Welcome to a new interview in my series on creativity in non-fiction writing. First of all, an apology for the delay in posting this series of interviews, if you’ve subscribed and/or are reading these in real time. I was very busy with work, then on holiday, then horribly ill with flu, and all of my blogs went on the back burner while I recovered and caught up with work. But we’re back now – hooray! – and here’s a chat with Marguerite “Markie” Madden on the tricky topic of non-fiction and creativity. She’s written fiction, non-fiction AND memoir, so is ideally placed to enter the discussion with knowledge and experience from all sides!
Hello, Marguerite, and welcome to the interview series! First of all, please tell us a bit about yourself and your books.
Hello, Liz! I’m married, and the mother of two teenagers as well as 3 rescue dogs and a horse. I was born in Midland Texas, but I grew up in Flushing, Michigan. Now I’m currently living out in the middle of nowhere, a small farm town called Fisk in Missouri. I’m also a cancer survivor, just last year, leukemia specifically.
How did you start writing, and which came first, fiction or non-fiction?
I began writing in grade school. I think I was in 4th grade, anyway, the teacher would come around and make a squiggle on our notebook, and the assignment was to finish the squiggle into a drawing and write a story about it. I wrote my first “complete” book starting in high school, and it became my first published novel, Once Upon a Western Way. Fiction came first for me, and the non-fiction was fairly recent.
Did you always want to write a memoir or was this a relatively late development?
I never really planned to write a memoir, that was a recent development after my battle with cancer. The small act of a friend request on Facebook while I was sick ended up getting me published in print (read My Butterfly Cancer for that story!) and the rest is, as they say, that!
I recently blogged about finding that writing non-fiction was still “creative”. Do you agree, or is only fiction writing truly creative?
Non-fiction is certainly creative, not that you’re making up a story (usually) because it’s really happened to you, or you’ve put in a lot of work on research, but writing non-fiction can come across as either dry and boring, or interesting, depending on HOW it’s written. Take my horse care guide, Keeping a Backyard Horse, for example. It’s told from the point of view of my horse, which I think engages the reader a bit more while they learn the facts of horse husbandry.
I’ve heard it said that memoir should be considered as “creative non-fiction” – do you agree with that description? How do you think writing memoir differs from writing fiction on the one hand and non-fiction on the other?
In my opinion, a memoir is just non-fiction; if you were to classify a memoir as creative fiction, why not any non-fiction? As I said earlier, the way any non-fiction is written IS creative (or should be, anyway), so I don’t really think there’s much difference!
If you use your own life in your fiction, was writing a memoir different from doing that?
Yes, a memoir was a little different to write, as opposed to my Once Upon a Western Way. The main character is, of course, me, to an extent, and her better half is my best friend from growing up. But in a fiction, I can make the characters do and be anything I want them to, where in my memoir, I had to tell the story of my life as it was, rather than embellishing it for creativity’s sake. Oddly enough, my memoir is currently my best-seller, whereas I expected that my novel would be.
Have you got anything else you want to add about creativity and writing (with particular regard to non-fiction)?
Non-fiction (with the exception of a memoir) must be researched carefully, or be about something which you already have a good working knowledge of. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative in the way you write non-fiction. Just look at it this way: which would you prefer to read, a non-fiction full of boring and overwhelming details, or one that’s easy to read and engaging? If you can find a way to make math fun, for example, you’ll come across to your readers in a better way.
Thank you so much for your insights. Finally, please tell us where we can find your books!
All my books can be found in print on Amazon (my author page), at Barnes and Noble, and at the CreateSpace website, and digitally for the Kindle (at the moment, they’re Kindle exclusive, but will soon be available on Smashwords for Nook and iBooks as well). I’ve also seen them on Wordery.com and many other online retailers. My Butterfly Cancer on Amazon. Once Upon a Western Way on Amazon. Keeping a Backyard Horse on Amazon. My Smashwords page. My Facebook page. My blog and my website.
You can read new interviews in the series, either by subscribing to this blog (see the links in the top right if you’re viewing on a PC or on the drop-down menu if you’re reading on a phone or tablet) or clicking on the “non-fiction creativity” tag at the top of this post, which will give you access to all the interviews published so far, as well. Happy reading!
My own books are all firmly in the non-fiction area, but I do involve aspects of my own life and experience to make them more accessible and welcoming. Take a look by exploring the links on this page, or by visiting the books pages.