M.A. Wardell lives near the ocean with his husband and cats. When he isn’t writing, he’s snuggling those cats, reading all the rom-coms, walking to unravel plot points, and taking long hot baths. Teacher of the Year is his fiction debut, and he’s plotting to play matchmaker again soon.
In today's interview, M.A. Wardell discusses writing rom-coms and bringing a fresh spin to this genre.
What inspired you to write this novel?
MW: The current climate for queer educators in the U.S. is scary, and I wanted to write a love letter to them. My Teachers in Love series is a world where queer teachers are accepted and loved for who they are - amazing humans who give their all to their students and happen to be queer.
What is your writing process like?
MW: Chaotic. I write in fits. I need deadlines, so I book my editors in advance, giving me a target. I will go days, even weeks, without writing, and then when I'm in the groove, bang out what I need. I typically write a chapter a day. With dual point of view, I find it helpful to focus on a new character each alternating day. I play loud music in my office but don't enjoy headphones while writing - apologies to my husband and neighbors.
How do you approach writing your characters and bringing their relationships to life?
MW: I do a lot of research and backstory work before writing. Understanding my main characters usually takes me a few weeks of discovery writing and research. This is when I begin to discover who they are, but drafting truly peels away the layers. That's when I fall in love with them.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
MW: It may be cliche, but Charlotte's Web is the first book I remember reading and feeling like the author punched me in the stomach. The scene where Charlotte dies did me in. It was the first time I thought, whoah - books can do this?
What is the most challenging part of your artistic process?
MW: Staying focused and quieting the imposter syndrome voices in my mind. After two books, I know I can write a book, but I still wonder if I'm doing things 'right.' I'm learning to hear those voices and say, "Hey, that's not helpful. You can move along now. I've got a book to write."
What do you hope readers take from this story?
MW: For me, my stories are about learning to accept and love yourself. Seeing you're worthy of love despite your flaws. I want readers to understand if you let it, love can heal almost anyone.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
MW: You've got stories to tell. Stop worrying if you're a 'writer' - write.
What's your favourite under-appreciated novel?
Asking me to pick one should be a crime. How about a series? Ashley Bennett's Leviathan Fitness series has brought me so much joy lately. They're the sweetest, warmest, rom-coms, but full of spice and oh, one of them is a monster.
What would your advice be to any aspiring writers?
MW: Write what you want to read. Don't worry about writing 'to market' - the best decision I made was to write what I wished was in the market, but wasn't.
What are you writing next?
MW: I'm working on Napkins and Other Distractions, Book 3 in the Teachers in Love series. Two of my favorite side characters from the first two books get their love story.
Beauty and the Bear. Can these opposites fake their way to something real?
Sheldon Soleskin should be having a horrible day. Even though he's been unexpectedly transferred to a new school right before the holidays, has only one day to set up his new classroom, and just discovered his twin sister's been hiding an invitation to his ex-boyfriend's Christmas Eve wedding, he's still ready to take on the world with a smile on his face and a skip in his step.
Theo Berenson just wants to be left alone to his custodial duties. But when the chipper new first-grade teacher needs help moving furniture the Sunday after Thanksgiving, he's forced to do something he detests. Help. To make matters worse, Theo's overbearing parents are coming for Hanukah in a few weeks, and he's told them he has a boyfriend. Except he doesn't. Because who would want to date an oaf like Theo?
Working together, these opposites discover they might be able to help each other out. Agreeing to be each other's dates, they become friends as they practice for their upcoming events. But when all the rehearsing starts feeling a little too real, and both men's pasts come roaring back to haunt them, will they be able to pull off the ultimate holiday masquerade?
Author Links for M.A. Wardell
Thank you again to M.A. for a wonderful interview. Mistletoe & Mishigas: Teachers in Love: Book 2 is now available for pre-order on Amazon.