An Interview with Mary Batten: Author & Freelance Writer
Mary: Thank you Sylvia. My name is Mary Batten and I’m an award-winning writer for television, film and publishing. My many writing projects have taken me into tropical rainforests, astronomical observatories, scientific laboratories and medical research centers.
My books include: Please Don’t Wake the Animals: A Book about Sleep (Peachtree 2008); Who Has a Belly Button? (Peachtree 2004); Aliens from Earth: When Animals and Plants Invade Other Ecosystems (Peachtree 2003); Hey, Daddy! Animal Fathers and Their Babies – Named Outstanding Science Read Aloud 2003 by the National Association for the Advancement of Science (Peachtree 2002); Wild Cats (Random House 2002); Anthropologist: Scientist of the People — Named Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children by the National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council (Houghton Mifflin 2001).
Other books include: Hungry Plants (Random House, 2000); Baby Wolf (Grosset and Dunlap, 1998); and Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates. The latter book led to appearances on OPRAH and various other television shows.
My magazine articles have been published in a variety of publications, including Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Modern Maturity, Shape, International Wildlife, National Geographic World, ZooNooz, and Science Digest, I was nominated for an Emmy for my work on the Children’s Television Workshop’s science series 3-2-1-CONTACT, and I have written some 50 nature documentaries for television series, including the syndicated WILD WILD WORLD OF ANIMALS (Time-Life Films) and others for National Geographic and Disney Educational Films.
My magazine article for Science Digest, Sexual Choice: The Female’s Newly Discovered Role won The Newswomen’s Club of New York’s Front Page Award for best feature story.
I was editor of The Cousteau Society’s award-winning membership magazine, Calypso Log, for six years.
I’m married to composer Ed Bland. We have two children: dancer/choreographer Stefanie Batten Bland and writer Robert Bland.
Sylvia: Wow, Mary… You are an impressive woman with many accolades. What inspired you to write your most recent book, “How to Have Sex If You’re Not Human”?
Mary: For many years I’ve made my living writing magazine articles, television documentaries and books about animal behavior, particularly mating behavior. Nature fascinates me because it truly is much wilder than anything science fiction writers can imagine. So the natural world is my inspiration and my treasure trove of ideas. For “How To Have Sex If You’re Not Human,” I decided to publish a dozen of my magazine articles about reproductive strategies among a variety of animals and plants Yes, the blooming plants “do it,” too. Orchids, for example, are among the most outrageous tricksters in nature; they use a variety of tricks to seduce and deceive insects and other animals on which they depend for pollination. Despite our love songs and romantic fantasies, reproduction is the name of the game in biology. All forms of life are programmed to reproduce, and they do it in an amazing variety of ways.
In addition to my interest in the subject matter, I’m also interested in the eBook format and I wanted to step into this universe. Increasing numbers of readers are buying eBooks, and I believe publishing is in transition from hard copy books to digital versions. I find it exciting for writers to be able to publish their books directly, without the conventional time-consuming process involving agents, publishers and editors. Of course, there’s a tradeoff. Anybody who self-publishes electronically must also do the marketing, and that’s quite a challenge. I’m on the marketing learning curve right now.
I’m pleased that my book about female mate choice, “Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates,” will soon have a digital edition. This book is about the powerful role female mate choice plays in evolution. By deciding which males will mate, females determine which males’ genes will be passed on to future generations, and this influences how males look and how they behave.
Sylvia: Normally, I enjoy business related and empowerment books but was pleasantly surprised that your book, “Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates,” captivated my curiosity from beginning to end. Particularly, taking an in depth look at the biology of female mate selection and the role it played in evolution is quite interesting! Your book was packed with information and I thank you for allowing me to review it.
In general, is there a message in your books that you want readers to grasp?
Mary: I hope that my books for adults and children help to improve readers’ science literacy. I am concerned that American students score lower on science tests than students in other Western countries and Japan. Right now, there is a dangerous anti-science political element in the United States, and so many science teachers are really not prepared to teach science. Yet biology is the science of life, of which we are, how we evolved, and our relationship to all other living things. Without knowledge of basic science, people really cannot understand the world we inhabit or the universe at large. Young children of kindergarten age are like little field biologists, asking basic questions about everything they see, touch or smell. Curiosity drives them, and it’s the ideal time to introduce science. Some of my children’s books address questions that young children ask. For example, my book “Who Has a Belly Button?” answers a question that many children ask: “Why do I have a belly button?” In answering this question, I introduce the family of mammals to which we humans belong. My book “Please Don’t Wake the Animals” deals with the variety of ways different animals sleep. “Aliens from Earth” is about invasive species and how some of them get into ecosystems.
Sylvia: You really have some valid points. My children were very inquisitive as kids and would ask many thought provoking questions such as those mentioned above. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Mary: Develop your craft, be patient with yourself, be persistent and don’t take rejections personally.
Sylvia: Why should we buy your books?
Mary: To learn things about the natural world you never suspected and wouldn’t know if you didn’t read my books. For example, most people don’t know there are sex-changing fishes or that there are some all-female species of lizards or that sloths sleep, mate and give birth hanging upside down.
Sylvia: You are right, these are interesting facts and I confess, I didn’t know! Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
Mary: Usually, I sit at my desk and use a Macintosh computer. When I’m doing research, I sometimes sit in a comfy chair and use my iPad. For final editing, I like to print out a draft and use a really sharp pencil. I’m old-fashioned enough to think better with a pencil in my hand.
Sylvia: What is your POWER WORD? Why this word?
Mary: I don’t have a power word. I love words and just try to find the right ones to express my ideas and feelings.
Sylvia: Mary, where can my readers get more information about you and as well as buy your book(s)?
Mary: Sure, my contact is below:
To Purchase: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006CVU7TU