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Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, July 11, 2013, Pages 1 & 7

Local author to sign books during Ayr Days festivities

One attraction for the upcoming Ayr Days celebration is a book signing by two authors with ties to Ringgold county. Janet Barker Knedler of Topeka, KS and Mary Martsching of Mount Ayr will sign books and answer questions on Saturday, July 20 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mount Ayr Public Librrary. (This week we will profile Martsching and her journey to becoming a published author.)

Rec-News: Please describe your most recent book.

MM: The book is called "Finding Heath - Young Lighthouse Keeper." It's an action adventure I wrote about five years ago. I had already written some children stories, not published, for my grandchildren. I was thinking about writing a children's book, but I knew it would be hard because you have to be so exact. You can have only so many words on a page and so many pages. It was a challenge because I thought, "Whoa, I have to have a least 25,000 words for a middle-grade book! That's what this is aimed for – ages 8 to 12, 8 to 14 – how in the world am I ever going to write 25,000 or so words?"

I was taking a course through the Institute of Children's Literature. I had an actual author, Louise Foley, and I would submit ideas to her.

One of the ideas I submitted was something about a boy in a lighthouse having some struggles. She liked that idea and suggested I try turning it into a full-length book. I would have assignments to turn in to her, and she would make suggestions for improvements.

We went through that to the end of the book, and you know what, I really enjoyed the characters I had created.

I write for middle grades because I taught them for seven years. But the suicide rate is so high for those children. A lot of these kids look in the mirror, and they're not crazy about themselves. One of the terms we use in education is "bibliotherapy," which means "therapy through books."

I hope kids can relate to Heath's struggles as they cope with their own. Heath's parents died in a sailing accident after having saved him, so he is coping with guilt and feelings of inadequacy. He's got a new life he's dealing with, living with an estranged grandfather. He must face the school bully and pressure from the basketball coach.

The final thing Heath has to deal with is the storm, and he's the one who has to step up and be lighthouse keeper because his grandfather becomes incapacitated.

Well, think about [Page 7] our kids. Some of them are coming from split homes. Some of them have new dads they don't even know.

I grew up in a single home. My father left when I was three. There were four of us, and I was second oldest. These are commonalities that many people are dealing with today.

Rec-News: How many books have you written?

MM: I have written two more in the series that aren't published yet. Heath is still the main character, and each is still set in a lighthouse.

"Finding Heath" is an action/adventure, but the next two are mysteries.

I'm trying to model myself after the Nancy Drew books. That's where I started with reading. Nancy Drew was my hero and my best friend. She could transport me to different places, climbing up a hidden staircase or out in the garden with the whispering statue.

I'm working on a fourth, and in this one I am moving from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.

I've already got an idea for the plot, but I just don't know yet which ligh-house I will use.

Rec-News: When did you begin writing?

MM: I had a grandson in 2000, and when I would visit him in Kansas City, he had a little mobile with animals on it. I made up stories about him and the animals on the ark. And then as each grandchild was born, I made up a new story for each one based on their personality.

I have also worked as a story-teller in the schools. I liked it, and people told me I have a knack for that.

Rec-News: Where do you find your subject/storylines?

MM: I love lighthouses, and I've always been fascinated with them. In each one of my books, the setting is at a lighthouse, and each book features a different lighthouse.

I've been to the lighthouses of my first two books. I stood at the top, looked around, smelled the ocean and so on. But after I became a Christian, I know thatChrist is the beacon that beckons people to safety. Why not combine my passion for lighthouses with another passion – still making an impact on kids, especially these middle-graders who are just struggling so badly.

I wanted to make a hero out of a kid because they're all heroes to me. I also wanted to make a boy the main character because there aren't that many middle-gradebooks out there where a boy is the hero.

Rec-News: What is the greatest challenge facing a beginning author?

MM: How am I going to get this published? I submitted "Finding Heath" to nine different publishing companies, and all of them rejected it. You must have an agent today in order to even get your manuscript in front of publishers, but then you're paying for an agent.

I weighed the pros and cons of hiring an agent, but I also took some online courses about self-publishing. There are so many things involved in self-publishing. This was my first attempt at being a publisher, so I really wanted my book to look professional. I wanted it to read professionally. I wanted a Library of Congress number and an ISBN number.

After a lot of research, I eventually decided to work with West Bow Press, which provided me with a number of packages that covered several of the details associated with publishing such as page format, cover design, marketing tools, editing and many more.

I really want to spend my time writing. I don't have time to piecemeal things. I also took online courses and seminars about marketing.

I knew I could write, definitely I knew how to revise, but what I didn't know was how to market. I'm not comfortable promoting myself, but the courses taught me to ask: Do you like your product? Do you think your product is something someone should buy? Would people benefit from your product?

I had to change my whole mindset about the value of providing to customers.

Rec-News: Describe your writing routine?

MM: I usually will have an idea,and I want to sit down and I write and I write and I write. But I've thought about things for a while, so it all just seems to fall into place. The first book took me a year to write, the second nine months and the third three months. When I'm editing and revising, that's when I'm meticulous. I have to put on a different hat, set aside the ego and really become the teacher.

Rec-News: In your opinion, are writers born or can they be made?

MM: I believe the Lord gives all of us a purpose in our lives, and I think if you’re going to be a writer, deep down inside you have the aptitude and you have the desire which is more important than anything to write. Now, can they be improved upon? Definitely.

Rec-News: In your opinion, is writing more inspiration or perspiration?

MM: I would say inspiration is probably 80 percent, at least for me. It also depends upon where are you with your writing. If I'm close to being done, then it seems like I have to shift to the marketing. Right now it seems like the marketing is taking 110 percent of my time.

Rec-News: What was your biggest surprise on your journey to becoming a published author?

MM: That I could do it – that I can actually write a book this length. It was amazing!

[The email address for author Janet Knedler was incorrect in herRecord-News interview. The correct address should be]

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2013

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, July 16, 2015, Page 9

Local author to do book signing during Ayr Days celebration

Local author Mary Martsching will sign copies of her three books at the Mount Ayr Public Library Saturday, July 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during Ayr Days.

Marsching last appeared at the library two years ago to sign copies of her first book, "Finding Heath - Young Lighthouse Keeper." Since that time she has added two more books to her Lighthouse Collection: "Mystery of London Ledge Lighthouse - A Haunting Encounter" in December 2014 and "Terror at Twin Lights Lighthouse - Missing!" in January 2015.

Another Mount Ayr connection for the latest two books is that local artist Josh Hanawalt designed the cover images for both.

After being introduced as the main character in her first book, Heath is a recurring character throughout the series. His cousins Cade and Madeline also become recurring characters as well.


In "Mystery of London Ledge Lighthouse," Heath responds to a call from his cousin Cade to investigate the haunting occurrences at the lighthouse.

In "Terror at Twin Lights Lighthouse," Heath and Cade come to the aid of their cousin Madeline, who along with a friend has been accused of stealing artifacts from the lighthouse. To make matters worse, the friend has now disappeared.

Martsching said a fourth book in this Lighthouse series is in the works, but this fourth book may be her last. Because of the costs associated with self-publishing, she worries she cannot continue to publishe without some sort of financial return on her books. Even though the books are available through sources such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, those venues subtract a considerable percentage from the gross receipts, leaving little for the author.

[Late word has been received that the library will also host author Jack Fetty from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a signing of his newest book, "Wind Spirit." He has also written "Rings of Gold: Successes from Ringgold County" and "Muddy Creek."]

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

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