Interview with Kirkus MacGowan – aspiring author

 

 

NUT AND BOLTS:

Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? 

Hi there, my name is Kirkus MacGowan.  I was born and raised in Michigan and still reside there with my wife and two children.  I am a stay at home dad.  When I am not writing, I am playing games or wrestling with my little ones.  I am an ex-bartender and have a degree in Psychology.

Were you born writing or was there an “ah ha” moment when you knew that writing is what you were meant to do?

It is something I have always done.  I learned how to use a typewriter soon after learning to write. My mother said I would spend hours copying books word for word, shortly after I was writing my own.

Where are you at in your process?

My brain runs at 100 mph, and always has.  It is the same when writing. I have so many ideas it can be hard to concentrate on one at a time. I just finished my first short story, I am 24k into an urban fantasy, and 52k into a suspense/thriller.

Who do you like to read?  Favorite books and authors.

I like to read just about anything but I try to stick to fantasy. To date my favorite author is Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time Series. Brandon Sanderson is finishing the series right now, and he is quickly becoming one of my favorites, especially his new book The Way of Kings.

RAVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO:

Tell us about your current projects. 

The short story I finished was a spur of the moment idea. It is a comedy/fantasy in an urban setting. Wilburn Walsh is an unsuspecting accountant with big dreams and he embarks upon a fantastic journey to save millions of lives. I just uploaded it to Book Country (http://www.bookcountry.com/) and I am waiting for more reviews before I submit it for publishing.

Post-apocalyptic Toledo is the setting for my urban fantasy.  The energy produced by the last war caused rifts to open across Earth, and now demons pour through daily.  They are hell-bent (pun intended) on death and destruction, at least that is what most humans think.  For some demons, just surviving in the new world is a struggle. The reader will have a unique view into the mind of Enarik, one of the demons keeping his head low, struggling to survive.  These are not your typical demons but you will have to read the book to find out why.

The thriller/suspense novel takes place in modern day United States.  An ancient relic found by archaeologists leads two friends on a search to find the truth behind their find.  A nineteen-year old learns he may have been the cause of an explosion that killed his boss.  The two friends search for truth, the nineteen-year old searches for his destiny, and through a series of mishaps and circumstance, they come together in the end stave off an overbearing and rich boss who wants to use the relic for unknown purposes.

Why do you write your specific genre?  Have you ever thought about dabbling in others? 

I have always wanted to write high/epic fantasy, and I will someday, but at this point, my writing style fits better in contemporary settings.

THE ART OF WRITING:

Are you a pantser (fly by the seat of your pants) or planner? 

I started as a “pantser,” but learned that my super charged brain would not let that work for me.  I was at 50k words on my thriller and had to toss out 20k. I did a read through and it became apparent I had too many sub-plots and fluff to keep the story interesting.  Too avoid that horrible feeling in the future I created an outline.  It consists of note-cards tacked to a board on my wall. Now I have picked up the pace and I am certain the flow is much better.

THE JOYS OF RAISING A CHARACTER

How do your characters come to life? 

When the idea for the story develops in my mind, the characters are already there, I know everything about them.  I picture them in my mind doing the things that take place in my story.  I can even hear them speaking.

Do you characters like to listen to you, their creator, do they like to pull all the strings and write you into corners?

They tend to do what they want.  So far, that is the only problem with the outline; my characters like to test my ability to get where they are supposed to be.

BELIEVE ME IT’S REAL EVEN IF IT IS FICTION

World building is an art form, even if you book is not science fiction or paranormal.  How do you make your world believable? 

It has been easy because I can see the settings in my mind like the characters.  If I have a problem making it believable then it is because I am not doing a good job describing it.

LET’S TALK FAVORITES (we promise not to tell)

Do you have a favorite line that you have written? 

“It was a colossal beast of a dog, each paw larger than my face, and the posh fur ringing it’s head made the lion description fit well.” This line is from my short story Hedwicket.

Do you have a favorite novel you have written or perhaps a short piece?

No favorites yet, but I think the urban fantasy will be.

How about a favorite scene?

My favorite scene so far is when the nineteen-year old from my thriller learns the truth about himself in the final chapter.

Just for fun, what is your favorite color, food, or animal?

Blue, fried chicken, dogs.

INSPIRATION:

Where do you get your ideas? 

Some come from my strange dreams.  What usually happens is that I will see something that gets me thinking.  The single idea will bounce around my skull for a few minutes, hours, or days.  Then it will come back to the surface completely changed into something that my mind has twisted and shaped into a unique story that only I can tell.

What keeps you going?

My children.  I want them to know that it is okay for them to follow their dreams, as long as they are willing to put in the work.  How can I teach my children about following dreams and working hard if I am not willing to do so myself?  I am living my life as an example of the way I hope my children will one day live.  No regrets, with realistic expectations.

Who do you go to for support when you’re feeling miserable about your book (come on we all have this moment)?

My wife.  She is my own personal hero.

Is there a song that represents you or your journey? A poem?  A book?

The Eye of the Tiger?  Only the competition and the rivals in the song are my ambition and fears.

EDITING:

Do you love it or hate it?

Love it, but have already spent too much time on it.  Some advice to remember is that you should finish your whole story before you edit.  If you do it sooner, the chapter you spent two days editing might not even be in the book by the time you are done.

How many drafts do you go through before you feel like it is done?

Oh boy, I’m not sure.  I went through eight drafts before I was willing to put my short story on Book Country.

Do others help you?

My wife and my brother have given me the most insight into my writing; though my goal is to have the best draft I can before I let anybody else read it.

What is the hardest part about editing?

Commas and semi-colons.  My brain automatically concentrates on the content so I have to do specific edits just for grammar and punctuation.

What is your process like? 

Using my short story as a basis for my process, the first two times I worked straight through from beginning to end.  When the common mistakes are out of the way, then I start back at the beginning and spend time on individual paragraphs.  Next, I do the first part again, read from beginning to end checking for flow.

THE ILLUSIVE AGENT:

Have you started shopping for an agent? 

Not really.  From everything I have read lately, it is good to have at least two completed novels before shopping for an agent.  Plus, I am not in a hurry.  I remind myself daily that this career is a marathon, not a sprint.

How do you plan on handling rejections? 

My goal is to take everything they say with a grain of salt.  There are multiple reasons why a rejection could happen.  If I see the same reasons popping up from rejection to rejection, then I know exactly what I have to work on.  If I get two hundred rejections, then the book probably is not good enough to sell.  Maybe my writing is not publishable yet, the book needs work, or they don’t think the story is

MORE ABOUT YOU:

What is it like to know that a draft is finally done?

It was wonderful when I completed the short story.  When I finish one of my novels, I probably will not sleep for a few days.

Talk about some of the emotions you went through (or are going through) that you have experienced. 

The primary emotion I feel when writing is self-doubt.  I am a perfectionist, putting myself out there for a person to critique is tough.  I keep reminding myself the best way to become the writer I want to be is to keep writing, and keep learning.

How many times have you wanted to chuck your computer at the next person who asks how it is going? 

None so far.  I am in love with my laptop.  I am more likely to toss my coffee cup.

How do you deal with writers block?

What is writers block?  I prefer JA Konrath’s outlook on writers block, that there is no such thing.  Like Konrath, I spent years waiting tables and bartending.  He used the example of a waiter when discussing writers block.  He says to imagine a waiter sitting down before work when they just aren’t feeling up to it.  They do not get the chance to wait for their muse, they don’t get to do it when they feel like it, they do it when they are told, and they do it because they have to.  If you are a waiter, you do it because you need the money, not because you enjoy it.  You just suck it up, pretend that you love your job, and do the best you can.  He says writers should do the same thing.  It may not be your best writing, but you cannot always wait for it to be perfect.

 Do you ever surprise yourself when you write?

All the time.  A few days ago, two of my characters became fast friends.  I wasn’t planning on them meeting until the end.

What have you learned about yourself through your writing?

That my imagination is crazier than I thought.  Some of the things I come up with freak me out.

Is writing a novel easier or more difficult than you thought?

The ideas flow much easier than I thought they would, but the amount of time it take to get those ideas on paper is surprising.

What strengths do you have that make you the next great author?

I’m cute?  Seriously, I would say it is my uncanny ability to come up with new ideas and twists.

What weaknesses do have that make you human?  (Yes, we all know that we know you are superman, but no one would appreciate him if kryptonite wouldn’t bring him down to size)

My weakness is the same as my strength.  With so many ideas, it is hard to cut things down to size.  I spend too much time determining what to put in, and what to save for later.  I also have a tendency to slip into anti-social mode.  While good for my writing, it is not so good for platform building.

What is one piece of advice that you have received that you thought was good?

Build a platform first.  Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep it fun.  Family first.

What advice do you have for others that are considering joining you on this rocky path?

Be realistic.  A career in writing would be amazing, and if you put your time in you can make it happen.  But remember that wanting something to be true will not make it be so.  Know when to walk away if that is best.

Where do you see yourself in one year?

Finishing my fourth novel, working on finding an agent.

How about 5?

Finishing my twentieth novel, sipping on a cold one with my agent while we fish from my pontoon boat.  I guess that might not be very realistic, but I hope my career is well on the way by that point.  If not, my wife and I put a five-year limit on pursuing my writing career.  If I’m not at least partially successful by then, it is back to school for my masters.

NETWORKING:

Tell us where and how we find you.  Twitter, face book, blogs, websites, etc.

You can find me on Twitter with the username @KirkusMacGowan.  I have not spent much time on my facebook page, but just doing a search for Kirkus MacGowan should lead you in the right direction.  I also have a blog named Diapers, Bookmarks, and Pipe Dreams.  I blog about parenting, writing, following dreams, and living a fulfilling life.  You can find my blog at http://www.kirkusmacgowan.info/

BOOKS OR SITES THAT YOU HAVE FOUND HELPFUL:

I have visited hundreds of sites devoted to improving ones writing career.  The one that stands out is JA Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.  While I do not read the genre Konrath writes, he is very upfront about the way he feels about the industry.  He gives straightforward advice in easy to understand posts.

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