October 13, 2012

Welcome award-winning author and world traveler,
Mary Montague Sikes

Award-winning author, freelance writer, photographer, and artist Mary Montague Sikes loves to travel, especially to intriguing tropical locations. Her book settings include exotic destinations such as Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad, the Bahamas, Central America, and St. Martin. Because of her love for travel and extraordinary locations, the Passenger to Paradise series was created for her novels. Jungle Jeopardy, set among fictitious Maya Ruins in Central America, is the latest book in that series.
Her most recent research adventures carried her to Los Cabos, Mexico, Yellowstone National Park, Antelope Canyon, and Carmel-by-the-Sea, California where, inspired by the Ansel Adams-type scenery, she took hundreds of photographs. Her publishing credits include seven novels, a “how to” marketing book, a coffee table book, two anthologies, and the “Snapshot in Time” book series. She also is author of hundreds of feature newspaper stories, magazine articles, and photographs.
Her historical novel, A Rainbow for Christmas, won first place in Young Adult Fiction in the 2012 Virginia Press Women Communications Contest. “The author brings history to life for YA readers! The thoughts and fears of these very real characters are timeless, which gives readers something they can relate to as they are transported back in time to experience a unique perspective about the hardships and injustices in the west and what it might have been like for a girl to travel toward uncertainty in a covered wagon,” a contest judge wrote.
Sikes also won first place in Blogs for Special Interest Sites. “What Woman Most Influenced Your Writing,” posted March 25, 2011 and “My Three Best Hotels of 2011,” posted December 30, 2011 appeared in her blog, Notes Along the Way http://marymontaguesikes.blogspot.com. First place winners are now being judged in the National Federation of Press Women 2012 Communications Contest.
The Fredericksburg, Virginia native presents workshops on promotion and marketing, painting, and writing to state and national conventions as well as to local writers, artists, and civic groups. Her award-winning paintings are exhibited widely in Virginia and are in private and public collections in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Her art work is represented by Prince George Art and Frame in Williamsburg, Virginia. She maintains a studio and a gallery at Petersburg Regional Art Center. An exhibition of her Maya Ruins paintings in conjunction with her novel, Jungle Jeopardy, is on view in Gallery One at Crossroads Art Center in Richmond until July 10, 2012.
Sikes studied art at the College of William and Mary and holds a BA in psychology from the University of Mary Washington and a MFA in painting from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
As a native Virginian, I appreciate the history of this part of the world more every year. We live on a hill overlooking a creek in an area where Captain John Smith explored in 1607-08. He traveled by barge and made some fascinating maps from his voyages. I sometimes think I should write about more historic times, perhaps even use the Indian tribes that lived here in my plots. However, my only historic novel thus far is a young adult romance, A Rainbow for Christmas, set on a wagon train journeying from Missouri to Denver in 1869. For that book, I was captivated by diaries written by women who actually traveled across the country to settle in unknown territories. They must have been very brave.
Please tell us your latest news!
I'm in the process of revising my newest book project, Daddy's Christmas Angel. If all goes well, my book will be out in time for Christmas this year. It's a "Sleepless in Seattle" kind of story that relies somewhat on my own experiences in the classroom with young children.
Please describe your writing environment.
I have an office with bookcases all around me. I don't use many of the resource books from them anymore because it's so much easier to just put in a Goggle search for almost anything. One day I plan to take time off to un-clutter my desk and add more organization to my life as both a writer and an artist. I have a large window to my right that overlooks a beautiful woods that I believe was part of Captain John Smith's exploration long ago. Right now, the leaves are beginning to bear a hint of gold which makes a warm and inviting backdrop for my writing.
Do you have a favorite object that is pertinent to your writing?
Light! I want a room bathed in light—hopefully warm sunlight. That's why I love my office with windows and a big glass door that leads to an upstairs deck painted the color of Sedona Red Rocks.
Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
Not necessarily. Sometimes I bring in new characters if they make sense for the story. For my book, Jungle Jeopardy, I planned for a character named Tyler Hunter to be the villain of the story. However, much to my surprise, I fell in love with Tyler and he became a steadying character everyone else could depend upon. Not at all what I planned!
What main genre do you write in?
My own version of romance with mystery and suspense filtered into the story.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy playing tennis. For many years, I spent hours every day on the outdoor tennis courts throughout the summer months. These days, I play on indoor courts year round at least twice a week. I also do one yoga class and two other fitness classes every week. I'm a fanatical baseball fan and follow the St. Louis Cardinals beginning with a trip to Jupiter, Florida each year for their spring training camp. My husband and I enjoy traveling and usually go on trips several times a year. My favorite destinations include Sedona, Arizona and Key West, Florida.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
Kathleen adores her new second grade teacher. She also adores her father, but she never knew her mother who died when she was an infant. The little girl fantasizes about her teacher and her father getting married, then she schemes to have them meet. Is it possible for Kathleen's dream to come true despite all the bumps that happen along the way? – Daddy's Christmas Angel coming soon.
Who is your perfect hero? And why?
A strong, reliable man with sculpted good looks. Like Clifton in Secrets by the Sea, he may be flawed initially, but he develops into that dependable character we all want to know. I suppose I base most of my heroes on my own real life hero.
Clifton is also in Jungle Jeopardy, a sequel to Secrets by the Sea. I would be interested in hearing from my readers how you think the character of Clifton may be different in the two books.
Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
Women's Fiction
What would be the best way for readers contact you?
Do you have a website? www.marymontaguesikes.com
How can readers find out more about you and your books?
Red Rose Publishing: http://tinyurl.com/926qrgf

Meg, her niece and brother set out on a wagon train headed for Denver where Meg's fiance in an arranged marriage awaits. When a senseless murder claims her brother's life, Meg determines to push on. However, when she meets handsome Cade Russell, the wagon master, her conviction to enter a loveless marriage wavers. Will Meg honor her father's wishes and marry John O'Sullivan, whose dowry will save the family farm from foreclosure? Meg has difficult choices to make.

When Dana Sinclair realizes Clifton Wilder is missing, she takes off for Costa Rica to search for him. An apparent kidnapping turns into a jungle adventure that leads Dana and Clifton into the wilds of Guatemala where they discover an unexplored Maya cave and find pottery and walls covered with glyphs. Tyler Hunter wants to save Dana’s sister, Rebecca, from prison, and to do so, he needs for them to find her grandfather’s hidden treasure. An archaeologist on sabbatical in the Caribbean, Tyler intrigues Dana with his knowledge of the Maya. Dana has never doubted her sister’s guilt in the murder of their grandfather on the island of Antigua, but now an element of doubt begins to creep in.


Monti said...

Thanks so much for having me as your guest this week! I love books and the opportunity to meet readers and writers.

Mary Montague Sikes

Anonymous said...

6Great interview, Monti. What an interesting background for writing you have!

Monti said...

Thanks, C.K., for visiting!