Interview with Mary-Lou Stephens: 'Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction'

Mary-Lou Stephens studied acting and played in bands before she got a proper job -in radio. She writes whenever she's not behind the microphone or heading off to a meditation retreat.

Mary-Lou has garnered rave reviews for her memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation, the true story of how she changed her life, saved her job and found a husband, all with the help of meditation. She lives in Australia with that very same husband, their dog and a hive of killer native bees. 

How To Stay Married is the sequel to Sex, Drugs and Meditation and is the truth behind the happy ending.

Mary-Lou is a blogger for The Huffington Post, a columnist for Holistic Bliss and a regular at writing festivals and events.

Visit Mary-Lou’s website at

About the Book

Title: How to Stay Married
Author: Mary-Lou Stephens
Nelson Bay
Pages: 203
Genre: Self-Help/Relationships/Love and Romance
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

Do you dream of finding the right person to spend your life with? Are you in a strong relationship already and want to keep it that way? Or perhaps your marriage is a little tarnished and you hope to make it shine again? 

You’ve come to the right place. While How to Stay Married isn’t your regular ‘how-to’ book, it is about creating the kind of relationship you want. 

This is the story of a marriage; a journey from fear, resentment and financial devastation, to a place of love, joy and trust. 

Mary-Lou Stephen’s first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation chronicled how meditation changed her life, saved her job and helped her find a husband. How To Stay Married, is the truth behind the happy ending. 

How to Stay Married takes us around the world; from the glitter and glare of Las Vegas to the sub-zero temperatures of the French Alps and the tropical heat of Thailand, all with cabin luggage only. 

The discoveries Mary-Lou makes regarding herself and her marriage are a modern day parable about learning to travel light in life, love and relationships.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

My husband and I travelled around the world, from the heat and humidity of Asia to sub-zero temperatures in the Alps, all with carry on luggage only. When we returned, our friends were astounded that we’d managed to do it so easily. As I’m a writer one of those friends suggested I write a book about how to travel light. I wasn’t sure it would make a very long or even interesting book but it got me thinking. What if I used our travels as a metaphor for our marriage?

My first published book Sex, Drugs and Meditation told the story of how meditation changed my life, saved my job and helped me find a husband. How To Stay Married is the truth behind the happy ending. It uses our trip as a framework for the story of our marriage. Our early married life was a nightmare to tell you the truth. But the lessons I learnt and the hurdles we overcame to get to where we are now make fascinating reading. How To Stay Married is a modern day parable about learning to travel light in life, love and relationships.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

How To Stay Married, is a brave and personal book. It touches on areas in a relationship that not many people have the courage to expose. I have a wonderful writing group and they gave me the support I needed to be honest. I suggest all writers find themselves a group of like-minded people for feedback and encouragement, and to have fun with - writing can be such a solitary pursuit.

My early attempts to write my first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation weren’t successful. A literary agent read some of it, saw potential but told me I had to get really, really honest if I was to continue. I wasn’t brave enough at the time so I put the manuscript away and wrote a novel instead. When I found my courage I rewrote Sex, Drugs and Meditation and eventually landed a publishing deal with Pan Macmillan.

So my two tips for other writers are to be brave and to make sure you have the support you need to carry you through when your courage fades.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My first book Sex, Drugs and Meditation was published by Pan Macmillan after I submitted it through their open submission process. I wanted to go with a major publisher because of possible legal issues in the book. I needed a legal team to look at it before it was published. There were a few changes needed but not many. Luckily my work as a radio broadcaster has given me a fairly good working knowledge of the laws around defamation.

I’ve self published How To Stay Married  because the only person who could sue me over this book is my husband and he’s promised not to :)

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

I’ve been amazed by how friendly, generous and supportive so many authors are. I’ve been part of a writing group for many years now but I never expected that level of support from other published authors. Many of us realise how hard it is to be seen in amongst all the other books in the market and so we’re happy to support each other knowing we’ll be supported in turn. This generosity of spirit is a constant blessing. It shows a genuine love of books and writing.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I’m returning to fiction for my next book. I’m attending a writing masterclass early next year and the tutor has promised she’ll land me a publishing deal - she knows my writing and that I’ll write a marketable book. Because this book will be with a traditional publisher it probably won’t be released until 2016.

I also have a series of non-fiction books in the works which I’ll self publish in 2015. I want the freedom around these books to do what I want with them as far as pricing and bundling is concerned.

I also have another three novels planned and a YA series. Plenty to keep me busy.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

That would be Facebook. I love seeing what my friends are doing, dropping them a line and having fun. I use Facebook for book promotion as well but if that’s all I do I really don’t enjoy it. The same with Twitter. It’s called social media for a reason, it’s to be sociable, to have conversations, to connect. I’m with a group of authors who have a Google group and that’s great a great place to catch up and pick each other’s brains. I also blog for The Huffington Post and that’s a great place to hang out.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

How to Stay Married is about creating the kind of relationship you want. Isn’t that what we all seek? A place where we belong. Arms in which we feel safe. Home. My wish for my readers and the ones they love is for happy trails and many adventures along the way.

While How to Stay Married isn’t your regular ‘how-to’ book, there is a list of Seven Tips For a Happy Marriage (and one from my mum) at the end. By the time you’ve read the book you will have seen how these tips have played out in my own relationship. But really it’s the tip from my mum that sums it up best:

On her deathbed my mother gave our marriage her blessing. “Remember darling,” she said. “Love is a decision. Every day you make the decision to love the person you’re with. Keep making that decision every day and you’ll have a long and happy marriage, even when it’s not all that happy.”
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

I’m going to give my final words to Antoine De Saint-Exupery, a French aristocrat, writer (The Little Prince), poet and aviator who clearly knew a bit about love.
Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward in the same direction.
That sums up marriage for me. You’re finished with the infatuation and you’re into the real meat and depth of a relationship. The part where you have each other’s backs. You know, love and support each other and you’re building a life together that will be much greater than the sum of its parts. That’s where life and love get truly delicious. That’s what How To Stay Married is about.

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