In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Donita Bundy and Alison Joy interview spy-thriller author Mazzy Adams. Mazzy shares her writing practices, the joy and complexity of defying genre norms, and how writing actually helped rehabilitate her brain after a stroke.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, writing and publishing blogger at smallbluedog.com, and Gracewriters founder
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of the Armour of Light urban fantasy series
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Mazzy Adams, spy-thriller author
Topics covered in this episode:
- The nourishment and challenge of working in a wealth of different creative disciplines.
- When you have other projects to work on but one book just won’t leave you alone.
- ‘Pleasing others’ vs writing the book of your heart and your calling.
- How Mazzy recovered after the language centres of her brain were affected by a post-surgery stroke, and deep encouragement she has to offer to other Gracewriters facing challenges.
Find Mazzy online:
More about Mazzy Adams at https://mazzyadams.com/
Amazon profile: https://amzn.to/47CLIwa
Book links on multiple online bookstores: https://books2read.com/licence-to-die-Mazzy-Adams
Mazzy’s poetry and creative non-fiction: https://mazzyadams.com/reads-and-seeds/poetry-creative-non-fiction/
Click the cover below to find Mazzy’s book on Amazon:
Please use the sharing buttons at top and bottom of this post to share on social media or directly with Christian writers you know.
Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Hit subscribe on your favourite podcast player so you never miss an episode and find show notes, useful links and a full transcript at gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast, educational consultant, tutor, blogger, all-round creative and fellow Gracewriter, Mazzy Adams.
I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. I blog for writers at smallbluedog.com and you can find links to all my blogs, books and online courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I’m a former early childhood teacher living in south-east Queensland. I have four adult children and I’m a mad-keen photographer. I write romance under the pen name Alison Joy and you can find out more about my books at alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy. For the past 20 years, I’ve been using my theology degree to underpin my preaching and more recently, to inspire my urban-fantasy series, Armour of Light. To find out more about me, my books and all my other projects, you can go to donitabundy.com.
Alison Joy: Mazzy Adams has always delved into the creative, whether it be via crafting songs, Australian bush poetry, puppet plays or drama sketches, as well as writing short stories and creative non-fiction. She has overcome significant personal health issues in order to publish her debut novel, License to Die, GRUnGE.001, and joins us today from her hometown of Toowoomba in South-east Queensland.
Welcome to the podcast, Mazzy.
Mazzy Adams: Thank you for having me.
Donita Bundy: Mazzy, as you would know, for us to get to know our interviewees a little bit better, we put them under the rapid-fire five and we were wondering if you’re up to the challenge?
Mazzy Adams: Go for it!
Donita Bundy: Right! Who is your target audience?
Mazzy Adams: It seems spy writing crosses barriers. It appeals to a variety of readers who enjoy intriguing, fast-paced stories splashed with humour, hope and inspiration!
In Licence to Die, my protagonists reflect that mysterious and wonderful new-adult, young-adult’s crossover group, 16 to 25 year olds as they tackle the trials and tribulations of senior schooling, University, of working for the first time and introductory adulting, in general. But they are also dealing with the fallout of actions and decisions made by the adult influences in their lives and my current fans reflect a similar age range from 16 to 76!
Donita Bundy: So, we heard in your introduction, Mazzy, you cover a lot of genres. Just quickly, what would your main genre be, would you say?
Mazzy Adams: My long fiction reflects my own passion for mystery and suspense. I call myself a genre rebel because I’m just as happy writing poetry and creative non-fiction, puppet plays and they reflect a whole range of styles and genres but that also leaks into my long fiction too, where appropriate.
Donita Bundy: Mazzy, when is your optimum time for writing?
Mazzy Adams: A hangover from days of homeschooling where I would look after the children during the day and I would work at night.
My muse is a belle de nuit, like the night blooming flower with her wacky creativity, tends to blossom just as I’m dozing off to sleep!
She’ll keep me scribbling, yes. Scribbling through the wee hours of the morning. I mean, like yes, scribbling!
Donita Bundy: Mazzy, do you have a favourite place to write?
Mazzy Adams: It’s still at home otherwise I’m too easily distracted watching people and goings on. My office is my working office, so, I have my work books and the business end of things on the bookshelf on that side and over in the back are all the children’s books and games for the grandchildren.
Donita Bundy: And can you sum up in a couple of sentences how you got into writing in the first place?
Mazzy Adams: By a long and winding road!
As you mentioned, I began composing songs when my children were young. I moved into creative ministries at church. Found myself organising and writing scripts and organising sets and performers. A couple of local Speech and Drama Teacher’s Association members roped me into Bush Poetry competitions and the occasional eisteddfod and also into voluntary work with senior drama classes at my children’s school.
Once my children grew up and flew the nest, I took on and completed my Creative Writing Degree, online, through Tabor Adelaide and I’ve continued to write and teach secondary school students how to improve their writing skills ever since.
Alison Joy: Thank you for that, Mazzy.
I was just curious, though, before we dive deeper into your writing journey, I’d really like to hear how you came up with your pen name because I think it’s an interesting story.
Mazzy Adams: It was a bit of an adventure at the time. I’ve always been interested in the meaning of names.
Two particularly influential books, this is one of them, The Creative Call, by Janice Elsheimer and this is the other one, it’s called God’s Poetry, The Identity and Destiny Encoded in Your Name, which is by Anne Hamilton. The writing in that book convinced me to choose a pen name which reflected my God-given calling to write. So, I chose Mazzy because it means precious and Adams, to represent all of humanity, reflecting my passion to write for the enjoyment and the blessing and the encouragement of every precious reader.
So, both the call and the audience, I guess, in the name. There’s probably another aspect to the reason why I adopted a pen name, that decision was influenced by a specific creative non-fiction piece I wrote in response to the sexual abuse that I suffered in childhood and particularly, at that time, I felt a degree of anonymity was appropriate when it was published.
So, if listeners are interested, they can read more about that in my blog, Mazzy’s Musings in the post that’s titled, Called by Name.
Alison Joy: I’m always curious to know how people come up with their pen names. Mine was pretty boring, first name and middle name; that was it.
Are you able to sum up or describe the style of Licence to Die in just one sentence?
Mazzy Adams: How’s this: quirky, raw, redemptive intrigue and inspiration with an upmarket, down under vibe; toss a Jason Bourne or James Bond wannabe into a metaphysical mixing bowl, add a dash of Calvin and Hobbes philosophical humour, homicidal psycho jungle cat style, a sprinkle of quirky acronyms and gospel allegory and bake with a fertile imagination and garnish with fresh hope and serve to readers hungry for a thrilling page turner!
Alison Joy: That was a long sentence! Well done!
Mazzy, I read that you actually had a couple of other novel outlines ready to go but this story wouldn’t leave you alone. What did you mean by that?
Mazzy Adams: It was actually a specific character, Mac, who wouldn’t leave me alone.
Now, Mac is the mover and shaker behind Licence to Die and materialised back in 2012 while I was completing a quick writing exercise for uni. Mac first appeared as an image of a young man wearing earphones. A couple of weeks later, Mac spoke through an image of a young women holding a mask with the question, “What is your character concealing?”
So, was Mac male or female? Either way, my bona fide mystery character’s theme song was, Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day and his or her persistent plea was, “Rescue me!”
So, Mac kept visiting my dreams and my daydreams pushing me to research everything from cochlear implants and hyperthymesia to ASIO’s Information Technology traineeship program which was unique at that particular time.
Belinda Pollard: Just interrupt you there, for a second. ASIO is the Australian spy agency for our international listeners. Yes. Sorry, Mazzy, keep going!
Mazzy Adams: Yes. Well, at that point, Ben and Chris rocked up, each insisting I tell their stories too.
So, I suddenly had a converging narrative on my hands, a novel that would not conform to genre norms and a precipitous learning curve. But I also sensed God had a plan and a purpose in mind, not only for this story, but for me and the process of writing it and ultimately, He rescued Mac and me through that process of writing and publishing Licence to Die.
Belinda Pollard: I think it’s interesting that you’ve got multiple genre ideas weaving together there because that’s a value of self-publishing, isn’t it, Mazzy? Sometimes it’s harder to get a traditional publisher to take up a manuscript that crosses boundaries because it’s hard for them to market it. It’s not because they’re mean, it’s just hard for them to market it.
So, that’s very interesting that you’ve been able to do that.
Mazzy Adams: It became clear that the traditional route to publishing wasn’t the right route for this story and I was reluctant, at first, honestly reluctant, but I just kept receiving encouragements that that was the way to go, to publish independently.
And now that I’ve done it, I’m thrilled! It’s opened up a whole other window of opportunity and potential that I can exploit, I guess!
Alison Joy: Although you didn’t initially set out with the intent to write an allegory, it gradually evolved as you went along. Can you expand on that a little more, please?
Mazzy Adams: Every year, my Facebook memories toss up a post I wrote in probably about 2015 and it says, “Self – why are you trying to write a novel?” and myself replies, “To see if I can!”
And I thought, “Fair enough!” that’s as good a reason as any! I still laugh about that but it was true. That was where I started. It was just a challenge.
But when it came to knuckling down with Licence to Die, I had two goals. The first was to solve a mystery and the second was to write a riveting story. The allegory first emerged in the meaning of the names I picked for my characters. Not intentionally! Even with that, I discovered that at first, then themes, symbols, characters contemplations, actions and responses unveiled other parallels and reflected parables. As the Holy Spirit revealed this layer, I call that His layer, often I was reduced to tears of wonder at His grace and desire to reveal His heart through story.
So, readers still have a choice. They can simply enjoy the story or, if they choose, they can dig deeper and explore the metaphysical, the allegorical, the philosophical and the literary elements per their interests and passions.
Belinda Pollard: I like that way that you said you wanted to see if you could write a novel because I think a lot of our listeners will identify with that, Mazzy, because I think the three of us here all identify with that because you don’t know until you’ve done it whether you can or not. And that’s encouraging for people to know that nobody knows until they’ve done it.
What was your journey like with writing it because you had some specific challenges, didn’t you, Mazzy, in terms of your health? How did you deal with that? How did you persevere through that?
Mazzy Adams: The journey itself was long and arduous and wonderful, all at the same time.
My health issues: why did I persevere? I confess to having a lifelong, ingrained aversion to not finishing something I’ve started. I think that was drummed into me as a child which is probably an unholy motivation really! But God has a way of flipping negatives into positives and somewhere along the way I realised just how powerful and how life changing His process and His results can be.
There was a combination of challenges. The early ones revolved around shifting through the plethora of well-intentioned advice that pushes writers to conform to market expectations while my multi-protagonist, converging narrative just wouldn’t conform and that was tough. I just felt like I was a misfit from out there on the edge. In some ways, very much like my mystery Mac who was just stuck out there and not the normal.
But I found Elizabeth Lyon’s book, Manuscript Makeover. It’s one that we actually used as part of our uni studies. It covered a much broader scope in terms of whole-book journeys and less common structures. When I read that, I thought, “Okay. This is not abnormal. It’s just a different normal.”
And then I had an experienced author and publisher who read my manuscript. While she acknowledged that the complexities of marketings it, she also encouraged me to publish it anyway because her words were, “The story simply works just as it is.”
And so, that was a nudge that the work, itself, was working. So, I was all set to dive into that indie-publishing journey, when I hit probably the biggest roadblock and that was a stroke that I suffered as a complication of surgery in 2017. It affected my speech, it affected my short term recall and it created a thing called neural neglect which limited my awareness of the left side of my body. I broke my left wrist three weeks afterwards and had no idea how I’d done it.
Over time, that lack of awareness of this side of my body exacerbated a deterioration in both my mobility and particularly the arthritis in my right hip joint which I’ve just had replaced. But my husband had overcome deficits caused by a stroked he’d had back when he was 38 so I knew that neuroplasticity was a thing that allowed the brain to construct new pathways. I realised that pushing myself to learn the ins and outs of print and ebooks design and new software and the whole indie-publishing journey helped me rewire.
Though I’m still way more comfortable writing because it gives me time to find that persnickety word that’s hiding behind the blockage and refuses to come out. Stops me saying silly things like, “Tissue!” instead of, “Bless you,” which I’ve done on multiple occasions and other strange, embarrassing, frustrating things.
It’s been a journey and, in a way, I’m thankful that I had that demanding manuscript that wouldn’t let me go! It was like God on one side and the manuscript on the other side saying, “We’re both here and we’re moving forward whether you want to or not!”
Belinda Pollard: That’s amazing, Mazzy, and I think for a lot of us who are listening, losing our language centres would be one of the most frightening things that we could imagine because we’re wordsmiths, we love words. And a few years ago, I actually heard the writing teacher, Margie Lawson, who talked about when she actually had a car accident and received a traumatic brain injury and she had quite a difficulty regaining the language centres of her brain. Now she’s running writing retreats again and doing all of that encouragement of writers.
It gives me goosebumps to think about the fact that God has rebuilt you, you’ve pushed through, you’ve persevered. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to be that way for everyone who has these problems but I’m excited, Mazzy, to see that you are persevering, that you’re a Gracewriter, that you’ve got a – pardon me, I’m getting emotional… You have a calling on your life and a gift to use for God’s kingdom and God’s purposes and He’s enabling you to continue to do that in spite of all the things. Isn’t that amazing? I’m so amazed!
Do you have any particular words of encouragement for other Gracewriters out there who are dealing with various kinds of challenges and wondering if they misheard and they were wrong and they don’t actually have this calling?
Mazzy Adams: Dare to be both gentle and tough on yourself. Rest is good. So is perseverance.
Everything in its own time. Absolutely press into God. Yes, it can be challenging. It’s so easy to think, “I got it wrong. What’s the point? It’s too hard,” but I still say if that’s how you feel, seek God for a fresh revelation of His creative call over your life.
The bible tells us that God’s gifts and His calling are not something that He revokes. Sometimes I think He takes us in a different direction either because we’ve been gently drifting off course in the first place or simply because He’s aware of things in the future that require a little bit more from us now. And He also sees the blessing and the benefit that He’s got in store for us.
So, press in, seek your own fresh revelation. Each person, each call is unique. No one else can fill my call. No one else can fill your call.
Each one is so important in His kingdom, in His family. Each purpose is, in a sense, not negotiable, although His grace is amazing when it comes to us bargaining with Him.
I’d also say connect with like-minded creatives who encourage and inspire you and dare to return the favour because in reciprocation there is incredible blessing.
Most of all, stay close to God. He’s the best motivator and encourager of all.
And as His word says, “He’s the one who supplies all our needs.” Not just dribbling it in. Praise God. All our needs from His glorious riches which are given to us in Christ Jesus.
Belinda Pollard: Beautiful thoughts, Mazzy. Thank you.
Donita Bundy: Mazzy, I love that, “Dare to be gentle and tough.” I think that is really valuable. Thank you for that.
Gracewriters slogan is, Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. What’s your reaction to that?
Mazzy Adams: It’s funny. I’ve spent a couple of days thinking about that and went absolutely blank and then this morning, just as I looked at that question again, a memory popped into my mind. I was in primary school. My sister, who was in high school at the time, came home and she’d decorated her pencil case with catchy slogans. It was one of those vinyl ones. You could write and draw on it. That was the era of the nuclear arms race and the Cold War and the war in Vietnam. There was a lot of negativity and fear but one of the slogans she’d written on her pencil case said, “God changed the world with a baby, not a bomb.”
I’ve never forgotten that.
Now, His gift to the world embodied love and hope, not fear and destruction. But popular culture, today, is still riddled with angst and anger and fear and dismay. Violence through our television sets and our social media news feeds, all the time, but God’s gift of hope and love is still the most powerful antidote to despair.
And as Gracewriters, we can offer that message, we can offer that gift to the world via our book babies.
Donita Bundy: If that’s how we can impact the world through Gracewriting, how has writing impacted your relationship with God?
Mazzy Adams: Writing is probably one of the things that most feeds our relationship because it’s a two-way thing. He talks to me, I talk to him, I write down things that He talks to me about, I write down silly ideas and He shows me interesting things through it.
Even just the physical act of pen on paper becomes powerful. And often. I’m a member of a WhatsApp homegroup and we often share thoughts and Scriptures and what the Lord’s talking to us about from time to time, through the week that way. The number of times I begin to type there, again, fresh revelation of who God is and how much He loves us and what He’s doing flows out of that.
So, writing every which way feeds our relationship: it nurtures it, grows it, challenges it, helps me make sense of it. Why am I still here believing in you, God? How could I ever not believe in you, God?
It’s a key in helping me to find meaning and purpose in the relationship I have with God.
Donita Bundy: Which, I guess, leads into the relationship between your faith and your writing. It sounds like they’re very much interrelated.
Mazzy Adams: I would say both push me to limits of my sanity and endurance and both keep me alive and smiling!
It was the prompting of the Holy Spirit that had me write my first song. Desperately trying to get a baby who wouldn’t sleep to sleep and I’d run out of every song I could think of to sing to this little boy. I just, suddenly, started singing my own unique song. It was simple but as I did, the Holy Spirit just came into that moment and I felt that peace and my son went to sleep!
I guess I just knew, at that point, that intimacy of tapping into God’s ‘now’ Words as well as the Words that we remember we’ve learnt.
Belinda Pollard: Just a wonderful story that you’ve shared with us today, Mazzy. Thank you so much.
How can people find you online?
Mazzy Adams: Readers can explore my website, that’s mazzyadams.com. I’m on Facebook as Mazzy Adams Author Genre Rebel. I’m also on Instagram though I am really new to it. I have author profiles on Goodreads and on Amazon. And, of course, I also engage via the Gracewriters forum.
Belinda Pollard: Thanks, so much, Mazzy.
How about I pray for you and the Gracewriters?
Heavenly Father, we thank you for Mazzy. We thank you for the amazing ways that you have worked in and through her. That you have blessed her and blessed others. We thank you that you’ve enabled her to get this book completed and publish it and get it out there.
We pray that you will bless her abundantly as she continues to write and to seek you and to seek to build up and encourage other people.
And we pray for all the other Gracewriters out there, too, who are trying new things and who are, maybe, a bit nervous or scared, people who are facing various kinds of challenges, that you will calm them and focus them and lead and guide them and show them what your plan is for their lives and their writing, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Mazzy Adams: Amen.
Belinda Pollard: Mazzy Adams, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. Thank you, Donita Bundy and Alison Joy. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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