Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 | 6:37 p.m.
The beginning of Mary Schramski's first book was set in Las Vegas.
Now she is ending her last book here, which she's writing in her Sun City Anthem home.
It just seems like it was meant to be, said the 57-year-old writer, who has penned 13 novels, most published by top romance seller Harlequin/Silhouette and its more serious literary branch, Harlequin Next.
Schramski will conclude her novel writing career with "The Unicorn Tree." This novel has taken a lot of emotional strength to write, she said. It is about an adopted woman who was abused when she was a child. She comes out to Las Vegas to search for her biological mother.
"I wanted my last book to take place in Las Vegas, because I have an affinity for the city," Schramski said.
She was raised in Las Vegas and graduated from Rancho High School in 1968.
Schramski's first mainstream novel, "What to Keep," published in 2002, starts in Las Vegas with a 21 dealer who returns to her family home in North Carolina.
Schramski, a self-described feminist who went to Union Institute and University, what she termed a "radical left" school, doesn't seem like the type who would start her literary career as a bodice-ripping romance writer. She lives in a minimally decorated home — no lacy curtains or heart-shaped throw pillows.
With her white blond hair and sensible sweater and pants ensemble, she looks more like a professor than a writer of dewy-eyed tales of love lost and won.
Schramski said she picked up a romance novel one day, read it and decided that she could do that, too. It started out as something fun. Schramski shook off her "literary elitism" after she received a letter from a fan who said one of her novels helped her get through her husband's illness.
"I don't want to denigrate romance — it's a big seller," Schramski said. "I played around with it. I sent it off to Harlequin/Silhouette and it was published. I realized through writing those books, I learned how to write a novel and how to work with an editor."
And she made money at it. Schramski said she earned about $16,000 with an advance and royalties on that first book. It's been published in about six languages. Her subsequent novels made similar amounts from the major New York City publishing house.
Harlequin is known for its passionate paperbacks often found on wire racks in grocery stores. Those steamy sex scenes are fun to create, she said.
"It's more technical. You have to have things happen at the right time and you have to be descriptive enough."
But Schramski is putting these commercial successes behind her, even in an economically difficult time (she has two more novels set to be released this year, with expected moderate profits). Schramski is instead looking to guide writers to their own successes.
Jennifer Archer, of Amarillo, Texas, is partners with Schramski in their writing business Sterling Pen.
"Mary is very approachable," Archer said. "Clients seem to enjoy working with her, because she's easy to talk to and is great at giving advice. She taught for many years, so that helps with guiding clients, whether that's helping them ghostwrite a book or overcome a creative hurdle to continue a project. She's able to take what she's learned over the years and apply that to the struggles other writers go through."
Schramski will focus on editing, ghostwriting and creative coaching.
"Creative coaching is when you help bring an artist through the creative process," she said. "My goal is to help the person become the writer they want to be."
Visit Sterling Pen online at www.sterlingpen.net.
Becky Bosshart can be reached at 990-7748 or [email protected].