Interview with M.R. Cornelius

M.R. Cornelius

Interview Date: 11/13/2012


After working for fifteen years as a cafeteria manager in an elementary school, Marsha Cornelius turned in her non-skid shoes for a bathrobe and slippers. She now works at home, writing novels, acting out scenes with her cats, and occasionally running a Swiffer across dusty surfaces.
Like thousands of others, she thought she could write romance, but soon discovered she was a dismal failure. She did increase her repertoire of adjectives such as throbbing, pulsing, thrumming, vibrating, hammering, pumping . . .
She resides in Atlanta with her husband. Her two grown sons occasionally visit for clean laundry and a hot cooked meal.

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

I believe my first writing inspiration came in the third grade, when I wrote this timeless poem.
I had a dream
I went to a stream
And got some cream.
My teacher was a real bitch, so the fact that she gave me a passing grade was all it took to get me hooked.

If you could have one superpower, what would it? (Assuming said power would be reasonably powerful.)

I’ve always wanted to blink, like in I Dream of Jeannie, and make slow drivers get out of my way, make money suddenly appear, and make my hair behave. (I’d take the twitching nose from Bewitched, but I never could do it fast enough. That’s probably why it never worked.)

Kev's response: Not to mention that you'll get odd looks if you try it (and nothing happens)!

Do you have a superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

Definitely Ironman. Not because I like his powers. I just think Robert Downey Jr. is hot.

Kev's response: So it's not just "Can we get a superhero to save the day," but "Can we get a hot superhero over here?"

Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

Anything can inspire me to write: something on the news, a comment from a friend, even the conversations going on in my head. The real trick is to get motivated to flesh out these tidbits into a short story, or better yet, a book. And where does that motivation come from? Usually from Reese’s peanut butter cups.

Kev's response: Those usually just motivate me to eat another...

Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-your-pants style writer?

My first book was seat-of-the-pants. I didn’t really know where I was going with it. But even when I outlined my second book, I found that it took on a life of its own. Two characters start talking, and suddenly all your plans are out the window. Conversations can really muck things up in a hurry. And I don’t always know what my characters are going to say until I get there.

Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

Oh, I have a schedule for writing. The problem is the writing sucks when I’m not inspired. Usually, when I get stuck, I go for a walk. I live out in the country, so a nice long stroll clears my head. I always take along a notepad so I can jot down thoughts and conversations.
My neighbors have gotten used to seeing me furiously scribbling in the middle of the road, and they slow down just like they do for Bessie the cow.

Kev's response: Perhaps by now they figure you're just addled in the mind?

Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

I’m seeing a trend in my books. I don’t write science fiction, but it is certainly speculative fiction. Something that occurs in the near future, and the consequences of the event. My first novel is about the survivors of a flu pandemic that doesn’t get stopped, my second novel is about cryogenics. I’m currently working on a story about college students in the near future.
I love reading suspense, and thrillers.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love the act of writing. Getting caught in a situation and finding a logical way out of it. A book is like a giant puzzle. The more pieces, the better. I love the challenge.

Is there any part of writing that you don’t enjoy?

I’m not real fond of marketing and promoting my books. I know it is a necessary part of the whole business of writing, but selling myself is hard.

Kev's response: I'm with you there. I'm not a fan of having to do promotion.

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

I had polio when I was 2 years-old, but the only lasting affect seems to be my inability to keep from making inappropriate remarks while waiting in line at the post office. (Now if I could just blink and get two more postal workers to come out of the back and wait on customers . . .)

Kev's response: Or they may hide out in back if they see you furiously wiggling your nose!

Do you write one story at a time or do you have several novels in the works at the same time.

I’m usually juggling a couple projects at the same time: a rough draft, and maybe editing a final. That way if one starts to drag, I can move over to the other. But never two rough drafts at the same time. (Oh, that makes my temples throb just thinking about it.)

In my evil plot to take over the world, do you advise I use highly intelligent, self-motivated minions, or simple ones, and why?

Isn’t highly intelligent minion an oxymoron?

Kev's response: Not at all. Everyone can be a minion if they obey you without question (given a prior threat of disintegration, perhaps).

Where do you see the future as far as paperback books versus digital e-books?

I’ve been through 45s, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and now downloadable music. If you can’t keep up with a trend, you’re a goner. E-books are the way of the future, man.

What are your current projects?

I’m doing a final edit on a book about a homeless man who helps a woman and her two small children get off the streets. And I’m in a very rough first draft of a screenplay.

Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

Please be professional. I read about an author who participated in Na-No-Wri-Mo. (National Novel Writing Month.) He thought it would be clever to print the rough draft he wrote. Ahhhhh! (I’m pulling my hair out!) DO NOT DO THIS! Too many writers are publishing before their book is ready. You cannot rely on your mother, or a friend in your critique group, to give you an honest evaluation of your writing. You need a professional editor. If you are not willing to spend the time and money on an editor, just Xerox off some copies of your book for your friends.

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you?

My website:
Facebook: https://

Kev's response: Marsha, thank you for joining me, and I wish you the best on novels (and screenplay)!

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