Mary Ann Hutchison is the author of the YA novel Moochi's Mariachis, a wonderful coming-of-age tale that will make you want to get up and dance! She was born in Wisconsin but now calls Tucson, Arizona home. She loves the mountains and the sea and says, "I would be happiest living in a log cabin in the mountains if I could open the front door and have ocean waves lapping at the front porch." A voracious reader, as a pre-teen one of her favorite books was Lorna Doone; now she can't get enough of Harry Potter. She also loves to travel and has been to nine foreign countries and 38 U.S. states by train, plane, automobile and ship.
Moochi's Mariachis is Hutchison's first YA novel. She has also completed a suspense western that is looking for a publisher and has another suspense novel half-written. In addition, she writes short stories – mystery and suspense – and children's picture books.
This busy and multi-talented authoress was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions. She says, "So much to do, so few hours in a day, especially if you have to sleep now and then!"
Tell us about Moochi's Mariachis. What was the impetus to write this book?
Although I like ALL kinds of music, mariachi just may be my favorite. The word mariachi can refer to the music, the musician and a culture. I can't think of another word that does all of that. I wanted teens of all cultures to love and understand it as much as I do. The music tells stories about the birth of a culture, is played for all things happy (love, weddings, births) and sad (funerals, the breaking up of love affairs, war.) When the trumpet soars to its highest notes it can make me cry with joy; the violins and vihuelas can sound so sad, I also cry. Does music do that to you, too?
What was the journey to publication like for you?
It took seven years to write Moochi. It began as a children's picture book about insects in the southwest desert who wanted to form a mariachi band, and then morphed into what it is today, when an "almost" teen I'd given the story to asked me, "Does it have to be about bugs? Can't it be about kids my age?" As soon as I answered the question with "Yes," my research began.
It's one thing to want to write about something you think you know or love; it's quite another to be credible about it. I'm lucky: I love to research. A big thing with me, and other writers, is the importance of being credible. If your readers catch you making something up (unless it's fantasy, then all bets are off) and your writing becomes unreliable, you lose your readers, and that's something you never want to do.
I wanted to interview a real mariachi, so I went to a local high school and was lucky enough to choose a day when they were having their mariachi weekend. The principal asked me and my husband to be guests and listen to their mariachi band play. The next day I got onto the school's "Bulletin Board," mentioned I was a writer, and asked to speak with anyone in the band who would like to be interviewed. A Senior by the name of Roxy answered and helped me make Moochi real. Roxy and Moochi are a lot alike (go figure) and to this day, she and I are great friends. We email a lot, and go to lunch a lot. I couldn't have done it without her.
When the book was finally written, I had to decide whether or not I wanted an agent. (I don't have one yet.) It took me four years to find a publisher and I'm lucky to have found a good one. I have a great editor who fixes my grammar and punctuation. (I've always been a good speller -- that's important -- but I'm lousy at punctuation.)
How did you first discover your love for writing?
When I was in first grade, I wrote a poem and it was printed in the school newspaper and I was hooked. I liked seeing my thoughts in print. I still do. How else can we reach one another?
What is your writing routine? Do you write every day? Do you have a certain time or place you write?
I write best in the morning and try to write at least something every day; even answering email is a form of "writing". It's a great way to build strong, believable dialogue for your stories, incidentally. You want your characters to sound believable.
My spoiled Norwegian Forest cat, five-year-old Matilda, keeps me company on her perch that sits over the copier/fax machine. She stays there until I finish for the day. Fourteen-year-old Bud, an orange tabby, comes by now and again to say "hi" but mostly just sleeps in "his" room -- my old craft room.
I usually begin to write seriously at 8am, in my office on my PC, and will keep at it until about 2pm. By that time, my mind is fried, especially when I'm working on a book. I have a set of wind chimes that play softly in the background, and I don't answer the phone until I'm finished for the day. My friends and family know they can't call me during that time because I won't answer. If there's an emergency, they can reach me on my cell.
But I also write -- mentally -- when I'm watching TV or reading, or riding in a car. If I'm having an especially tough time with a paragraph or advancing the plot, I think about it all the time. I write all kinds of notes on little scraps of paper and always carry a small notebook in my purse, for those times when brilliant ideas come to me. I write down plots for future stories, words that strike me funny, or lines of dialogue I come up with.
What is your biggest advice for kids and teens just starting out?
Read, read, read (and read some more). Be observant, and listen. (The best characters in your stories are all around you. You can use mannerisms, style of speech, personalities, etc.)
Enter your writing in contests -- there are lots of them out there. You are not going to become famous overnight; you are going to have to have several birthdays before you gain the experience you'll need. If you think you're going to become rich by being a writer, then you might want to do something else for a living.
Writing is not only something you want to do, it is something you have to do. Stories will nag at you to be finished; characters will call out to you and will become real to you. Listen to those voices; answer the call to write.
What do you hope readers take away from Moochi's Mariachis?
No matter what culture you are a part of, no matter where you live, teens are all the same. You share the same problems, the same joys, the same sadnesses. The only difference may be in the language you speak.
But most of all, follow your dream. Do what is necessary to make it come true. If you can share your dream with a friend or friends, all the better. Good friends are very important. "Best" friends may come and go; the really real "best" friends will be with you for years and years. Yes, it's true: to have a friend, be a friend.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Moochi has changed my life. She and her friends have introduced me to a whole new world, filled not only with the music I love, but with people I would never would have met without them.
Yes, I created them, but they are as real to me as any flesh and blood friends are. I would like to find the little town I created for them, Desert Wells, Arizona -- I'll know it when I see it. Moochi will answer you if you write her -- or any of her friends -- at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm trying to decide whether to begin the sequel (they have lots of adventures to have, and some growing up to do) or to finish the suspense novel I began. I'll do whichever one calls out the loudest.