Mariah Stewart's highly productive writing life
● By Steven Hoffman
Mariah Stewart has had a busy summer.
Then again, every season tends to be busy for this author who published two books—“The Sugarhouse Blues” and “Dune Drive”—while the rest of us were at the beach or lounging on a hammock.
Stewart has written and published more than 40 novels and novellas during her career. She's currently juggling not one, but two, different book series. There is no secret to Stewart's hghly productive writing life. She simply shows up for work every day—and then works as hard as she can to deliver what her readers have come to expect from her romantic suspense novels, contemporary romances, and women's fiction.
“This is my job. It’s what I do every day,” explained Stewart, a resident of New London Township.
Stewart published her first book in 1995, and she has steadily been building her following ever since. Her two most recent releases continue book series that have drawn the interest of readers.
“The Sugarhouse Blues” is the second novel in the Hudson Sisters series. The titular sisters—Allie, Des, and Cara—reluctantly band together to complete a challenge to work with a local contractor to begin the renovations on their late father's grand Victorian home.
The three sisters have the same father, but two different mothers. Two of the sisters were raised in California, while the third grew up in New York. So while they are all sisters, they are all quite different, and have different goals and values.
Stewart described Allie, the oldest of the Hudson sisters, as being accustomed to a very comfortable life. She is now divorced and facing an uncertain future.
“She has some brittle edges,” Stewart explained of the character.
Des, meanwhile, has been living in Montana and running a rescue shelter. Cara owns a yoga studio in New York. Because the three sisters are so different, it creates interesting scenarios when their lives are suddenly disrupted. Booklist has called Stewart's books catnip for women's fiction fans, and the Hudson Sisters series delves into how women relate to each other, especially during unusual circumstances.
For example, the sisters find out that their father had kept a secret from them—he had a sister that he had never told them about.
This is reminiscent of something that had happened once in Stewart's own family—her mother was in her 50s when she discovered that her father (Stewart's grandfather) had another family that he had kept a secret. Stewart's mother learned that she had a half-brother. Stewart explained that while all her works of fiction have some elements of her own life—memory can play an important part in the writing process—all her stories are fictional and the many plot decisions that she makes as the writer are made to serve the story.
Readers have certainly enjoyed trips to the fictional world that Stewart creates. “Dune Drive” is the 12th book in the Chesapeake Diaries series, which is a testament to the popularity of the series—and to Stewart's productivity as a writer.
One of her favorite books that she has written is “Dead Wrong,” which was a New York Times bestseller. That book came relatively early in her writing career, and so far Stewart has written 11 FBI books that have connected titles, as well as three other standalone books. She has authored three books in the Enright series and five other contemporary romances. Her work has also been featured in three anthologies.
Stewart is a native of Hightstown, New Jersey. She said that she has enjoyed living and writing in Chester County. She has held numerous book signings at The Chester County Book Company and the Barnes & Noble in Delaware. The Hockessin Book Shelf, a beloved book store in Hockessin, is a favorite spot for Stewart to celebrate the launch of a new book—or to simply find the next novel that she will read.
Stewart also meets regularly with a group of local writiers who serve as a support system for each other.
They even decided that they wanted to write a book together with the Chadds Ford area as the setting. After each person gave the project some thought, they decided to write a book about multiple generations of the same family that lives on the same farm. Each writer wrote about a different time period, consulting with each other to ensure consistency throughout the book. The resulting book is “The Brandywine Brides.”
“It was a great project,” Stewart explained.
It was also the kind of project that a writer relishes after years and years of hard work trying to build a connection with readers.
During Stewart's career, her books have been on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. She is a RITA finalist in romantic suspense and the recipient of the Award of Excellence for contemporary romance, a RIO Award for Excellence in women's fiction, and a Reviewers Choice Award from the Romantic Times Magazine. She is also a three-time winner of the Golden Leaf Award presented by the New Jersey Romance Writers. She was also awarded that organization's Lifetime Achievement Award, joining Nora Roberts and Mary Jo Putney, among others.
Stewart is currently hard at work on the third book in the Hudson Sisters series, which is scheduled to be published in 2019.