Passion Never Retires for Mary Strand

Best thing I love about my work: I get to put my characters in tough situations and give them a happy ending. In my YA novels, I get to be a teenager again … but many people would say I never stopped!

My idea of perfect happiness: A warm, sunny day in Paris listening to live music.

My greatest fear: I am not particularly fearful. Maybe I fear that I won’t get it all done.

The trait I most deplore in myself: Procrastination. Wait. No, let me get back to you on that.

Living persons in my profession I most admire: Too many to name! A few who aren’t among my actual pals: Lin-Manuel Miranda (who’s in my profession only in the broadest sense). J.K. Rowling. Meg Cabot.

My greatest extravagance: Trips to Paris every chance I get. And the time I bought wildly expensive tickets to the Tony awards just because Hugh Jackman was the emcee. (Totally worth it!)

Occasion on which I would lie: Never. I don’t always say everything I know or think, but I don’t lie. (Except that I write fiction for a living!)

The thing I dislike the most in my work: The fact that I need to do revisions in my office at home, alone, with no one around. Very tough for an extrovert!

When and where I was happiest in my work: In my actual work of writing, I’m happiest writing at Sebastian Joe’s, a fab coffee and ice cream shop in Minneapolis. (Where I don’t drink coffee and don’t eat ice cream. lol.) In my writing-related work, I’m happiest when surrounded by other writers at a retreat or conference or anywhere else.

If I could, what I would I change about myself: If I could, I would magically turn myself into a New York Times bestselling author who spends a few months in Paris every year, plays guitar and sings in a successful band, writes songs for my band and other singers, writes screenplays that turn into hot movies, and plays a million sports without the slightest knee pain.

My greatest achievement in work: So far, it might be a tie between winning the Golden Heart award (given by Romance Writers of America) for my very first manuscript and the first book I sold to a publisher.

Where I would I most like to live: Paris! Je taime!

My most treasured possession: I don’t actually care much about possessions. Having said that, my BMW Z-3 convertible, known in my house as the Zipster. It’s impossible not to be wildly happy while driving it, especially when going very fast on a curving road.

My most marked characteristic: Probably my sense of humor, which is mostly nonstop. Physically, maybe my strawberry-blond hair or my blue eyes, which I’m told can be intense.

My most inspirational location in my city (Minneapolis): For writing, Sebastian Joe’s (mentioned earlier), which is cozy and has the BEST scones, and where I like to write at the table next to the fireplace … even in the summer, when it’s not on. For music, the Dakota, where I wish I were up on stage. (Some day.) For life in general, Minnehaha Falls. I’ve loved it since I was a kid.

My favorite place to eat and drink in Minneapolis: I’m not a foodie, so for me it’s all about who I’m eating and drinking WITH. Having said that, I love La Fresca (upscale Mexican), Tinto (Mexican right in my neighborhood), Salut (French; the duck a l’orange is to die for), and Crave (where I love the ginger-pear martinis). I’m actually more likely to go out to hear music. For that, my favorite places are First Avenue, the Dakota, Lake Harriet Bandshell, and the Driftwood.

Books that influenced my life and how: There are so many! Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) is probably my all-time favorite and taught me the importance of capturing what people are really like. In my teens, I totally fell for Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky for its brilliant complexity and everything ever written by Hermann Hesse for its intensity of feeling. Various books written by Janet Evanovich, Meg Cabot, and Jennifer Crusie made me realize that my own writing (which has similarities to theirs) could be successful.

My favorite writers: They include (and for the most part I’m not naming my closest writer pals, so as not to choose among them) Jane Austen, Jo Beverley, Georgette Heyer, Anne Lamott, Jennifer Crusie, Meg Cabot, and Echo Bodine. Honestly, though, my favorite books and favorite writers change based on where (and who) I am in my life at any given moment. The list above is just a blurry snapshot. My favorite songwriter is Rodney Crowell. The person I think is most wildly talented in an array of creative fields is Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’d love to be him when I grow up.

You Only Die Once. Music I’d listen to on my last day: In a perfect world, it would be live music, and it would include Southern Serenade and the Cadillac Cowboys (two Wisconsin bands I saw and heard a million times during college), the Eagles, Rodney Crowell, the Melismatics, Elton John, Paul McCartney … and, in this perfect world I’m constructing, whatever fab band I’m then playing in.

My hero or heroine in fiction: In my own fiction, the heroine who most surprised me was Lydia Bennet from Livin’ La Vida Bennet, the last book in my Bennet Sisters YA series, which imagines a modern collision with Pride and Prejudice. Lydia was the bad girl in Jane Austen’s book and in my series, but I made her fierce, confident, and ultimately victorious. I love her.

My heroes and heroines in real life: Politicians who work to do the right thing for our country. Everyone who let their voices be heard in the #metoo campaign. Today’s teenagers who say no to bullying, shaming, discrimination, racism, sexism, and other maladies of our society that can and will change for the better.

Movie I’d recommend to see once in a lifetime: Two for the Road, with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. I think it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen for how marriages actually work.

The role art plays in my life and work: In addition to sports, my life is all about the arts. Writing, obviously, but I’m currently moving beyond “just” writing novels to include screenwriting and songwriting. (In high school, I was a poet and wrote our class poem.) I live and breathe music and am thrilled to have started pursuing it actively on guitar and, recently, vocals. I love painting and sculpture, not to create it but to absorb its beauty. Two of my brothers are artists: one paints and another creates gorgeous Christmas ornaments. My son is a drummer; my daughter paints. Art in all of its forms is vital to any well-lived life.

My greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime: Many have helped me on this road I travel. On the advice of counsel, they should remain nameless. Certainly, my partners in crime should. Joke! Somewhat!

Someone I’d like to work with in 2018: I’m going to a songwriting camp this summer headed by Rodney Crowell, my favorite songwriter EVER. That pretty much takes care of my wish list!

People in my profession I’d love to meet in 2018: The editor who buys my next book. The (new) agent who sells my next book or one that follows. I’d love a sit-down-and-chat with Meg Cabot. I’d love to actually speak (and listen) to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is simply brilliant.

Project in 2018 I’m looking forward to working on: I’m currently working on and loving a YA series about a high school for psychics.

Where you can see me or my work in 2018: You can find my books online or ask for them in bookstores. (My Amazon page: I have upcoming local book events on February 10 in Hudson, Wisconsin, and March 3 in Minneapolis; check my website for details: I’ll be speaking on a YA panel at the April 20-22 Washington Romance Writers retreat in Westminster, Maryland. I’ll be a guest author at the Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Weekend in Milwaukee, April 27-29.

What the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me: Without passion, you’re not really living. Go for it.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story? Here are a few: Emilie Storrs (singer), Brenda Hiatt (novelist), Bethany Barber (singer).

How you can you contact me: Email me at Visit my website: On social media, find me at,, and


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