Mary Ann MarloweShe is a computer programmer by day but by night, Mary Ann Marlowe writes romance. As a writer, she is able to draw on many life experiences, including living in 12 U.S. states and abroad, including France. She studied French literature, taught French and tutored in German, was a college radio disc jockey, a webmaster, a blogger, and has a second degree black belt in karate. But one desire she was reluctant to pursue was writing a novel.

“One day my karate teacher asked, ‘What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ I would write,” said Marlowe. This question can lead to a revelation about the choices people make.

The thought of writing over 75,000 words was overwhelming for Marlowe but Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird changed all that.

“You are allowed to write garbage but you are writing,” she said. “It’s like driving down a road but don’t look too far ahead. Instead focus on what is right in front of you.”

Marlowe started the book and soon learned to write by writing. She also learned something else about herself during the process.

“With my first book I didn’t know where I was going until I was immersed in it,” she said. She discovered she was a pantser. A pantser is a writer who works impulsively without an outline. It is more spontaneous, going where the story and characters take the writer, rather than the writer dictating every scene. It’s not a style for every writer but many employ it.

“Drafting is the most challenging. Nothing relates to anything else and starting out is so daunting,” Marlowe said. She added that plotters often remedy this by creating an elaborate system to revise their work, like a spreadsheet or chart. Marlowe uses what she calls a beat sheet for writers, or a worksheet that provides guidance on things like layout, characters, progression, and relationships.

Marlowe can write a book in a month but it takes longer to revise. She said she could complete a book every three months but there is only so much that can be published in a short amount of time. She has written two books, Some Kind of Magic and Crazy Kind of Love, which are at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. She is currently working on Dating by the Book, which should be out next year. “Romance is not doing as well, but women’s fiction is picking up,” she said. “Mine are romantic chick lit appealing to millennials and readers in their 30s and early 40s.” Some Kind of Magic was based on Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde, but told in a much lighter vein.

“My second book is more character driven,” she said. Crazy Kind of Love focuses on a photographer who wouldn’t recognize a celebrity if she stood next to him but finds romance with a rock musician. Her characters are important to her and she spends most of her time creating characters her audience will care about.

“I have a variety of characters from sweet to flaky, to dreamers and sarcastic,” she said.

Choosing point of view is tricky. Marlowe has chosen both first person and third. She uses tools to help her inner pantser pull it all together. She puts an image board together on Pinterest with photos of what her characters would look like. It makes description of characters less intimidating than pulling an image out of thin air.

She credits the popular yearly National Novel Writing Month with getting her to her desk to write and writing 1,600 words per day, reaching the goal of 50,000 words in a month. Many novel writers use this tool to help them gain momentum. Writing is not simple. Marlowe embraces it in all its aspects and enjoys the process. Her deep determination has led her to completing the one thing she wanted to do if she thought she couldn’t fail.

Marlowe will speak to the members of the Friends of the Library on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. at the Fluvanna library. For more information visit her website at