This week, Writing Wicket showcases Diane Lynn McGyver.
Diane’s first novel Shadows in the Stone was almost 30 years in the making. The second book in her fantasy series, Scattered Stones, took a lot less time to get from first draft to publication. She’s written a few short stories that reveal the history of some of the characters in the novels, and now she is working on the third book, Revelation Stones.
Diane fell in love with the fantasy genre when an awesome dungeon master introduced her to Dungeons & Dragons at the age of 13. From there, she landed into the world created by Terry Brooks and then the ones created by Mercedes Lackey. By the age of 19, she knew she was truly lost to the other realm.
Her future goals are to complete the 10-book series and to live in a peel tower near the Atlantic Ocean where she’ll raise chickens, tomatoes and perhaps a cow.
I asked Diane:
Q: What’s the best way, in your opinion, to market indie books?
A: The best way to market indie books is to write the next book, then write another. It is vital they are in the same genre and preferably they are a series or written with a similar theme. From my eight years in the publishing industry, I’ve noticed the authors who are most successful have done this. With the competition out there today, it is even more important for a writer to focus on one genre.
Q: What is your biggest accomplishment (in writing or otherwise)?
A: Publishing my first book, Shadows in the Stone. It feels like my biggest accomplishment because it was decades in the making.
Q: What’s your biggest regret (in writing or otherwise)?
A: Personal ones are too numerous to mention, so I’ll skip those. For writing, it was not having the knowledge of the first question. I started a fantasy series, wrote the first book, then wrote books in other genres before getting back to book two in the series. By this time, four years had passed and fans of the first book were on to bigger and better things. I regret not publishing book two sooner and not getting book three out within four years of the first book.
Q: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
A: Buying MS Word in 2010. From 1997 until 2010, I used Word Perfect exclusively. Starting in 2005, I found it increasingly more difficult to share documents with others and use certain Internet services. After a tedious experience with an editor who used MS Word, I realised my favourite software had to go. MS Word gave me the ability to share my documents with everyone and to format my paperback books and eBooks for publishing.
Q: Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
A: Yes. I don’t like to stop reading a book once I’ve start, but sometimes my mind drifts while I’m reading, and I am so far away from the story that I just can’t continue. However, I never get writer’s block.
Q: What does literary success look like to you?
A: The meaning of success to me is writing almost every day, publishing a few books a year, and selling enough books to support my minimalist lifestyle. I don’t want to be famous, but it’s nice when a reader looks for one of my books because they’ve read one and want another.
Q: If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
A: I’ve had more than 30 jobs in my life, plus writing. The few things I haven’t tried yet, but might before I’m six feet under, are archaeology, travel photography, and astronomy.
Q: How do you select the names of your characters?
A: There is not only one source. A few are: place names that sound cool, online baby name databases, obituaries, census records (I’m a genealogist), and telephone books (the paper copy).
Several years ago, when I still watched a few hours of TV, I found the perfect name for a dwarf in my Shadows in the Stone novel. A man on The Week the Women Went, when it was shot in Tatamagouche, was named Tam. I instantly knew that was the name of this character.
Since I write fantasy, I don’t use a lot of common names. I look for magical names, which for me usually means old Scottish or Irish names: Bronwyn, Alaura, Isla.
Q: What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
A: None. If I don’t like a book, I never read books by that author again.
Q: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
A: I’ve met a lot of writers, but I’ll only name three. Some I meet on a regular basis, others only once. I’ve known historian John Grant for several years, and he approaches writing in a different manner than I do. I research a little and write like mad; he researches like mad and writes a little. I admire his discipline, and it reminds me to slow down, get it right.
I met Deborah Hale, a Harlequin Romance author, about 18 years ago just as she was making it big. She showed me it doesn’t matter what goes on in your life or if you think you don’t have time to write, you do if you make it a priority.
I met Sandra Phinney back in 1999. Wow. She set my world on fire. We’ve been in contact several times since, but Sandra is the woman who told me without doubt that I could become the writer I wanted to be; I just had to do it. And then she showed me how.
Q: What are important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
A: I haven’t subscribed to many in the past 30 years. The two I remember were The Writer, which provided great writing advice, and I think the other was named Canadian Short Story. I subscribed to the second one because I wanted to see what their content was so I could submit a story.
I have picked up copies of various magazines over the years, ones I wanted to learn about their content because I wanted to pitch story ideas to them. Up until 2010, I wrote only articles for newspapers and magazines, so reviewing a magazine was done for research.
I learn writing tips and tricks from books, blogs and YouTube.
Q: What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
A: That’s a hard one. I don’t look at book stats or awards, so I don’t know which books make the lists and which aren’t appreciated. My favourite book of the last 20 years was The Wizard’s Ward by Deborah Hale.
Q: How many hours a day do you write?
A: This fluctuates. When I’m working the first draft, I usually write four hours or more a day. When I’m editing one story and writing another, I usually write only an hour or two.
Q: If you could be any author, who would it be and why?
A: I don’t want to be any other writer. No one can write the stories I want to read like I can.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
A: Beside supporting me for the second 50 years of my life, I want my writing to live on decades after I’m gone, and for my grandkids and their kids to read them. That would be cool.
Q: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
A: Unpublished with the goal of getting them published in the next 10 years: 8; half-finished books that will be finished and published in the next 10 years: 7.
Q: What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
A: When “publishing companies” charge authors thousands of dollars to publish their books and either don’t deliver or provide poor service and only a few books.
Q: What genre do you favour?
Q: Is there a genre you wish you could write that you can’t?
A: No. Fantasy is where I want to be. Reality is too realistic.
Q: What book(s) have you written?
A: The full-length novels I’ve written are Shadows in the Stone and Scattered Stones. The short stories, which are connected to the novels, are Destiny Governed their Lives, Blade of Truth, and The Pledge.
Check out Diane’s links:
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].