Sit back and check out my interview with author Catherine E. McLean and then check out her new release.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I never did. I grew up in a household of first generation emigrants who advocated work hard, do well in school, get a job to put food on the table and pay the bills. Being a writer was never a consideration for a vocation. So, never once did I or have I ever said to myself, "I want to be a writer."
But I had a fascination with words, English, grammar, and punctuation. (I loved to diagram sentences.) I wrote a story in third grade that no one took note of (not the teacher or my parents), but my eye doctor (I was nearsighted) posted the pencil-written words on their yellow tablet sheets onto his bulletin board. It was a story about a pony. I was horse-crazy at an early age—as an adult I would own Morgan Sport Horses and become a Reserve National Champion Competitive Trail Rider.
Anyway, looking back at the writing, it seemed only fitting that I became a secretary, where I could use words, even wield them. You see, in listening to the spoken words when I took dictation, I was able to mimic my bosses' voices in their letters and reports, especially when they didn't dictate those letters or reports, only gave me instructions on how they wanted them handled. That listening skill proved handy when writing character voices.
As a journalist, who could earn money with writing, I learned about the economy of words. And, from time to time, I jotted down short stories, and sold articles (nonfiction).
How long does it take you to write a book?
Usually six months from idea to a polished, ready-to-submit manuscript for a 100,000 word novel. HEARTS AKILTER was a novella, but it had a helter-skelter path to publication. The idea of "what if a robot thought he was having a heart attack" came to me back in 1996. Yes, I do record the date I enter an idea into my "Bits & Pieces" three-ring binder (which is stuffed with ideas I'll never get to in ten lifetimes).
Unable to figure out what interesting thing could cause a robot to have a heart attack, other than a short circuit, which was just way too obvious, I set the idea aside.
In 2008, I took another look at the idea and came up with a bomb being placed inside the robot, who I now dubbed Henry. The bomb caused the short circuit, but why wouldn't that bomb explode?
Other questions, like who was the bomber or who was the target, were illusive, so I just wrote down what I did know, which netted me 4,000 words. Then I got sidetracked by life, horses, motherhood, the husband, several other stories, and demands on my time and energy. In 2014, I revisited the entry, added another 4,000 words, and again got sidetracked. On New Year's Day, 2015, I had the answers I needed and completed the first draft on January 30. I spent February revising and getting feedback. On March 8, I sent a query to The Wild Rose Press, and 18 days later, I signed the contract for HEARTS AKILTER.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I'm a binge-writer. But I am not a Pantser (one who sits in front of their computer and types what spews out). I don't work on a story until I know the characters, the twists and turns of the plot, and know the outcome. But that doesn't make me a Plotter, either.
Actually, of the 10 Types of Writers (link below), I'm what's called a Foundation Writer, one who gets a story dump (anywhere from 10 to 100 pages or a scene, or an interesting or intriguing character comes to mind, or I get a what-if that I can't let go of until I figure out the answer. Once I have enough information, I begin filling out my Project Bible pages, which I developed for myself and which is based on everything I had learned about what a story was and what good stories entailed.
When those pages are done, I binge-write the story from beginning to "the end." Usually, I look at a calender for two to three weeks where nothing is going on that will detour me from the task. Then I make sure anyone who can cause an interruption knows it's my writing time and to go away. The only exception was imminent death or destruction—or the horses escaped the pasture.
What do you think is the best way of publishing a book these days?
I wish I knew. I'm published traditionally with small presses, and I did independently publish JEWELS OF THE SKY in 2012. You see, that novel was linked to the destruction of the Mayans and the Mayan calender was now coming to its "end of days." I figured I wasn't going to live 5,000 years to take advantage of the next "end of days," so I had better publish it.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Out of thin air. That's no joke. They just pop into my mind. My husband swears I have a revolving door to my subconscious because of the way it spins out ideas seemingly willy-nilly.
Most of the ideas are "what-ifs," while others are just my being curious. Ideas erupt from reading newspaper headlines, phrases or lines from books, magazines, advertisements, etc. However, answering this question has made me realize that I can't recall a single time that an idea came to me from browsing the Internet or anything online. Isn't that curiously interesting?
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Sewing. I make a lot of my own clothes so they fit and reflect me as an individual. I've been sewing since I was eight, was in sewing 4H for nine years, then was a 4H leader— and still am. I also exhibit my clothing and crafts at the local fairs. The ribbons from those fairs hang in a lush "tail" on my sewing room wall. The ribbons remind me that I sew well and push me to keep learning new techniques and experiment with designs.
My other love is Morgan Sport Horses, and over the years of exhibiting them, I saved money by sewing my own riding attire (Hunt Seat, Saddle Seat, Western, Sidesaddle, and Driving). I've even made medieval costumes for my daughter. I've tailored coats, sewn evening wear, and made underwear (both modern and for costumes). And now, with Darq, the doll-avatar of JEWELS OF THE SKY (the Mayan novel), I'm into recreating Erte fashions from paper doll illustrations for her. Erte, by the way, is the Father of Art Deco. It's a long story why a Wysotti Indian wears Erte (check out the blog: https://jewelsofthesky.wordpress.com/
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Over the years, thirty plus are completed novels and a hundred other short stories/novellas are in some state of done or worth doing. Why didn't I seek publication sooner? Because I didn't know I was a writer. After all, I write. I'm a writer who, like Sol Stein said, cannot not write. Then there's that little voice from childhood that whispers, "So what? Writing doesn't put food on the table nor pay the bills."
As to my favorite story among them all? It's Love Under Lite Speed, completed back in 1992, which took first in its futuristic category at the Ohio Valley RWA chapter's annual writing contest and third overall the entries that year. Not bad for a sci-fi, fantasy-futuristic back then. The story is a galactic brew of thieves, political intrigue, family duty, government loyalties, and saving face. So, is it any wonder notorious privateer Sarina "Dammit" Dannon and no-nonsense government agent Aaron Cantrall find love can only travel under lite speed? (And that isn't a typo–it's lite because it's a lighthearted adventure-romance with a galactic starscape.)
Can you tell me and your readers something about your main characters?
In Hearts Akilter, the main character (the protagonist) is Marlee, a robotic's tech who's as pragmatic as she is gutsy. She considers others and values the lives of those who live and work on Kifel Space Station. She's also frank, a realist, and curious to the point that she forgets to look before she leaps.
Then there's Henry-the-robot, who's evolving into an AI (Artificial Intelligence). He works in sickbay, so when he complains he has 'pain in his chest,' he labels it a heart attack. Robots don't have hearts . . . well, he goes to Marlee to get her opinion. Marlee discovers a bomb wedged among his mechanical systems. She can't afford alerting the bomber of what she's found for fear the bomber will kill her. So, she decides the best thing to do is secretly waylay Deacon Black, a bomb expert, and have him defuse the bomb.
Deacon is on the space station to teach and recertify members of the bomb squad. Trouble is, since coming to the station, someone has been trying to kill him. When he sets a trap to catch his would-be assassin, he snares Marlee instead. He is smitten, confused, and enthraled by her attitude and intelligence.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Many of my published short stories garnered letters to the editor praising the characters and the lighthearted nature of the stories. I even had one editor accept a short story and tell me there wasn't enough humor in sci-fi. But the reader comment I cherish most is: "Her stories are brain candy for anyone liking action and character-driven stories."
Who are your favorite authors to read?
My genre is futuristics, but that word has such a negative connotation that it equates to a B-grade space opera. So, the marketing label for my stories is fantasy/sci-fi romance.
Sadly, futuristics' heyday was back in the late 1990's and by the time I had one of my own ready to market, the genre had slumped, and then devolved into outlandish fantasies based on Star Trek, Star Wars, and other TV and movie commercialization, or Vikings in Outer Space.
Since it's so hard for me to find a worthwhile futuristic romance, I was happy to learn some of the original 1990's era futuristics, by well-known authors, are being reprinted and making a comeback. There's hope on the horizon that a new generation of readers will enjoy better written futuristics.
However, here are a few of my keepers: Justine Davis's Sky Pirate, Ann Avery's Sheild's Lady, Jane Ann Krentz's Crystal Flame. Other sci-fi/futuristics, not so much a romance, are: Catherine Arsaro's Primary Inversion and David Webber's Flight of the Fury. Oh, and while on vacation this June, I discovered Susan Grant's Contact, and she's now on my list.
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HEARTS AKILTER was released August 5 and is available at most ebook outlets, including:
Barnes & Noble:
The Wild Rose Press:
10 TYPES OF WRITERS Types of Writers -
Hub Website: http://www.CatherineEmclean.com
Website for writers: http://www.WritersCheatSheets
Fan Page: http://tinyurl.com/StarscapeFictionGroup
Google Circles: https://plus.google.com/u/0/116343867237369766309/posts