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Rising Stars: Meet Mary K. Tilghman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary K. Tilghman. 

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
The power of words always intrigued me. But it wasn’t until I took journalism classes at UMBC that I realized what I wanted to do. That began a 40-year career of covering local news. I’ve covered everything from house fires to papal visits. For 12 of those years, I was wrote Maryland and Delaware travel guides for Frommers. 

It was during visits to famous historic sites that I first got the idea to write historical fiction. My daughter Gina Truitt encouraged me to get involved in National Novel Writing Month which occurs every November. We joined forces for this NaNoWriMo, co-writing a cozy mystery. 

I have since written ten novels. Four have been published so far. Most recently, two novels inspired from my travels, INN BY THE LAKE, set at Deep Creek Lake, and THE LAST GIFT, which takes place on a Mediterranean cruise, were published by Champagne Book Group. 

I continue to freelance for local publications while encouraging pre-published authors as a beta reader and critique partner and I’m hard at work on another historical novel, as well as a sweet modern love story and a cozy mystery. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Smooth? No. When I started as a journalist, I was terribly shy. Comfortable as I was with pen and paper, making a phone call required me to call up all my courage. I have since learned to love interviewing. 

And don’t get me started about the challenge of deadlines. 

Some of my hardest assignments required me to talk to people in times of difficulty. The victim of a house fire or someone down on his or her luck. What I found, though, was that these people appreciated my questions and never considered my curiosity an intrusion. I did care about them and their plight. I hope it showed in what I asked and what I wrote. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I consider myself a novelist now but most of my career was spent writing and editing for newspapers. As a novelist, I spend most of my time writing stories that can be shared between grandparents, parents, and their children. Both my historical novels and my romances celebrate the human spirit, the value of family, and the power of love. 

I continue to write for local publications. I’ve been a huge fan of local newspapers since I wrote my first article at the age of 12 for the local paper in Severna Park. 

I spent ten years at the Catholic Review, a weekly newspaper for Baltimore’s Catholic population. I was managing editor, news editor, and a reporter. In fact, I still freelance for them. My favorite stories have always been people stories: advocates for social justice, people who lived the Golden Rule, families loyal to a parish for generations. 

I’ll always be grateful for the 12 years I spent writing Frommer’s travel guides. I know my way around Maryland and Delaware better than most people and it was during those assignments, especially visits to places like Antietam Battlefield and the State House in Annapolis, that I decided I wanted to expand into historical fiction. 

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
I love music and sailing. I started learning to play the hammered dulcimer about six years ago. I have a great teacher, Ken Kolodner, and a wonderful practice partner, Ginger Galvez. The beautiful sound of the dulcimer lifts my spirits. It sounds good even when I make mistakes—or so my grown children tell me. A character in my work in progress plays the dulcimer. 

I’ve been sailing since I was ten. My father taught my brothers and sisters and me to sail. Sunday was sailing day whenever the sun was shining. Now my father and my own family sail with me on a small sailboat which I keep on the Magothy. I haven’t written a sailing book yet but I hope to someday soon. 

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Mary K Tilghman

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