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A Guiding Hand: Sandra Brown on Her Mentor

Sandra Brown talks about her mentor, Mary Lynn Baxter. Brown has published 65 suspense and romance novels, 54 of which have made The New York Times bestseller list. Baxter is a bestselling romance author with more than 13 million books in print.

I met Mary Lynn’s husband at a writing conference at the University of Houston in 1980. It was the first one I ever attended. I told her husband I was trying to get my bearings, that I felt like I didn’t belong there because I wasn’t a published author. He suggested I talk to his wife because she, who at the time owned an independent bookstore, knew the business. It was a very fortuitous meeting.

When we met, she asked about my writing and said, “When you get a manuscript you’re happy with, send it to me, and I’ll tell you whether it’s any good.” About six months later, I did. She, in turn, called an editor who was acquiring manuscripts for a new line Dell was doing called Candlelight Ecstasy. Because of Mary Lynn’s recommendation, I sent the editor my manuscript, and she bought it. So Mary Lynn was responsible for my first sale. Love’s Encore was published a year later.

Mary Lynn is still my best friend, and we talk several times a week. She lives in Texas, about 250 miles away from me. We see each other two or three times a year. And when I get in a snarl plot-wise, it sometimes helps to talk it over with her. She’s very insightful in terms of what works and what doesn’t. And now she’s a published writer, as well.

We write two different genres now—I write thrillers, and she writes romance. She writes with a lot of emotion, as I do. We’re both very into personal relationships between people—how those people affect everything we do.

Mary Lynn Baxter on Sandra Brown

I think Sandra’s the very best at plotting. She has an exceptional ability to surprise the reader with all the twists and turns in her books. What she’s taught me is how to be a professional: No matter how difficult the situation, she handles it with the utmost professionalism in her charming Southern fashion. She’s always been able to keep a positive attitude, even under adverse circumstances. Writing is one of the most difficult professions, but Sandra has never changed. She’s still the same sweet, helpful, down-to-earth person she was when she first started in the business. Although it’s changed, Sandra hasn’t.

Best Advice from Mary Lynn Baxter (in her own words)

Hone your craft, then write the kind of book you like to read. While that may sound easy, it isn’t. Writing takes time, self-discipline and the ability to handle criticism.

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