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Adam Interviews...Alison McBain!

Happy Monday!

That's right, I said it - why not?

On Monday, the entire week stretches before you, unsullied and fresh, ready for you to make of it what you will!

To start you off this week, I have a prolific, award-winning author dropping in! She's also got an exciting project coming up, so you want to keep reading.

Alison McBain has 200+ short stories, poems, and articles published worldwide. Novels she’s penned have won the Foreword INDIES Award, Literary Classics International Book Awards, and Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. Her latest novel The New Empire is also a finalist for the Canadian Book Club Awards. When not writing, Ms. McBain is the associate editor for the magazine Scribes*MICRO*Fiction, administrator of The Scribes Prize, and writes a silly webcomic called Toddler Times about the puns and perils inherent in raising three daughters. She lives in Alberta, Canada.

Website links:

Firefly – gone too soon or overrated?

Argh! The endless pain of having that show end after one season (and movie). Firefly was ridiculously wonderful.

Coffee, tea, or cacao?

Once upon a time, I would have said coffee hands down. I still dream of coffee. But alas, I can’t drink it right now due to a recent surgery. So… tea.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

All day, every day—10+ hours. I’m a pretty fast writer and I have a number of ongoing deadlines, so I tend to put the pedal to the medal when I need to knock something out.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I’ve metamorphosized from being a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants) to a plotter (outliner). While I used to hate to outline because I felt it sucked the creativity out of a project, now I’ve gone to the Dark Side. Perhaps it’s because I’m writing as my full-time job and I can’t spend a lot of time navel-gazing and trying to think about what’s happening next in a scene.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I hate this question, mainly because I don’t know how to answer it. There are ideas all around! I just open my eyes and start writing.

For example, if a woman walks by my window with two dogs, a small one and a big one, I’ll immediately start making up a story. Maybe it’s from the woman’s perspective: she’s the town librarian but has secretly been training to be a private detective so she can finally solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance 30 years ago. Or perhaps it’s the dogs: the smaller dog’s name is Pickles and she’s the mastermind of their household. She wants to go to the Westminster Dog Show to compete for the top prize, and her sidekick Mr. Nuts is the brawn to her brain. They’re planning their breakout… tonight!

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I wrote my first book when I was 4. It was a wonderful horror story about the monster in the closet and, yes, I also did the illustrations. It got 5-star reviews from all my family and friends. Well… except for my older sister, but we’ve since mended fences.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I draw a webcomic called Toddler Times which is not at all based on my real life. No, really. Just because it has a mom with three daughters that look and act identically to how my family behaves is purely coincidental.

Other hobbies: playing pool (billiards), knitting/crocheting/sewing, killing plants (I do it so regularly that it must be a hobby, right?), and baking pies.

Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid?

No trope is off the table, but I tend to pull in the theme of identity a lot. As a half-Japanese writer who’s a dual American-Canadian citizen, I’ve been caught between two worlds for most of my life. I like to put a bit of that struggle into one or more of my characters, since it’s something I feel a lot of people can identify with. A lot of people feel they don’t belong wherever they are.

Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Write. It’s really that simple. You don’t become a better baker by reading cookbooks and never turning on the oven, you do it by getting flour up to your elbows (or perhaps that’s just me).

The second part of the equaton is reading. If you don’t know the market you’re trying to sell to, you’re basically shooting into the dark. And we all got into this business because we love to read, didn’t we?

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

“Why haven’t you published Book 2 of The Rose Queen trilogy yet???” LOL. Book 1 ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I’ve been slow in getting out the second book because I have a lot of other projects going on.

What do you think makes a good story?

A story is about characters. The setting can change, the trappings of the background can change, but in the end a reader wants someone they can either root for or hate. If you don’t have that, your reader won’t feel any emotion at all when something happens in the story.

I know conflict drives stories forward, but have you ever read a book that’s filled with explosions and you just didn’t care because the characters left you cold? Character creation is the number one thing that makes a story readable.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Social media. Please keep me away from Twitter, people.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Is this where I do shoutouts? Because I totally can, but how much space do you have? I know so many wonderful authors. And, really, anyone who is creative is a cool person in my book.

Being around any sort of creative energy makes me feel inspired. And we always help each other out – critique each other’s work, give advice about publishing opportunities, and just generally support each other. The greatest community on the planet, in my opinion, is the writers’ community.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Stop letting a fear of failure hold you back from trying to succeed. Then I’d probably add something like, “You idiot! Why did you waste so much time NOT writing?”

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Going to literary events. I’ve met or seen so many of my author heroes in my lifetime – Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, Guy Gavriel Kay, Margaret Atwood, and many others. Worth the price of admission every time.

Do you write novels, novellas, short stories, episodic fiction, poems, screenplays, or something else? What is your preferred format?

Yes. All of the above – if it’s got words in it, I write it. And I love every form, but at different moments. For example, poetry is great at expressing emotions and capturing a moment in time. It’s like a snapshot, and sometimes I need to express that. Other times, a book can be a slog but it can say so much more. You go on an adventure with characters, get to know them really well, and then let them go in the end. Short stories are fun, and perfect for when I don’t have the time for more. It just depends on what I feel like/have time to write.

What does literary success look like to you?

Dunno. Still looking for it. Ask me again in 25 years.

What do you have coming next?

Next on the horizon: writing 52 books. Yep, that number’s not a typo. In 2024, I plan on writing a book a week. My tagline is “Author Versus AI.” I’ll be writing in multiple genres, from romance to literary, SFF to mystery, and all the genres in between. And everything, from the cover art down to the words inside, will be done without any sort of AI – just human creativity. It’s to combat the big bad machines that are trying to take over our books, and to show that one author definitely CAN take on AI and win.

And here’s my plug for the project (if it’s allowed): I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign in November to help pay for it. I’d like to raise enough money to pay the artists doing the book covers a reasonable fee, as well as to help cover production costs. And if you’d like to support my Kickstarter, there are some fabulous rewards—including being a character in one of the 52 books! And I promise not to kill you off in the story… maybe.

Thanks so much for the interview, Adam! It’s been a pleasure.

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