style, he discovers his new life has changed him forever. But he has to risk everything to earn the chance to stay, or lose everything he has become and everyone he loves.