My husband and I moved to a small, former cottage-country town, North of Toronto, before we had our two children. I’d have to say that the best thing about it, is that it still has that recreational atmosphere. Many of the homes are converted cottages and farmhouses. The yards are big and so are the trees. Small wildlife abounds; squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, groundhogs, skunks, raccoons and a variety of birds from Blue Jay to Blue Heron, and Hummingbird to Hawk. The breeze, blowing in off the lake nearby, brings clean air, always with a hint of water in it. It may be a little behind the times, but it’s a lovely place to raise a family.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Everything. I wanted to be a doctor, until I realized I hadn’t the stomach for it. I wanted to be a veterinarian, an astronaut, a scientist, a performer, an artist, an athlete, a professor, an author of course; anything and everything. That’s one of the joys of childhood. You still have the ability to dream big, and the untapped potential to be anything you want.
Tell us about your latest book.
Well, I’m sure you read the back blurb, and that gives a good overview of the plot. So, what if I tell you how it came to be a Contemporary Crime Fiction?
“Learn To Love Me” started out as a Women’s Lit. novel. I’d written a full nine chapters before I hit a dead end. I loved my characters, but the plot was dragging and, honestly, I was bored with it. I messaged my only reader at that point, my cover designer Dave J. Ford, to discuss the issue. Dave pointed out that I also had a problem with Suspension of Disbelief. He was right. No one was going to believe my main character had experienced so much, and kept her sanity intact. I made a flippant comment, something like, “Maybe I should just have her snap, completely, and start taking people out.” Dave reacted with such enthusiasm, that I gave the idea serious consideration. Could I write a murder story? Could I write a mystery? I’d always been a fan of shows like “CSI Vegas”, “Law and Order” and “Criminal Minds”. For a while, I devoured true crime novels and books on criminal profiling. I’d be stretching the “write what you know” rule to the limit if I tried it. Finally, I shoved aside the self-doubt, yanked my favourite characters out of the book, and dropped them into a new storyline. For the first time in my life, I mapped out the plot before I started. I created timelines for every character. The outline had lots of creative ‘wiggle-room’, but I started the second incarnation of “Learn To Love Me” with an entirely new mindset. Granted, I didn’t make my main character a raging psychopath, after all.
I have begun a second novel. I’m doing something a little different with it, though. Mystery and crime-fiction readers will likely view it as a deviant sequel. Fans of paranormal will probably choose to view “Learn To Love Me” as an odd prequel to the new novel.
The next book is planned as a dark, paranormal fiction, beginning in the year 2025. At least three of the characters from “Learn To Love Me” will play major roles in the book. (Note: “Learn To Love Me” takes place in 1995).
By 2025 Canada and the US of A have become one united nation, run by a corrupt government, under the manipulation of a powerful religious cult. A small percentage of the population have evolved strong ‘paralogical”, (this might be one of many invented words in the book), abilities. These ‘Soulkin’ band together to escape persecution, but eventually must decide to oppose the ‘Fanacult’, or abandon their home country.
That’s all I can reveal right now. We’ll see if the literary community embraces, opposes, or disregards my deviation from the ‘stick to one genre” rule, I suppose. My goal is to produce books that can stand alone within a genre, or be read as a collection by eclectic readers, like myself.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Punctuation absolutely kills me. There are so many rules to remember and they’ve changed from what I learned so many years ago.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
I’ve answered this question recently and I was rather pleased with the response I composed. I hope you don’t mind if I use it here, verbatim.
It was: “Never give up. Get out of your comfort zone. Put your heart into it. Don’t just drop words on paper, bleed them. Write something you never thought you would. Read expansively. Read a book you hate, to the end, so you know what you don’t want to do. Don’t try to follow the trend, become a trendsetter instead.
Learn the rules, so you can break them on purpose. Write first, edit later. Get critique partners who’ll shred your work, not just pat you on the head. Hire an editor. Cry, rant, and tear your hair out over a negative response, and then accept it as a learning tool. Celebrate the small victories. Write something that makes you cry. Put some humour in everything you write.
Never forget, writing is hard, but that’s what makes it worth doing.”
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I do get stuck from time to time. I have an arsenal full of ways to work around it, though, thanks to an excellent teacher I had for Writer’s Craft.
Most often, I can listen to some emotionally charged music and get myself going again. Sometimes, however, I find it’s best to step away from the work in progress and write something else. I enjoy my detours into flash fiction and poetry. Once in a while I’ll write what I crudely call ‘word vomit’. I just write what I’m thinking of at that moment, trying to include descriptions from as many of my senses as possible. When I’ve finished it’s almost as though I’ve purged the distracting thoughts, and I can usually go back to the project I was working on.
The ‘word vomit’ notes come in handy for writer’s block as well. I save every one of them. When I get stuck, I can browse through my “Bits” folder, and read some of those pieces. Sometimes I find a sentence or phrase that will inspire me. Sometimes I can drop an entire piece into the work in progress and edit it to fit the story better. A few of them are scattered throughout “Learn To Love Me”, in fact, and I’m sure I’ll use more of them in future works.
Who is your favorite author and why?
That’s such a difficult question. There are so many authors I revere; it’s hard to pick just one. It could be that I’m just not capable of committing to a single author, but the answer I give you right now would likely change if you asked me an hour from now.
Right this moment, though, I’ll say Thomas Hardy. Tess of the D’urbervilles is the first book I can remember reading, where I wanted to jump into the book, shake one of the characters and yell, “What the hell are you thinking?”It’s fairly easy to get me emotionally drawn in with a good book. It’s far more difficult to get me emotionally committed.
What books have most influenced your life?
Again, there are so many, and the answer changes repeatedly. Since I’m wearing my ‘author hat’ I’ll pick just one, “Little Women”. It’s mostly the character of Jo that makes me think of it right now. She was a writer too, and she never let anyone convince her that she couldn’t succeed at it. Jo was ‘born’ with that kind of determination. It’s a skill I had to learn. I let myself become discouraged from writing once … for eight years. Never again!
How did you deal with rejection letters?
I’ve been blessed not to have to deal with rejection letters this time around. Some twenty years ago, though, I had a collection of rejections. Because every one of them was a form rejection, I mourned a little, and then decided that it must mean I wasn’t ready yet. I didn’t think it meant the story wasn’t good, just that I needed to improve my writing and editing skills before I tried again. Rejection letters never deterred me from writing. It was people I knew who did that.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
An addiction to coffee, a love of words, excellent observational skills, the gift ofseeing an issue from several perspectives, an open mind, a fondness for research, the ability to engage and hold an audience, and a thesaurus and dictionary used together, not separately.
Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
I struggled with this in “Learn To Love Me”, I truly did. There is a scene, in Chapter three, that’s so graphic it was tough for some of the beta readers to get through it. I debated with myself for a long time, and it finally came down to three questions: 1) Did it further the plot? 2) Did it strengthen the reader’s emotional commitment? 3) Did it inform the reader? As in, did it clarify any point of background or future event within the book?
After consulting with the readers who’d found it difficult, we agreed that it met not one, but all three of the requirements. It’s still in the book. I DID add a subtle warning within the story, though, to let readers know that the character was about to reveal a violent and emotionally devastating event.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
I’m fairly certain my Google search history, alone, could put me on several watch lists, but I guess the weirdest would be asking a friend to physically attack me. I should explain that. In one scene the m/c, (main character), is attacked in a stairwell. I felt the need to act the scene out, to see if I’d described the action, and reaction, clearly and accurately. I asked him to assume the role of the attacker and told him his objective, and I became the m/c. I knew what I wanted her to do, and I wanted my ‘attacker’ to be as surprised as the one in the book. Granted, we talked and debated the scene more than we acted it out, but the exercise was extremely helpful.
Don’t forget to give us links to your website etc.
Author Website: http://www.author.sinmacd.ca
Learn To Love Me Website: http://www.learntoloveme.sinmacd.ca
Facebook Fanpage: http://www.facebook.com/SinMacD.Writer
Goodreads Author Page:http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5339441.Sinead_MacDughlas
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Sinead-MacDughlas/e/B0074CIPV8