Interview with Marsha Ward

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a place that grew up to forget its past, but despite that, I had what amounted to a rural upbringing in a fast-growing urban area. This place was smack-dab in the heart of the Old West. My dad told us stories of ranching and family and values that dug deep into my soul and left a lasting impression. Those are the things I try to pass along to my readers.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes! Back in third or fourth grade, our class studied about the Acadian people's ouster from Canada and their trek to Louisiana. I wrote a one-page play about them. I don't think the play was ever distributed for acting out in the classroom, but nonetheless, it's the first literary piece I remember writing.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
My doctor told me to put my affairs in order.

Faced with the prospect of dying, one concern was that I didn't want my work to be destroyed or lost. I had been getting good comments from editors, but no contracts because the Western market was down. So I looked into self-publishing the two novels I had completed, found a path I could follow, and to my delight, my books were hits with readers.

Although my providers have changed over the years, it makes sense for me to continue putting out major works as an independent author.
What is your writing process?
I do a lot of reading. This sparks ideas. If I have an idea or two that might fit together well, I play with them for a while mentally, trying to see how big a piece the ideas might fit into. That's because not every idea or group of ideas will sustain a novel-length piece of fiction. If I think such a "germ" could be a novel, I see if it fits with the life situation of one of my established characters. If not, I may need to invent a new character, especially if the piece won't be a novel.

Sometimes, though, I get ideas from a character I've worked with before. Hey! If it's important, they "talk" to me!

I try to begin writing a novel with the chosen character in his or her community situation, an inciting incident that launches them out of their comfort zone, a few landmarks I'll have to pass along the character's journey, and a satisfactory ending. Then I just sit down and write. I keep writing until the character's story is done. It may or may not be a smooth process for me. It usually contains lots of discoveries and surprises I had not anticipated.

When the story has an end, I revise. Then, when the story makes sense to me, I send it out to trusted readers for their suggestions on content and eagle eyes to catch plot holes, errors in logic, and typos. Then I "rinse and repeat" until it's a clean manuscript, at which point I'm finally ready to begin the publishing process. By now I should have a title. Maybe a cover. Possibly an idea for the "blurb" or description. Or I may have to find all that at this stage. Every novel or piece of fiction is different.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
The majority of my current book sales are electronic books. This would not have happened if I hadn't heard about Smashwords and decided to jump on the ebook wagon. I'm probably not the only indie author who thinks of Mark Coker as a friend. He made this all possible because of his own experiences and skills.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When a reader tells me how much they enjoyed a book, or that it changed their attitude or made them think, that's like manna from heaven, and is tremendously encouraging to me as a writer.
What's the story behind your latest book?
As I've worked on the novels that turned out to be the Owen Family Saga, I've become very familiar with my characters. Once I had finished Spinster's Folly, I wasn't sure there was another book for the series. However, very soon, Rulon Owen, the eldest son of the family, "came to visit me" and strongly suggested that I needed to tell his story. Yes, authors may tell you they experience manifestations such as visits from their characters. No, we're not insane. We're merely immersed in our work.

It became clear shortly thereafter that this new book would have to be set during the American Civil War, and fear soon followed. There are a great many Civil War enthusiasts, and they are renowned for their knowledge of that era. They can be quite critical of those who get the facts wrong. Knowing this filled me with terror. What if I messed the facts up?

Rulon persisted in his desire that I write his story, so I set to work, spending quite a lot of money on research materials, and spending vast amounts of time in reading them and searching out particular points of interest on the Internet. Once, I discovered that I was going in entirely the wrong direction, and had to backtrack to get to where I should be going.

I began to write as I researched, and after more time than I expected, and after writing more words for a novel than I ever have before, I finished Gone for a Soldier to Rulon's--and my--satisfaction. I hope you will find it to yours, as well.
What are you working on next?
I'm writing a novel set in the 1840s, in the heartland of the United States. It's a project I've wanted to work on for many years, detailing a family's hardships and sacrifices in standing up for something that was important to them: religious freedom. That issue is quite timely.
Describe your desk
Oh my. You don't want to know. Most writers surround themselves with piles of research notes, books, calendars, and flash drives. I'm no different. My monitor has too many sticky notes around the edges, and I won't put away all this stuff until the current project is over.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing? Is there such a thing? I'm kidding, I think. I do a lot of reading: for research, as well as because I love books. I also have a few "guilty pleasure" television shows, some about Alaska, some about the West and Westerners, and one about blowing things up (What Could Possibly Go Wrong?).
What do you read for pleasure?
Mysteries. I can't write them, but I enjoy reading them.
What do your fans mean to you?
Without fans, a writer is very much alone. There is no one to appreciate the hard work the writer put into their book. Fans are one of the biggest reasons that I write. They are super important to me.
Published 2015-09-10.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Ned's Choice: A Shenandoah Neighbors Story
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 9,240. Language: English. Published: February 14, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier, Fiction » Romance » Western
Ned Heizer has fixed a big mistake in his life and now is going after the girl he wants to marry. She's a Mississippi Mormon traveling by wagon to the Great Salt Lake Valley. He's a Virginian who fought for the North. Is his hope of happiness worth taking on huge obstacles? *Mormon religious beliefs are a large part of this story*
Scandalous: An Owen Family Story
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 6,950. Language: English. Published: January 6, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier, Fiction » Coming of age
Young Julianna Owen didn't think flirting with Parley Morgan at the barn raising would lead him to put his hands where they ought not to be. Worse yet, her sister discovers them. Parley abandons her, running off into the woods. Scandalous shines a light on teen hormones run amok during a trying time in the Owen family's story, as it ties up a loose thread from Spinster's Folly.
Broken: A Shenandoah Neighbors Story
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 7,700. Language: English. Published: January 19, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Historical, Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier
Rida Owen didn't know her husband would be a womanizing wife-beater, and hides the situation from her in-laws. Then a former neighbor visits and reveals his own secret. A Shenandoah Neighbors story that illuminates a dark corner of the Owen Family universe while offering hope.
The Apple Pie Prize: An Owen Family Story
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,530. Language: English. Published: December 15, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Historical, Fiction » Historical » USA
No one in Shenandoah County would say Rod Owen lacked vigor. The evidence is clear, with six young’uns running around the farm and his wife Julia about to call in the midwife. But a pie crust and a small boy with a sack of dead squirrels can be vexing impediments when such a man wants a little kissin' in the kitchen. A short story packed with insights into early times at the Owen Family farm.
Mended by Moonlight: A Shenandoah Neighbors Novella
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 33,790. Language: English. Published: November 25, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Historical, Fiction » Historical » USA
A grief-stricken Confederate widow. A Union surgeon plagued by guilt. What possible set of circumstances would bring them to a meeting of the minds? Can there be a happily-ever-after for Ella Ruth and Alex during Reconstruction? Mended by Moonlight is best enjoyed if read after the Owen Family Saga novel, Gone for a Soldier.
Bloodied Leather: A Shenandoah Neighbors Story
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 6,420. Language: English. Published: August 12, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Victorian, Fiction » Historical » USA
Isabelle Gilbert chafes against the restrictions that Victorian life puts on a young lady. An unwanted betrothal, inattentive parents, and long-hidden family secrets her mother reveals add to her unsettled state of mind. This Shenandoah Neighbors story ties in to Marsha Ward's popular Owen Family Saga series of novels.
That Tender Light: An Owen Family Novella
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 14,340. Language: English. Published: July 14, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Historical, Fiction » Historical » USA
(5.00)
In this short novella, acclaimed author Marsha Ward tells the story of the Owen Family origins, describing in her delicate language the tender feelings of two people who need to find each other in a very small window of time.
The Checklist: Indie Publishing My Way
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 27,520. Language: English. Published: May 1, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Publishing » Self-publishing, Nonfiction » Reference » Publishing and books
The Checklist: Indie Publishing My Way gives author and mentor Marsha Ward's perspective and the checklist of the processes she uses to publish her books . . . her way. A step-by-step, easy to follow handbook to the publication process.
From Julia's Kitchen: Owen Family Cookery
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 9,600. Language: English. Published: March 10, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » American / Southern States, Nonfiction » History » History of things
When Julia Susannah Helm was just a little girl in Pennsylvania, she discovered a “receipt” for hash in a kitchen drawer, written out in the hand of her father’s former housekeeper. Her brother Jonathan made her a small wooden box to keep it in. That was the beginning of her recipe collection, which became one of her most cherished possessions.
The Complete Owen Family Saga
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 404,300. Language: English. Published: September 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA, Fiction » Romance » Western
(5.00)
The Complete Owen Family Saga is a Chronological Box Set of the five novels within: Gone for a Soldier, The Man from Shenandoah, Spinster's Folly, Ride to Raton, and Trail of Storms. Join Rod and Julia Owen, their sons, daughters, and neighbors in Colorado Territory and beyond for action, adventure and romance in 19th Century America.
Faith and the Foreman
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 15,570. Language: English. Published: July 11, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Western, Fiction » Romance » Western
New Yorker Faith Bannister's circumstances force her to become a school teacher in faraway Arizona Territory. Harsh conditions don't seem so overwhelming when Faith meets lanky Slim McHenry. But menacing Rance Hunter stands in the way of Faith and Slim's happiness. Both must rally all their resources and act to overcome evil before it spreads.
Blood at Haught Springs
Series: Men of Haught Springs. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 25,470. Language: English. Published: May 25, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier, Fiction » Western
Wes Haught wants his brother to grow up and tend to his share of the chores at the family's general store. Lonnie Haught dreams of being a gunfighter. Lies unravel and lives hang in the balance as brother fights against brother. Fiery emotions and vengeful acts erupt in a smoldering new Western adventure novella from the author of the acclaimed Owen Family Saga. Two bonus stories included.
The Zion Trail
Series: Promised Valley. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 57,760. Language: English. Published: February 19, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Religious, Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier
On a hot summer day, young Elijah Marshall stops plowing to give a drink of water to two strangers and invite them to lunch with his family. His neighborly act sets in motion events that will drastically change his future. In a 19th century coming-of-age story ranging from Pennsylvania to the Great Salt Lake Valley, Elijah plunges into harrowing adventures filled with sorrow, danger, and romance.
Western Stories: Four Tales of the West
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 10,920. Language: English. Published: February 21, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Western, Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
Western Stories: Four Tales of the West, by best-selling author Marsha Ward. This short story collection includes newly edited editions of Cottonwood Cowboys, The Usual Game, War Party, and No More Strangers.
Happy Halloween
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 4,980. Language: English. Published: September 23, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Contemporary, Fiction » Holiday » Halloween
Mary Beth Larson emerges from the fog of loss in a new location with two young children, determined to start her life again. Glen Hampton and his little kids have already survived their own tragedy. Maybe this Halloween means something besides Trick or Treat. A "Misty Moments" story.
Gone for a Soldier
Series: The Owen Family Saga, Book 1. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 103,920. Language: American English. Published: August 20, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Historical, Fiction » Historical » USA
Book 1: The Owen Family Saga. Rulon Owen enlists in the cavalry to fight Yankees, but he needs good fortune to survive and make it home to his wife, Mary, and their young son. At home, Mary faces her own soul-draining battles. Separated by war and circumstance, Rulon and Mary discover that not all enemies wear the Union blue. 2014 Whitney Award Finalist for Historical Fiction
Spinster's Folly
Series: The Owen Family Saga, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 74,640. Language: English. Published: November 3, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier, Fiction » Western
Book 3: The Owen Family Saga. 2013 Winner USA Best Books Award, Westerns. Marie Owen longs for a loving husband, but marriage prospects on the Colorado frontier are limited. Her desperation at the prospect of remaining unmarried, fueled by her younger sister's taunting jibes about her becoming a spinster, drives Marie into the arms of a sweet-talking predator, landing her in unimaginable dangers.
The Owen Family Saga Sampler
Price: Free! Words: 30,480. Language: English. Published: May 8, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier, Fiction » Western
(5.00)
Three chapters each from the first three novels in The Owen Family Saga, plus a bonus look at the forthcoming Book 4: Spinster's Folly. "Marsha Ward really does write Westerns with heart. And her Owen family saga is among the best you'll ever read. Learn what our ancestors did to build this land. Like the Man from Shenandoah. Highly recommended." ~Chuck Tyrell, author of The Prodigal
Thumps and Losers: Two Short Stories
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 2,020. Language: English. Published: May 5, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General, Fiction » Adventure » General
(5.00)
Two short tales from master storyteller Marsha Ward. A lone woman faces down a "bear" in her remote county home in "Thumps in the Night," and a ten-year-old boy finds a wallet full of cash in "Losers Weepers."
Cottonwood Cowboys
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 1,690. Language: English. Published: May 4, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
In a short story designed to make you chuckle, award-winning Western writer Marsha Ward brings you a pair of young men trying to fit the unexpected chore of cutting up a fallen cottonwood tree with a two-man saw into their plans to attend a dance on Saturday night.
The Usual Game
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 2,460. Language: English. Published: May 2, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Western, Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
The Usual Game: a short story set in early-day Jerome, Arizona. Verl might not make it home to Phoenix this weekend. His landlord is stuck in Happy Sam's usual poker game, and it looks like he's losing his entire savings. "Marsha Ward has the ability to grab readers by the lapels, yank them into her stories, and make them care deeply about her characters." ~Phyllis Dugan, Writer
War Party
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 3,650. Language: English. Published: May 1, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier, Fiction » Coming of age
Western Short Story: "Black smoke drew Rolla's eye, smoke where there should not be smoke. Then he heard the noise: high, piercing yips, and a woman's scream, and the flat report of gunshots." With revenge in his heart, young Rolla takes part in the Battle of Salt River Canyon at Skeleton Cave in Arizona Territory.
Trail of Storms
Series: The Owen Family Saga, Book 5. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 87,730. Language: English. Published: April 25, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier, Fiction » Romance » Western
(4.00)
Book 5: The Owen Family Saga. Jessie Bingham put heartbreak away to tend to her sister's needs, but when she settled for second best in love, she didn't know James Owen would come back into her life. Award-winning author Marsha Ward reunites Jessie and James in a bewildering tangle of values, emotions and high adventure. Rape scene and Mormon beliefs included.
No More Strangers
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 13,200. Language: English. Published: April 22, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Anthologies » Poetry - single author
Prose and Poetry of the West from acclaimed Western novelist Marsha Ward. Six short stories, three poems, and an excerpt from a forthcoming novel make up this collection of Western treasures, including the never-before-published "Thumps in the Night." "Marsha Ward spins an authentic yarn of a good ol' Western tale." ~Joyce DiPastena, author of "Illuminations of the Heart"
Rapid Recipes for Writers . . . And Other Busy People
Price: Free! Words: 2,330. Language: English. Published: December 23, 2010. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » General cookbooks, Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Methods / Quick & Easy
(4.25)
31 Quick and Easy Retro Recipes: One new thing to eat each day for a month. Your family will never suspect that you've been slaving over a hot keyboard all day long if you spring these quick and yummy recipes from the 80s on them.
Ride to Raton
Series: The Owen Family Saga, Book 4. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 73,460. Language: English. Published: December 30, 2009. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier, Fiction » Western
(4.25)
Book 4: The Owen Family Saga. James Owen leaves home to make a new life for himself, and discovers that post-Civil War Colorado is a dangerous place for an ex-Confederate. He meets beautiful young Amparo Garcés, who came from Santa Fe to marry a stranger, and a twist of fate changes their lives forever.
The Man from Shenandoah
Series: The Owen Family Saga, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 76,990. Language: English. Published: October 27, 2009. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Western & American frontier, Fiction » Western
(4.67)
Book 2: The Owen Family Saga. Returning from the Civil War, Carl Owen finds the farm ruined and his father set to leave Virginia. Then Carl falls in love, and he battles a band of outlaws, a prairie fire, blizzards, a trackless waterless desert, and his own brother—all for the hand of feisty Ellen Bates. ++New Cover++