Q & A with romance author M.S. Spencer

Thanks for being here today, Meredith. Would you please share a short bio about yourself?

Although I’ve lived in Chicago, Boston, New York, France, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and England, the last 30 years have been spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director and parent. I hold a BA from Vassar College, a Diploma in Arabic Studies from the American University in Cairo, and Masters in Anthropology and in Library Science from the University of Chicago. Once I escaped academia (for which my mother never forgave me) I worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Today I divide my time among Virginia, Maine and Florida.

I have two fabulous grown children but only one cat (down from three, plus a dog, a snake and two hamsters). It’s a quiet household now, but since my study window looks on a park and river there is plenty of wildlife to distract me from my writing.

Q Do you consider yourself a shy and/or introverted person?
A Yes, I am shy. Every time I walk into a group I feel little tentacles of fear clutching at me. I can converse happily one on one, but speaking even in a small group fills me with angst. At a large gathering I’ve learned to gravitate toward someone standing by himself and engage him in conversation (once I’ve picked up that glass of wine for fortification & something to hold!). I’m not introverted though—which I think is different from one who enjoys her solitude. I love to be alone—to write or think or walk. But I also like to debate and joke and eat and drink; in short, I like people. Becky, you and your readers probably know more about it: does an introverted person actively dislike people or company?

Q In what ways has being shy or introverted hindered your writing career?
A My fear of public speaking has interfered in more than just my writing career. When I was in graduate school I actually chose courses based on whether or not they required an oral presentation. The shyness extends to attending conferences, which I know can be very useful, but which I find any excuse to avoid. And the thought of doing a reading…well, that’s on a par with having an MRI (see below). So, many of the activities that garner attention for my books I avoid—not a good sales method!

Q In what ways has being shy or introverted helped your writing career?

A I’m not sure introversion is good for a writer under any circumstances. Wouldn’t introversion inhibit a writer from empathizing with others? How can you create believable characters if your only reference point is yourself? On the other hand, while shyness may keep me from connecting with readers in public settings, sometimes it helps me to listen. Rather than be the center of attention and hold the stage, it’s easy for me to sit back and let the other person talk. I can absorb their insights, memories, and tales, and then reconfigure them when I construct my characters and stories.

Q What’s the hardest part of this business for you?
A I imagine most people say promotion, which is certainly hard work, but for me it’s that my books are (so far) ebooks. Potential buyers can’t browse the bookstore shelves and be ensnared by my wonderful covers. Book signings are difficult to do effectively. My friends are almost to a man unable to grasp the concept of an ebook (I have only two with Kindles). And lastly, I don’t have a lovely hardback with my name in gold leaf on the spine to occasionally take off the shelf and dust with contented hands.

Q Tell me about a time that you had to step outside your comfort zone either in your writing career or in your personal life?
A I’ve been sitting here awhile trying to think of a time when I haven’t found a means to escape any uncomfortable situation. Cowardice has served me well most of my life. I pride myself on the odd talent of being able to weasel gracefully out of anything I don’t want to do. Of course, living in a number of different cultures, traveling, and meeting people from virtually all walks of life may have left me more adaptable than some (I can tap a wealth of exotic excuses).

So what is a comfort zone exactly? Is it going into the cave in defiance of my claustrophobia? Or stopping to let a pedestrian cross despite the infuriated tailgater behind me? Or allowing a friend to do an Avon makeover on me? I’m not sure. There are situations where you’re forced to do something you fear—my abortive attempt at an MRI springs to mind—but “stepping outside” implies a voluntary effort. Of course, as a shy person, every time I walk into a crowded room, take a deep breath, and march up to someone and introduce myself, I’ve leapt way outside my comfort zone. So is it a small step? Or a long jump?

Q What’s one tip you could share with shy and introverted people that’s helped you?
A I can only suggest that shy people not follow my example. Don’t—as I did—flee situations that bring the shyness on. At this point in my life I’m sticking with cowardice, but I never should have allowed myself (or been allowed) to get away with avoiding public speaking engagements. It’s said that one gets used to it. If that’s true, get out there—give speeches, go on panel discussions, toast the groom. And when you get to that podium, survey the crowd and imagine the audience is made up of boyfriends you dumped.

Q Would you please share a short blurb of your book and where my readers can buy it?
A My latest release is Losers Keepers from Secret Cravings, a tale of love, lust and treachery set on the island of Chincoteague.

Losers Keepers, by M. S. Spencer
Published July, 2011, by Secret Cravings Publishing
eBook, 72,000 words, ISBN 978-1-936653-95-9
Contemporary romantic suspense, M/F, 3 flames

Dagne Lonegan, aka Dear Philomena, advice dispenser extraordinaire, hoped that spending a year on the Eastern Shore island of Chincoteague to write her novel would clear her sinuses, if not her heart, of any feelings for Jack Andrews, erstwhile lover and long-time jerk. It’s just her luck that her first week on the island she’s in the right place at the right time to be involved with a murder. Only she doesn’t know it. Unfortunately, the murderer doesn’t know she doesn’t know. Strange and dangerous things begin happening to her, interfering with her new romance with Tom Ellis, the handsome manager of the National Wildlife Refuge. Complications ensue when her Jack arrives to take charge of the murder investigation.

Will Dagne stick with the tall, cool glass of a Ranger or fall back into the arms of her first tempestuous passion?
Buy links: Secret Cravings, Amazon, allRomanceEBooks.com, Book Strand.

I have two other romantic suspense novels out from Red Rose Publishing. My first novel, Lost in His Arms, is set in the spinning world of 1991 when countries fell like flies and a CIA fixer had his hands full. My second novel, Lost and Found, finds a desperate wife searching the wilds of Maine and Florida for the husband who disappeared. You can find them at Red Rose Publishing as well as at Amazon, Fictionwise, Book Strand and AllRomanceEBooks.
www.redrosepublishing.com/books/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=282&products_id=17 and http://redrosepublishing.com/books/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=282&products_id=654

Q Where can my readers find you on the web?
A Website: http://www.meredithellsworth.com/
Blog: http://mssspencertalespinner.blogspot.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/M.S.SpencerAuthor
Twitter: www.twitter.com/mssellsworth


  1. Thanks for having me Becky! Your questions were different and intriguing--made me think. I hope we get lots of insight from your readers. M. S. Spencer

  2. Hey there, Thanks so much for coming on today. When I get a second later today, I'll remind readers the difference between being shy and being introverted. And the difference between being introverted vs extroverted. But if anyone beats me to it, go for it. :)

  3. Love this interview, insight & book blurb. (I've added your book to my TBR pile.)

    I understand shyness. Like you, M.S., I'm a private person. I realized I needed an aka (literally AKA) before I could seriously contemplate about venturing into the world as an author!

  4. Okay, here's the difference between shyness and introversion, as defined from an earlier posting (see link below)

    ▪ Shy is the fear of socializing.
    ▪ Introversion is a lack of interest in socializing


    For me, I'm more an introvert than shy, although I definitely have shy tendencies. Someone told me once that an introvert might enjoy being social but finds it draining. And extrovert on the other hand gains energy from social contact.

    Me? I'll use the example of going to conferences or chapter meetings. I enjoy both of these endeavors, but can only take so much before I need to be by myself and recharge.

    I think there are varying degrees of shyness and introversion, and we just need to accept that this is the way we are. There's nothing wrong with it. You can't change your nature.

    However...it is possible to fake it. Most people who meet me at conferences and the like would never guess that I'm shy and introverted, because I've learned to fake it well. I always seek out the person who is standing or sitting alone, because I figure they're just like me. :)And I'm perfectly content, while in a group setting, just listening rather than doing much of the talking.

  5. Thank you Anne for your kind words.
    Becky, your definition is clearer than mine --I think that's what I was getting at. I recognize myself in your comment about social activity being draining too. Very interesting topic--especially for authors.