The Interview: Maria Thompson Corley

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Letting Go_Maria Thompson Corley
Author Dr. Maria Thompson Corley talks about her beautiful novel ‘Letting Go’ with us at
And we must say we totally loved to interview the amiable author and musician.

Dr. Maria Thompson Corley, the author of Letting Go earned her Doctorate in Piano from the renowned The Juilliard School.  Her vast portfolio shows her immense talent in different fields of art. She is an acclaimed musician, voice over artist, a reviewer at the art magazine ‘Broad Street Review’ a reputed blogger at Huffington Post to name a few.  The author of the highly appreciated novel ‘Choices’, ‘Letting Go’ is her second novel.

‘Letting Go’ is a series of letters, personal memoirs and more! The personal touch in each of these documents will create a wonderful story that is worth a read.

Learn more about the author, her novel and why you will totally enjoy reading Letting Go through this interview with Dr. Maria Thompson Corley.


WeLoveQuality Books: Hi Maria, thank you for the interview. How are you feeling with the release of ‘LETTING GO’?

Maria Thompson Corley: I’m very pleased! I worked on it for a long time and did major surgery at least once. The response has been very positive. It’s interesting that some people pick up on the issues of race, and some just seem to focus on the romantic aspects of the story. Either way, I’m glad they seem to like it!


WeLoveQuality Books: The front cover of ‘LETTING GO’ is gorgeous. Please tell us more about it.

Maria Thompson Corley: A pivotal scene takes place on a beach in Bermuda, which is where my mother was born.  I knew I wanted to represent that setting on my cover, so I got in touch with my friends and relatives with ties to the island, and my dear friend Cherie Sikking, who is also a painter, sent me the cover shot. I love that the ocean seems so powerful, and yet, the picture relaxes me.  The rest of the design was the result of a back and forth with Ose Solutions, a graphic design company I found on Fiverr. I got input from a number of friends during the process, because in the end, I was very indecisive. I learned a lot, though, and I know I’ll be clearer next time. Much to the relief of Ose, or whoever does my graphics in the future.


WeLoveQuality Books: What is the novel all about?

Maria Thompson Corley: In a nutshell, the novel is about overcoming fear, whether it’s fear of getting hurt in a relationship, or fear of letting go once the relationship has run its course, or fear of disappointing our families, or fear of revealing our innermost thoughts, or fear of the unknown. I think the fear of the unknown sums up most fears, actually. There’s a Scripture that says, “Perfect love casts out fear.”  The quote isn’t about human relationships, and yet, I think that as we start to perfect our love of ourselves, we can be open to loving others more perfectly. Fear can have no part in this equation.


WeLoveQuality Books: We are completely bowled over by your positivity. How do you keep yourself focused on being optimistic even on the darkest of days?

Maria Thompson Corley: Full disclosure: I’m not always optimistic! That said, I do believe that bad situations are temporary, or at least, that there is always something we can do to try to improve the state of affairs. And if there’s nothing we can do, then why worry? It won’t help!


WeLoveQuality Books: Maria, you have a doctorate from theThe Juilliard School! What made you choose piano as your tool of self-expression and creativity.

Maria Thompson Corley: I wanted to take piano lessons from the time I was two, apparently, and started when I was four. My mother was my first teacher, but I started studying with other instructors by the time I was 6. I also played the violin for 12 years, but the piano was my first love, perhaps because we had one in our home. That said, you can do so much with a solo piano. I love to collaborate with singers and other instrumentalists, but while they have some repertoire that doesn’t need accompaniment, you can’t match a piano for true self-expression, since so many pieces are written for the solo instrument.

WeLoveQuality Books: How did writing happen?

Maria Thompson Corley: I always liked to write. When I was young, I was much more secure expressing myself in writing than in speech. Not that I never spoke, but I was always more self-revelatory in writing. I would write my parents notes, sometimes, instead of speaking to them about things that bothered me. I wrote my first novel at 14 (no worries—I have no intention of inflicting it on anyone!). My first published novel was Choices, which I wrote on a whim. I had the rather confident attitude that I could come up with something as good as a lot of the books I was reading, so I sent my manuscript to Ballantine and received a letter back from an editor. She said her list was full, but recommended that I get in touch with someone at Kensington since they were starting a line of books aimed at African American women. I was kind of in the right place at the right time.
That was in 1996! My book was published as a romance, and my follow up didn’t fit the genre, since I had a prominent gay character who was in a relationship. I didn’t want to get rid of him, deciding instead to focus on being a pianist. I had married by then, and my daughter was born in 1997, followed in 1999 by my son, who is on the autism spectrum. It took me a while to get back to writing, with all of that on my plate. When my marriage broke up, I found writing very cathartic, and I can truly say that the written word has turned out to be as much a part of me as music.


WeLoveQuality Books: You are a pianist, an author, an educator and a voice artist. How do you manage to do so many varied things at one time? What is your secret for keeping the balance?

Maria Thompson Corley: Balance? What balance? Mainly, I’m busy all the time. Some things are foreground at certain times–right now, I’m practicing the piano like crazy, and just thinking of ideas for writing, rather than actually doing it. I’ve started editing a novel I have worked on several times (the one with the gay character), and will probably add some additional material to that. The teaching is ongoing; I enjoy it, but mainly, it pays the bills. The voice acting happens randomly, so it’s not a constant part of the equation. I wouldn’t pretend to have advice for someone else!

WeLoveQuality Books: Your first novel was ‘Choices’ and now ‘Letting Go’. Do your novels have an autobiographical touch?

Maria Thompson Corley: They do, and they don’t. Letting Go is much more autobiographical since the female protagonist is a Juilliard-trained pianist, but not everything that happens to her happened to me, and she handles some things differently than I would. There are characters in that book who are based on real people, but I always make changes. The characters in Choices are far more imaginary. Both books have musicians in them, though, because I understand that world very well.
I try to write “real” people, and the way I do that is to incorporate human behavior, as I have observed it or lived it. So in that way, my novels do reflect my own life, or at least, my perspective on the world.


WeLoveQuality Books: Is ‘Letting Go’ an extension of ‘Choices’?

Maria Thompson Corley: No. I may write a sequel for Letting Go, though.


WeLoveQuality Books: Your YouTube channel has beautiful, soothing music. Does music inspire the writer in you?

Maria Thompson Corley: I attempt to write about music in Letting Go, but I can’t write and listen to music, because too much of my brain is focused on the performance. I do think that the architecture of a good piece of music and a good book are similar—Fibonacci Series if you want to get scientific. I wasn’t that analytical when I wrote either of my books, btw. Both a musical performance and a novel should take you on a journey, and I believe in choosing both notes and words with care. If I’m not composing or arranging a piece (which means I’m not choosing the notes myself), I am very careful about phrasing—where something slows down a bit, or lingers, or becomes faster, whether it’s smooth or disjointed (staccato), how I pace my crescendos and diminuendos (the getting louder and softer), how much I emphasize dissonance. These are all things that can translate to writing. So in that way, I am always thinking like a musician, I suppose.


WeLoveQuality Books: Maria, you have traveled the world, showcasing your talent as a pianist. Do you want your books to be translated and read across the world as well?

Maria Thompson Corley: That would be a dream come true.

WeLoveQuality Books: To any struggling songwriter and author, what will be your advice to keep working on their dreams?

Maria Thompson Corley: I don’t write a lot of songs so I’ll focus on the idea of being a writer. I’d suggest working, first and foremost, on becoming the best writer you can be by reading others analytically, not just for enjoyment; finding books about writing; ideally getting critiques from people who write on a higher level than you do;  and revising ruthlessly. After that, it’s hard to advise, because there are no guarantees you’ll write a bestseller, regardless of your dedication to following the trends or honing your craft. Marketing is something I’m still learning, to be honest. If becoming the best writer possible is a goal, you can always achieve success.


WeLoveQuality Books: What will the readers take back from ‘Letting Go’?

Maria Thompson Corley: I hope they will look at the process of learning to love, whether it’s yourself or another, with fresh eyes.


WeLoveQuality Books: How did ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie inspire you to pen your latest novel?

Maria Thompson Corley: Actually, it didn’t! I read Americanah after I had written my book, and saw some similarities. She is much more political than I am—brilliantly so. Letting Go and Americanah both deal with issues of race and gender, built into a long-distance love story.


WeLoveQuality Books: Where can we get this wonderful novel from? I am sure we all want to read it.

Maria Thompson Corley: That’s very kind. I’ve pasted links below. Thank you!

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