This is where I'll post interviews or partial interviews from book tours and visits to author and book blogs.
Interviews from early in my writing career . . .
Interview from a visit at Elizabeth McKenna's Blog (general interview)
Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline, or are you more of a seat of your pants type of a writer?
I used to just sit down and write; at least that’s how I began my first two books. I’d write when the mood struck, which meant that I was writing my first book over the course of a few years. I’m now definitely a plotter. I like to have an outline, but I never let that outline force the story if something doesn’t feel right.
For instance, in Gallagher’s Choice, I had a specific idea of how the book would play out, but toward the end I realized that my original idea wasn’t going to work, so I had to make a drastic change. I like remaining flexible and allowing the story to follow its own path, but an outline keeps me from going too far into the land of “this makes absolutely no sense.”
What is the highest goal that you desire to meet as an author?
I don’t have a set “high goal.” I know I want to learn as much as I can, enjoy myself, and work hard so each year my books are better than the year before. I didn’t go into this with dreams of being a NYT or USA Today Bestselling Author—that would be awesome, and it’s definitely something worth achieving, but it’s not what I wake up thinking about. I want to be challenged, and because I’m still a fairly new author, I have the opportunity to try different things.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Know what you’re getting into, and do it right! When I first started, my ignorance about the industry could fill Flathead Lake. I learn well by doing, but I wish I would have been more prepared. Be certain you’re willing to devote the time and mental energy necessary, and absolutely make certain you have a good editor.
How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
I live in Northern Montana, which means I have an outdoor playground at my disposal, and I make good use of it. I don’t like the heat, so during the summer I unwind before the day begins when it’s still cool outside in the morning—usually walking or gardening. During the winter, I spend a lot of time in Jewel Basin, a local hiking spot with great walking trails, snowshoeing with the dogs. I love to sit by the fire and read during the winter, and when it’s too hot for me in the summer, I sit in the living room with AC blasting, and knit scarves while dreaming of winter. J
Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
I have so many things on that list, and it seems like every time I check one off, another gets added. I’ve done so much the past ten years that right now I’ll admit I’m a little tired and enjoying a break, but at the top of the list is to return to Scotland, which I’m working on. I guess that makes it a redo from my bucket list, but I love Scotland and if I had to give up everything else on that list just to return when I could, I would gladly make that choice.
Interview from a visit at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews (general interview)
Do you use a pen name? If so, how did you come up with it?
I do, though it’s not exactly made up. I use my first two initials, M.K. (and you thought I was going to tell you what those stand for), and the McClintock is a family surname on my paternal grandmother’s side. I knew I wanted to ‘keep it in the family’ and not make up a name that meant nothing to me, so I pulled out the many pages of ancestors and picked out one I liked, but also one that I felt fit with the type of stories I wanted to write. Thus was born MK McClintock.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important? How and why?
Important to whom? I suppose a reader may not realize how a character’s name is chosen and perhaps for some authors, it’s simply a matter of choosing a name they like. For me, the name just has to fit – a bit like when a parent is holding their newborn baby and they just feel or know what fits that little person. Sometimes I just pick out a name that I feel fits with the personality of a character, but there have been a couple of instances when the name just didn’t fit. Ethan and Brenna both had different names when I started out, but as their characters began to unfold, I just didn’t feel it. I stepped away from the book for a bit and wouldn’t continue until they had the right names. A few days later, we had Ethan and Brenna.
As for how the names are important for the book – for this author, it was important to have names that reflected heritage or geographic location (in the case of women in the first two books). For the Gallagher’s, it was more about the names just fitting with the personalities. Eliza’s name came off my family tree (she was the original McClintock, so it was fitting). I’m sure the names mean more to me than they would to readers.
What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?
I often wonder if I’m an abnormal writer! I find nothing difficult about remaining sane as a writer. In fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done. I don’t let anyone other than myself, push me to make deadlines and I don’t write something I don’t want to just because it’s popular or the next big fad in books. I’m a deliriously happy writer…unless someone interrupts my writing!
If I were to the most important attribute, I would say that it’s absolutely crucial that a writer enjoy what they do. Writing and publishing is not without ups and downs, so in the end, it should be worth it.
How do you react to a bad review of your book?
I have had a few critiques where the author critiquing thought I would be upset by what they wrote, but I’ve yet to be upset by anyone’s opinion of my books. Truth be told, most of us, writers and readers, have widely different tastes and so it’s okay if someone likes it more than others. I dislike plenty of books that others have raved about – there are enough writers and readers to go around and fill all the niches. I do recall recently a review on one of my books where the reviewer (also a writer) wasn’t especially fond of the ending – most likely because it leaves the reader without a final conclusion to something that is picked up in the rest of the series. That’s okay too – not everyone has to understand why we write the way we do. I write fiction and I write for entertainment – I want it to be fun.
Tell us about your favorite restaurant.
Tigh Na Sgiath (don’t ask me to pronounce it). Oh to be there again and not just in my dreams! Tigh Na Sgiath is actually a country hotel in the Scottish highlands, and there just happens to be a fabulous little restaurant there with (not kidding) the most amazing chef. Ian and Elaine MacDonald-Coulter own and run the property – Elaine is the amazing chef. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling food by some amazing chefs over the years and to this day, Elaine’s food is still the best I’ve ever had. Each night was a new culinary adventure-I tried foods I don’t normally eat and there not one single thing on the menu that wasn’t fabulous.
Interview from my visit at I am a Reader, Not a Writer (general interview-2012)
If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you?
Double bladed hunting knife, sunscreen, and MacGyver
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
McCann’s Irish Oatmeal
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
That people are actually reading and enjoying the books. That’s really the whole point of having a book published and it’s an amazing feeling.
If you could jump into a book, and live in that world..which would it be?
Gallagher’s Pride or Pride and Prejudice
What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen?
As a young child, I loved the Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem. I used to copy the words from the pages into my notebook to practice my writing. These are still my favorite children’s books.
What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Write from below the surface. If you can’t feel what the characters are feeling, if you don’t believe what’s happening to them, then the readers won’t either.
If you could choose only one time period and place to live, when and where would you live and why?
Ooh, just one? I’ve have to say early to mid-19th century Montana. I write about that time and place and the more I do, the more I believe I would have loved to live in that time. It wasn’t an easy life and in fact for some it was downright deadly, but I can’t help it—I believe I would have loved it!
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Where I’m living! I love Montana. Okay, so if not here then it would definitely be the Scottish Highlands. It is such a magnificent and breathtaking place with wonderful people and I could see myself living in that part of the world.
What is your favorite Quote?
I have many, but the one I’m thinking of right now is, "By being people of action, at least we have the hope to leave this world and its people better than we found it." - Andy Jones (founder of the Africa Heartwood Project).
Can you see yourself in any of your characters?
Eliza Gallagher – not in looks, but I can relate to her somewhat in terms of personality. She even has some of my flaws.
What's your favorite season/weather?
Definitely autumn. The colors, the brisk air, Halloween, and of course it’s when I pull out all my favorite scarves and sweaters. The weather is still clear enough to enjoy the outdoors, but the summer heat has left. Yep, autumn is my favorite.
In your wildest dreams, which author would you love to co-author a book with?
Well, if we’re going with any author, alive or dead, I would choose Kathleen E. Woodwiss. She’s someone I would have like to learn a thing or two from about writing a great historical romance novel.
Q&A (Interview Questions by Lisa Hasselton and J.A. Beard) for Gallagher's Pride (2012)
What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired to write what I wanted to read! Living in Montana certainly helped with the idea, but mostly I enjoy reading historical western romances that are clean which are difficult to find. I also wanted adventure and to combine my love of Montana and Scotland into one book.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Currently I’m working on the next Gallagher book, Gallagher’s Choice, where we have the story of Ethan’s brother, Gabriel and a woman from New Orleans. More of the same bit of humor, adventure and romance can be expected.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t believe there was any one moment where I knew I wanted to write-it was more gradual and began from an early age. I’ve been writing in one form or another for as long as I can remember, but actually calling myself a writer? I’d have to say the moment that first book was finished. That’s when it became real.
Scotland and Montana are two places that one doesn't typically associate with each other. You mentioned spending time in both places, but is that the main reason why you chose to include both of these places in your story?
Good observation and you’re right, though I do know a few Scottish who have made their way to Montana. I included both simply because I love both places. Scotland is a gloriously beautiful country and the Highlands had a mysterious and wild feel to them. The people I had the pleasure of meeting were kind, hard-working and amazing storytellers. It’s also a country with a fascinating history. Montana is considerably younger than Scotland, but in some ways similar. While in Scotland people I spoke with about my home were fascinated with the American west, still in this day. They asked about cowboys and Indians and the way of life-I think some were disappointed that we lived modern-day lives, but the fascination was still there. What it comes down to is that both places are dear to me and I wanted both to have a home in the story.
What's the allure of Scotland? Even people with zero Scottish blood seem enamored of the country.
There is a mystery about Scotland and a deep, sometimes dark history. The castles around almost every corner, the ruins, the royalty, the wars and even movies like Braveheart – all of these elements combine to paint a fascinating image and energy that draws one in. I remember feeling that energy the moment I stepped foot onto Scottish soil. Like so many countries whose history have spanned centuries, there is a sort of magic in the air. Scotland has also been portrayed as not only a barbaric country, but also a romantic one through movies and stories-both are strong elements. I will say that I believe the real Scotland is far more beautiful and interesting than anything portrayed in fiction or on screen.
What, for you, defines the perfect romance hero?
Personally, I prefer a hero with flaws. Perfection is overrated, especially in a hero. Yes, the element of a strong, capable character is essential to any hero, but I’d rather have a hero who shows us their less-than-perfect side. He doesn’t get everything right. He might occasionally take a beating and he might even make mistakes-he’s human. I also don’t care for cookie-cutter heroes, meaning the same hero written over and over. I’d rather see a personality, whether charming or gruff, so long as he’s an individual.
What defines the perfect romance heroine?
The same elements for the hero, at least in my mind, are essential to the heroine. I do enjoy a heroine who has to be rescued by our hero-that’s a part of the adventure and romance, but she should also be strong of character. I enjoy a heroine who knows her own mind and doesn’t necessarily define her life by the hero but rather allows him to complement who she is as an individual.
It's no secret that romance, as a genre, has gotten steadily steamier over the years. Indeed, a few notable romance sites have even stated they are realigning their "heat" scales to better reflect that reality. Others have noted that the rise of certain specific sub-genres, such as the so-called "Bonnet books" (Amish/Mennonite romance) may be a reaction by certain segments of the romance reader population who are disappointed by a lack of cleaner offerings. Can you share your thoughts on all this?
I do agree that romance books have indeed gotten steamier, but at the same time, even erotica was written hundreds of years ago; it has just become more accessible and more accepted. I’ve also noticed that ‘heat’ scales or content ratings have been placed on blogs that offer reviews (mine included) to warn readers about the level of steamy content. The main problem I see with this, is that one person’s opinion of minor steam content may be completely different from another reader's opinion, so it’s not always easy to judge a book by those steamy-meters. The sub-genres have definitely seen a rise, especially Christian-romance sub-genres because some readers want a guarantee of a clean book and they know that certain authors will always deliver that. I do believe that the population of readers looking for cleaner offerings will continue to grow and possibly faster than authors realize.
Personally, I choose a book for the story. If the steamy content isn’t overdone or doesn’t take away from the story, then I generally don’t think much about it. In GALLAGHER'S PRIDE, the scenes are merely implied and that was a personal choice as an author. The other books in the series will be just as clean even though the books wouldn’t be considered one of these cleaner sub-genres, because I believe some readers are looking for clean books without the religious element. The good news is that there are enough readers who are either willing to span the entire romance genre, regardless of content, or who prefer a specific sub-genre and have found enough authors who have filled that need.
Can you give us a bit of insight into the future of this series?
There are four more books planned for the Montana Gallagher series, each telling the story of another family member. The next book is about the second Gallagher brother, Gabriel, and a woman from New Orleans. The third will be the story of their sister, Eliza Gallagher. I can’t tell more than that without giving too much away. The fourth and fifth books are planned out (covers and all), but again at this point, those stories are being kept under wraps. I will say that the protagonist from the first book doesn’t go away and story lines from the first book are picked up in the others, though each book has a unique romance and a new adventure.
Q&A with It's Raining Books for Gallagher's Hope (2012)
Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?
I’m actually a multi-genre author, but my first love is historical western romance. It just seemed natural living in the mountains of Montana to write about where I live. I’ve often imagined what it would be like to live in the old west and since I can’t live in that time physically, I can live in it through my writing.
What research is required?
I won’t lie - I do take some liberties as a fiction author and manipulate tiny bits of historical timelines to suit the story, but research is required in order to try and stay true to the era and to capture the ‘feel’ of it. I do a lot of fact-checking, but a good portion of my research for the books in this series comes from years of reading romances and watching westerns.
Name one thing you learned from your hero/heroine.
I’ve never been asked that question before and now I’m wondering why not! I’ve learned that even out of the worst of situations, beautiful things can and do happen to good people. Both Gabriel and Isabelle taught me that and I suppose in a way they taught each other too.
Any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits or superstitions?
I like a cooler environment when I write and complete silence…most of the time. When I’m in brainstorming mode I switch on Celtic music or sometimes western themes from the City of Prague Philharmonic. Habits? Not sure if I would call it a habit, but when my brain is on overload I step away to bake something chocolate and then all is right in the world again. Superstitions? I’m the person who would purposely sleep in a haunted castle just to see if the rumors were true, so I’d say none.
Plotter or pantser?
Plotter in the beginning to lay the groundwork and then I just let the story come.
Look to your right – what’s sitting there?
A table with my desk calendar for monthly blog visits and stacks of writing papers, research materials and books. A shelf that holds plaques and wooden elephants, a cork board with more calendars and photographs and a wooden sign I picked up in Vermont that says ‘You say I’m a WITCH like it’s a Bad thing’ (Halloween is my favorite holiday).
Q&A (Interview Questions by Ann Montclair) for Alaina Claiborne
Tell me a little bit about you the person, not the writer.
I grew up on the Southern California coast, but always preferred the mountains, which is how I ended up calling Montana home. I originally wanted to be a K-9 cop, then a lawyer, then an elementary school teacher, then a cultural anthropologist, then a chef—now I’m a writer and business owner, so you never know which direction life will take. My favorite days are those spent away from phones and computers. I eat some form of chocolate every day, detest soda, never had a cup of coffee, Castle and Downton Abbey are my new favorite TV shows, I love to be in the kitchen, and I enjoy curling up by the fire with a good historical romance or thriller. And, as far as I’m concerned autumn is the perfect time of year.
Who do you read for inspiration? Who are your influences? Why?
I’d have to say that Kathleen E. Woodwiss and Johanna Lindsey were my original writing influences. They have very different styles, but I enjoyed every book of theirs I ever read, which is rare for me. I knew I wanted to aspire to be the type of author about which a reader could say the same. I read too many authors and genres to list, and my tastes are eclectic, and not necessarily within genres in which I write. I gravitate toward historical fiction first, and then branch into thrillers and westerns. I have a few shelves of non-fiction titles too. One genre I rarely read or enjoy is paranormal—I save that for X-Files marathons.
In your opinion, what makes a book a good read?
If I can connect with the characters—that’s always a priority. Even if a book is in one of my so-so genres, if the characters are awesome, I’m more likely to read it. I love flawed characters—not enough books have them.
In your opinion, what makes a book a poor read?
Dull, lifeless characters, and page after page of too much description. I love to feel a part of the story, to know what the character is seeing and how they’re feeling, but if it takes 5 pages to talk about one meal or two pages to describe a table setting, then they’ve lost me.
What’s your ideal writing environment? Do you have any special rituals you enact or “must haves” before you write?
I’m a complete grouch if disturbed without good reason (sort of like when I don’t get enough sleep), so I definitely like a quiet area in which to write. I tend to wear noise-reducing headphones with soft music playing. If I’m working on a historical western, sometimes I’ll listen to old western movie music. I always fix a cup of herbal tea, fill my water cup, and grab a few bits of chocolate. I’ve recently begun spending about ten minutes doing yoga before I write—I find it helps clear my thoughts and it’s a nice transition between “life” and writing. Where I write depends on my mood. Sometimes I prefer working on my desktop in my office, but I’ll often move around the house with my laptop, or go outside if the weather is fair and conducive to what I’m writing. I like bundling up in the autumn on a lounge chair outside, before the snow begins falling—it’s a lovely way to write.
What inspired you to write the novel you're publishing?
Alaina Claiborne is a story I absolutely wanted to tell because the characters have been with me for many years, and the story did develop slowly over those years. It wasn’t until I began working with my new editor that I realized the potential of the book and the series. I’m not usually inspired by any one thing to write a specific book—the ideas just happen. I mull it over, play out scenes in my mind, and if I can see the characters take on a life, chances are I’ll write their story. I like pretending the characters are starring in a movie, with me playing the part of the heroine (of course). This one was especially fun—handsome British agents, horses, a grand English estate, and travelling the high seas—so fun I want to do it again!
Describe your cover. Is it a scene from your book? Do you like it? Why?
This is my favorite cover so far, and I’ve had a lot of great feedback on it. It was redone for the second edition release of the book, and though it’s not a specific scene from the book, it probably could be. In fact, I wanted to use the cover image of the woman riding the horse so badly that I ended up changing the hair color of the heroine to match the cover. This is the first time I’ve changed the way a character looks because of the book cover.
Q&A (Interview Questions by Book 'em NC) for Alaina Claiborne
Why did you choose England as the backdrop for your book? What was it about that region and the 19th century that captivated you?
I’ve always wanted to visit England, but have only been as close as their northern neighbor, Scotland. That hasn’t stopped my fascination with the country, from a historical standpoint. Growing up I wanted to be more English, like most of my ancestors. I would have proper tea parties, speak as they do, and even adopted a few of their customs. I’ve since relaxed some of that behavior, but after years of engraining England into my mind, it seemed like a good fit to base a book there. Now I’m obsessed with Scotland rather than England, but that’s another story.
As for the time period—it’s not present-day. Yes, it doesn’t take much to captivate me with any time period during or before the 19th century. So much chance occurred at the turn of the century, and if I had been there I would have wished to go back a hundred years. If you transported me back in time to the 18th or 19th century, I’d fit in quite nicely.
Was Tristan Sheffield's vocation of finding people who don't want to be found based on anyone you've known? Did you have to research ways in which people could be located long before modern technology?
I don’t know any spies or special agents, but what a wealth of information they would have been! There was a bit of research involved, but basically what it came down to was playing it out. Here’s Tristan and he has a problem to solve—he has to find the bad guys. How does he do that? To answer that question, I simply had to take away all possible methods that involve modern technology. After that, you’re not left with much except for a lot of leg work, letters, and reports. I imagine they weren’t in great moods when they found people.
Will Tristan and Alaina return in future books?
Absolutely! They will both appear in the other British agent novels. I originally didn’t plan on a series, but I enjoyed Charles and Devon so much that I knew they needed their own stories. It pleases me not to have to say goodbye to Tristan and Alaina.
How would you describe your writing style?
Diana Gabaldon described it best: “Writing successfully is a matter of figuring out how your own brain works, and doing that—not trying to adopt someone else’s methods.”
I, like many new authors, are works-in-progress—our styles are still developing. I’m certainly getting closer, but I’m still figuring out my own methods.
What advice would you give to new authors?
This answer ties into question four and Diana’s advice—it’s also a recent lesson learned. I have purchased a dozen or so how-to writing books over the years and guess what—I’ve read only one. The others are in the library donation pile. Reading books about someone else’s writing style (or how they think you should write) isn’t going to help an author develop their own unique style. The only way to do that is to write.
The second piece of advice I have for new authors—find a good editor. Whether you’re self-publishing, or preparing a book for submission to a traditional publisher, you need an editor. Trust me, no matter how much you think you know about editing, or the English language, you don’t (yes, once upon a time that was me too). Agents and publishers alike enjoy tossing poorly edited manuscripts in the “I’m not even going to bother” pile.