I’m pleased to introduce to you Diane Lynn McGyver, author of Shadows in the Stone. Please read my review here if you missed it.
Diane is a Nova Scotia native who is quite the romantic, which you will discover from this interview, and a prolific writer. If you are in NS you may have read her articles.
Diane, welcome to my interview corner. Please tell us a little about yourself.
Lynn, thanks for having me here. So, a little about me: I enjoy tea, chocolate, raw cranberries, tart Cortland apples, ice skating, sitting in a boat for hours and letting the tide move me, gathering around a fire with family and friends, John Denver, walking in snow-covered woods at night, learning, Scottish music, exploring, adventure, stories and laughing. I’ve worn many hats in my life time and worked at more than 25 jobs, looking for satisfaction I never found except in the words of my own stories. I had been told by many I couldn’t keep a job. It wasn’t until I was forty I realised, “the jobs couldn’t keep me.”
It’s good you discovered what does keep you. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?
I have never not wanted to be a writer, but I was told it was a hobby only. Still, that was all I ever wanted to do from as far back as my earliest memories. If I had to lay blame on one reason why I am a writer, it would be the story itself, or more accurately, the capturing of a story, so it could be read later, perhaps years down the road.
As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?
My first response would be: No, I don’t read a lot. But when I think about it, I read every day. If I had to tally up my reading time, it would probably be about six hours a day. I read fiction (novel and short story), nonfiction (for research, learning and pleasure), blogs (for the same reasons), email and various other types of writing.
The authors I enjoy most are Robin Hobb and Dr. Seuss. Oh the Places You Will Go is my most favourite. One by Richard Bach was the book that made me think the most.
Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?
I feel like giving up several days a month, but I keep moving in the direction of becoming a more confident writer. I don’t believe I can without a doubt call myself a writer. Perhaps it is because I do so many other jobs or because I can’t make a full living from my writing income. Is being a writer a destination, or is it the journey that makes us writers?
Good question! I think it is in the attitude of one’s will on that journey, and the destination – both say ‘writer.’ Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?
I have a few favourite quotes posted at my desk or stored in the shadows of my thoughts for when I need them:
1) Be the hero in your own story.
2) Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.
3) It could always be worse.
Good ones! What do you remember about your very first time to be published, how did that happen?
I was first published in East Coast Gardener magazine in 1998. It was a newspaper-style publication out of Yarmouth, NS. I became aware of it while working at the garden centre Lakeland Plant World in Dartmouth. When I went on maternity leave for my first child I became bored, picked up a pen and thought about submitting an article on gardening to the magazine. To my surprise the editor Carla Allen liked it and wanted to publish it. I was ecstatic. I think I received $25 for the 800-word article. The money didn’t matter though. My writing in print for all to read was the real reward. That one publication was all I needed for me to pursue a writing career.
An exciting start! What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?
In the nonfiction category I’ve had a few dozen articles published in local and national magazines. They were about gardening, genealogy, horses, homemade soap, photography, raising kids and writing. My first column ran for six years. It was all about gardening. My second column focussed on genealogy. It celebrated its eighth year in October. Roots to the Past is currently published in four newspapers in Atlantic Canada.
In the fiction category I’ve published one fantasy novel (Shadows in the Stone), one romance novel (Pockets of Wildflowers), one anthology (Nova Scotia – Life Near Water) and several short stories.
My most favourite of all is writing fantasy novels.
There’s no doubt you are a writer, Diane. What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?
Step one: I write down the story as quickly as possible. I don’t look back and edit or I might stall or get stuck. Step two: I stash it in a drawer for a week or more. Step three: I read and edit it, then I go on the hunt for a list of words I’ve flagged (that, even, was…). Next I read it out loud and edit, then I print it and edit. And then…I read it and edit one last time. Then I send it off to an editor. When I’ve applied their suggestions I read it one more time. Then I’m ready to publish.
That’s something I learned when participating in NaNoWriMo, to not look back and edit along the way. I see it works well for you. What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?
I have a computer file where I stash ideas. If I have a title only, I write it on a piece of paper and tape it to the kitchen cupboard door. A few times I’ve dreamt entire books. When this happens, I immediately write a summary of the story, print it and stick it in a duotang.
What inspired you to write Shadows in the Stone?
When I was thirteen I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. It shined a new light on dragons, fairies and magic, one that captivated me. I studied the D&D books and played faithfully every Friday night. Yes, while other teens were out doing things that might horrify their parents, I was in a room with like-minded individuals seeking adventure. We didn’t stop until I was about eighteen. Those adventures left a lasting impression, one I wanted to preserve in story. And Shadows in the Stone was born.
How long did it take you to write Shadows in the Stone? Did you have to do any research? And how did you come up with that title?
I began Shadows in the Stone in the early 1980s. I wrote the original draft which didn’t tell the story I wanted to tell, so I started again. The second book was better but still not what I wanted. In 1998, home with my first child, I picked up the story again, and this time nailed it. I spent years rewriting, adding characters, taking them away, researching fairy and druid magic, spells, healing herbs, castles, mediaeval clothing, primitive food and weapons like swords and daggers. Along the way I also worked on my writing skills, learning more about nouns and verbs, dialogue tags, plot, style, characters, point of view, engaging readers and anything else that would make my story better. I invested in several books and dictionaries to help me on my adventure. I read blogs and talked to other writers. It was a long journey but well worth it.
I chose the title Shadows in the Stone because there are many secrets hidden in the shadows of Aruam Castle. Some are good and some are evil. I also love stones and feel they possess their own energy. I’ve used this idea and gave the stones in this story their own powers.
The word stone is used in all three book titles in this trilogy: Scattered Stones (to represent the scattered characters who long to be together) and Healing Stones (to represent the healing that must be done for a happy ending).
I look forward to the books to come! Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?
I believe every character has a bit of me in them, including the ones who are not so nice. Bronwyn has my shyness and lack of confidence when it comes to issues of the heart, and he has my sense of honour for doing the right thing even when it doesn’t benefit him. Alaura possesses my dedication to getting the job done which sometimes makes her appear as an unfriendly individual. She also shares my love of nature and horses and learning. I gave Isla my serious side, my curiosity and sense of adventure. Tam is my quiet side; he thinks and does more than he talks. He’s strong, silent and keeps his troubles to himself. I didn’t know he was like this until after I knew him for a few days.
My favourite? That’s a difficult question. I suppose Bronwyn is because he possesses the high sense of honour with a dash of hidden humour I enjoy.
Why did you decide to publish your book in the non-traditional way?
Although I easily had nonfiction articles published since 1998, fiction was another matter. I had submitted several different stories to dozens of editors for more than ten years without success. Many times I had positive notes from editors, and even once was told the story would be accepted except they didn’t have room for it. I read about the many things others did to get published but nothing worked for me. Then I read about only one percent of submitted stories get published. It sounded near impossible for me to get accepted, or at least it would take years to receive the acceptance letter.
The final straw was the summer I submitted Shadows in the Stone to DAW in New York. They wanted the entire manuscript, not just the first few chapters and synopsis. It cost me almost a hundred dollars to submit, and I received only a simple rejection letter after waiting about three months.
That rejection hurt more than the dozens I had received beforehand. I had invested a lot of time, emotion, energy and money in that submission and got nothing for it. For several months afterwards I walked around in a daze, thinking I was going to give up, break the pencil and never write again.
Then I learned about self-publishing. And I learned this powerful quote (or something like this): Don’t let anyone else—not even an editor—tell you your story isn’t good enough for others to read.
I immediately began to learn how to self-publish and never looked back. It was the best decision I made in my writing career.
I can understand why you did what you did, although it’s a tough decision to make. What do you most enjoy about writing?
I most enjoy putting my feet in the shoes of the characters and telling their stories. Writing the first draft is the best part.
How do you find time to write when you are busy with life?
I make it a priority. I write every day without fail. It is the best part of my day. It’s why I rise, how I continue to make sense of the world and what makes me who I am.
What other interests do you have for a change from writing?
I have many interests. I love photography, drawing, painting, raising goats, watching movies, gardening, fishing, biking, hiking, camping, riding, baking, watching the stars, shovelling snow, yoga, reading, archery, boating, dancing, rock collecting, beachcombing, travelling, genealogy and exploring. I like sharing all these things with my kids.
How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals– daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?
I make goals every year and break them down into months. I try to write 1,000 words a day, but I will settle for 500. I have also set goals to what I want to have accomplished in five years and ten years. In the next five years I’m supposed to have fifteen novels and two nonfiction books published. It’s a tough goal, but when I break it down to years and then months, I realise it’s not impossible.
Do you have another project in the works? Any hints you can share with our readers about that?
This year I’m working on several projects that are in various stages. My next romance Twistmas should be out in February. It was supposed to be out in December, but family turmoil threw me off course in the fall. The novella Fowl Summer Nights, a humourous story about a retired Canada Post worker, is due out this spring/summer. I’m excited about this project because it’s my first attempt at writing humour. It makes me laugh out loud, so I hope it makes others do the same.
Also due out this spring or summer is Scattered Stones, the second book in the Castle Keepers series. The fall will see When a Boy Becomes a Crow. It’s another attempt at humour.
Through my pen name Candy McMudd, I will release Throw Away Kitten in the spring. It tells the story about a problem many farmers have with people dropping off unwanted kittens. I’m in discussions with our local vet hospital to see if they will offer the youth novel for sale in their office. A portion of the profit will go into a fund which will pay for spaying or neutering of cats owned by people who can’t afford to get their animals fixed.
Wow! You are busy! What a nice thing to do with your Throw Away Kitten book. Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?
My advice is to write. Apply butt to chair and write every day if you can. Don’t give up on your dream. Keep learning about writing. It will inspire you to write more. Attend workshops and join writers groups. Don’t let anyone tell you your writing isn’t important, that no one wants to read it. It is, and you will find readers.
Thank you for this encouraging advice, Diane, and thank you for an interesting and detailed interview.
Now for the giveaway: Are you interested in winning a copy of Diane Lynn McGyver’s book Shadows in the Stone? Please leave a comment about what most interested you in this interview for your chance to win. At 6 PM EST on Tuesday, February 4, not one name but TWO NAMES will be pulled from the basket! Yes, you have two chances to win!
Diane said, “I’ll give away two eBook copies of Shadows in the Stone with this interview. I’ll provide coupons to Smashwords, so they can choose the format they wish to have.”
I will be contacting the winners after 6:00 PM EST on February 4, so be sure to check your email. You could be a winner of Shadows in the Stone. 🙂
Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂