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I'm so excited for you to meet Marian Manseau Cheatham, the author of Merely Dee - a gripping and heartwarming historical novel surrounding the sinking of the Eastland, a 1915 Chicago disaster that killed 844 passengers. Here's a quick peek at what her book is all about:

      The 1915cover photo Western Electric Employee Picnic is the social highlight of the year in Cicero, Illinois. Five steamers wait to ferry seven thousand passengers to the picnic grounds in Michigan City, Indiana. As teenager Dee Pageau packs her picnic basket and prepares to board the SS Eastland, she anticipates this will be the best day of her life. Dee hopes to spend time with her best friend, Mae Koznecki-but she also wants to get to know Mae's handsome brother, Karel, a little better. Dee has no idea that in a matter of hours, tragedy will strike...

Intrigued already? To purchase her book, click here:

I had a chance to ask Marian some questions (some silly, some not) about her life and her writing process. Read on ~

1)    What made you decide to write a book in the first place?

I used to teach primary special education, and I would always read picture books to my class. I fell in love with that genre and used to spend hours in the library each week looking for the perfect books to match my curriculum or books that tickled me or touched my heart. After I quit teaching, I thought maybe I'd try my hand at writing picture books and quickly discovered I had absolutely no talent for this at all. Picture books are incredibly difficult to get just right. So I moved up to MG and then to YA where I landed safe and sound. I've been writing YA every since.

2)    Approximately how long does it take you to write a book––from a germ of an idea to the final draft?

Writing historical fiction is my passion. It's usually takes at least 6 months to do thorough research on the subject/time period. Then maybe a year to write the novel. So all in all, about 18 months.

3)    What would you say is your interesting writing quirk––certain music, lucky socks, favorite beverage?

I love the company of my 3 cats when I'm writing. They are usually very relaxed and happy to sit beside me on my desk or curled up at my feet when I'm lost in my work. I have only one pet peeve  - I hate when they walk on my keyboard. (As I wrote this sentence, my black cat, Onnie (short for Onyx) jumped onto my desk. She must have picked up a psychic vibe that I was writing about her.) Oh, and a nice hot chocolate always helps with the inspiration.

Marian and her cat

4)    What appears first in your mind when developing a new story––characters, plot, or setting?

The protagonist is always the first development in any of my novels. I have an idea of this person. Who is she? What's she all about? Where is she? What will happen to her? How will this change her? And I just go from there.

5)    What was a surprising thing you learned while creating your books––about yourself, the business, or about the world?

What surprised me the most when I first started writing was how much I really and truly loved it. I've had a few jobs in my life. But nothing, even teaching (which I loved), was as personally fulfilling as my writing. It nourishes me, keeps me sane, keeps me whole. I could never live without it. Guess they'll have to bury me with my laptop and Thesaurus.

6)    How many books have you written? Which is your favorite and why?

I've written several horrid picture books, 1 MG, and 5 YA's, only one of which has been published. The rest will remain securely buried in boxes. Early on in my career, I attended a writing seminar. The speaker told us that a writer has to scribe 2 million words before he/she becomes any good. At the time, I thought he was crazy. Now, I think that's a low ball estimate. For each novel, there are numerous revisions. There are many, many drafts that no one will ever read. Add all those revisions together with all those unpublished manuscripts, and you have a million (or 2) reasons to keep working at your craft.    
My favorite novel is Merely Dee because I'm obsessed with the time period and the actual historical event involved in the story.

7)    Why did you choose the route you did––to go with traditional publishing or to self-publish?

I decided to self-publish because I became frustrated with acquiring an agent for Merely Dee. Agent after agent said the same thing - Historical YA does not sell. But I believed in the story and gratefully, so did my husband. So we used some savings to self-publish and I've been happy with my decision ever since.

8)    Do you read reviews, and how do they affect your writing?

I enjoy reading reviews. Of course, a negative review stings, but I understand that not every book is for everyone. A positive review is very rewarding, especially one that encourages the reader to seek more information about the historical event. Merely Dee is based on the real-life capsizing of the SS Eastland back in 1915. I once had a reviewer tell me that she was so inspired by my novel, that she took a fieldtrip to Chicago to see the actual site of the disaster. What more could a writer want? I was thrilled and humbled.

9)    Top three bits of advice for writing a successful novel? 

*Join a critique group. Your writing is never as good as you think. A successful writer knows the value of another perspective.
*Have a quiet, organized place to work. Even if your workspace involves cats.
*BIC - Put your 'Butt In a Chair' and write, write, write. Perseverance is a writer's best asset.

10)   What's your favorite thing about being a writer?

I love the creativity. I never thought myself capable of being creative till I started writing. Then it just flowed. Hope the river never runs dry.

author photo1
If you want to read more about Marian's work, or get to know her even better, head over to her blog:


Thanks, Marian for giving us a bird's-eye view into your publishing journey - one that, in the word's of Karen Carpenter...has only just begun. ;)  KYM
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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 10th, 2013 10:55 pm (UTC)
Wow, I'm intrigued! I'd seen the occasional reference to the sinking of the Eastland (one in my critique buddy's MS) and it's the kind of disaster that haunts you. I love that era, too, and agree - it should be in print.

Thanks for your advice and encouragement (2 mil words - yay, I'm nearly there) and all the best with your next novel.
Apr. 20th, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC)
I loved Merely Dee - especially because of the Chicago connection. It's cool to read about something fictional that's been blended with a lot of non-fiction facts throughout. :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )