Women’s Fiction Romance
Maya Bairey, please tell us about yourself. What first got you into writing?
I’ve mostly lived in weird, problematic Portland, in the US Pacific Northwest, with time spent in Hawaii and Death Valley, CA. I split my time between a tech-dominated corporate day job and artistic experiments at night. I've been writing stories since I was a kid, usually reframing real events and fictional tales until they ended as I preferred. It was my way of exploring possibilities.
How did you come to define your writing style and choose your writing genre?
My writing style, I hope, is simple but rich. I love to live inside a character, seeing and touching the things she sees and touches, and then bringing readers along with me. If I’ve done it right, I don’t need to explain why a character feels as she does, because the reader has followed her there. As for genre, women’s fiction romance chose me. My stories are about empowerment, my way of reframing choices many women have faced. I want to create a mirror where they might see bits of their lives reflected. Maybe they’ll find a new perspective, a bit of courage, or simply relish in the thought that they’ve navigated life better than my fictional folks. I found that Romance gives plenty of opportunities for reframing that aren’t just about love or lust. It's a genre ripe for delving into deep emotional landscapes, exploring personal and societal issues, all while nurturing a sense of hope and emotional catharsis.
Maya Bairey has written over three million uncredited words during her career in corporate journalism, and finally decided to write stories she can put her name on. Her yet-to-be-published debut novel, Painting Celia, is Maya’s heart on paper. Maya lives in the middle of the Columbia River in Oregon. She paints, programs, and protests via street theater. While her husband of three decades races their sailboat Pearl, Maya watches from their balcony with Dory the cat, making up new stories. Connect with Maya at https://bairey.com or on social media.
What did you read when growing up, and why was reading important to you? What one book would you recommend to a friend, and why?
I read and reread everything I could get my hands on. There was never enough. I mean, I read through my parents’ old college textbooks at one point. My Great-grandmother had stacks of Ellery Queen magazines which were my gateway to the precise plots of Agatha Christie. I think they appealed because they have the author’s voice, a narrator, and all the other characters. The layers of storytelling meant one book could be 10 different stories, depending on what thread you “listened” to. Of course, I later read Fantasy and Sci Fi and Contemporary Fiction, but I’m happiest with a solid murder mystery. If I were to recommend a book, I’d go with Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers with its seamless blend of humour and satire, wrapped around a keen examination of class distinctions. It’s both a novel and a mystery.
Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?
I want my stories to be authentic, to make a reader nod and say “yes, that’s exactly how that feels!” Hopefully, I say it in words that surprise but are instantly recognizable. And so, I watch for authentic reactions in myself. Asking myself why I felt a certain way in some situation can lead to an entire book, if I let it.
I barely have writing rituals; usually just setting myself in front of the computer whenever possible. On an ideal night, though, I’ll have a pot of tea at hand, lights dimmed, and a quiet jazzy playlist going in the headphones. I do like to make a playlist for each book, like a movie soundtrack. After hearing it enough times, it can trick your brain back into the story with only a few notes.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I like to find a hobby and beat it to death. I’ll start simple but before long I’m buying the intermediate gear and learning how to use it. For example, I had to start eating gluten free about a decade ago and decided to become a good scratch cook. I went through phases of making my own jerky, growing mushrooms in big tubs, making yogurt with my sous vide machine, and making my own cheese. None were necessary or cheaper but I loved learning. Some hobbies I haven’t grown out of include 3D printing, caring for ever-bigger houseplants, acrylic painting, and protesting with the Raging Grannies. Oh, and I travel to New York City and Los Angeles whenever I can!
What does your writing process look like? Do you outline and plan your story or do you just sit down and write? What comes first, plot or characters? What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I choose the general outline of a story before I start, then I fast draft. I write 4,000 words a day until I reach the end. That’s when the real work begins. I investigate what my characters think they want, what they really want, and what growth they need to get there. I don’t plan that before I draft, because it’s more authentic when they reveal it to me with their actions. I usually need to restructure the novel at that point, and subsequent drafts make sure characters are real, with lived experiences that shaped them.
I struggle when writing sensory description and leave that for last. I was born with no sense of smell, so describing scents and tastes can be rough. My husband and the internet help out, but I’m rarely convinced I nailed it.
In your opinion, what is the measure of a successful writer?
Success in writing, to me, isn't tethered to the number of books sold or a spot on a bestseller list. It's the echo that remains with a reader after they've turned the last page. It's about creating a safe space for readers to explore, reflect, and maybe see the world through a different lens. When a reader reaches out to share a personal insight they gained or a moment of solace they found in my work, that's the touchstone of success for me.
How do you approach research in your work? Does it come before the writing, during, or after? Does it involve traveling to get a feel for the locations in your book and how it is to live and work there?
I approach research in phases. Initially it's armchair research, but for my upcoming novel, a trip to Los Angeles helped me "visit my characters." I meticulously planned this trip, exploring neighborhoods and businesses similar to those in my novel, talking to locals and soaking up the ambiance. I sat where my main character might sit, looked at what she would see, and thought about how this made her who she is. The immersive experience enriched my narrative, giving the settings and characters the authenticity I strive for. This blend of desk-based research and field exploration, when I can afford it, helps me to craft a believable, engaging world.
I want to know more about you and your work! Where can I find you, and where should I start?
I'm just a click away! My website, bairey.com, is a little corner where readers can explore my works, check out character profiles, and catch up on my latest blog essays. For personal interaction, my socials are where I love to interact with readers, share snippets of my daily life, and celebrate the beauty of storytelling. Stop by and introduce yourself any time!