Monday, December 10, 2012

Mary Montague Sikes

Today I welcome Mary Montague Sikes (Monti) to my blog. She has written a charming new Christmas book called Daddy’s Christmas Angel. I am such a sucker for Christmas stories, and this one is endearing. So I thought I’d give you all a chance to meet the author.
Thanks for having me as a guest, Lorna.

When did you first begin writing?
For as long as I can remember, I've been writing. I think I've always had a scrap of paper in my hand just in case I want to jot down a thought or idea or even scribble a little drawing. Often, inspiring ideas come to me in the middle of the night, and I hope I can recall them when I get up in the morning.

What genres have you written?
Just about everything from poetry to romance and mystery/suspense. Over the years, I've written hundreds of nonfiction news stories, features, and articles for magazines and newspapers.

How many books do you currently have published?
I have eight novels, a coffee table book, and four "Snapshot in Time" little books, with more to come. Also, I have a "how- to" book, Published! Now $ell It!, and I'm in two anthologies. One of those, Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln was a project of the National League of American Pen Women.

Where do you get your characters?
My characters pop into my mind and play out like a movie. I love it when they take over, and I don't know for sure where things are heading!

How do you create your plots?
I usually start with a setting and go from there. For Daddy's Christmas Angel, I began with the idea of a little girl longing for a mother who plots to connect her father with her teacher. I'm not sure from where the idea came, but it's a story that could be set anywhere. I created a fictitious town in Virginia that's based loosely on my own small town. I call it my "Sleepless in Seattle" story because that, too, was heartwarming and sometimes funny.

Who are your favorite authors to read?
I enjoy books by Diane Chamberlain. Years ago, I loved books by Lavyrle Spencer. Interesting that she wrote her first book based on a recurring dream she was having about her grandmother. Her books were quite popular in the 1990s, and several were made into TV movies. She suddenly stopped writing. I keep hoping she'll decide to come back.

What would people who read your books be surprised to find out about you?
That I'm a fitness fanatic and take three classes a week, yoga, tabata and zumba. I'm also a fanatical St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. Every spring we go to Jupiter, Florida for a week or two of spring training and then I hang onto every moment of each regular season game by way of satellite TV.

Where do you live, and does your locale play a role in your books?
I live in a small town in Tidewater, Virginia. To do anything, including take fitness classes, we have to travel at least 30 minutes. As I mentioned, the area influenced the setting of my latest book, Daddy's Christmas Angel. We live about an hour from Richmond where another book, Dangerous Hearts, takes place. I have another, partly complete, book that features the fictitious small town of Jefferson Point, the setting for Daddy's Christmas Angel.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?
Yes. I go upstairs to my writing studio right after breakfast. Sometime in early afternoon, we have lunch, and I'm back to either the writing studio or my artist studio on the same floor. Three days a week, my husband and I head to fitness in late afternoon. If I'm still at home, I often continue to work on blogs and other promo work.

Since you wrote a Christmas story, what is your favorite thing about the holiday?
When our three daughters were small, I would love to gather holiday gifts. I also enjoyed creating my own decorations. Now I mostly look forward to having them home for Christmas. Since one of our daughters is an airline pilot, Christmas may be celebrated before or after the real date, depending on her flying schedule.

How do you celebrate?
We open gifts on Christmas Day, or whenever it is for us, then have a festive lunch with turkey usually.

Are there any special and unique traditions in your family?
Interesting question. I don't think so. We just enjoy having time together. When our parents were living, it was special to have all of them come to our house for the opening of gifts. We had friends from Germany who celebrated on Christmas Eve by lighting real candles on their tree. I always envied their tradition a little bit.

You write about a Christmas pageant. I also wrote about one in one of my books. Did you participate as a child?
Yes. Also, when my husband and I were first married, we were Mary and Joseph in the church pageant.

What are you working on now?
Right now, I have some art projects to complete to go along with my book signing events during the month of December.

Mary Montague Sikes is a native Virginian who grew up in the historic city of Fredericksburg in the shadow of Civil War battlefields near the boyhood home of George Washington. Motivated by her surroundings, she started writing and painting at an early age. In high school she developed a fascination for the works of Edgar Allen Poe and was inspired to create short stories. Always intrigued by far-away places, as an adult she began traveling and writing about her journeys to exotic locations. Her first novel, Hearts Across Forever, is set in Jamaica and relates to her interest in the legend of Rose Hall Great House. Using both her writing and her artistic skills, Monti wrote and illustrated a coffee table book, Hotels to Remember. As the Passenger to Paradise, Monti uses travel destinations she has visited as settings for her books. Jungle Jeopardy, the fifth book in the series, starts out in Costa Rica then centers around the Maya ruins of Central America as the story develops. This is a sequel to Secrets by the Sea, continuing the adventures of Dana and Clifton. A Rainbow for Christmas, set in 1869 on a wagon train traveling from Missouri to Denver, is her first western romance. Monti delves into her own teaching background to create her latest book, Daddy’s Christmas Angel, in which seven-year-old Kathleen Ryan connives to have her father meet her second grade teacher.

A professional artist with an MFA in painting, Monti has taught art and been a classroom teacher for children of all ages. Besides her interest in painting, she plays tennis, follows baseball, does step aerobics, and enjoys her family of three adult daughters. Monti and her husband now reside in a little Virginia town situated on three rivers accessed by two beautiful new bridges. - Amazon author link - Barnes and Noble author link


  1. Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog. Daddy's Christmas Angel is a story of my heart that I believe people of all ages will enjoy!

  2. Such a cute book, Monti!

    Morgan Mandel

  3. Thanks, Morgan. It's a sweet story for any season of the year.

  4. Well, what do you know, I learned a lot about you that I didn't know before. The book sounds wonderful and perfect for the season.

  5. Here's hoping you get to celebrate Christmas on the actual day this year with everyone around!

  6. Monti: I love yoga classes and need to find one around here now that I moved. I read Christmas Angel and I loved it. Finished it in two days.
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  7. Thanks, Marilyn (the Stiletto Gang)! Guess there's always something new to learn about everybody. As writers, it may be intriguing and even dangerous! Especially if we embellish it!!!

  8. Terry, once again, we'll be celebrating Christmas on a different day--Dec. 27. Our pilot daughter is flying Christmas Day and Dec. 26. We've gotten used to working around her schedule!

  9. Wendy, thank you for loving Christmas Angel!!! Hope you find a yoga class. If not, maybe there's zumba which gives quite a workout!

  10. Back from vacation and I wanted to thank you again for doing this interview while I was enjoying the warmth and trade winds on Maui. I enjoyed the book very much.

  11. Thank you so much for having me, Lorna. What a lovely place to enjoy this time of year! I'm glad you enjoyed my book.